on The Empty & writing during ‘lockdown’

It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of “lockdown” here in NYC. As someone with a “comorbidity” (awful word!) I’m scheduled to get the vaccine soon (after weeks & juggling appointment sites). It’s hard to repress memories of the abject terror I felt every night last March (and April and May) watching the numbers rise & rise. I’d like to say I was brave, that I did a lot of writing, that I learned to knit, that I edited my novel, stayed off FB, but none of that would be true. I did finish two drafts of my dissertation (a seemingly never ending process) & am due to get notes next week with a possible April defense (?!?). I kept up my freelance reviewing (& got paid). I made it through layoffs at “the day job,” re-embraced the WFH thing (I’ve always done freelance from home), spent my savings on an iMac & other office supplies (because: day job). I also settled into a new routine: up early & train via Zoom (or sleep in/read genre fiction). Shower. Smoothie. Log in to work. Mayor then Cuomo’s news conference. Daily work info meetings. YouTube Yoga for lunch OR walk in NYC taking photos of The Empty. I took some online classes (free @ the day job): Experimental Writing, Digital Marketing. I started “Running at Home” (it’s a thing on YouTube) eventually transitioning into running (in place) to videos of trail runners & races – favorites are random paths in the PNW (beach views) & a guy who runs in Norway. I donated half my closet to Goodwill (goodbye go-go boots & anything hot pink). I read hundreds of manuscripts. I got to know my neighbors better & when it got warmer, we all stood outside & tried to learn how to be social while socially-distanced. Someone set up a donation spot in our lobby & we all shared whatever we could. We traded info: which stores were open/closed, how to land a grocery delivery time-slot, who was gone & who was dead, how many apartments were empty…and of course, the marches & the fires & the boarded up windows & the omnipresent helicopters. There was a night when the shouting & the helicopters & the BOOMS from the Bowery were loud enough to trouble even The Cat. In July, I went to the beach & stayed in the ocean (away from people) for four days. I came back to a city hollowed out. More 1981 than 2001. I tried to write about this but instead, wrote about coming up over the crest of a wave into the midst of dolphins. In December I went for another COVID test & got on a plane. For Xmas, I gave my mother a self-made chapbook of photos and words March – December 2020. There weren’t many words & I still haven’t sent any out for publication. I don’t know if I want to share. All these ‘COVID Diaries’ – either they ring too horribly true (frontline workers) or they speak privilege (too many ‘devices’ for VIOS, whether or not to keep the nanny – who ARE these people?!?). I’ve always had a hard time reading 9/11-focused writing. There are very few pieces that work for me. I wonder, when I read all the many, many books & poems that will be written about COVID, about ‘lockdown,’ about this collective horror, our collective & terrible loss, who will have the strength and skill and power of the word to write it true. I don’t know if I can. #COVID #NYC #Writing

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