by Heather Adle, 05/18/2020, Traverse City, Mi
I round the corner at a good clip, but slow to a stop as I take in the startling view. Gulping in air, I stand with my hands on my hips, and listen to my heartbeat slow, a dull pounding in the eerie quiet. From the top of the hill, where Union Street dead ends, it is a straight shot to the landmark bank building down on Front Street. The American flag on top whips in a stiff west wind. Open Space is beyond, and the hills of the Leelanau Peninsula, moored securely to the waters of West Grand Traverse Bay.
It is early spring, after the snow but before the leaves, and I can see the carless roadway all the way to the water. A skateboarder coasts through a distant intersection, untethered to stop signs. The traffic light at 14th Street turns green, beckoning phantom vehicles. The entire stretch of Union Street is empty. I adjust my headband and take off running on the sidewalk, out of habit.
It is novel, at first, and easy, to run a deserted downtown. No waiting for traffic, dodging tourists or weaving between sidewalk and street. I stop out of curiosity to read the first notices that go up: “Closed per the Governor’s order.” Within days, all Front Street is shuttered, and it is not the signs on doors that tick by in my peripheral vision, but the names and faces of business owners and their employees – Kathy, Alice, Mary, Edward, Shelly, Molly, Mark.
I alter my route today, for some hope and human activity. F& M Park looks promising, but as I get closer, I spot a dog without a leash, so I make a quick turn onto Webster, where a woman is raking leaves, too close to the sidewalk. I cross the street in case it is true; I can contract the virus by breathing in the air she just breathed out. I run faster, away from her.
Pounding past the Traverse Area Community Rowing site on Boardman Lake, I resign myself to a canceled season, or at least one which disrupts boat unity – pitting masked and unmasked against each other. I will miss my teammates, but reason that I can afford to buy a single and keep rowing, even though I will be alone on the water. Then I remember my brother, who has five mouths to feed, and has been furloughed for three unpaid months. I chide myself for thinking first of myself, and vow to drop a check in the mail.
I reach my neighborhood and pick up my pace, drawn to the comfort of home, but even here, I cannot find relief. The cars absent from town are stacked in my neighbors’ driveways like obedient, fearful children. The mail carrier is wearing gloves. Stretching from the safety of my front porch, I wait for a mood boost from the endorphins. Instead, my face crinkles and I blink out one surprise tear after another.