Life in the Epicenter of the Pandemic, or Hello From Queens
Before I get into it, I need to express just how lucky we are. My husband, Seth, and I are hunkered down with our cat, Meatball, with no reason to leave the house. We have space, a yard with our own soon-to-be Victory Garden, and gadgets to keep us busy. Despite being newly unemployed, we have the means and resources to feed ourselves without leaving our home, and the biggest emergency we've had thus far is that we're running out of garlic. To date, all our friends who were assumed positive for COVID-19 have recovered, with discomfort but no disaster. We're lucky.
But we do hear the constant sirens as they race through the quiet streets. That's new.
We live in the neighborhood of Ridgewood, NY, close enough to Bushwick that I claimed I lived in Brooklyn for our first three years here, and far enough from Elmhurst that we can occasionally forget that all of this is happening.
A month-ish ago, when PAUSE and staying at home was more a rumor, I heeded the advice of my prepper parents (you may know them...) and started to make sure I had enough food and supplies for 2+ weeks without leaving the house. Fearful of being made fun of, I quietly started stockpiling extra pasta, cans of tomato, packages of ramen, our favorite frozen pizzas, haphazardly taking stock and thinking "this is enough."
In New York, like most other cities, the shutdown was both slow and abrupt. In the course of 48 hours, we went from "make good judgement calls" to "everything but essentials are closed" - restaurants and bars cut their capacity from 100% to 50% to 0, shuttering gates and laying off employees (ahem). I'd been home sick the week before we were officially ordered to stay indoors, trying to "sleep off" whatever my ailment was, eager to get back into the office. Well, that didn't exactly work, and turns out all it did was add an extra week onto our self quarantine, but again - I'm lucky. And we are thankful to be well stocked.
So how are we keeping busy in our Ridgewood apartment? Keeping our hands moving. There are a lot of conversations on the internet about how this quarantine isn't a productivity contest, and that is true, but we're a family that needs tasks and projects for our mental health. So I've been cooking - taking the time to revive a sourdough (like so many others) but also trying to get creative with the ingredients we have at home. I've brewed my first batch of beer and made a lot of various doughs. Talked on the phone maybe a bit too much. We've made a point to order takeout about once a week for a sense of normalcy (though everything does go immediately through the "sanitization station" so that's not all that normal...) and to help support local, along with calling our representatives to urge them to do more to save small businesses.
Seth is making music and videos, which isn't abnormal but now I get to witness it all. His most recent was a quarantine orchestra that was featured on Billboard. We're keeping busy.
Meatball is meowing at us either to say "pay more attention to me, you're doing too many projects!" or "please, please, leave the house."
All in all, this household, and our friends, are taking this seriously. Which feels silly to have to state but, given that this is beyond bonkers, feels important to note. We share mask selfies and commiserate via Zoom calls. We dream of dinner parties when this is all over, whenever that may be, remaining hopeful. There are days when we feel down: isolated and anxious, listening to the wail of the sirens and ready for the next step. That’s when we help each other the most.
Because we can’t ignore the anxiety of it all. While the friends our age (early 30s) who have been assumed COVID-19 positive (they haven't been tested) have been uncomfortable but ultimately healed, there’s still the questions of who will get it next and what will be their outcome. It feels as if The Germ is on absolutely everything. All of a sudden packaged goods that had been in my apartment for months, but weren’t sanitized when brought in the door, feel like danger and a breeding zone. Every conversation at some point turns to Covid, and how we can’t leave the house. Those of us who have partners during all of this may be starting to feel the strain of seeing that person, and only that person, day in and out with no break. Those that live alone have an entirely different battle.
During the first week of the seclusion a close friend had a mini meltdown, you could see it on his face. He worried about what life would look like on the other end of this, if the things he loved would be forever changed. So we talked. He’s doing well. The rest of us - it hits us in waves and that’s when we pick up the phone. I, personally, have talked to my parents every day to help quell the little bit of anxiety, and at least twice on particularly anxious days. Because you can’t always, willfully, drown out the sirens.