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A New Yorker's open letter to anyone asking: "Are you OK?"


With everyone working from home, the city is especially twinkly at night. Photograph: Jaci Stephen

BY JAMIE VALENTINO


“Are you okay?and “How are you holding up?” are common questions from friends and family residing in other states and abroad.


Honesty would mean confessing to binge drinking and replacing my plant-based diet with pepperoni pizza. I could joke about my hair or how “street style” now borders on pajamas.

“I’m fine,” I reply, instead. It’s not like New York is on fire.


Overnight, social distancing measures were immortalized into law. Sneezes are treated like fatal bite marks in zombie movies – neighbors “God bless” each other to quarantine Hell.


“Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” they ask. I'm not sure what “help” one is allowed to ask for. Is it emotional, or with, like, groceries? Is just plain cash OK? More often than not, they’re simply setting the conversational groundwork needed to start talking about their own perils.


New York has been labeled the epicenter of an international pandemic. Hundreds of people die daily, over 15,000 New Yorkers are no longer breathing. It seems impossible to extrapolate a spiking curve on a graph that represents a tragic loss of life.


A bunch of strangers are gone. Except, consider the average number of new friends and lovers you meet in a typical year (and multiply it by the rest of your life), and the odds are many of us are mourning someone, whether we know it or not.


A lady yelled at me because I tried boarding the elevator with her. I live in a building with 46 floors. Elevators should be designated for multiple or individual use. There is so much to be figured out. Adjusting is the only option, but tomorrow always comes with the possibility of a new “normal.” 


Unaffected by the crisis, New York weather is still lovely in spring. It’s the perfect day for a jog, but it’s difficult to run wearing a mask.


I’m bored, lonely, and worried about the future. Will I join the millions of Americans filing unemployment? It feels like only the deceased have the right to complain, so yeah, I’m fine.

I remind myself that I am healthy, have internet access, and I’m not starving. In fact, I’ve gained weight.

New York is suffering because New Yorkers are suffering, but it’s difficult to experience the trauma when you’re not on the frontlines. The rest of us are safe in our humbles abodes, some fuming during White house press conferences, others debating if Cuomo is, in fact, cute.


I hear clapping every evening at 7pm, surprised it’s still a thing. The people here are bred with the inability to call it quits. We’re resilient. Overcoming hardship, stepping outside of comfort zones and focusing on the positives are outlined in the contract every New Yorker agrees to subconsciously when committing to live here, executed at lease signing.


The city that never sleeps is snoozing indefinitely; however, with most of her inhabitants staying at home, her skyline shines brighter at night.

ABOUT JAMIE

Above all else, Jamie Valentino is a New Yorker in love with every idiosyncrasy the city has to offer. He moved apartments to W42nd St last year, and started writing for W42ST shortly after. His life has never made more sense. He interviews celebrities and influencers for POP Style TV, and his work has been published in Google Arts & Culture, Daily Motion, LUXE Magazine, The Queer Review, and more. @jamie_valentino 


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