The Extended Gap

An ongoing series cross-posted from

Walking at night to the ocean and back feels ominous. There may be no need for another, more specialized or nuanced word. Virtually everything in the city that isn’t shut down shuts down early these days, so there is little reason to go out at night, except to walk to the ocean and back. Very few cars come and go because there are very few places to come to and go from. It’s quiet in a deeply unfamiliar way, the widespread societal inactivity all the more so. Few if any planes fly overhead. You can walk a quarter mile and not see another human. It’s dream-quiet, movie-set quiet. Until it isn’t. A simple sound carries further than usual. The thud of dinner being delivered outside someone’s front gate a block away registers hard. The extended gap in time between the thud and the sound of the gate finally being opened does, too.

Walking during the day is its own kind of ominous. People move about with their respectful distances fairly well sorted; we’re flour put through a sifter, all evenly distributed. The placidity of that metaphor belies the underlying tension. You see someone you know, and you each nod at a block’s distance, and the nods contain a mutual acknowledgment: we’ll both keep going; chatting at the distance of six feet holds little appeal at the moment. You pause in front of one of the neighborhood’s countless locked gates. The six cavities where once there were doorbell buttons are, of course, mere coincidence. But when socializing in close proximity has become so unwelcome, the gate’s blank face feels like another sort of distancing nod.

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