Observing reactions to coronavirus has led to reflections on the stillness of quarantine and the human desire for connection. Now in the largest city of extroverts, go-outers, and social butterflies, the city has contracted. While the square footage of Manhattan remains the same, the bustling, bubbling, breathing city is a travesty.
Citizens that once squeezed in a subway now maintain 6 feet of distance in the queue for Trader Joe’s. Exceptionally wide berths are given to children, elderly, dogs in addition to the normalized avoidance of the corner homeless.
Pulled apart, the city is an empty home, containing all the memorabilia of its roaring modus operandi, but no one is stationed to bring the light to life.
Moving to New York City 6-months ago, the vibrancy struck me. I was enchanted by the diversity of the population that chased a unrelenting high of culture, creativity, and community. An abiding authenticity binds residents to act as guardians for their city and each other.
It is not all angel choral singing, there is overt fission in shoving a significant human family into a constrained space. There’s garbage on streets, class disparity, archaic transportation, violence, and unnecessary strain. You give up a lot to live in New York City. But there’s also an underlying indomitable spirit of humanity that makes the trade feel balanced.
To live in New York City is to live by eachother. There is an implicit agreement that you exchange space, money, and certain livelihoods to congregate with your neighbors in pursuit of shared curiosity.
In the wake of a global pandemic, our luster dulls. Social distance ignites reflection on why I came to this city. In a landscape like Los Angeles, you can wander the sunny hills and look down onto the Pacific’s sparkling waters. The crystallizing gratification may be its afternoon warmth or the crashing waves, as the city thrives on a palatable location and isolated neighborhoods.
But here, in the center of all things, a fulfillment comes from the faces we see in our bodegas, our bars, our jobs, and our streets. When that is taken away, for good reason, it challenges our composition.
Why do we come to New York? Opportunity, stimulation, adventure.
All of which relies on our fellow people.
When we return to a public life, we will undeniably be cautious to proximity. Our invisible 6 feet perimeter will remain an omnipresent societal norm. Even at a distance, there is connection. Our love to be by eachother does not change, but it is tested.
Coronavirus may have shattered travel plans, in-person events, small businesses, and congressional discourse – but it has not shattered us. We persist in seeking understanding in eachother, accepting our flaws, and growing in unison. That is our testament to love, and it will not falter.