I felt a drop of something hit my head this morning. Not sure it was water. On the R train, someone coughed directly in my face. My feet are always sticky after walking around the city in open-toed shoes. Maybe with the same stuff that has been dripping on me? Lunch costs $14. Coffee costs $6. When I wear shorts my daily average of cat-calls increases two-fold. Men I don’t know follow me for a block or so sometimes. Or they yell. Or, if I’m lucky, both. When the breeze picks up, the smell of trash roasting in 90-degree heat swathes my senses. But there are these rooftops in Brooklyn where you can see the whole island of Manhattan far enough away that it looks like a painting. Dabs of orange dyes. Fireflies stunned still in the evening air. Or maybe they’re lights in homes, millions of them, windows open to the summer, couples matching their steps with each other, walking a memorized path. Astor place to St. Marks to Tompkins Square.
Okay there are a lot of pigeons. But there’s this ice cream place on East 9th with the most amazing vegan chocolate chip cookie dough. I’m always negotiating with the terrors of unidentifiable substances covering the street. But then I find a basement-level tea store in Fidi run by a woman who can read your soul through your eyes. Yes, New York is lonely for all its chaos. I am intimidated because of the greatness that came before me: those who walked these streets as I walk. But sometimes while I’m caught up in my head – my insignificance shrouding my vision – I have to dodge the happiest kids in the world leading their backpacked parents to Central Park for a Sunday in the sun. If the wind blows North, the stench of death wafts up into my apartment. But if it blows West, I can actually smell the flower shop on the corner cutting thorns off roses.
You love a city you’ve lived in like you love a person you know well. Committed through their faults, but not so smitten you don’t notice them. You know they leave the toilet seat up. You know they forget to ask you how you’re doing if they start the conversation with a fire-filled rant about their day. You know they need your birthday saved on their phone calendar. They’re constantly 15 minutes late to dinner dates. They like the Captain America movies a little too much. They’re cheap. Sometimes they’re grumpy. They have a complicated relationship with their father. But they hold your hand when you’re nervous. They learn to cook your favorite meal when you’re sick. They remind you to ask for help. They laugh with wild abandon. They are loving and thoughtful and funny. So, you’re hooked. Because their eyes look like fireworks. You’ll take the cranky mornings and the occasional obliviousness, because look at those eyes! I love Paris like this. I’m captivated and enamored and only a smidge jaded by her.
I love New York like a person a couple dates in.
I like him well enough to see him again (Of course New York is a man. Paris is a woman, and Copenhagen is gender-fluid). He is moody and far too interested in organic grocery stores. He dresses like a new-money screenwriter. Scruff that requires abhorrent amounts of upkeep. He knows how to cut through crowds so the small person I am can see the performers. He can somehow navigate the subway system in a rush. Some days he’ll make a vegan meal for 10 bucks by spilling kind words around the farmer’s market. Others, we splurge and go for overpriced but with an astronomical view. He doesn’t read like a book.
It is confusing. It is fun. It keeps me on my toes. This city I’m falling for is a very tall man from whom I’m waiting for a kiss. When New York is grumpy, I get the blues. When New York is suave, I get to go to see the blues live, in a hidden club underneath a Chinese restaurant on the Lower East Side. I never know which NY I’ll meet next. So, I’ll just keep getting lost on my way to Whole Foods, wondering…
…if his parents upstate will one day want to meet me. If I’ll ever run into Taylor Swift in Chelsea. If somewhere in my future there’s a sunny Sunday in Central Park with my kids.