Robert stood, pushing aside the papers on his cramped desk in his rather cramped Brooklyn apartment. Looking towards the tiny window, which revealed just a bit of sky, he realized heavy clouds had moved in. Picking up his iPhone he checked the weather. Heavy rains to begin in an hour. He really should finish his assignment, he thought, still staring out the window, but in reality he was stumped, really stumped. Besides, they probably needed something from the store.
He turned to see his wife in their tiny kitchen preparing dinner. “I think I need to stretch my legs. Do you need anything from the store?” He asked, slowly walking over to her.
“Well, I just realized I’ve run out of my favorite English breakfast tea. And we need some half-and-half, and some jam. I’ve made some Yorkshire Puddings, but we definitely need tea and jam to go with them. I don’t know what I was thinking when I began cooking.”
“You’ve made the apartment smell great and I’m happy to run out. The walk will do me good, I’m super stumped,” Robert said reaching for his coat and hat.
“What’s it about? Usually you just whip your articles out?” Polly asked, handing her husband a shopping bag and an umbrella. “Just in case,” she said kissing his cheek.
“Oh, a fresh look at Brooklyn. You know, I’ve lived here all my life, except for my college years in NYC, and now I just can’t think of anything. A fresh look. I just can’t think of anything,” Robert said, shaking his head while reaching for his keys.
“What about highlighting all the new pubs and ethnic restaurants that have popped up over the past few years. Highlight the changes you’ve seen over the years,” Polly said smiling.
“Yeah, I could talk about rent hikes and gentrification. Did you know a block of buildings in Brooklyn Heights are being transformed. Jehovah Witnesses Watchtower sales have revitalized the neighborhood and shot prices way up. No, the magazine wants something unique, something inspiring,” Robert said opening the door.
Walking down the two flights and exiting his building he again looked at the sky. Dark rain clouds were moving in. It wasn’t cold enough for snow, but the clouds looked ominous. No time to dawdle or think.
But as he walked up Clinton Avenue, Robert did think. Besides his frustration with the article and having no idea where to go with it, he thought about the disturbing news he saw on his lap top earlier. The mysterious Coronavirus had just appeared in Washington State. Today was January 25, 2020 and the first case in the USA was just reported. Nothing to worry about, but Robert always worried. What if it was a worldwide pandemic? How would Brooklyn fare? The news said China was putting cities in lockdown, particularly in Wuhan China were the outbreak began. Could his city survive that? Would his city survive? Should he panic?
A few drops of rain began to fall and Robert quickened his pace. He stopped at the light and was startled by a sound. An ambulance racing down the street caught his attention. That got him out of his anxiety ridden pondering and he looked around. He looked around and noticed the man in front of him. He was in jogging gear but he was pushing an elaborate stroller while walking his dog. Accomplishing three things at once, Robert thought with a smile. Exercise, babysitting and dog walking. Apparently the loud ambulance siren had woken the baby because the child began to cry. As the man reached down Robert looked more closely and realized it wasn’t a dog the man was walking, but a pig! A pig. The light turned green, the baby stopped fussing, and the trio moved forward along with Robert. Only in Brooklyn he thought with a laugh.
After they crossed the street he turned right and the family continued straight. Maybe the pig is their compost container, Robert thought with a smile. Only in Brooklyn.
The rain started to come down harder as Robert reached his corner store. They sold everything here, from lightbulbs to dog food to organic spinach and English Breakfast Tea. Grabbing a basket he thought he’d pick up a few things and
wait out the rain. Probably the weather report was inaccurate and it was just a cloud. Five minutes later Robert walked up to the checkout counter and looked up to see an alert on the small television.
“Severe storm hitting the five boroughs today.” Oh, well Robert thought, glad I have my umbrella.
After paying Robert hesitated at the door. Passing him, cheerfully walking or jogging down the street, was the strangest sight. A group of people pushing shopping carts all dressed in camouflage and trees. Branches hung from their carts, and from their heads, what a crazy looking parade. Shaking his head, Robert laughed. Obviously they were heading to annual Idiotard Parade in New York City. Despite the forecast this group was cheerfully heading to the subway.
Pulling up his collar and opening his umbrella Richard wondered what he would see next? A black man helping a little old lady into an Uber, or young girls laughing as they danced in the rain. Maybe he’d spot Peter Dinklage, the “Game of Thrones” actor who lived in Brooklyn. Or maybe he’d spot them shooting a scene from the hit HBO show “High Maintenance”, or see Matt Damon who apparently was moving into Brooklyn Heights. Or maybe, once the rain stopped, he’d see his neighbors, his neighbors of all ethnicity and of all paths of life, walking and enjoying Brooklyn.
Well, the pandemic might happen, the climate might change, and the 2020 election might be crazy but one thing for sure Brooklyn would stay Brooklyn.
A rather drenched Robert entered his apartment a few minutes later. Handing his wife the sac, he began taking off his coat.
“Honey, what were you doing out there? You’ve bought lightbulbs and toilet paper but no tea and no half-and-half. What were you thinking?” His wife asked confused.
Laughing, Robert pulling his coat back on. “Oh, just distracted I guess. Thinking about a possible pandemic. Say, did you ever realize how great Brooklyn is. Why, if our building got quarantined we all would band together. We’d get together for Triominos or Poker. We’d have dance parties in the halls. I’d make sure the baby upstairs had her milk and you’d bake Yorkshire Puddings for everyone.”
Walking out the door, facing even more heavy rain, Robert did indeed spot a young black man helping an old white lady into an Uber. And there were children laughing as they raced in the rain. There was a young couple, the girl with pink hair and a soft faux fur jacket and the guy with hipster jeans and a backwards baseball cap, kissing under their now upturned umbrella. And there was an elderly man with a smile and curly brown hair hugging his briefcase tightly as he raced for the subway. Suddenly Robert realized forget about Prospect Park and the Museums. Forget about all the new hip restaurants and gentrification. Forgot about a possible pandemic. It was the people that mattered. The people were the heart and sole of Brooklyn. That would never change. That was his story and that was his hope!
Dedicated to Sarah and Jove and Wayne who introduced us to Brooklyn and Yorkshire Puddings.