What it means to love and lose in a city that is indifferent
The beers here cost a lot, but not as much as the prices in Manhattan. You might not like that. In my quest for financial freedom, I have often parted with my money reluctantly, growling at the sight of two-figured glass of wine prices, a most unusual thing to pay for if you have experienced happy hour in New Jersey. It doesn’t even stop there. You may or may not leave the bar early in the morning and find the train station still filled with people. You can’t stop the humanity here; it’s in your face everyday. The rich, the poor, the trying, the given up, they are everywhere, and if your mind isn’t strong enough, it will crack. It will fracture slowly like desert soil, first on the surface, then with root like seizures in the earth. And before you realize that the cracks have deepened, everything is broken. That’s what it’s like here in New York. Everyone wants to be somebody, wanted to be somebody, became someone, didn’t, or are still trying. I used to want to be somebody, now I’m just okay being myself.
I wonder about myself here. Like most of the people I have met, I speak transiently of my time in this city. A small part of me knows, that this pain-joy ride is not forever. New York is indifferent to me. She will love me for a while, and I will love her too, then leave. There will be no brownstone to return to, no fire escape to laugh on, sitting on pillows while your friend sits on the windowsill, the whole Harlem skyline in front of you, an abysmal entanglement of stairwells beneath you, small fears of falling growing in your stomach. There will be no more bodega guy who gives your neighbor an illegal loosie, and you, a black coffee with a small pack of skimmed milk “ just in case” you change your mind . Everything here is a side step in the land of maybe, because one day you might change your mind. I sometimes think that except they grew up here, some people really don’t want to be here forever. New York City, where people are ready to give you the boot before you’ve even said you’re out. Subconsciously we are all fighting each other, for mythical rent controlled apartments, for land, for glorified spaces with roaches and mice crawling in the fractures. It’s hard to stay, and much harder to leave for the people who truly love it. I haven’t even changed my residency yet, I’m still a Jersey girl, and I can always go back “just in case”.
I think I’ve been everywhere, if it were possible. The memories are so interlocked now. You could one day be walking with me, and I will stop and say “ Hey! I had a coconut doughnut ice cream here once… in my sophomore year of college”. I no longer even remember where I have been and what I have done. The incomprehensible need to accumulate experiences has made everything blurry, and I’m losing sight of being able to appreciate the small things. I am on a high here of wanting to experience everything so much that I know my body can’t contain it anymore. I have danced on rooftops holding expensive drinks, and I have held my purse to my chest, looking behind my shoulder in sketchy neighborhoods that haven’t been listed as “up and coming” in New York Magazine yet (lucky for them). I have run around Clinton Hill at night for an hour, wondering if I was seeing things… no wait that’s just hipster mums with strollers and headlights. I’ve cried in the bathroom at the Chipotle on Broadway when a friend died, and lost a metro card on the subway on Broadway-Lafayette, lurching after the thin plastic as the wind from an incoming F train whirled it out of my hand on to the subway track. I’ve crashed my car somewhere in a quiet suburb in Queens, and been happy with a group of friends somewhere in a small bar in Astoria.
I’ve missed a lot of phone calls, from my mum, my sister, my brother and my father because I’ve been in the subway. It’s like Narnia in there, you get in and it feels like forever. And I have been so beat down by life here, that I have switched my phone off on my own, because accessibility on some days feels more like a burden than a privilege.
I’ve smiled and dropped one-dollar bills in guitar casings, watching as my neighbors play folk songs at the Metropolitan Avenue stop in Brooklyn, wondering if this is something they really enjoy or if they are just as lost as I am. I’ve spent a lot of time at home in my bed, listening to my neighbors argue about children, school… divorce. I have spent a good amount of my weekends here, feigning sickness and watching Netflix. Here, time seems to fly by very fast and everyone thinks that everyday is a circus for you because you’re in New York. But there are days when I do not go above West 34th street or even leave the borough, not because I don’t want to, but I think Manhattan can be quite exhausting. I’ve often wished for Godzilla to be real, so he could stomp all the tourists who walk at glacial speed in midtown, especially around Time Square.
Yet I am still here, withering, flourishing, reveling and unmoved. I know this isn’t forever Adanna; but while I am here; while I sit on the stoop sipping black coffee; watching the people on my block; a small bag of “just in case” whole milk in my jacket pocket, I know I might leave, only to return again.