washington square park

Last night, New York was filled with a July energy so wildly different from the coma of April I persist in believing we are in still. Isn’t it still March? I keep telling myself.

The Jameson and shamrock displays in the liquor stores echo my question, reinforce the belief that time has stopped. That in two months, I will be in Oberammergau, that a conference will still happen in two weeks, that we are on the verge of a summer we are still anticipating, which has not yet come.

I still feel this way, suspended, even as I look back at a dizzying tide of memories that have happened in a vacuum. Wearing masks, trading baked goods outside, through windows and on front stoops, being cold in the park but going outside anyway. Walking up Columbus Avenue to an empty church alone, each bodega, shop, and restaurant shuttered.

I look back on the dizzying social schedule of a world with nothing else but Zoom. Friday night hangouts, Saturday night trivias, drinking games played across screens. I think of months of flirting with the same man, each picture taken to be shared across an exchange of blue and white bubbles, and then that ending with the burst of June: the world coming out of its intubated innervation into a focused surge of action.

I think of the long, drawn-out decision to go to grad school, commencing with the acceptance arrival the same day that Broadway closed, that the world began to seriously stop, a decision hanging in the background of the suspended world of April, and then forcing me from an eternal present into a consideration of the future in May.

I think of the worlds that I have plumbed within: the fear, the jealousy, unhappiness, insecurities, age-old neuroses and paranoias, relationships broken, healed, on the mend, laid to rest and ended. And the peace, digging down in the silence of a world that has no distraction to the barest core of peace within.

I think of the rhythm of worship I have missed: Lent, Passiontide, Easter, the great feasts that kick off the return of Ordinary Time. And the new worships I have discovered: waking up with coffee, morning prayer by the pond, the office of readings in the gentle sunrise over Central park, coffee with poetry, the walks with the rosary as the warm spring nights turn to blue nights of Manhattan summer. The worship of losing things once loved, and not shrinking from the loss.

I think of the places traveled—first slowly, down to protests, to the West Village, biking through the Bronx, down through Brooklyn to Coney Island, picking up my box from work, to parks in Greenpoint, to Queens, and then farther afield to Fire Island and to Maine.

I think of all this life that has been lived in a time that I have no words for. All of this has happened, and still—isn’t it March?

***

In Washington Square Park last night, it was not March, it was July. Artists and musicians gathered around the fountain, where, in the Eastern quadrant, a team of drummers had begun a beat so infectious that a slowly growing knot of people continued to dance long after their feet were tired.

Grandfathers with beat up converse and masks hanging off their noses were lifting their feet to the rhythm. A woman in a purple bra swished her hips within an invisible hula hoop.

A dowager in an elegant silk jumpsuit dropped her shopping bags and began to dance with a man in the middle of a circle of dancers. A girl with canvas shorts pulled up high broke it down behind a pair of shirtless boys with backpacks raising the roof.

A slight incense of weed wafted through the throngs of people. I waited on the edges, but then slowly, I drifted into the center, masks on, bodies carried away by the rhythm of the drums to forget that we are frozen, that fear renders us incapable of motion. It was impossible not to dance, to be a part of this moving body of bodies, to enter into the small sargasso sea of vibrance in the middle of the park. Being human is always finding new ways to declare, each day, I am alive.

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