2: On the Beat

     It’s a rare day in this new world; for once, the sun shines. I venture outside, craning my neck toward the sky, squinting from behind cheap sunglasses long ago bought at Ricky’s. The warm light grazes the small surface of skin that pokes out above my face scarf, and I think about how much less oppressive this quarantine would be if it didn’t rain so goddamn much. I derive comfort from sights, sounds, and smells, from the enduring presence of regular, everyday life. On this day it is palatable, everywhere. The leaves on the tree in front of my house have grown into crescents of deep, etched green. I cross paths with my downstairs neighbor, who cheerfully bitches that it took so long to receive a Fresh Direct delivery of 50 pounds of bread flour, he now has zero interest in baking. I stroll down my block, which was once littered with garbage and empty liquor bottles clogging the small gardens that surround hundred-year-old sycamore trees. I marvel that instead of haphazardly tossed empties of Colt 45, almost every tree pit along the sidewalk bursts forth with families of daffodils and hyacinths, or the proud, straight stalks of Irises preparing to release blossoms. I breathe in this pleasant perfume, deeply.

     Halfway down the block, I hear the faint sounds of a classic rap tune, the lyrics seemingly crafted for this exact moment in time: Don’t push me/cause I’m close to the edge/I’m trying/not/to lose my head. I speed up my steps, rushing towards the music. By the time I hit the corner, dancing like a fool on the sidewalk, I discover that the mail carrier who just dropped a package at the beige, brick apartment building is blasting Grandmaster Flash from the back of the mail truck. He wears a neat, white mask nestled around his face, and dances in full force in the empty cargo space of the truck. He sees me and we give each other the thumbs up, then I continue onward, voguing down the block. I’m later reminded of what it used to feel like to stroll up to the end of the line in front of a nightclub, and feel the crackling energy of fans waiting to hear music they love.

     In this new life, the nightclub isn’t open anymore, but Home Depot is. I go over to the ‘Pot in my neighborhood to pick up some plants for my stoop. The parking lot is packed like it’s a Sunday in June. There’s a huge line of people, snaked in front of a display of shiny, stainless steel grills, anticipating the moment when the security guard will get word on her Walkie Talkie, and it’ll finally be their turn to be go inside. I've never seen shoppers seemingly so proud to wield oversized, orange carts. To seem so grateful just to be able to stand in front of and behind a bunch of strangers, waiting to go into a cavernous hardware store. To pick up some tomato plants, some garbage bags, or bags of cement used to seem so pedestrian, but on this single, sunny day, waiting online feels so much better than all the days before.

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