A good friend of mine, originally from the United Kingdom, claims to have been born with a Blitz mentality. An Australian therapist taught him the term, perhaps extrapolating from his accent. Apparently there’s a sense of foreboding in his genes - an alertness to air raid sirens. He has never really expected things to be much more than fine. I’ve been hearing about this supposedly inherent characteristic of his for almost 10 years now, and have occasionally benefited from presenting my various melodramas to him for a pessimist’s assessment: generally that, in the grand and stupid scheme of things, XYZ does not matter. Chin up.
A pandemic is not a melodrama. But for now I find myself stupidly lucky as usual, and perfectly fine: forced into a routine that’s dizzying but steady, retaining for now both my job and my health. Steven was furloughed immediately, but we can afford to stay here because our rent is cheap, and you can be doing a lot worse things than nothing right now. I guess I must have a bit of Blitz mentality too, because despite having been salaried for most of the past five years I have never allowed myself to live anywhere reasonably priced, let alone expensive.
It has been shit, obviously, but the first week or so was the scariest and that feels distant already. Before working from home became mandatory, I would cry on my commute as people coughed around me. I was unwilling to die in the name of entertainment journalism. Coworkers were laid off right as the pandemic hit, and the rest of us had our paychecks docked. Flights to Australia started running out, then stopped, then started again at triple the price. Our friends were leaving and asking why we weren’t doing the same. I guess the answer is that we live here, and it was hard to find this apartment, and I only just learned how to convert celsius to fahrenheit, and I definitely need more practice.
I don’t think we have the ‘rona, but it’s impossible to tell. My mask doesn’t fit on my face very well. Social distancing is tricky in a corner store. There’s government advice, then there’s real life, which in New York is warped at the best of times. My room mate’s ex-boyfriend was being held in a notorious prison with no visitors or phone calls and an outbreak of a deadly virus that feeds on poor hygiene and forced social proximity. The disease had been spreading there for weeks before they let him out early, but when he appeared at our apartment without warning, having not even been allowed to charge his phone before hitting the streets of COVID-19 ground zero, her only choice was to let him in.
The shelves of my neighborhood supermarkets, which aren’t Whole Foods or even Trader Joe’s, remain full, because people living around here can’t afford to stockpile, especially not right now. Disposable gloves and masks blow up the sidewalks, sometimes resting at the bottom stair of our stoop. Uneasy, I just wait for them to fly away again. Every morning I walk around my neighborhood and am temporarily distracted: farmhouses built by Dutch settlers that have outlived the green fields they once stood in by hundreds of years, neat sidewalk boxes of tulips. I like walking through the Hassidic area and into Williamsburg. Some days you need to see water. The bearded men and I wear similarly extravagant brown fur coats. It all feels like a blessing until I see someone sleeping in their car.
Remember how wild the whole world went when Notre Dame burned down? People outside of Paris weren’t mourning the physical church structure so much as a collapse of their own comforting set of certainties. Winter should be cold, and summer should be warm. The President should be able to speak in complete sentences. Paris should have an Eiffel Tower and a Notre Dame and a Sacre Coeur. Everything should resemble the postcard version of itself, and when it doesn’t, you kind of want to ask the tour company for your money back.
This is that same feeling, plus some half-risen homemade sourdough photographed strategically (bird’s eye perspective works well) for Instagram. My postcard was meant to be a summer road trip out west. I wanted to sleep in a van and collect national park stamps for a few months, maybe creep down to Mexico. But I only half believed that trip would happen in the first place.
I hope you are well!!!