High Noon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

These are long days of suspension. Brittle energy fills the city as we retreat inside for safety. Yet there are no storm clouds in the sky, no soldiers in the streets. Standing at the window, I watch the skyscrapers glint in the late afternoon light. For a moment I’m convinced everything is just fine. That I must have imagined the whole thing.

They’re talking about life disrupted through May and maybe August. They’re talking about mailing Americans thousand-dollar checks. They’re talking about sheltering in place. Sheltering from each other.

It’s the texture of a dream, this sensation that something has gone deeply wrong even though the cause cannot be seen. There’s an echo of those first days and weeks after losing my mother and then my father. I’d wake each morning thinking that I’d dreamt such a strange and terrible dream and I should tell them about it. It took several seconds, sometimes minutes before I remembered.

Hypnagogic. Hypnopompic. These words describe the terrain between consciousness and dreams, the rich land I’ve ceded to a tiny screen that I keep pumping for new pandemic information on either side of sleep. They describe those slippery moments when our thoughts remain tinted by the suspension of disbelief that allows us to dream.

Coming back from a run, I stopped dead when I saw the vacant steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No clumps of tourists or people posing by the fountains. No hot dog or halal vendors, no old men selling watercolors in the shade. I yanked my headphones out of my ears, sensing this was a moment to be honored, the sight of a city so quickly emptied of its heat and noise. Fifth Avenue felt like a soundstage. A woman’s voice drifted across the street. “Surreal,” she said. And it was. But maybe the days before this pandemic will soon seem even more surreal.


Leyland Kirby – Tonight Is the Last Night of the World

From Sadly the Future Is No Longer What It Was | 2009 | Bandcamp

A haunting score for moments hypnagogic and hypnopompic.

Each day in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these uneasy times into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.

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