Back in New York. After six weeks away, I thought the city would feel different when I returned, that I’d feel overwhelmed or awed or at least see its New Yorkness with fresh eyes. But this city’s muscle-memory is a remarkably stubborn thing; the moment I stepped onto First Avenue and waited for the crosswalk, it felt as if I’d only been away for a few hours. Maybe it’s the weather, still as warm and sweaty as when we left for the woods in August.

There are more people on the street. And more people sleeping on the sidewalks. There’s also a distinct quietness, a holding of the breath. It feels like the city is waiting. Waiting to see how the election turns out, if any sense of reason might return or if this nation is truly lost. Waiting to see if the infection rate will spike once the weather turns cold. Will our masks and distancing shield us, or will we return to the shuttered days of April when the streets were empty and ambulances filled the night?

We’ll have these answers soon. But tonight there’s light rain, our windows are open to the city’s hum, and there’s something dark and slow on the radio.

Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Dead End Angels

Sunset Mission | Wonder Records, 2000 | Boomkat