@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
I don’t understand New York these days. But maybe that’s always been New York’s charm, the misunderstanding. The sign outside the bodega says no service without a mask. I, however, have arrived here by bicycle, am high, vaccinated and have no mask.
There’s three people in the bodega at this point. The man behind the counter, Indian, middle aged. Myself, a self-employed writer, skinny blond in jeans and wearing a Schwinn bicycle helmet. And this man telling a story. He’s a middle aged man, plump, balding, no taller than myself telling, no not telling, shouting, a story. He’s yelling in the bodega. It’s curious because it’s just the three of us. In a store not much bigger than my studio apartment. And he’s projecting as if he’s a bad actor in an audition taking place in a vacant thousand seat theater….
“SO I’M ON THE BUS ON A TUESDAY NIGHT AND I SAY, WHY DON’T YOU LET GOD DRIVE THE BUS?”
It’s not as though he’s performing for me or even the teller, but maybe God himself, how loud he yells.
“I SAYS TO THE BUS DRIVER WHY DON’T YOU LET GOD DRIVE.”
And he laughs. He laughs and laughs in this hysteria. I’m the not sober one so I should be laughing but I’m more confused, if anything. Anxious. A bead of sweat escapes my helmet and runs down my face, then, it falls from my chin to my arm where I’m carrying a six pack of Modelo and mint chip ice cream.
“BECAUSE IF HE WAS TIRED AND LET GOD DRIVE THE BUS WE’D ALL DIE. DO YOU GET IT.”
The heat makes everything more uncomfortable. Certainly, I’ll take higher temperatures over freezing any day. But the thing about the heat is the perpetual thirst. I’m so thirsty, I think. I could stick my head in the freezer. The humidity isn’t doing any of us favors. He wipes sweat from him brow as he laughs, pretending to not care if I’ve heard the story, even though he’s more impossible to ignore than a flash mob, dancing.
He says. In all seriousness.
“GOD IS IN CONTROL. I TRULY BELIEVE THAT.”
The bodega worker nods in agreement. Yes, god is in control of this situation here in the bodega and all situations. I ring up my beer and ice cream, then peddle to a friends’ for an outdoor movie screening. This is a very New York type of evening. Late summer nights start cooling off. You’d look sexy on that bike if you didn’t look so dehydrated and exhausted. New York, New York.
One of my neighbors I call, “John” (I don’t know if that’s his name, it’s just, in the brief interactions I have with him he reminds me of my dad). John and his wife have two cars but a driveway with only room for one. So one car stays in the driveway and the older truck, which he uses for work, is street parked like my own car and many others in the boroughs. His truck has a bumper sticker that says, “EXPECT MIRACLES.” Here’s where he is definitely not like my dad. My dad wouldn’t defile a car, not even in the name of the Lord.
So I know this truck because I see it street parked with that message, “expect miracles.” Miracles? Expect them? Now, I’m unsure I believe in miracles in the biblical sense. But I’ve seen enough miracles to believe in them, divine or not. I have loved ones still with me who beat dissolution odds. That’s some big miracle there. And I believe in small ones too. Like witnessing a shooting star. But I don’t expect them. I do not.
The thing that frightens me more than coronavirus is how easy it was to politicize and weaponize vaccination status. I did get get the J&J vaccination myself, after a time seeing that I believed it was safe for me, and it could make life easier when it comes to travel, especially since I live in a metropolis. I am, and forever will be, for vaccinations. However, I strongly feel that it is a choice to be made by the individual. And they should not be shamed if they do not want to get it, as there are proper reasons why someone might not want vaccination.
I’ll be traveling abroad soon, because, restless me, I’m really trying to squeeze whatever I can into this existence, as fickle and finite as it is. I spoke with someone close to me who is a PA in a hospital and inquired about her thoughts on traveling during this time, as she is someone who has been in the trenches of a pandemic. She said to me, I won’t soon forget, she said, “Lori, in the E.R. just the other day, I had to tell the mother of an 18 year old boy her son was dead. He was drunk. He called an Uber. And he just stepped into the street at the exact wrong time. He was rushed to the hospital but we couldn’t save him. I see tragedy so regularly I’m somewhat used to it. I see tragedy everyday. Lori, I love you, and I want you to be safe, but live your life… just go live your life.”
This struck me, because as she was saying how calloused she was to tragedy it was clear that she wasn’t. A young mother herself, the glint in her eyes and gusto in her soft but stern soliloquy lets you know that she is as terrified of loss as anyone, but living in fear is not the answer. That it’s tragedy is what’s to be expected. Most likely, all of this, ends in tragedy.
The world acts as an accordion now. Things will open and get better, then get more stringent and harsher and close. As someone who is healthy, able, and with a will that’s a proper mental illness, thirsty for experience, I must go. For tragedy awaits me, anyway. I’ve expected as much. But I’ll drink, and love, and explore and laugh at fear until it laughs with me. Outside, in nature, with the fresh air where the waves crash and flowers bloom, the tragedy being that beauty is only temporary.