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90 Days Of Walking Photographed by Owen Kay

3.12.2020. It was the day I left New York City. The day I left home for a routine family visit and to splurge on my personal vices in the city of Chicago. At first, it felt like I was escaping a forest fire that was on the outskirts around the city of New York. The firefighters would surely come and put out the lingering flames before I returned home. I wasn’t expecting the fire to lick the heels of my feet when I landed in Illinois. I wasn’t expecting to see my home hit so severely and ever wondered if it would recover from the swings of a virus that ravaged it.

I was stranded in the city of Chicago, penniless after identity thieves stole the majority of my money along with maxing out credit cards, I faced no choice but depart from the city of Chicago as it prepared for a major wave of COVID-19 patients to flood hospital corridors. I took a train the day the city was shut down. I drove between eerily empty streets yet surrounded by glass high-rises only to arrive to the ghost of a major train station.

90 Days Of Walking Photographed by Owen Kay

I escaped the fire approaching Chicago, for it to arrive in my hometown, Orion, Illinois. I was overwhelmed. I was an outcast of the tiny village. People kept their distance from me knowing I came from my new home, New York. I was an outcast when I left the town 2 years prior, only to be an actual threat to the local populace. I craved the psychical touch of a friend’s warm arms surrounding me on a chilly winter day in Central Park. I gave devilish glares to old photos of me dancing at nightclubs, envious I wasted precious moments. I was thrown into a dark room with no possible way of escaping. My bright personality turned sour. After many weeks of isolation, I dared to venture outside. I ever so desired for the sun to kiss my forehead yet again. To feel a sense of normality again. My short walks around the block turned into walks around the entire town. A town that was already empty sparked some life during the quarantine. I encountered old classmates, old friends, old romantic interests on these walks. I discovered something new every day on these walks. I unearthed fond memories I shoved into a dark box within the corridors of my brain.

90 Days Of Walking Photographed by Owen Kay

I smiled for the first time in months. After months of an airport shutdown, I was able to return home. I felt like I was being carried away. I had the anxiety of first moving to New York. The plane flew over downtown Manhattan. Dead, yet pulsing along the streets. I came back to witness that my home was merely knocked down, yet rose up in a swift manner. My walks turned into doing observations on the population. Individuals still smiling behind their medical masks. Artisans turning to create murals that dot the once abandoned factories. Parents taking their children to local parks for socially distanced play-dates. Bars buzzing with drunken laughs and the smell of cigarettes alongside sidewalks. Hundreds of thousands coming together demanding the end of police brutality. I found inner peace on these walks. I found a sense of comfort. I found out that life still moves even during a nationwide quarantine. I found out the test of battling my own inner demons simply by being alone, taking strolls, and capturing every second of life happening in front of my blue eyes. I was able to overcome the anxiety of the rural Midwest, to handle it and savor every second of it. Only to return home and bask in the energy on the street outside my apartment window in Brooklyn. Home it is.


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