“In love with how it’s happened so far. Even the terrible things.” -Yrsa Daley-Ward
NYC has transitioned from a beautiful, blossom-filled Spring to a relentlessly hot, unbearably humid, garbage covered rainforest. I have turned into a life-sized, human sticky frog toy. I stick to the subway seats, to the arms of the people sitting next to me, to literally every surface I touch. Remember when you were a kid and you’d have the sticky frog toy you got as a treat from the dentist in your pocket all day, then you’d take it out and it was covered in lint and dirt? That’s exactly what happens to people who live in New York in the Summer. One gust of wind and we are human flypaper for the swirling trash dust to call home.
Much like anyone or anywhere else, sometimes you forget where you live and get lost in the daily duties of life: work, laundry, work, work, and work. The past few months have been an endless loop of work and boring life chores, however, a few exciting things have happened.
My husband and I have decided to stay in NYC. When we first planned to move here, we gave ourselves a 1-year minimum. “Even if we hate it, we stay at least a year,” we told each other. That year has nearly passed, and we can’t believe it. Every day I look at the sunlight filter through the green glass champagne bottle sitting on our windowsill, a memento of our first night in our new apartment, our new city. We sat cross-legged on our bed, toasting victory with the crystal champagne glasses we were gifted just 2 months before at our wedding. Boxes filled every nook and cranny of our tiny studio, late summer heat had coated us with sweat, and we were exhausted from a full days work of moving. Now here I sit, boxes all around me once again, staring at that same bottle, a whole year living and surviving in this city now behind me. When I first began writing this blog, I wanted it to serve as a love letter to New York City, a smattering of stories and memories to look back on when I eventually left. Like with any great love story, there is some hate and discomfort sprinkled in, but it truly has been a year of love.
Our second experience apartment hunting in the city could not have been more different from the first. We found a place through the owner of the building rather than a broker, and it was the first apartment we looked at. It was love at first sight, no difficulties, no broker’s fee, no ridiculous hoops to jump through. This time, we decided to live with two of our friends from CO who also live in NYC. The more incomes you have supporting a household, the nicer the house, and neighborhood you get to live in. We aren’t going far, but far enough that the street art looks less like a threatening message and more like a beautiful mural. We found the home of our dreams: backyard (I’m as shocked as you are that those exist in the city), lots of space, a stone’s throw away from a dog park. All the exposed brick, natural light, and original woodwork you could possibly dream of. Living with our friends is just the cherry on top.
It’s strange, I have moments where I look around and still feel like it’s my first day in the city. I’ve mastered the subway system, the art of dodging creeps (mostly), and budgeting to pay my ridiculous rent. I’ve mastered staying calm in mobs of people, showing confidence I don’t feel, and saying yes to opportunities that present themselves. But still, I feel the constant imminence of excitement, of possibility, beating like a heartbeat beneath the pavement. Unpredictability has sunk its teeth deep into my bones, anchoring me to a terrifying city I can’t seem to get enough of.
I was having a particularly bad day a few weeks ago. The air was thick with humidity and stale with the smell of body odor and trash. My feet throbbed with pain, and I just wanted to get home. My regular train was out of service for maintenance so I was forced to travel out of my way to take a different train home. I walked through the subway station, descending 3 separate flights of stairs to a platform I’m convinced is mere miles from the core of the earth. Rats scrambled about, water from the previous days’ rainstorm dripped from the ceiling, inconsiderate assholes with half their body weight in chains hanging from their neck smoked their cigarettes freely. “My god, this place is a hole,” I thought to myself. I noticed a scraggly man sitting on the ground with a case set in front of him, I assumed it was one of many homeless men begging for money. As it turns out, there was a keyboard in the case.
He began playing a heart-wrenchingly beautiful song I’d never heard before. The platform transformed from a drippy hellscape to an ethereal dream in a matter of seconds. The dozens of people milling around waiting for the train all stopped in their tracks and turned their heads to listen. Sweet light notes and velvety dark notes tumbled together and echoed through the tunnels like a sacred, secret chapel. He began singing, his voice deep and buttery as leather. Every person listening felt what he was feeling, unexpectedly connected to each other through music and goosebumps. His entire face changed when he sang, he suddenly didn’t look homeless at all. I didn’t care at all about my horrible day, or the rats or the smell. I was ripped out of my mind and rooted to the moment. It was something I will remember forever, I sat in a trance for the whole train ride home. It’s a gift I don’t think I would have received anywhere else, a purely serendipitous experience.
The other day I was strolling through Washington Square Park, watching groups of people picnicking, dancing, reading, living. Someone was playing a saxophone rendition of Sinatra’s “New York, New York”. The song drifted lazily through the air like motes of dust in the sunlight and everything felt right. These are the moment’s people live for. These are the moment’s movies are filmed about, songs are written for.
You have bad days here, like anywhere else. Not like anywhere else, there is danger lurking around every corner, and you absolutely have to have your guard up at all times. It’s exhausting. It’s relentless. But if I’ve learned anything from my year here (and I’ve learned a lot) it’s that it’s all worth it. These moments sprinkled in with the stress of it all, make it all worth it.
Here’s to another magical year, New York. I love you.