Night Drives

“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted.  It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.” ~ Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
 

Day 356.  Last Night was Friday night.  The girls and I drove around the city and ended up on the Lower East Side.  We parked the car and walked out in the blistering cold in search of a place to eat.  With the restaurant gathering capacity still limited to thirty-five percent, we settled on dining inside a bubble at this place called Route 66.

Photo credit: Route 66
 

The inside of the bubble was warmer, but by no means warm enough to take off your coat.  It’s uncomfortable to eat in such conditions, but even more uncomfortable to just sit there idle, so I ordered a cocktail and some french fries.  Not exactly healthy, but hey, you only live once.

After dinner, we got back into the car and drove around the city some more.  I swear to God, New York is so bloody beautiful.  We turned up the music in the car and with the lights of the city shining around us, it almost felt like we were in a nightclub.

Song: Breaking Me, Topic & A7S
Excuse the smudges on the windows.
 

Scar Tissue

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes.  No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it.  A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived.  For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.” ~ Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits
 
Day 347.  The days seem to get heavier and heavier.
 
I was fortunate last year that I was too busy at work to really feel the full blown effects of this pandemic, but the workload finally slowed down a bit during this first quarter of the year, and so the powers that be have been encouraging us to log offline early or use the vacation days that we did not use last year.
 
Idle time is dangerous for people with depression.  I am least depressed when my days and nights are consumed with work, and when I have down time or “free time”, my thoughts go dark, and  then I am caught in a black hole of despair and hopelessness from which I am certain there is no escape.
 
My daughter and I talk a lot, and that helps quite a bit, but she is at an age where she prefers the (virtual) company of her friends.  I understand that.  After all, I was once her age, so I try not to impose too much on her time.  
 
I read a lot, though nothing new – mostly rereading the old books I have.  There’s a certain comfort in knowing how the stories will end, and reading a story again can feel like visiting an old friend.  There is comfort in familiarity and so whenever I am feeling particularly lonely, I pick up an old book and relive the parts of the stories that make me feel like home.
 
Binge watching Netflix can be entertaining at times, but I found that I can spend an entire day just sprawled out on my couch.  I would feel a huge amount of guilt at the end of the day for not being productive, so I rarely watch television anymore.
 
The short of it is that I do not find anything pleasurable anymore.  Sure, I have my occasional trysts with NP and FF, but even that feels empty.
 
I get up every morning, put on my work face, smile when I need to smile, perform my duties at work and at home, exercise fanatically every night – basically live my life like a high functioning human being – but I am dead inside.
 
I know this just is just a cycle, and soon, I will feel better again.  But for now, all I can see in front of me is darkness, and during these times, I pray for nothing but everlasting sleep.
 

Heart Restructuring

“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!
It is Saturday, the 20th of February, in the year 2021.  It has been three-hundred and forty-two (342) days since the quarantine/pandemic started for me.  It has been nearly one year.
 
All in all, the pandemic has been good to and for me.  I feel horribly writing this, as I know so many people have suffered unimaginable losses, but aside from the long periods of sheltering in place and the limited social and physical interactions with society and people, overall I have done really well the last eleven months.  
 
Financially, I made more money last year than I have ever made in my life.  Corporate restructuring is my line of work, and as you can imagine, with the fall of the economy as a result of the pandemic and the shutting of businesses, I was busy, and this is stating it mildly.
 
Physically, I am in the best health and shape than I have been in years.  I started a fitness regime last year to stave off boredom, and I stuck through it this entire time.  The hard work has paid off.
In the physical relationship department, I also flourished.  A friend had introduced me to one of her clients, a Nordic pilot (“NP“) twenty years my junior.  He and I got on in September, and until now, we enjoy an easy, no-strings attached friendship.  With the massive age difference, we both knew that this “thing”would never develop into anything further, but we enjoy each other’s company whenever he is in town.  I genuinely like him as a person, and hope that even when the flames die, we will still be friends.
 
In October, I connected with a male friend who I met in 2014.  We were both in relationships when we first met, but we since have both broken up with our respective partners.  We decided to meet up one afternoon in October.  The sexual tension had been building up the last six years, and on that afternoon, we finally succumbed to it.  The reality was even better than the fantasy we both had created in our imaginations, and my only regret now is that we did not explore this opportunity earlier.  His touch is always so gentle, yet wanting, and oftentimes I find myself daydreaming about our interactions, replaying them in my mind over and over again.
 
He is a fantastic man overall – a loving son to his parents, a kind and caring brother to his sister, and a hero to the city as a firefighter (“FF“), and if the situation were only different, I really could see myself with him.
 
However, much like NP, he is much younger than I am.  Thirteen years younger, to be exact.  Better than twenty, but still too much.
 
And that’s where my good fortune ends.  
 
I realized that I was catching feelings for FF when one night in January, NP called to say he was in town and asked if I wanted to meet up.  I told him that I was feeling under the weather and said that I would catch him the next time he was back in town.  I sensed his disappointment, but I figured it was better than if he were to come over just to feel that my heart was not into it.
 
The truth was, I could not stop thinking about FF, and I felt guilty as though I were cheating on him with NP, even though he and I had not established any kind of commitment.  Even more so, I had broken my own heart when I had told FF early on that I was only looking for a FWB situation.  I am not sure why I told him that, but I can only imagination that it was for my own self-preservation.  Better for me to setup the hurt myself, than to be hurt by him in the likely event that once he bores of me, he would break it off with me and say “you’re just too old for me” or something to that effect.
 
I just don’t think my heart can withstand another breaking.
 
Matters of the heart are where I have never been successful.  Ever.  All other parts of my life may be flourishing and prosperous, but my heart has always been bankrupted.
 
I am an expert in corporate restructuring – I only wish I knew how to restructure my heart to make myself believe in love again.
 

Autumn in New York

“Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?” ~ Dodie SmithI Capture the Castle

While the quarantine period ended sometime in May, we are still working from home and schools are on a blended distance and in-person schedule.  It is day 223 since they shut down the city.  More than half the year.  And in no time, 2021 will be upon us.

The summer came and went quickly.  I can count on my fingers the number of days I spent outside and actually felt a semblance of normalcy.

In late May, we took a drive to Connecticut.  They were the first state within driving distance of the city to open restaurants and public spaces.

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We had a lovely lunch at L’Escale.  After eating oatmeal and salads during the quarantine, this tasted like the best steak (and meal) I have ever eaten.

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In late June, we took a drive to the Hamptons.

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In July, we were tourists in our city.

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In August, we took a short trip to Saratoga Springs.

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In September, we stayed home and paid our respects to the fallen heroes of 9/11.

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And now it is October, and it is autumn in New York.

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There is a somber and dreary look and feel this season.  Or maybe it’s just me and my dark, depressive moods.  I always try hard to battle my ongoing depression, but this year has been especially difficult.  

I battle it every day by sticking to a workout routine.  I started using the pull-up bar, though I am still unable to do one proper pull-up.  I also started to work on my handstands, and I have done a solid job of sticking to a routine.  

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I even have abs now that are not covered under layers of fat and disappointment.  My fitness routine, and the positive side effects that come with it, is the highlight of my year.  Hey – I have to take the wins anywhere I can.

Vingt-Huit

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.  You probably can’t.  You know the month, the year, the day of the week.  There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car.  You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.  Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late.  A dog does not check its watch.  Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Human alone measures time.  Man alone chimes the hour.  And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.  A fear of time running out.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

Today is the 28th day of the quarantine for me.  Today is also Easter Sunday for the Roman Catholics and the Christians.

Yesterday was also my 49th birthday.

It is difficult to not feel despair and hopelessness during these uncertain times.  A general wave of gloom and irritation washed over me yesterday, and it was not lost on those who called to greet me a happy birthday.

One of my friends texted to wish me a happy birthday, and she asked, “What are you going to do today?

I was not angry with her at all, but I knew my response was snippy and mean as soon as I hit the  SEND button.

I’m going clubbing tonight.  Wtf do you think I am going to do?  My choices are limited to what side of the couch I am going to sit today, or what part of the apartment I will spend my day.”

I felt badly for being so bitchy, so I picked up the phone and called her.  She also felt badly and we talked about some of the difficulties she is facing in her own life with this COVID crisis.

As a little bit of a treat, I ordered pizza and seafood linguine from one of the few neighborhood restaurants that are still open for delivery.  For dessert, we had carrot cake that I defrosted from my Omaha Steaks order that was delivered on Thursday.  It was not the best birthday celebration, but neither was it the worst.  We just have to make do with what we have, right?  And always remain grateful no matter what.

Twenty

I was tired of doing much the same thing everyday. My friends pursued their course with uneventfulness; they had no longer any surprises for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious banality. We were like tram-cars running on their lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible to calculate within small limits the number of passengers they would carry. Life was ordered too pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my small apartment, sold my few belongings, and resolved to start afresh.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

I just finished the twentieth day of isolation/quarantine.  I did not leave the house this entire week.  The CV situation has reached a devastating level – over 3,500 have died already, with over 680 deaths in a 24 hour period.

I went outside today, only the third time in the twenty days that I have been in isolation.  It was a quick stop to the food market, and when I saw that the line was wrapped around the corner, I headed back home.  It took all of twenty minutes.

I have to admit that I had a hard time this week.  I know – I am not the only one.   This has been rough on everyone.  I still feel grateful in my heart that I am working and that my family is safe and healthy.  But if I am being honest, being grateful does not mean that I cannot hate being in what feels like house arrest, and feel anxiety for the uncertain future that we all face.

G was so bored this week that she cut her own hair.  Surprisingly, it turned out quite nice.  I was not happy at first that she did that, but after some thought, I realized that she has had to adjust to this quarantine life, and if something as innocent as cutting her own hair makes her feel better, than how can I be mad at that?

I dreamt last night of G.  She was younger in my dream, maybe six or seven.  I was standing in my living room, aware of the chaos outside, and saw that she had sneaked outside to play.  Behind her, as she was blissfully unaware of her surroundings, a Neanderthal-looking man was swinging around his firearm.  I screamed through the glass sliding door for her to come inside, but it was as if she could not hear me or the Neanderthal circling around her.  I frantically kept screaming for her to come inside, and I woke up right as the Neanderthal was about to close in on her.

 

Arithmós Dekatria

“There are many who don’t wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don’t wish to wake for the same fear.” ~ Richelle Goodrich, Dandelions: The Disappearance of Annabelle Fancher

I’ve lost count, but I’m pretty sure today is day 13.  Days 9 through 12 were uneventful and were spent inside the apartment, working eleven hour days and not much else.

I ventured outside today and ran to the store to get some essentials.  The streets were even more empty today than they were last week.  I actually walked on the street rather than the sidewalk and kept a considerable distance from other people.  Nearly everyone on the streets and inside the supermarket had masks.

The supermarket shelves were also more sparse than last week.  It was a sad, sad spectacle.  There was not even one roll of toilet paper to be bought.  The frozen vegetable freezers were also empty, with the exception of maybe two bags of frozen peas and frozen corn stuck together.  I thought to take a picture of the empty shelves, but then decided against it.  This is not something that I ever want to see again, and I really did not want to document this, not even for posterity.

In the end, I was able to only buy one package of chicken, two bottles of water, and one small bag of rice.  Even with that paltry amount of groceries, I felt thankful that I was able to get anything at all.

It started to rain on my walk home from the market, and I suddenly had the urge to burst into tears.  Not because of the rain, but because as I looked around at the empty streets and at the other people walking the street, I could see the level of fear and despair in their eyes, and I could tell from their gait that like I, they were feeling like this is the end of the world as we knew it.

Szám Hat

“This is a good place,” he said.

“There’s a lot of liquor,” I agreed. ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Day 6.

It was a good day.    The official “lockdown” of New York City begins on Sunday, March 22, so kind of as a last hurrah, I accompanied a friend into midtown.  She had to drive another friend who is a cleaning maid for one of the buildings in the city.  She had time to kill while she waited for her friend to finish her work, so I took the opportunity to go to my office to pick up a few files.

The city was empty.  Not deserted, but empty for its usual standards.  According to Wikipedia, “approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists, while over 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on its busiest days.”  As we passed by it yesterday, there were less than fifty people there, and this is a generous count.

My building was also empty, with the exception of the armed police in the front, and the man at the security desk.  I took the elevator upstairs to my floor, and when I stepped out of the elevator, I was assaulted by the antiseptic smell and blinded by the brilliance of the shining floor and light fixtures.  I don’t want to say that they went overboard with the cleaning, but well, they really did go overboard.  It smelled like a hospital, and the extreme brightness of the lights gave me an eerie feeling of a mental institution, or what I would imagine a mental institution would be like.

I went into my office and picked up a few files and folders to take home.  I felt sad when I  was leaving and wondered to myself as to when I would be back again.

After her friend was finished with work, we thought to brave the grocery stores.  We drove to about five different stores and all of them had long lines wrapped around the corner.  To the crowd’s credit, they all practiced social distancing and everyone stood a few feet apart from each other.

We didn’t feel like waiting in the long lines, so we decided to just go into a Walgreen’s.  I had already done my necessary shopping earlier this week, so I only ended up buying some plastic ice cube trays and a bag of chips.  Our next stop before heading home was a little Vietnamese sandwich shop where we were allowed to enter only one person at a time.  I ordered a pork belly sandwich to go.  Next door was a wine shop where again, we we were only allowed to enter one person at a time.  I bought two bottles of Prosecco and then went home.

No exercise for me today.  I opted instead to catch up with my cousin in Chicago and went to bed early.  I’m saving the Prosecco for a rainy day.

Quinto Giorno

“Human beings are so destructive.  I sometimes think we’re a kind of plague, that will scrub the earth clean.  We destroy things so well that I sometimes think, maybe that’s our function. Maybe every few eons, some animal comes along that kills off the rest of the world, clears the decks, and lets evolution proceed to its next phase.” ~ Michael Crichton, The Lost World

Fifth day.

Because I didn’t do any panic buying, I was forced to go to the store today.  I had to buy a few essentials so I went around noon.  The streets were not exactly empty, but they were not as populated as they would be normally.  I received a few nasty looks and one woman at the store grimaced when she saw me, and she purposely made a dramatic turn to walk as far away from me as the store aisle would allow.  At first I told myself that it was just all in my insecure head, but when she allowed others to walk close by her, I knew that I was not being overly sensitive.

Because of this virus, most people either hate, fear, or blame the Chinese/Asians, or maybe a combination of all three.

As I was walking down the street, I suddenly became aware of my Asian-ness.  I felt a bit frightened when I saw a group of teens walking in my direction.  I had just heard of an Asian couple who got stomped by a group of teens on the subway platform in Philadelphia.  Their motive: they are angry at the Chinese/Asians for this virus that has become pandemic.

I quite imagined that I was feeling very similar to how Jewish people felt during WWII in Germany (but of course not as extreme): scared of being negatively identified simply by the color of your skin, the slant of your eye, or the religion that you believe.

I was both relieved when I returned home but also anxious for when I will need to go back out again and possibly face more prejudice.

This afternoon, my cousin texted me an article of how dolphins and swans had returned to Venice Canal amidst the quarantine, and although the article has since been debunked, the reports that the Canal has improved is not untrue.  The mayor of Venice did state to reporters that “the air is less polluted since there are fewer vaporetti and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents.”

I consider that a small win for Mother Earth.

Here are some photos of beautiful Venice from my trip nearly three years ago:

Sending all my love to you, Italy.  Forza Italia.

Numara Dört

“I wonder if rooms in an insane asylum have Do Not Disturb signs for the doors. I should hope not, because knock or no knock, every occupant in those rooms is already disturbed.” ~ Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over

Day 4.  I was itching to go outside today, but the grayness of the day convinced me that it was best to stay indoors.  I was happy that I listened to my inner thoughts because awhile after that decision, I heard a man screaming outside in the street in front of my building.  The sounds coming from him were unintelligible.  It was unclear if he was singing loudly, rapping loudly, or just making guttural noises.  I looked out through my window and saw that he was moving spastically on the sidewalk, almost like a toddler first learning to walk.  His face was in a grimace as if he were in pain, but he also appeared angry, and his arms were flailing, seemingly punching something unseen in front of him.  He did this for a few minutes, and then he continued down the street, the sound of his battle cry fading into a hum.

Tonight I hung on the pull-up bar and did reverse crunches.  I’m starting to get callouses on my palms, and I like it.