Settling back to New York City left me exhausted, hence why you didn’t hear from me last week. Coming back to the city, is like moving into a new city. The streets are not as vacant as when we left, but the air is bursting with humble grief. The city is no longer in a pause, but instead waking up slowly from its lethargic slumber, right on time for scalding summer temperatures.
Summer this year has no clear delineation because the massive exodus that characterizes NYC summers, started in March. Restaurants that survived the last 3 months have thrown their tables and cutlery to the curbside, trying to lure New Yorkers, who are clutching to their wallets for the first time. Some people try to pretend they are in a rush, the lingering effect of the New York ratrace, to get back to their couch. I make a concerted effort to greet any face I recognize on my street, saying “Hello,” but really meaning “I am glad you survived.”
Our street got bruised from the protests and some businesses are still boarded up. There are more dogs in the neighborhood, or perhaps it feels that way because I now desperately look for them, so that our pup has someone to play with. The nearby dog run is temporarily closed and the closest park opens only on weekends, due to lack of volunteers. A mask that before was thought to be a fad reserved for countries in Asia, now is obligatory if you want to run any errand. Most people wear their masks, either under or over their nose, with it sending a clear message that masks are no longer stigmatized, because the lack of testing has made us all technically sick. And regular hospital visits that before took an hour, now take 3.
Our city has taken a beating and while we had the privilege to leave before the peak of the pandemic, we are reluctant to give up on the dream to live and grow our careers here. I asked a friend, who owns a salon in the city, if we choose to stick around because we want to, because this city demands a higher caliber from us, or is it because we have incorporated here, started tangible businesses that legally bound us to be here? Whatever the reason, as I watched fireworks spurt out of the Empire State Building for the 4th of July, while discussing anti-Black racism with my friends, I know that this is where I am meant to be. This is not the first time I question my decision to live in NYC, and I am sure this won’t be my last. I welcome the questioning because it offers an opportunity to strengthen my resolve.