In the early days of the pandemic, when my seven-year-old, Noa, and I were out on our daily walks, we saw a father and son out on theirs. Like all parents of only children, I felt a swell of affection for these two: the dad doing his best in a pandemic, the kid, who looked to be about five, also doing his best, no other kids trailing behind them. The mother was nowhere in sight. I made up stories about them: Maybe she was a doctor at work? Maybe she was immunocompromised and couldn’t leave the house? Maybe he was a single dad? Maybe the kid had two dads and the other one was an essential worker? The possibilities seemed finite and I was sure that with time the mystery would reveal itself.
One day, I saw the pair walk into the building across the street and soon appear in a window one flight up. So, they were our neighbors! I don’t know why this brought me comfort, but it did. Putting the pieces of the neighborhood puzzle together was my new preoccupation.
On a summer day, Noa and I were out on our balcony and she was singing and dancing to Hamilton. The dad and son were out on theirs and cheered. We waved, said hello, discovered that the kids went to the same school, the boy a year behind Noa. It was hard to carry on a conversation yelling balcony to balcony over the stretch of traffic below but we tried. When George Floyd was murdered a few weeks later, the dad also stood out at night holding a light to the sky for nine minutes.