I live in Philadelphia now. While I was still in Brooklyn, I aspired to get outside every day, but my stretches indoors got longer and longer. My last one was 11 days. I’m getting out much more regularly now, and it feels good, but it’s invariably an exercise in frustration. The latest CDC guidance says that surface transmission, while possible, is much less likely than transmission via respiratory droplets. Nevertheless, at least half of the people I see out and about here aren’t wearing masks.
Leah and I have been homeowners for almost two weeks. The closing, which would have been bikeable from Leah’s apartment, was instead held in a suburb 17 miles away. The title agent we were originally meant to work with refused to get anywhere near me since I was coming from New York, the epicenter of the pandemic. In lieu of arranging power of attorney, finding a notary, and overnighting documents during said pandemic—not to mention experiencing this milestone apart—we put on our masks, rented a car, wiped it down, and drove out to Wayne, PA. There, we were greeted with hand sanitizer and complimentary gloves and pens sealed in cellophane. From six feet away in a plain conference room, our new title agent guided us through the stack of documents we were to sign. We offered muffled thanks and goodbyes, and that was that.
George Floyd was still alive then. Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were not, though most of us hadn’t yet had the opportunity to take notice. People have noticed now, whether they were informed by a journalist or an activist or they’ve wondered why the helicopters won’t go away. Many of the mass demonstrations across the country over the past few days have gotten ugly, including Philadelphia’s. If you want to know what privilege looks like, it’s taking a break from painting your new house to see the latest notifications about the 6 p.m. curfew and the arrival of the National Guard.
We’ll move into the house in about two weeks. We expected lockdown challenges. But in a world already thoroughly preoccupied with COVID-19, we didn’t quite expect the additional disruption that comes with a renewed national debate on white supremacy and police brutality. On the one hand, hell yeah, bring it on, tear down this racist system. On the other, I worry about people getting hurt and what these demonstrations will mean for the spread of the virus.