Walked the streets of New York, passed the perfect Upper East Side giraffes and their shell-shocked, “Is this really my life?” male companions that follow in the wake of those demanding heels, the homeless people appealing for a dollar, collecting for a street corner hot dog or projecting their musical prowess at midnight on the subway; walked at 1am in a city that showed no sign of going to sleep.
Strolling as slowly as I could through the Upper West Side on a Friday afternoon somehow brought me four blocks away in ten minutes – I unconsciously picked up my lesiurely wish-I-was-in-California pace to match the dog walkers and businessmen and students around me; when a young man smiled at me, I forgot to smile back and was shocked by my rudeness but figured it’s weirder to run after him and apologize. Gone was my Chicago suburban meander. No wonder my feet were tired.
My friend took me on a boat my first full day back here; his girlfriend provided tickets for us to join the medical student orientation cruise on the Hudson; I spent the evening surrounded by frightened, inebriated, but mainly excited soon-to-be doctors, laughing at and with them. I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time and she took my breath away; in a moment where I suddenly felt alone, my friends popped up on either side of me and showered me in smiles. It didn’t feel like a tourist moment. I wasn’t ever planning on making the trek to see her. But on a boat, at night, with the city lights shining on the other side framing a giant orange moon, I locked eyes with Lady Liberty and just watched, quietly. Couldn’t help but think what the waves of immigrants felt as they saw her for the first time.
Went to the Bronx this visit, a wholly new experience. It was greener than any suburb I’ve ever seen, and the people I met were a mix of New York brusque and familial kindness. Afterwards, a friend told me that 50% of murders that happen in the Bronx go unsolved. I imagine the lost bodies become trees, creating a canopy to shade us from the harsh sunlight, and then my weird little daydream is shaken from me by the insistent beeping of cars on the highway nearby. The humidity that built up in preparation for the storm reminded me of home, and I felt marginally better without realizing that something had felt off.
Woke up on the third day with a jolt of homesickness. The roaring of the fan in the cozy guestroom tried to drown it out, but I lay there at 7 am in a busy city and thought about my own, teeming with its vibrant culture, and felt the urge to see some jazz. This city is a jerk, I thought, and I missed my own jerk.
Sat on the edge of a dandelion-shaped fountain with my friend who trekked in from Brooklyn just to see me. We yelled at pigeons and made fun of each other’s accents, as friends are wont to do. Contemplated getting a famous mystery falafel concoction from a middle eastern vendor, who looked at us reproachfully when we decided that bottled water was safer than unnamed meat.
Hudson to UWS
Another night, I tried to convince my friend that we should walk 50 blocks back to where I was staying; he grumbled and said no, though I was bouncing with energy at midnight. We took a devastatingly air-conditioned train for 45 of those blocks, and I appeased him by sharing my Oreos. I never share my Oreos.