By Deven DeMarco
“What is a week-end” is the quip Maggie Smith’s character queries in the show Downton Abbey. And Governor Cuomo upon greeting the press corps last week said Happy Friday- does that mean anything if there is no weekend anymore?
Time has folded back on itself like an accordion – things that happened moments ago feel like days. This morning at 7 I rose to start my day, and here we are half-past two, no breakfast, only coffee and maybe I ate a banana; the peel on the counter implies I did.
I was cooking a lot last week. I shifted to baking. Everything I am making I am putting in the freezer, giving to friends. Last week I gained 11 pounds, so I think I am trying not to eat too much now.
My anxiety is not hysterical. I am fairly measured in my day. Right now, I am wishing I were dressed heading out to feel the sun on my skin even if the temperate, seasonally accurate feels too cold. I am disappointed to be missing Spring. I split the blossoming branches from the trees on my block under the silent nights without detection. I want to wander to the bodega to buy tulips, hyacinth even carnations at this point, but the supply chain is broken, for this reason all the Asian markets in Elmhurst have shuttered.
Not that I would wander to Elmhurst right now. The guy I am dating lives across from the hospital. We text. I fret. He and his three other roommates are all undocumented, have no resources other than the restaurants where they continue to cook or package up and run deliveries. He told me he’d been to a luxury apartment, some building that had been completely overhauled, the multiple dwellings all condensed into a near palace. The couple who ordered, the litany of allergies and restrictions to the meals that in any other circumstance would’ve slowed the bustling kitchen to a crawl – but it was the only delivery last night. The bill came to just over $120 not including a couple of bottles of wine they added last minute, causing him to double back the 4 blocks to the restaurant and retrieve them. They tipped him $8 on the credit card. He’s lucky if that is more than 6.50 after the Amex fee.
I miss him. We haven’t seen one another.
I am relieved that my apartment is cozy, that I have the fire escape that allows me to sit out in the sunshine, to have another room to spend at least a fragment of my day; one can only move from the toilet to the couch to the desk to the table but so many times in a day.
I am also getting horny and was dismayed to see that the other bodega, the smoke shop has already closed up. I guess the gays can’t score their meth and aren’t scurrying back past the coolers full of sugary teas and protein shakes to cop their glass pipes and the propane for their torches, so there is no point for Amir to hang behind the counter selling gum and poppers to guys like me.
I went on a tear, spending money I didn’t have placing orders with Rough Trade Gear and Double Scorpio shipments.
If you don’t know how the day flows, if there is no routine in place to follow, it’s hard to know what time it is or even day. Has this really only been two weeks since we closed the restaurants and bars, a week since all else followed? I had lost my income for weeks before that when customers stopped coming into the glimmering Dim Sum Palace where I’d been a captain since July. The corporate dinners dropped off, the Chinese kids from LIC still came through but
when the smoke clears, the masks are discarded the gloves and sanitizer wiped away what will the world look like again?
How will it feel to waltz through Grand Central Station or ride the R train to Jackson Heights?
Right now the concern is that 50% of all shuttered restaurants and bars will never open again, will Chipotle and Olive Garden swoop in and crush the last vestiges of the mom & pop shop? I think there may be a stream of home cooking, the online course in how to debone a chicken- once they all fade scroll past our current memory the landscape will be different.
As someone in hospitality I pray that we will have actual sick days, that childcare and support systems will be in place.
The goal of the current administration to penalize even legal immigrants for applying for WIC, for SNAP for Medicaid has been a talking point for far too long. We now know that it looks like when the entire nation is desperate, broke and hungry, people turned away from ERs because they are not sick enough or cannot pay for the tests needed to clarify their ills. Now the human faces on the 6 o’ clock news will be your neighbor, your sister, your child, you, me.
Will we go back to the partisan playbook of corporate citizenship and conglomerate greed?
I hope that the urge to pull together to finally hug an isolated loved one will be enough, that the shimmering thread of human KINDness is forged like Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso, that we become our superhero and fight back.
This villain has a face, not some mote airborne and flouncing through the poisoned air but physical. The calculated callousness that led to so many deaths must be tabulated in votes, and the country that has rotted under the haze of ruffian’s reality show takes a stand to make a move toward actual greatness.
Will the cracked of EPA rules still go unchallenged in the days to come? Will Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio be held accountable for allowing Shake Shack & Eataly to dip into the emergency aid for small restaurants?
Still, I’m hopeful. The instantaneous difference in the air quality in places where pollution has softened to a simmer is proof that we have a chance to make changes to save the environment. We will have to get our hands dirty, something I think most of us will welcome having been unable to touch so much for far too long.