“How We Live Now: Scenes from the Pandemic” by Bill Hayes— Our Shared Humanity

Hayes, Bill. “How We Live Now: Scenes from the Pandemic”, Bloomsbury, 2020.

Our Shared Humanity

Amos Lassen

Bill Hayes’ “Hayes, Bill. “How We Live Now: Scenes from the Pandemic” is a tribute in stories and images to a city facing a pandemic and looks at our shared humanity. What we read is now familiar to us all and yet was foreign in our thoughts. None of us ever imagined living like this. It is no longer strange to live in a place where there is a bookstore where readers shout their orders from the street, where we see everyone wearing a different type of face mask wherever we go, or where a neighborhood restaurant becomes a to-go place only. This became the new normal as we dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hayes captures these moments of life in real time. Here is day-by-day, hour-by-hour life in the world in which we now live. There are new rules and guidelines, streets are empty, businesses are closed tight. Walking the empty streets of Manhattan, Hayes meets fellow New Yorkers and finds stories to share along with finding “grace and gratitude” in his apartment. He he lives alone and- stays home, trying to keep busy and not bored as he deals with enforced solitude. His days are spent reading, cooking, reconnecting with loved ones, thinking about the past and writing.

The photographs record a moment in time, a moment we might never have imagined but that has become reality. He strips New York bare as he looks at it during the quarantine. I must admit that I was affected by what I read and often felt my eyes filling with tears. Hayes was the partner of Oliver Sacks and we see how well the two men complemented each other. Their temperaments were different yet they shared their love for humanity and they were both recorders of their age and of who we are.

Hayes’ statement “It’s a little like losing your life while still being alive, this experience” wonderfully describes how many of us feel. He goes on to write about how the pandemic is impacting our love/sex lives, how Covid 19 and the HIV/AIDS epidemic are similar, he grants a bit of solace to those of who are experiencing the same isolation and feelings of depression that he is as while also sharing the stories of people he comes across as he takes walks and catching up with old friends at a six-foot distance.

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