Hey New York. I see you in your glory. It’s 75′ and sunny today. Probably the only true spring day you’ll allow this year. The breeze is gentle and the sun is warm. And all the sun-starved souls you hold are out, stripping off heels and suit coats to do what is against our nature: to pause. to breathe. to notice the breeze and the impetuous tulips who sprouted and then survived three feet of snow.
I don’t know how to say this, but it must be said. Goodbye New York. (For now, I hope.) I’m moving next week. And sitting here in my backyard, staring at you, I wonder if you’ll even notice my absence.
It’s been an excersize in futility, I suppose. Spending my first 10 years of adulthood in your arms. The last years I ever believed that I was a somebody were burned away on your pavement. I was left with a shell that was finally light enough to live. Between subway cars and stations, I learned that I’m 1 in 10 million, just like everyone else. People think New Yorkers are narcissistic. But we’re probably among the few who actually know that we are not alone. And that we are not actually unique. Unique New York. Where dreams live and die and life goes on.
And yet, we who are yours still spend our selves trying. Hoping. Dreaming. Overcoming the Trader Joe’s line and grabbing that square of grass for a Bryant park movie. Walking fast, standing on the right side of the escalator so people can walk on the left, we jump so high just so that we can maybe add a brick to your unchangable walls. As we battle the wind that cuts our bones in your icy air tunnels and then as we grow sentimental about the smell of hot garbage on a summer’s night in Father Demo square, we come alive in the intense physical pressure of simple life here. Simple life walking to the bodega and sleeping to the sound of garbage trucks compacting. Carrying groceries up six flights of stairs. Carrying our lives on our backs and hopes on our shoulders. New York makes you cynical about how much milk you will actually drink, but makes you hopeful that anything is possible even when you’re staring at rent bills higher than the freedom tower and no appealing job prospects in sight. You teach us and we collectively believe that the end of human trafficking is achievable and that every life on this subway platform matters. So pay attention to your neighbor and let them exit the train first. But we also watch our white friend’s black doctor husband struggle to find a cab home, and or black friends get stopped to be frisked when our bag is actually bigger. We know now. And we see it. The brown lines continually crossed and we listen now. And love more.
I’ve frequently believed that to a New Yorker, New York is a mistress. You hate her so much because she’s just a pigeon poop on your new leather coat kind of a bitch, but that sunset last night, the one down 23rd street viewed from a bench with Shake Shack in your mouth keeps you from leaving her, though you threaten and wonder every time your lease comes up.
But oh, New York, you became the loud and beloved third wheel of my marriage. The Ted Mosby to my Lily and Marshall. My marriage was met and made here. And both my children were formed in your womb. My husband and I committed to love you as much as we’ve committed to each other. And we’ve put as much work, time and energy and thrown the last of our straws into our life here, with you.
And my, how you’ve given to us. Sipping tequila under blood moons with our Cuban landladies who might have been called refugees before that was a thing, except all they want is good people in their building. And wine with my mama tribe in the park on the East River at 3p just because it’s Thursday and we’re good enough at this mom job. You’ve made us learn to live in 700 square feet where both the unnecessary (and infrequent for us) luxuries of Per Se and the same homeless man who pole dances on the subway and tells (hilarious) racey jokes can exist with equal amounts of veracity. You’ve stripped our eyes of their scales and showed us that life can real good even if there are cockroaches in the apartment and rats in the street. You’ve shown us to let go of catching that train (sometimes) and to live and to listen and to love the other whose armpit I’m inhaling on the packed 6 train because I was the last who squeezed through that door. Everyone glares at you, the last squeeze on, but they’ve all been you, smashed against the door, so they let you stay. (Except that one time I got physically pushed out and onto my butt on the platform in Times Square by a big ole girl who just had her worst day).
New York, you’ve held my deepest heartache as I came to terms with years of my own childhood sexual abuse. You’ve held those lonely, lost nights of bitter weeping and anxiety and not judged me the next morning when I cry and curse because I’ve spilled my coffee in the street and had nothing left. You held the door and offered a smile and free refill because the Starbucks manager saw the whole thing and knew the look of desperation.
And New York, you’ve held my greatest delights. Undergrad under the Empire State Building and graduating in the Lincoln Center next to the Met Opera. My sweet, delicious, forever marriage was cemented in your concrete on 42nd Street and 2nd Ave. You’ve held many a late night smoke and chats, ones where we hang out high windows as the pretensions we tried to curate crash below us, and all we thought we had left was the pleasure of cloves. Those were the nights when I learned the tenacity of the human spirit, my human spirit, thanks to you and some poets from the LES.
You are where I learned that the answer to poverty is not affluence, but humanity. Although, giving dollars and granola bars with a real hello into street-weathered eyes helps, too.
And next week, when we board the plane at Laguardia (if we can find the plane amid the suddenly and never ending construction you whimsically began there), you won’t have a hole from us. People have been lined up for our apartment before we even moved into it ourselves.
We’ll wave goodbye to your skyline from our Southwest seats, and hopefully not embarrass ourselves with a sobby-snot show. And you will go on like normal. And those in will you continue to hustle and to live. Not because your foundations in the marshes have been dug out and fortified, but because there is magic in your veins, and for just a moment, a short decade, I got to be the blood that ran in your streets. The discomfort of blisters on the feet and soul will always be home to me.