For Children

Nishtha Roy

Biking in the Age of Corona

7th & 8th Grade Prose Honorable Mention

The changes start as soon as I open the door. I push my bike outside and feel a cool
breeze pass by that sways the few remaining leaves on the trees nearby. It is those few weeks
between winter and spring, where the bitter cold has gone to rest, but a chill continues to loom
in the air, serving as an obstacle, blocking the sun’s warmth. I look around, as a shiver runs
down my spine and the butterflies in my stomach begin to flutter about. I look up and down the
barren street and realize at once that I am utterly alone. This discovery hits me like a ton of
bricks. “Where was the predictable aroma of working people hurrying by? Where was the sound
of honking horns from zooming taxis driving by in a rush?” I stopped myself in that moment,
almost tripping over my own two feet. A thought suddenly hit me, “Could it really be because of
that “thing” on the news?”

I noticed my dad and my brother coming down the stairs behind me. As they take in their
surroundings, an expression crosses their faces that I have never seen before. They both look
pale, and like me, they have a moment of surprise and confusion.

“Wow, I was not expecting this.” I hear my brother mumble.

“Yeah” my dad replied, “The Coronavirus has caused some serious damage.”

As they turned back inside to retrieve their bikes, I suddenly recalled all of those
terrifying news stories that seemed to replay all daylong on television. The stories that highlight
the number of deaths using a continuous graph that seems to grow at a terrifying pace. Stories
that discuss the number of cases within the city of New York, or the stories that stress how easy
it is to contract the virus from others. These memories come racing back to me and the world
seems to start spinning wildly around me. I almost fall over from the dizziness. At that moment,
as I look around, I start questioning whether or not I should be attempting to spend some time in
the “Great outdoors.” “Is the fresh air worth the risk I wondered?” Even though I felt that I had to
do it, my mind just would not let go of the horrifying news stories I had seen.

Without a moment of hesitation, my dad and brother hop onto their bikes and pedal off.
They each turn back for a moment and signal for me to follow them with their eyes. I take a
deep breath, and kick off with my foot, pushing away from the barren sidewalk and following my
family’s lead. I could feel the tug-of-war taking place inside of me, fighting the urge to stay
curled under the safety of my blanket. I decide to follow even though my mind seems to be
pulling the rope back upstairs to my bedroom. As I bike past the empty streets, I quickly notice
the big, bright sign reading, “Petaluma” at the corner of the street. At first, the sight of something
so familiar puts my mind at ease, but then I take in the uninhabited chairs and the empty tables
inside. My heart practically stops at this eerie sight. A childhood restaurant that I had such fond
memories of was now deserted. Despite the fact that I had been preparing myself to witness a
reduced amount of people, I simply could not comprehend the fact that everybody was confining
themselves to the comfort of their apartments.

I continued pedaling past the various streets until I reached a large grey building with a
few streaks of red on it, my School. I stopped in my tracks. Normally, on a Wednesday at 2
o’clock in the afternoon, I would be alongside other students busily moving around within its
walls. I would be rushing to class and talking with friends, sounds that could be heard up and
down the street. Now, all that was there was the sight of a frightening and unwelcoming gray
building that looked like no one had visited for years, when in reality it had only been a few
days. I felt a sickening feeling develop deep in my stomach.

Ever since last Sunday night, when I came upstairs and saw the blinking headline on the
screen stating, “All public schools are cancelled until further notice,” I had felt in a state of
shock. Before that moment, the news had seemed like a story happening to someone else.
Now, it was happening to me. I realized in that moment, how simple everything was just a short
week ago. I would reluctantly get up at 7 o’clock each morning. Then, I would brush my teeth,
eat breakfast, and get dressed. By 8 o’ clock, I would be out the door. I would not second guess
or fear going outside, it was just an everyday part of my life. I had an easy routine, and suddenly
everything was changing. I never thought going outside was a privilege, until I could not do it.
So there I was, motionless, questioning what the right decision was.

I do not know how long I was standing there, but I snapped out of my motionless state
when I heard my brother calling, “Nishtha let’s go!”. I turned to my brother and realized that he
and my dad were already at the end of the street, waiting for me to join them. I closed my eyes
and took a deep breath. I could not let the Coronavirus control my life. Will it limit my life? Yes.
But it will never own my entire life. I reopen my eyes, hop on my bike, and start pedaling.
As I continue biking through the city streets I feel as though I am trapped in a movie. Out
of all places I would never, ever have guessed that New York could become a ghost town. And
yet, this was the reality. Restaurants were filled with empty tables and unoccupied chairs,
practically no one roamed the streets, and the few who did were so bundled up in protective
gear that you could hardly see their faces. I looked down at my own outfit, leggings, a T-shirt,
sneakers, a light jacket, and some gloves. I was in no protective gear whatsoever. Sure I was
trying to stay 6 feet away from others but was that enough? What if I still caught the virus? What
if I passed it on to someone I loved? These thoughts were eating me up inside as I continued
on my way towards Central park. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I hardly noticed when
we started pedaling on the hexagon like bricks at the entrance to the park.

I hopped off my bike and looked around at the green expanse of grass and trees,
stretching out for miles in front of me. I smiled, and felt a calming sense of relief wash over me.
This place seemed as though it had not changed a bit. I could see people running, walking,
playing, and biking in the distance. However, as I looked closer, I noticed a couple of men
behind me passing out face masks before they started pedaling their bikes forward. As I turned
to my right, I noticed some women on the other side of the street were squeezing drops of
sanitizer into the hands of their waiting children. Although Central Park may still be the beautiful
sanctuary of greenery in the middle of Manhattan, I understood that we as humans had
changed. We no longer had the carefree mindset that we used to carry through life a short week
ago. Now, everyone seemed to view the world as a delicate place where they had to move
about with care and responsibility. I smiled seeing how people were adjusting to this new reality.
At that moment, I was glad to have left my home and ventured outside. Despite all my fears and
concerns, I took a chance. I realize now that life can and will change in the blink of an eye, and
although it is different, it is important that we take these steps with grace and confidence. With a
shrug of my shoulders and one last deep breath, I hopped back on my bike and pedaled off.