We are still allowed to walk. In a city like Houston, where people are generally more than 6 feet apart already, it seems unlikely that the freedom to be outside will go away in the coming weeks. It is not a walking city, but the streets are now more bare than ever. There is a woman, standing in her window, looking outside and imagining doing the things she never did before.
If I stay away from parks, the neighborhood feels like mine. It looks like a space that never had people. It is so quiet. The trees have breathed out a little bit and taken up a centimeter more of room.
I turn the corner and there is a cat sitting on the curb under a stop sign; it is watching me, pivoting its head with my path. A robin, perched atop the sign, divebombs the cat, swooping into its ears, batting with her wings. The cat doesn’t notice; it is just watching me. At the intersection behind them, a man in khaki shorts and flip-flops is walking one step behind a woman in a bikini. On top of that, she is wearing a see-through, green, lacy, fluorescent robe, fastened above her belly button with a single snap. It’s not sunny, but she’s wearing sunglasses. She looks like an exotic dancer between sets. They both look at me like the cat does, as if there is something peculiar about me being in this spot. I am as out of place as I feel. It is all playing out in slow-motion, as if I am in a David Lynch movie, everything at once mundane yet loaded with strange meaning in each meticulous frame.
I laugh to myself at the absurdity of this scene and want to stop and underline it, to tell somebody about it, but then everything feels absurd right now, or at least new, different…a way of life I didn’t expect. What is actually so weird about it? Has anything really changed?
The United States is responding to danger in the attempt of an organized effort. We have done that before. We have fumbled with and enacted laws that limit our ability to drink and then drive a car. And in the same way, there are many people who adhere to that limitation in the interest for the functioning of our society. And there are others who, no matter how many facts they are presented with, will still not be told what to do, will still not believe it applies to them.
One of the terrifying samenesses that we are faced with, with the volume turned full blast now, is the fragility of our identity…and our individual identities. It is not the thing that is different that is scary. It is what is the same. The systems and assurances and governments and civilities that we count on to let us be the people we are are in fact in no way permanent. A society only functions like we think it should because we agree to a particular system. It can change in a moment. A President only behaves like what we think a President is only because that person agrees to. That person can change at will. The job I identify with, that makes up a good portion of who I am can disappear tomorrow. The pieces of paper that we agree to hold a certain value can suddenly have no value at all.
The thing that actually feels different to me is the passage of time. The feeling of stopping. The feeling of waiting. Something afforded to people who are not in the rarified positions of keeping people alive with medical care or basic necessities is to be a part of the world all slowing down at once…to not have the distraction of a world churning ahead outside the window.
One of the things that has become so deafening for me is that today I am not a choreographer. Today I am not a New Yorker. Today I am only Trey to the extent that I imbue that name with meaning. I am only the human existing in this very moment and that is all I ever am…until I no longer am. Everything in our lives will end. It may end after we do; it may end in the next instant. All of the worry and paranoia from this moment comes from the realization that so many of the things I base my existence on are just my inventions. All of our inventions.
The thing that is beginning to rise to the surface as a benefit to this experience, is the chance to release my attachments to any version of myself, to stop imagining permanence as security. There is no permanence and a moment like this tears away that fallacy and reveals us as spirits in bodies, hurtling through space. There is an elation in that, like driving down the freeway with the top down. I see I am only bound by my decisions and my beliefs in accordance with what comes my way. Am I trapped indoors or am I safe in the extreme privilege of four walls, distance, and food to eat? Am I a frustrated choreographer or am I an animation filmmaker with time to create? Do I focus on my own uncertainty about the future or on the needs of my neighbors? My fantasies of a life I am missing are false, because I am only the person I decide to be now.