Before getting off the bus, I take a look around to see if anyone else has been riding with the driver and me for the last twenty minutes.
There’s just one more, a mountain of a man asleep in the back, taking up two seats. His legs are open wide and his head is tilted into the corner behind him. His jaw hangs low as if he were asleep in his living room. From the looks of him, he should be snoring but he’s not.
We’re at the last stop, the stop where the driver usually tells everyone to clear off, but tonight he doesn’t say a word. Then again, there’s a yellow plastic chain separating him from the rest of the bus, so I don’t know if he’s actually said something. That, and he’s got a mask over half his face.
Approaching the curb, I look up for traffic. I already know there probably won’t be any cars, just food delivery people wrapped from head to toe silently whipping past on e-bikes.
But there is one guy, short, thick, jacketless, with a Ray Davies “Come Dancing”-era comb-back. He’s standing in the bike lane of all places when there’s nothing but empty space around, yelling into his phone:
“I TOLD YOU, YOU CAN CHANGE EVOLUTION.”
Any other day, I would’ve let the moment pass. But with everything about city life that on a person-to-person level I’ve grown accustomed to – taken for granted even – suddenly gone, the indie movie cliché of the crackpot with a leaky theory about what’s really going on around here, man, stood out. Behold, your newly unemployed security guard, losing his shit with nobody around to notice or care.
I do that city thing though, and keep walking.
I turn the corner by the bank and head to Cooper Square plaza, a space that’s usually busy with skate boarders, pot-smoking bike messengers, residents like me walking to or from work, folks out for the night.
There’s nobody around. A fresh breeze gusts from the south and smells surprisingly clean. Less traffic, less pollution: one silver lining. Without all the headlights and ambient light from apartments and restaurants, the traffic and street lights glow with an almost sentient intensity. It’s beautiful. All of it. The silence, the surrounding darkness, the emptiness.
Beneath all of this is a horror story. And as I walk, I see ambulances parked mid-block on every other street, with warning lights whipping and flashing…
This playlist is an attempt to reflect some of the uncertainty permeating the city. The feelings of abandonment, of isolation and fear and doubt. It’s also an attempt to catch some of the unintended beauty revealed in the wake of all the people who have gone inside or gone away or gone missing.
I miss them. I miss us. In some way, I’ll miss this version of the city when it’s gone. Yet I can’t wait for all of this to be over.