There are a few things I truly dislike about New York, and I encountered most of them between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m. the day I arrived. Stubbornly anti-cab, I spent the bulk of that 150 minutes on frigid platforms, awaiting imaginary trains, and–much later–pressed into a rush-hour train car with my great piles of luggage, sandwiched firmly between Freakishly Annoying Man and Mr. Clearly Shat Himself. It is difficult for me to remember now, days later, but I had been so tired and hungry and cold that it seemed better to stay on that godforsaken train than battle the crowds and wait for the next one.
But then I suddenly emerged in sunny Brooklyn, around the corner from my old apartment. I am wearing my scarf and ready for an adventure.
I love this place more than is really possible.
Being here is just as much about being in the past as in the present, and if I close my eyes, I am right back there in Central Park on the last day of my first year of teaching. The Neville Brothers are there, too, and a lovely police officer asking us to please move a bit farther away so he won’t have to look into our coolers and confiscate our revelry.
My dear friend Alan is there, around the corner, throwing the key out the window and waiting for me to walk up. He has a new mix tape, a new book, and a new way to look at the world today.
I am riding the train to work in the morning, darting off to throw up in the garbage cans and race back to reclaim my seat–a subway miracle. I am wandering around the west village again, wondering why they keep reorganizing it so I can never find Arthur’s Tavern. I am running late, running for trains, running out of steam, running amok.
I am meeting acquaintances for drinks, unfamiliar with bars with no signage at all–only really there if you know where to look. I am ordering the wrong thing, I am wearing the wrong thing, I am likely saying the wrong thing, but it is ok because there is room for everyone.
Things have changed, of course. It’s no longer MY city. I can no longer eat bagels, and the Kentile Floor sign refuses to light up. But the city is still full, magical, and heart-stopping. There are flirty barista boys and Indian restaurants so bedazzled it is impossible to stand up. There are secret notes written on tickets; there is King Kong; there is the most exquisite pair of shoes I have ever laid eyes on. There is Alan Rickman just yards away, and row after row of Brownstones, huddled together against the elements. And there is a cafe playing an album I haven’t heard in so many years, resurfacing things long unfelt and unthought, seemingly forgotten. It is all still here.
I remember why I moved. I do. New York can be a desolate and unfriendly place, even soulless. A person has to expend so much energy looking out for herself that little remains to offer others.
Once safely nestled back on the West Coast, however, only the stardust lingers.
Oh, to go back. I can’t wait.