In this new life, small things are now monumental. I sit by my window and watch the way the wind bends the stems of tulips as it lightly rains again. I notice the petite, grey birds dive down and grab seeds from the grass, then dart up to the the wet phone wires, and perch in clusters. The neighbors who live behind me sit with their small son, drawing pictures of rainbows in chalk on the back of their building. On a rare, sunny day the disco ball that hangs from their fire escape spins slowly, throwing out prisms of glaring light into my eyes. The couple who live next door to me sprawl out on the bench in their back yard cradling the warm, pink body of their four-month-old daughter. Later, the husband goes back in the house and plays airy, haunting notes on the piano in their parlor. It sounds like a composition by Erik Satie, Gnossiennes, which makes me feel both cold and warm at the same time.
I hear detailed pieces of people’s lives now, in this new city of loud quiet; the silence is both odd and creepy, or soothing and dreamlike, depending on my mood. I spy on the neighbor ladies out on the sidewalk, sitting in lawn chairs spaced apart, appropriately. They throw back rich brown, cocktails on ice underneath the creases of their homemade, cotton masks. One mentions she had her first panic attack in 20 years the other day, and how awful it was. I know exactly what she means. In this new world, you can suddenly feel unhinged. Incapable. Lonely in a way you never came even close to experiencing before. I sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with me. But then I hear the voices around me. The stories around me. And they are comforting: a friend tells me she and her neighbors go out to their sidewalk to pray together every day. Another friend tells me his wife, who’s away in another state, calls him on Facetime to be able to go walking in the woods together. On the screen of her phone, she shows him the tops of beautiful trees, and slows down so he can listen to a creek flowing with her. That beauty and strength of connection can still happen. Slowly riding along on our bikes, through empty, quiet Brooklyn streets, just talking and laughing. Even hidden behind a scarf, I can still see the sparkle and warmth in your eyes.
I don’t know how much longer I will sit quietly and watch this story unfold. I only hope I remember what this feels like, when gears shift and life is amplified into loudness once again.
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