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Coronavirus has taken away our freedom, lives, income, and so much more. One thing I didn’t expect this horrid virus to take away was my identity. But Angel, what do you mean, you are still you? Yes, I am still myself, but read on and you will understand.
Yesterday as I stood on line to go into my local C-Town supermarket, I wore a mask. I always wear a hat when its winter-ish as I don’t want to get sick, more so now. So as I stood there on line, I smiled and nodded at people. Though it took me a few seconds to realize that my disposition, my kind smile, my gentle nature, it was being blocked by the light blue mask which covered everything but my eyes. As I came to this realization, I wondered if they could still see the kindness in my eyes as I tried to “be myself.”
New Yorkers get a bad wrap for our attitudes and being tough, but we are also kind and gentle. Yes, I gave the stank face to the jerk who was trying to hustle his way to the front of the line. Yes, I told him to “please back up away from me and go to the back of the line,” but really, I’m still a nice guy. See, there is a difference between being nice, being a pushover, and being a sucker. That guy was trying to play me for a fool, so I had to turn up the Bronx, NYC attitude just a bit. He deserved it though, damned con artist. But yeah, that’s how you gotta be to survive in NYC. But it doesn’t mean we are like that to everyone and without just cause.
Once I was inside the supermarket, I looked for my necessary items. As I looked around I noticed someone who needed assistance so I helped her get an item that was too high. Yes, on few rare occasions I’m actually the tallest person in the vicinity. As I did this for her, once again forgetting about the mask which was obstructing my face, I smiled gently at her. She said thank you and continued on her way. I realized again, “Oh yeah, she can only see my eyes.” Without the accompanying smile, I could look like a creepy stalker staring at her or just downright hostile! Damn…
This is why I said that this coronavirus has stolen my identity. I don’t often wear masks, but when I go into enclosed places like a supermarket I do. I’m not sure how much help that will give me because my eyes are still exposed, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. But the price we pay for this added protection is that we lose our identity, our personality becomes muffled and clouded by it. That sucks.
With all the things going on now, surely this is not the best time for an existential crisis, and rest assured that for the time being I’m alright. But I couldn’t help but take stock of this sad but true revelation. You know, I grew up in the South Bronx during a rough time, and depending on how I dressed or cut my hair, I could sense the apprehension from people as they came near me back then. But my smile, my gentle disposition has always been my way to offset that fear that people felt. Or in some necessary cases, confirm and reinforce that they should be fearful. But I’ve always had the choice as to what I wanted to project.
For someone like me, it becomes really difficult to navigate the world the way that I always have when you take away my smile and expressions. I suppose it’s the same for everyone, but it hit me pretty hard yesterday.
I know this is a necessary thing, but as I navigated this Queens supermarket and saw only eyeballs, I realized that a huge part of who I am, what I present to the world, was being hidden and obscured by necessity. That made me kind of sad and that’s how coronavirus is stealing my, our NYC identity!
This post was submitted to our friends at Newyorkcliche.com as a guest post.