A couple of months ago, I wrote about Broadway going dark. Well now, New York seems to me reopening... I honestly felt like the other day was Day 1 of being spit back into the world after the apocalypse. OR like waking up from a coma and rediscovering my surroundings from scratch…
I started the day like a normal day in quarantine: worked out a couple of times, read my Bible, meditated, did a little editing, made a peanut butter and apricot jelly sandwich, juiced, battled the worst PMS, avoided folding my laundry, mentored someone, et cetera. This evening as I left my home for my daily walk, I’d barely looked up, didn’t have my glasses on, and instinctively, I could sense my friend Sarah walking by on the sidewalk. Although we never see each other, neither of us were shocked or surprised or caught off guard to run into the other. It was like running into a friend at school in the hallways. We toured together for years as well as performed on the Broadway together. She feels like family in the sense that her presence is very comforting and familiar. I caught a glimpse of her foot before casually saying beneath my mask, “What’s up, Bockel?”
It was nice to talk to a human that I know. Something that doesn’t happen every day anymore. WELL. She told me about this awesome new park just beyond the normal park I usually find myself in. I was so taken aback that there was another park in MY neighborhood that I had no idea was there. I was instantly determined to find this new (to me) park.
Once I’d made it to the first park, I found myself out on the street. I’d been over there before not since quarantine began almost 75 days ago. It was a whole other world “on the other side of the park.”
For starters, the sidewalk on one side was lined with benches… with people SITTING in them. ‘Weird.’ I thought. Every bench is filled? I haven’t seen that in a while. It kinda freaked me out, so I crossed the street. The New Yorker in me innately kicked in when there was a person in my path, so of course I picked up the pace and walked faster than them. ‘Haven’t done that in a while’ I thought to myself. I walked a few yards before seeing a storefront with clothes in the window. Immediately, I was drawn to the window. One of my favorite things in the world is a good window display. If it’s good and it’s something I long for, I don’t waste much time seeing if there’s anything better deeper in the store. I find a clerk and simply ask for the window display (ie. My favorite gowns, the couch in my apartment—all were the window display. It saves me time because if they had something better to showcase the business, it’d be—can you guess? In the window display.) Anyway, the store was closed of course, but I just gazed in and imagined what the shopping experience would be like in the cute little boutique that it was.
I kept walking. I got two whole steps further before my nostrils were consumed with an old, favorite smell; something I haven’t had in so long but that I instantly craved: Fast Food. But not just any fast food: MCDONALDS! But not just any McDonalds. There were fresh fries in that bag wafting by me. And probably a couple of hamburgers. And when I looked up, there it was: The Golden Arches wide open for business. And I thought, I can just walk up and order McDonalds right now? It’s such a weird epiphany to have in the 21st century. I’ve been hunkered down in my apartment, eating only what I can make with my bare hands. MEANWHILE, the rest of the world has been eating all the good shit. Because when I turned the corner, I discovered an entire line of restaurants with a LOT of people outside of them. They were waiting for food, smoking, hanging out. I think I counted maybe 3 people with masks on? I literally felt like I was in an alternate universe, that universe being Pre-COVID, when the world was normal. It was like the world had gone back to normal for a while and NOBODY told me.
And then, there it was: a whole new park. A HUGE park. How on Earth did I not know it was there this whole time???
I looked at it in astonishment and also puzzlement. How do I get in this park? It’s not your typical ‘bring a picnic blanket’ type of park. It was more like ‘Bring your hiking boots’ type of park. I found an entrance and stared at it suspiciously. It felt like a commitment if I were to walk in because it didn’t look like New York City on the other side of the threshold to me. It was more like… upstate hiking trail, or backwoods of Arkansas. The sun was about to set… it was a dense looking forest.
I don’t know… …Is it safe?....
I don’t know.
But I was curious. After all, I’d walked all this way to see it. There was a group of 10 people without masks quickly walking toward me on the sidewalk.
SALISHA DECIDE NOW BEFORE THIS HUGE GROUP OF PEOPLE CONSUME YOUR PERSONAL SPACE.
I hopped on the trail.
Every few steps I’d look back, wondering if this was a good idea. I could still see the entrance. I kept going. There was still some sunlight. I looked around. Still dumbfounded that this was in Manhattan; astonished that it hadn’t been bulldozed down and replaced with a high rise. It was really beautiful. And really dense. I got deeper and deeper.
STOP. What’s that? Are those people? HUMANS! COOL! Thank God I’m not alone up here!
Wait… two men…Hmm….Can I take ‘em?... I can’t take ‘em if I needed to. I take a moment to consider my appearance. Definitely don’t look “cute” but possibly still cute enough to get murdered.
Eh. I’m good. I keep going. I pass them.
They stop talking.
I give it a beat. Then I stop walking.
Naw. Let’s go home. We’re done here. I turn around. When coming up on the two guys, I use my superpowers (long story). Then, I acknowledge both with my eyes; Our nonverbal conversation saying, “Hello. I see you. I see you see me. I’m a really nice person but also not afraid of anything. Have fun guys!” I keep walking. Once I get a ways away, I subtly glance back to ensure they’re right where I left them. They were. (Whew!) We good.
I find the sidewalk. I still have some sunshine. Realize the water is so close and so beautiful. On my way back home, my watch buzzes to let me know I got all my steps in. I contemplate a few things:
Why is my therapist so hot?
I’m going to need a literary agent if I want to attract a mainstream publisher…
So glad I didn’t die in that random forest.
Should I give my favorite necklace to my new goddaughter?
I made it home safely. De-gloved. Disinfected my mask. Took off all my outside clothes. Made spaghetti in my underwear. I cannot believe how boring life is right now…
I kind of love it. In a weird way.
The smell of McDonald’s was my LITERAL highlight.
I’m going to do my best and make the most of it because when life gets back to normal, the grind will never stop.