Blue Skies Over McKeldin Square at Pratt & Light Streets

McKeldin Square

I didn’t have a lot of time for a bike ride on Friday, thanks to a writing date, a phone call, and a couple of meetings that broke up my day. Friday was the end of week three of this stay-inside-work-from-home business, and parts of my life are moving along in deceptively normal ways. The deception is that it’s normal.

Like, I met with a student for advising for next fall. This time, though, we were staring at each other through computer screens and talking about next semester like maybe we’ll be “back to normal” then, like we will ever just go back to normal. There’s a sheen of unreality to the regular ol’ things I do these days. I wonder if it will ever seem normal to stay inside my house all day except for the hour or so I’m outside for exercise. I’ve got nothing but time to find out, so I’ll just be over here, waiting.

In the meantime I took the 45 minutes I had between work things to hop on my bike and do a quick and windy ride downtown. It feels like some daredevilry to be outside these days, but it also feels kind of normal. There’s still traffic, albeit light, bikers and scooters in the bike lane, small groups gathered outside the Save A Lot at Maryland and 20th, and a whole lot of construction workers–looks like construction’s still essential.

What feels different are the number of people with masks on, the almost-empty lanes on Pratt Street, and the sense that I shouldn’t be out here at all, and neither should anyone else. Outside exercise is still encouraged, so I’m still doing that, but the discomfort at being near others is increasing.

And that’s so hard for me. The friendly how-you-doin’ just doesn’t feel the same as I shout it while stepping out in the middle of the street to keep six feet between me and my fellow pedestrians, know what I mean? I miss the casual intimacy with strangers that comes with living in the city. I’ll keep my eyes open for new intimacies, figure out what’s enabled by this time, yadda yadda yadda, but right now I just feel the loss.

This bike ride felt normal, though I didn’t lock up once I got downtown to catch the bus to work. Instead I took a left into the empty bus/bike lane on Pratt, and took the empty lane next to it to go around buses stopped at Light Street. The bus stops are still crowded, because people still have to go to work, and they still don’t have cars.

I crossed Light Street and pedaled into McKeldin Square. They finished installing the new memorial to Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin. The fountain’s been gone for years, and now we’ve got this engraved ledge: “A Visionary for Development in Baltimore City…An Advocate for Equality of Baltimore’s Citizens.” Oh, really? Development in Baltimore never looks like it has much to do with advancing equality for Baltimore’s citizens, but I don’t know much about McKeldin’s work. In other days that might send me off to do some research to figure out to what extent I think the guy did both, but not right now.

Right now I have the energy to ride, to write a little bit, and to read a whole lot of fiction when I’m not doing my day job. I’m still teaching, or trying to, and doing that thing where you hold so much space for your students that you forget you need to hold some space for yourself, too.

I made it home with ten minutes to spare, washed my hands vigorously, and opened my computer, again, for a video meeting, again. I was so good to see E. She’ll be a junior next year, and has decided on a double major, a good fit with ours. I look forward to seeing her live and in person in the fall.

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