PHILADELPHIA - With hope, when it comes time in July for me to walk under the glowing red ‘emergency’ sign on my first day of work as a resident, the worst of this will be past us. Until then, I set out to find vibrance in this new, grayscale world.
I place a bit of hand sanitizer in my palm. A familiar sharp smell at this point. Then my homemade mask. I pedal on a borrowed bike with a flat back tire and a seat that is never quite high enough. My own bike’s rear tire was stolen recently. The frame sits in a parking deck locked to a rack, sad, with its chain drooping to the concrete.
I pedal south, to the rows of single family homes in this part of the city. The streets are mainly empty. A few Philadelphians are out on the sidewalk, keeping their distance. “Flattening the curve” and “social distancing” are part of our daily vocabulary now.
The world is different. Schools are shuttered. Restaurant windows, which typically would be opened wide to welcome the spring air, have plywood nailed across them.
I spy a rainbow in a window. It’s made of colored Post-It notes aligned in an arc. Across the street, there’s another rainbow created with globs of glitter paint. I photographed and biked on, a theme instantly visible.
Rainbows to counter the gloom. So many of them, too. Each unique and handmade. Many with well-wishing notes scribbled close by. They are bringing comfort to uncomfortable times.
As I bike back north, out of a third floor window, Daryl Hall & John Oates’s “She’s Gone” croons through a breeze. I squeeze the breaks and listen. In the choruses they lament, “…oh why, what went wrong.” In the outro and in an octave higher, they finally come to terms with the loss of a lover and declare, “I better learn how to face it.”
Philadelphians, in the throws of a global pandemic, are doing just that. For now and perhaps forever, life, as this city knew it, is gone. Together though, they’re facing it by feeding the community, supporting healthcare workers, offering a home to those without them, and among so many other efforts, bringing color to dark times.