Parallels to my youth rise up as I sit by the window overlooking the Russian styled courtyard below, on the third floor, of the building we have been mostly self-quarantined in. The view is of brick apartment walls with windows and balconies surrounding a courtyard and rising twelve stories high. The green space of the yard is broken up with brick tile, walkways and spaces, accentuated with shrubs, ultra green grass, outdoor furniture, a lone firepit, and an industrial brick maintenance building covered in vines. The trees are budding leaves, more day by day, in a slow bid to cover up four stories of the enclosure. I sit and listen to Judas Priest’s Firepower and remember thirty-five years ago listening to the same band’s Defenders of the Faith in the sill of another window, one made of Plexiglas. Time has come full circle.
When I was fourteen, I was locked away at West Oaks, a rehab facility for wayward youth. On level zero without things to do off the unit, I spent a lot of time, in my shared room, listening to my cassette player and playing some songs over and over. In particular, "Love Bites" and "Eat Me Alive" were on replay as stared out the thick Plexiglas window for a view of concrete and a post office distribution center lined with a chain-link fence and rows of mail trucks. I felt the world had ended. My freedom was gone and I was stuck with nowhere to run. Daydreams of escape and hormonal thoughts drifted through my morose mood while I tried to escape through music. After the world opened up from rehab, I went wild and ran away to a life, on and off the streets, as a punk teenager. I always wondered if it was because of being locked away that sparked me to rebel in such an epic way. When the world opens up again will people stay sane or go wild like I did in my youth?
Dystopian thoughts fill my head as I listen to "Sea of Red" by the same band, Judas Priest, that guided me through a crisis long ago. Social distancing is the new normal. Masks and gloves rule in the pandemic. An invisible threat silently attacks, incubating and waiting to strike. I wonder what is out there beyond the enclosed space outside my window. How has the city changed in such a short time? My mind drifts with images of a wasteland where society collapses and chaos reigns. I shake it off. The few people that brave the courtyard below stay far apart not trusting their neighbors. A siren wails and some disperse. Clouds cover the sun in a gray blanket and I bang my head. All in all, the view through my window to the forbidden zone is not quite as morose as it was thirty-five years ago. I am older and do not think in absolutes like I once did. Things will be different, not quite the same, but life will go on. The end of the world brings promise of a new beginning. I smile and hit replay.