goodbye (see you later) to all that
It's been quite a week, to say the least. I got home from New York at 5 in the morning on Friday, and not even twelve hours later I was on the bus going downtown to go to work during Game 4 of the NBA Finals. While I changed zip codes, my heart and mind were still in a frenzy.
I bought a Greyhound ticket to New York back in April. I don't know what it was; I had a desire to go back. Maybe my work from last semester's creative nonfiction workshop is to blame - my final essay was about my ever-changing relationship with the city, starting with my first trip as a seven-year-old and ending sometime in the present. Other than that, I thought I deserved a vacation; a short-lived one.
My bus pulled into Port Authority on Tuesday a little after noon, and I rushed to the nearest bathroom to change and put on makeup before meeting Sophie outside. I looked rough, to say the least, after nine hours of unsuccessfully finding a comfortable position to sleep in. After minutes of playing phone-tag with Sophie we finally found each other on the corner of 41st Street and hugged. In that moment I said exactly what I was thinking, as the ever-so familiar blaring of car horns went on in every which direction; "I can't believe I'm really here!" The hours between my Uber ride to the Cleveland Greyhound station and my arrival in New York were a blur, but as strung out as I was, I felt it - the unmistakable rush of adrenaline. Every nerve in my body was revived, and this energy was put into walking (lots of it).
We went to the Whole Foods across from Bryant Park. It was lunch hour, and all the nine-to-five's were hot on our heels. I spent nine dollars on a croissant and a fruit cup - a purchase that was gut-wrenching in the sense that those two items would cost me a few dollars less back home at Heinen's. When in New York, I thought to myself as I forked over the cash. Sophie and I found two chairs and sat on the lawn of Bryant Park, the sun shining down on us as we split a California Roll. In that moment I gave into the fantasy that I wasn't actually a Midwestern outsider, but I was still hit with the realization that people get to live like this every day - there are hundreds of thousands of moments exactly like the one I was having in the park that just end up blurring together, then vanishing.
Tragedy struck the city while I was there - the news of Kate Spade's suicide was and still is a heavy pill to swallow. On Wednesday, Sophie and I walked down Fifth Avenue from Madison Square Park, and a chill ran down my spine when we passed Spade's store. Someone had placed a dozen white roses beside the door, and they leaned sideways in their plastic casing. And then I woke up roused from a few hours of sleep on Friday to the news of Anthony Bourdain. When a famous person dies, the world grieves together, some making a death culturally or personally relevant to their own experience. I'm guilty of this, in the case of Bourdain. When I heard that he died, a memory came back to me, one that I hadn't thought about in years. In middle school, my mom took me to a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. Anthony Bourdain was doing a discussion panel with fellow chef Gabrielle Hamilton, and signing books afterwards. My mom was a fan of Bourdain's (I suspected she had a crush on him too). I was of course a bratty teenager, reluctant to indulge in my mother's cultural education. I remember sitting next to her in the sea of folding chairs, and what Anthony's voice sounded like. It's safe to assume that I was probably the youngest audience member, but I was used to that feeling - my mom wanted me to feel like a miniature adult during our mother-daughter outings, and treated me as such. I always thought that my mom would take my brother and I to events for her benefit only - but when I texted her Friday morning about Bourdain, she sent me to a blog post that she wrote years ago about the night we went to the book signing. She wrote about how she took me to the Bourdain event with her because she wanted me to see what I had to look forward to as a writer - the night was for the both of us, and writing this now is admittedly making tears well up in my eyes. It made me think differently about her as a parent, especially after just getting through a years-long rough patch in our relationship. Despite what I've gone through with her - I understand now that it's possible to uncover things that have been buried underneath the awful and ugly moments for so long - nights like the book signing where she meant well, wanted me to feel special and focus on the future.
When my Cleveland-bound bus left Port Authority on Thursday night, I had the same feeling I did two years ago as a freshman when was I heading back to Ithaca after a day trip with the History Department. I wasn't as enamored with New York as I thought I would be, and this revelation in itself disappointed me. Maybe it's because this trip was rushed, and I wasn't exactly light on my feet this time around considering I spent a majority of the time carrying around my ten-pound tote bag with three days' worth of belongings crammed inside. I felt out of place, clumsy and awkward, and of course, broke. On the bus I thought about a section in Eula Biss' essay "Goodbye to All That":
"They come to the city and immediately dedicate themselves to making it the city of their imagination. The - you know - glittering city of endless opportunity that oozes riches and delights for the young and talented."
When you romanticize a person, place, or thing enough, you lose sight of what it is in actuality. Perhaps my mind has been clouded with adoration all these years, but I know why - New York is New York - so many things to so many people. I love New York, but it's not the same love I had when I was still in high school. Every time that I've gone to New York during college has left me feeling differently with each arrival and departure.
I had the pleasure of seeing another good friend of mine this week, for the first time in years. She works at the Whitney, and we met up at The Wild Son.
"What do you want to do after undergrad?" She asked me after we quickly filled each other in on each other's lives. I felt a lump form in my throat.
"I want to go to grad school and get my MFA," I started.
"Yeah you do!" She said excitedly. I went on to talk about my top choice program, which is of course in the city, and she nodded understandingly. I rattled off names of publishing companies I wanted to work for. I was dreaming out loud, but she encouraged it. The dreams felt safe, tucked away between us at our table, hovering above my decadent fourteen-dollar pancakes.
I'm at a point now where I feel like it's so dangerous for me to want things. I want to be among the effortlessly stylish, fast-walking, eclectic breed of humans that are New Yorkers. But I've finally reached a point of consistency and comfort in my life, one that took so long to achieve - years, months, weeks, days, hours of work that I don't want to throw away, that I'm still immersed in. I have a ferocious loyalty to Cleveland, and I love the life that I have here, but deep down I know that what I want to do with my life after college doesn't fit, which scares me. I know that I still have time to plan and figure things out, but it's hard to tell where and when I'll establish roots of any kind once I'm done with school. For now, I have to keep moving forward, and see where the rest of undergrad takes me.
Thanks for giving me a lot to think about, New York. I'll be back someday, somehow.