In New York, every life transition, birthday, good day, bad day or anything else worth mentioning, is marked with a party. A glass of wine over dinner, an outdoor café with friends, a little bubbly with coworkers, or whatever’s in a can at the nearest dive bar with the people that make a New York afternoon so much better. In just a few days, there will be a party for me – one that says, this party’s over.
If I look hard, I can still find the girl that came here three years ago, the one that looked like me and used my name. She’s still there and sometimes late at night I can hear her breathe. I can still feel her heart flutter at the lights of midtown rising at the feet of the Queensborough bridge one late, cold March night. I can still taste the sweet sweat and the iron blood of a city that births dreams and suffocates them all in the same breath. I can still hear the non-sound that Wall Street made as it fell in the bleary winter days of 2009 just a few streets down from our vanquished yet shiny new glass office building – just a silent settling of dust on the shoulders of the nicest suits in town. I can still remember the bright, grainy days of pitted concrete and perfect blue glass when I wondered if this was real – all of this, was this actually real. And I can still see my barely-made New York friends through an empty, foggy bottle of vodka from the floor of my newly rented apartment the day they told us my brother had cancer. It is those friends, and those lights, and that same non-sound that I must prepare to say goodbye to now.
If there were words that existed that could capture all the people I have met here –those I have loved, those who I have missed, those who I have learned from, adored, admired, frowned at and observed from close range – then I would use those words now. But they escape me. Evade me in disguise when called upon but fill me with the magnetic presence of their many subjects just the same. Because I – I am not the same.
People come to New York to own it – and they lease it instead. They come to meet new people – and meet themselves instead. They come to live their dream – and reinvent their dream to live… or live even beyond their dream instead. They (like me) come here shirking sadness like drugstore robbers on the interstate…and leave with that same uniformed sadness turned outlaw. Sadness dressed up nice and living out loud. Garnished generously with some of the best friends and best moments you’ve ever had in your life.
I’ve had the last of my shots now, the last of my chances to turn back and the last of those once coveted doors close softly. I wanted Africa, now I’ve got it. A one way ticket and one hell of an excel spreadsheet. Like tinfoil onto a fire – throw me in. Send me there by his side and see if I believe myself long enough to remember why I went in the first place. When will I return and as whom? It’s anyone’s guess and my best kept secret from myself.
But one thing is for certain. Like a long-time lover, I could not have lived without you New York. I could not have faced the world without your bawdy, exhilarating touch. Could not have arm-wrestled with my sorry, broken sense of self without your thick-lipped, relentless demands and your late night flirtations with my sanity. Could not have died a slow, senseless death before opening my eyes to some unrecognizable, surprisingly capable human being, bearing my very own name and my old college T-shirts. Could not have known life, jeered at life, done time with life, fell at life’s knees and even saved a life without you…my New York.
So lets you and I drink up the last drop, bring down the house and hold each other close before slinking away into the dark. One more round and one more toast to those who have saved me, most of all from myself. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.