At 1 p.m. the Governor delivers the order we all knew was coming. All businesses defined by the state as nonessential must close for the duration at 9 p.m. tonight. How many of those businesses will reopen is anybody’s guess. Sit-down restaurants will still be allowed to do takeout and delivery, but realistically, that’s no business model: unless they can come up with money and a sturdy supply chain, they’ll join the nonessentials on the sidelines until the curfews are lifted. Liquor stores may remain open. Local mechanics are allowed to stay open, but ours has been shut, gone from the neighborhood for days with no note on the door. It’s been awhile since anybody on the block has moved a car.
Even indoors, I am struck by the forceful arrival of spring. Mid-march used to mean blizzards and fog. This year, it’s been positively balmy. Temperatures reached 75 degrees in Jersey City yesterday. If it wasn’t for the virus, I think we’d all be wondering what’s going on. We took advantage of the weather and walked up to the Heights yesterday. Laundromats, we noticed, were still open, but they were limiting the number of people who could be in the store at the same time. The pizza spot on Baldwin still seemed to be doing a decent business. Shut us down, superstorm us, cut the lights and stuff the sewers, but as long as there’s pizza, it’s still Jersey.
The warmth makes me worry about the summer. Many people are proceeding on the assumption that hotter weather will slow the virus; that could be true, but there’s no way to know for sure. The Governor has discouraged people from fleeing to the shore, which is probably wise — they don’t have the capacity to care for a wave of sick people. But the warmer it gets, the harder it’ll be to resist the urge to go outside. Summers have gotten increasingly hotter, and harder, in the city. Not everybody here has air conditioning.
With most of us looking, longingly, at the trees from behind plate glass, it’s not surprising that impossible stories about nature have spread on the social networks. You may have heard about the returns of the swans of Venice, or the rogue elephants drinking corn wine and passing out in the fields. National Geographic threw cold water on all of that. Those, it turns out, are just fantasies. As usual, confined people (we’re the confined people) are imaginatively inhabiting the forms of animals, who, we’re assured, are immune to the virus and running free. The world of “Nothing But Flowers” may still come to pass: nature may mobilize to reclaim what we aren’t using. But for now, the world outside is the same as it was when we left it, a few very long days ago.