“We’re all in this together,” is displayed on a shiny, moving billboard as I enter the city that I’ve called home for so long.
There are few people on the streets, but somehow there is still trouble finding parking. The New York nightmare is still evident, even during the shutdown, so I finally succumb to it and put $4.50/hour in a parking spot that I will have to move the car from at 8 a.m.
My favorite coffee shop/record store combination is still open, so it’s hard to tell what is essential anymore—but I’m not complaining about this one. I wore a mask for the first time, which was made out of a bandana that I’ve never had much use for in the past.
Are we really all in this together?
I never felt like I was in it together before all of this happened. Why would I feel this way, now?
I moved to New York City when I was 19 years old with a gift of 20 dollars from my father that I used to take the train. I had about $2,000 in my bank account, which I made from working as a telemarketer for a discount retailer. I remember talking to one of the customers and it somehow becoming an hour-long conversation. We talked about my upcoming move and how she wanted to set me up with her nephew in Long Island. My supervisor then scolded me for having long-winded conversations that only ended in one sale if I was lucky.
I never did meet her nephew.
I remember buying a Dolce and Gabbana purse for 70 dollars, which was most definitely a fraud—but it felt good to buy something with my own money, even if it cost me 10 hours of work to get it. I remember the son of an owner of the company that hired me three days after my move to the city asking if my parents got that purse for me. I also remember him asking me how it was possible that my grandparents were from America, and telling me I would find myself to be an anomaly for the first time in my life. I also recoil at remembering, for some reason, him telling me that rape was a woman’s fault for dressing provocatively—at which point I began to realize, as a young woman, how alone I would become here.
I would often find myself feeling alone in my own welfare. I met a lot of “trustfund kids.” Why was it that I had to work 60 hours per week to make about $500 after taxes, while I was paying for my classes, rent, and rip-off branded clothing—when they got the real thing for free?
My co-worker told me that the one thing I had over them was my happiness. Did this mean I was even alone in my own happiness?
I remember feeling alone after I was sexually assaulted when I got wasted for the first time and thinking it was my fault for getting too drunk and wearing a miniskirt.
I remember feeling alone going through the loss of my brother just four months prior to my move to New York, while my roommate constantly complained about her living one.
I remember feeling alone when I met my first love nine months after my move, and he was diagnosed with a rare cancer just a year later.
I remember feeling alone when I talked about anything good to anyone having a bad day, or anything bad to anyone having a good day.
But, we’re all in this one together.
The world has never stopped for any of us before, in our deepest fears or greatest achievements. It’s never waited for us. It just keeps moving forward.
How do you expect me to believe that we’re in this together?
We’re supposed to just sit around, stagnant, hoping for someone or something else to save us?
The only things that have ever saved any of us are ourselves, and maybe the one or two friends who weren’t just around during fair weather.
I hope when this eventually passes, as all things do—we recognize the loneliness that each of us experience throughout our time on this planet.
I hope we recognize the pain of those who lost someone to COVID-19, just as much as we recognize the pain of those who lose someone from any other thing on any given day.
I hope we recognize how hard we all have to work to experience the things that bring us the greatest joy—whether it’s an achievement, an event, or the purchase of something material.
I hope we recognize our mothers and fathers, even if you are stuck with them right now and can’t wait to get away. Or maybe you have been distant with them and someone finally gets the courage to make amends.
I hope we recognize that though, as a whole, this country can’t seem to agree—there is always someone on our side.
We may have not been in this together, before. There may be a false sense of togetherness, now. There certainly is room for support in the future—and only we have the power to shape this path.
But for now, the reality lies in the fact that the same city that taught me loneliness will keep it hanging in the air. I know with each passing day this feeling can dissipate, but it most likely won’t happen through this shiny, Broadway slogan that “we’re all in this together.”