The sirens are not constant, but they’re more present than before. You’re aware of them. No longer just background texture. In the evenings, as the sun is setting, they seem to be more prevalent, screaming up and down the FDR. Each one yet another case, presumably. There aren’t a lot of other reasons to be in an ambulance in the city right now.
You can see a playground down the block, if you lean out the window and the big tree between here and there isn’t in bloom yet. Others on the block are, but that one hasn’t started growing this year’s leaves yet. There were children playing on the playground for a long time, much longer than expected. Their yells are gone now, the playground finally closed, much later than the rest of the city. Who knows what difference it made one way or another.
It’s not like the city is empty. There are still people, still snippets of conversations that drift up from the sidewalk to the third floor apartment when the windows are open. Phone calls, most often. People talk louder on the phone than with people standing close (not too close) to them. When are things going to reopen. Is that cough doing better? How are you feeling. Is your mother okay. They were out of soup again at the grocery store but there were paper towels. I’m sorry to hear about that. My thoughts are with you.
Two people working out of a one-bedroom apartment takes some finesse. There’s one desk and a kitchen table, not to mention the couch. She takes the desk and the monitor, while I can work just fine with just a laptop screen, so I take the kitchen table. The couch ruins your back if you sit there too long. We eavesdrop on each other’s zoom meetings sometimes, listening to the other person do their job, knowing we couldn’t do it, thankful we both still have them.
Two of the bodegas within walking distance have closed. The third is still open. “We’ve been here forty years, it’s going to take more than this to shut us down,” she says through a surgery mask. They only let two people into the store at a time. Anyone else waits outside until another leaves. The TV is on at the register, tuned to the local news. There is nothing but news, all of it alarming.
Our neighbors either have an exercise bike or a washing machine just on the other side of the wall that generates this penetrating rhythmic thumping at odd hours. The entire living room thrums with it when it’s running, sometimes accompanied by incomprehensible pop music.
At seven o’clock, as the sun sets, the noise starts. At first, it’s just a few scattered claps, but as people throw open their windows and start banging on pots and pans with utensils, it rises cacophonously. Some people yell wordlessly. Cars honk like some asshole just stepped into traffic. A dog barks in a steady cadence. It lasts three minutes, maybe, and then peters out again. We’re still here.