The first time I left New York City in a rush was nine years ago. By then, moving frequently from place to place had become a regular part of my life. Packing a suitcase, organizing moving boxes, keeping quiet during a long car ride—these were among the first skills I developed as a child in constant limbo.
I carried these skills with me to college last fall where I held on to the empty extra suitcases that I moved in with, and saved every large Amazon package that I picked up at the student mail center on West 116th Street. My dorm room was usually an empty space because I often told myself that I would soon have to leave. When the time came, moving out of my dorm two months before schedule was quick and, like always, the car ride back home was silent. Everything in life, I reminded myself as I pulled out my extra suitcases and gathered the leftover Amazon boxes in my room, is temporary.
However, nothing about these times feels temporary.
I am not sure how to mourn the things I used to do because I don’t know if they’ll come back to me as they were before. I don’t know if I’ll need blue latex gloves to comb through a novel when I visit a Brooklyn bookstore again, if I’ll need to bump elbows with my friends instead of hugging them and never letting go, or if I’ll need to wear a face mask when I resume checking off boxes on my Things to Do When in NYC list. There is no waiting suitcase to remedy these thoughts, to sit patiently on a dusty floor until it is time to fall back into routine.
My days here at home are spent watching rising numbers. The commercials on television are already reflecting a changing America. I share articles with my dad that paint a picture of the world post-virus, and look over my mom’s shoulder in the kitchen as we make up for time lost. I avoid news updates by working on assignments, but I am reaching the point where I am starting to avoid those, too.
Simultaneously, I miss and appreciate the things that I previously hated or took for granted. Speed walking to an early morning literature class, wailing sirens on Broadway at one in the morning, bumping into strangers on a crowded sidewalk. A quiet mind mid-hand washing, a short queue, the exchange of awkward smiles between strangers unmasked. The eternal warmth of the sun, the looming height of upstate trees. Silence. The very nature of life itself.