Yesterday began our seventh week of isolation. This I know because we’ve been keeping a record of the days on the back of the door, and for no other reason. March moved deliberately, with each moment loaded with significance, and slow-burning questions: how am I feeling?, where am I standing?, am I a transmitter or a receiver, a fighter or a bystander? April was a smear. Bad news was constant and signposts were few. Eventually we will come out of this, we kept telling ourselves. But no one knew when.
Some scientists suggest that the virus will linger until July. Others, more cautious, remind us that the virus won’t go anywhere — it may be suppressed for awhile, but it’s likely to return in the autumn, hand in hand with the flu and therefore deadlier than ever. No one seriously thinks it’ll be gone by the end of this month. Nevertheless, the restlessness is widespread and palpable. We all want a summer, or, at the very least, a summer break. We’re ready for the sun to chase the pathogens away.
Maybe it will. I find it encouraging that there haven’t been many reports of outdoor transmission. If the coronavirus turns out to be a homebody, that wouldn’t be unprecedented, or even unusual: tuberculosis, for instance, is another disease that passes readily in enclosed spaces, but doesn’t often survive direct contact with the elements. It would be a tremendous relief to stop worrying about the air. A late spring and early summer of open windows would be healthy for everybody. Then again, it strikes me as possible that the reason that the virus doesn’t seem to be claiming victims on the street is because we’ve all been stuck inside. We don’t have any idea about what’s going to happen when restrictions lift.
This weekend ought to be a dry run for the summer to come. After days of rain and fog, it’s supposed to reach seventy degrees. The re-emergence of the sun will coincide with an easement of restrictions on state parks — here in Jersey City, that means LSP will finally be open. Will it be mobbed? Will everybody in town descend on the waterfront in a collective expression of our pent-up hedonism? Or have we learned new habits? Once we’re there (if we’re there), will we be able to maintain social distance, or were those who insisted on barricading the parks correct in their assumption that we couldn’t temper our enthusiasm for each other?
We’re not prepared to join the lines at Great Adventure. We’d be very reluctant to sit on a beach. But we’re eager to get on our bicycles and push the pedals with some vigor. In my dreams, I’m heading up a high hill; maybe it’s San Francisco, and maybe it’s the far side of the Golden Gate. I can feel that familiar tension in my legs, the resistance of the road, a little breeze in my face, some fog in the distance, and a thrill of acceleration as I lean forward over the handlebars and push harder. Tomorrow, I intend to make a local version of those dreams come true. We’ll see how many of my neighbors have the same idea.