Claudia Evan grazia
Credit: Luke Polihrom

Outdoor dining has saved us. Restaurants and parks are full of life. It’s a stark contrast to the early days of the virus. There is still a low hum of worry, though. I think New Yorkers are desperate to ensure our bar, restaurant, entertainment, and arts industries can make it through the winter.

During March and April, you would hear the constant sound of ambulance sirens outside the window. I started volunteering for the grassroots movement Get Us PPE, which provides donated personal protective equipment to frontline workers and under-resourced communities. Volunteers were working around the clock to get the site and the organisation up and running. Six months later, we’ve delivered over 2.5 million units of PPE and have amassed the largest non-governmental database of PPE shortages in the United States.

Evan and I had the virus early on, right as we went into lockdown. My best friend Ali and her husband Joe also became sick around the same time. But as we all got better, Ali got worse. She eventually ended up in the ICU and on a ventilator. She is just 33. That was the hardest time, without a doubt. This was March, so we had virtually no information on her prognosis. And her husband, Joe, couldn’t be with her, of course. I was grocery shopping for the first time after having the virus when I got the update from Joe that Ali had been taken off the ventilator and was stable. My body almost shutdown. I had been running on adrenaline and I nearly fell over. Of happiness, of hope. Ali has since recovered. They just celebrated their first wedding anniversary on September 21st.

New York is…addictive. Since moving here 11 years ago, I have always commented on the energy of New York. It’s the people. The hustle. You can be who you want here, and I think that is freeing to a lot of people. You can show up as your authentic self and be celebrated for it more so than any other place in the world. And (normally) the city is full of choice. You can do, see, eat, drink and explore something different every day. See a comedy show in the back of a bowling alley? Check. Listen to jazz in the basement of a barbeque joint? Check. Order chicken nachos at 3am on a Tuesday? Check.

Evan and I met on Bumble. Your typical ‘swipe right’ story. We had an epic first date on the Lower East Side that lasted over six hours.

Evan and I actually proposed to each other! Once we started talking about marriage, we realised an engagement where he proposed to me ‘unexpectedly’ just didn’t seem right for us. And I wanted to propose to him as well. We picked a weekend, proposed to each other, and celebrated with our friends and family.

We have always said we were not the kind of couple who could go rent a cabin in the woods together and hole up for weeks on end. Of course, when lockdown began, we were forced to do just that in our own one-bedroom apartment. But we were both surprised how easy it was for us and how much we bonded. The biggest takeaway is feeling more connected to each other’s work. Listening to each other’s calls and bouncing ideas off of one another during the workday was definitely a bright spot. We also played a lot (read: A LOT) of Nintendo to keep our spirits up.

My advice for other couples quarantining together would be to let things slide. Be easy on one another. I think ‘quarantine malaise’ hits people differently and at different times so being supportive and understanding of each other is so important.

We slowly began to realise that our original big wedding wasn’t going to happen. I was extremely sad and disappointed not to be able to celebrate with friends and family this year, but on the grand scale of things that people are going through, it doesn’t feel as monumental.

The second we got up to the roof of the Hoxton Hotel I truly felt a wave of love wash over me. There had been so much build-up to the moment. So many changing plans and emotions. I also didn’t realise that we would have views of the entire city during our ceremony either! It just felt so right.

We took little breaks throughout the ceremony to sip on champagne and talk. It wasn’t the ceremony that we had planned but now I can’t imagine it any other way. Our friend, Brian, married us. And my sister, Adriane, and our photographer, Luke, were the witnesses. We wanted it to feel relaxed and conversational, and it was! After we said our “I dos” our friends Andrew and Margit had recorded a custom arrangement of the song “A New Life” by Jim James that we had originally planned for our first dance at our ‘big’ wedding. We both cried when we recognised Andrew’s voice.

Living in New York, you negotiate your space every day. Riding the subway, walking on the street, ordering at a salad bar, everything. So, I think that New Yorkers generally have a collective mindset which I believe helped us flatten the curve as quickly as we did, despite living in such close quarters.

I miss going to lively restaurants and sitting at the bar with a book. I miss burlesque shows at Duane Park. I miss parties at House of Yes. I really miss my co-workers. The reason you live in New York is to go out and do things. It has felt a little crazy to spend all this time (and money!) to live in a small apartment and to not be able to go out and experience much. But I know New York will come back. She always does.