New York City is going on three months of quarantine. Ellie Hertel gives you an inside look at how quiet the city that never sleeps has become.
“New York Tough” has been the mantra these days, from Cuomo’s daily Covid-19 briefings to my newly embroidered sweatshirt that I wear every day. I’ve had the chance to experience how tough New York really is firsthand. The city that never sleeps is currently hibernating. It somehow happened slowly and all at once. We heard rumblings of a highly contagious virus that was rampaging across the globe and in the blink of an eye, it was here.
My quarantine started on March 16th, and my roommate left the following day. Today marks 67 days that I’ve been alone in my tiny apartment on the Upper East Side. In the beginning, I truly believed it would be a couple of weeks and then things would go back to normal. I left my apartment once a day to grab a coffee from the coffee shop downstairs and would walk around the neighborhood sipping a latte and enjoying the time outside. We had just gotten the news from work that we would be working from home for the next two weeks. Then a few days later, we heard the staggering statistics, and it felt like the city came to a screeching halt. This virus wasn’t just something to make witty instagram captions about - it was devastating us. Temporary morgues were popping up in all the boroughs. A field hospital was set up in Central Park, and we were now required to stay at home. The coffee shop closed. Small businesses shuttered their doors indefinitely. The streets of New York City were completely empty.
On the empty New York City streets Ellie must have her face covered by a mask or bandana.
It’s important to note that I have been very lucky. I did not lose my job during this pandemic, while many others did. My job does not require me to leave the safety of my home. I am fortunate enough to be able to write about this time from a place of privilege. I leave once a week or so to get fresh air, pick up groceries, and occasionally go on social-distance walks with the only two friends that I’ve seen since this began. The park gets crowded on sunny days, but everyone stays 6 feet apart and stays masked. The new normal.
When I first realized that I would be at home much longer than I originally had planned, and that most of my friends were fleeing New York, I signed up to foster a cat. I’ve never had a cat, but I thought that my less than 250 square ft apartment would be better fit for a cat than a dog. It took a few weeks, but on April 3rd, I received a tiny cat in a tiny cardboard box who was about to change my entire experience. Her name is Poppy, and I foster-failed my very first week with her. She is chaos in a 7 pound frame and exactly what I needed. I’ve been able to focus on her and caring for her rather than sitting at home thinking about how lonely I am. She is naughty and ornery, but also tiny and precious. I’m positive that I needed her way more than she needed me. She gives me a reason to get up every morning and start the day, and that reason is typically a swift swat to the face. Again, chaos.
Poppy isn’t the only positive to come out of this surreal and heartbreaking time. I’ve found the time to connect with friends who I don’t normally talk to very often. My high school friends started up a weekly virtual game night. I cleaned out my closet, started to learn guitar, and watercolored a million floral paintings that I hung in my kitchen. I’ve also had to make a conscious effort to reflect on the positives and celebrate the little things because everything else can feel so overwhelmingly bleak.
Seven o’clock in the evening is now my favorite time of day. It’s the time when everyone cheers for essential workers. The little boy in the building that faces my window uses a pot and a wooden spoon to show his support, and my downstairs neighbors use a blow-horn. It’s the only time of day when I am reminded that I’m not alone. It’s the closest thing to a hug that I can feel these days. A community showing its love for those of us who don’t get to stay at home where it’s safe. May 24th is my two year anniversary of living in Manhattan, and I feel more connected with the city now than I ever thought I could.