Greetings from This Week's Epicenter
If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.
I prepare to take down the garbage wearing gloves and my hijab. I make certain no-one is on the walkway or the two flights of stairs, that I have the pathway to the dumpster and recycle bins to myself. I spray the lid of the bin with alcohol and make sure no neighbors are in close proxmity. This is shared space; everyone touches what I will be touching.
I have never avoided neighbors before, on the contrary. A New Yorker born and bred, I'm chatty and outgoing. I miss chatting to the postal worker (from Haiti), the SUNY students who work in the local health store, the lifeguards at the SUNY pool. I miss learning their names, hearing their stories. I cannot satisfy my journalist's curiosity, either. It's like someone has pressed a mute button in my life.
I'm grateful, of course, for long walks in a revelatory landscape, the hawks and falcons flying overhead like spirit birds watching over us. And I'm grateful for all social media, Zoom, etc. etc. etc. and my dear friends who suggest Zimmer parties, more FT calls, WhatsApp calls all around the world, etc.etc.etc. and so forth, as the King of Siam once said. And I'm grateful for all the students on my NYU roster who have hung in and are still writing.
Will you be my neighbor? Of course. Will you be my neighbor forever and ever, metaphorically speaking, virtually speaking? Of course. Despite our sometimes Heavenly, sometimes Hellish Isolation, let us not ever forget this. We will return to three-dimensional neighborliness and daily connection, I am sure of it. And I know those connections will be richer and deeper when we get there.
But now that we have a time-line of sorts from our scientists—and it's a long one—is it more helpful to project ourselves into the future beyond the pandemic, or to live day by day, moment by moment? What is your preference, dear reader? I seem to toggle between the two, and sometimes I get it wrong; I haven't paid attention to my mood or my equilibrium. I take a walk and start the day again, or I call a friend, or interrupt my husband who is trying to make progress on a media kit he is writing for a client.
The complex where we live, opposite what's left of the subdivided Apple Hill Farm, used to be an apple cooler. A clever architect re-purposed its design so that it still looks rustic and integrated into the landscape. The sunsets over the ridge to the west are magnificent. There's a gazebo on a lawn out front, communal space, now abandoned. And the outdoor bank of metal mail boxes are contiguous, inviting conversation. I see a neighbor opening a box and wave hello, then pull up my hijab, and wait my turn.