Yesterday left me drained, though I didn’t quite realize it until I sat down to write this. ‘Where were you’ posts, tributes, news stories. Photos of those gorgeous beams of light that shine upward and onward, like the city itself. In Copenhagen yesterday, it was a gray and rainy day, nothing of the blue and cloudless sky that so many New Yorkers remember about that day.
But it puts me, a day later, in an Empire State of Mind. And it is time to confront the blasphemous thoughts that have been roiling around in my head since this summer.
I love New York. Truly, madly, deeply. Since the moment I moved there 20 some-odd years ago. Most people leave New York when their relationship has run it’s course. Their time together has ended, like a junior high school romance. And they part on good terms. Probably still keep in touch, maybe friend each other on Facebook down the line. That was not me. I wasn’t through with New York. I didn’t move because I was tired of living in a tiny space, or lugging 2 kids and 3 bags of groceries up 3 flights of stairs, or even the cost of living. New York and I well, we parted for different reasons, for visions of the future. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was dragged out kicking and screaming, but when my better half found me sobbing in front of the television on New Year’s Eve, while they played the ubiquitous Frank Sinatra ode to New York, I think we both realized that I had left a chunk of my heart behind.
I am not a born and bred New Yorker. I am, what I consider, even more of a New Yorker. I consciously chose to live there for 20 years. I lived there longer than anywhere else. In fact, by the time we left Brooklyn for our first overseas posting, I had been living in our 650 square foot apartment for 12 years…longer than the house I grew up in. New York is the answer I give when people ask me where ‘home’ is. Where the heart is.
You know those iconic images of New York City that are immortalized on film and in photographs? New York is really like that. I love the fact that no one bats an eye as a cross-dressing unicyclist sings his way down the street. I love the stew of languages and accents that you can drown in on the subway. Hell, I even love the subway (though the L needed a bit of an overhaul when I left). I love the energy, the diversity, the angst and the twitchiness. I love the fact that New Yorkers moan about how slow other people walk, the corner bodega that’s open 24 hours a day. My breath still catches at the sight of the Manhattan skyline every time we drive into the city. It really is the best city in the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Copenhagen. It’s a fantastic city and I really, really enjoy being here. But a part of me, a part of my heart, will always belong to New York. And that’s why what I am about to write pierces my soul, just a little bit.
I am not sure I can live there again.
When we visited NYC this summer, our old hood was almost unrecognizable. Some of our favorite restaurants had closed, there was a developed waterfront, and there were parking lots! You can’t have parking lots in Brooklyn–part of living in the city and being able to attest to how cool and urbane you are is to brag about the parking spaces you can squeeze into and complaining about alternate side of the street parking rules. It was prettified and gentrified and really, really crowded. And I am going soft, I am getting spoiled, I am plumping up like an overripe peach that is starting to mold and split the skin. I have lived too long in more than 700 square feet, with a patch of green in eyesight. I am getting old. I am starting to long for a vegetable garden.
At the risk of sounding completely crass, what the f*ck?? I am not this person. I am a New Yorker. I am hard-core and dark and I can get from the Bronx to Coney Island on one swipe of a Metrocard. I wear a lot of black. I own motorcycle boots. I once had my bag snatched and chased the guy down the street. I got married in New York City, on the 17th floor with a 360 degree panoramic view of the city, including those twin sisters of the skyline, which were still intact, though not for much longer. My children were born in New York. I lived in a walk-up. I lived in a shoe-box. I lived up-town, down-town, and in Brooklyn waaaaay before Brooklyn was cool. Hell, I used to hang out in Alphabet City when it was still referred to as Alphabet City. I never once imagined NOT living there. I never once imagined NOT going back when we had had enough of the ex-pat life. Until this summer.
I feel like an adulterer. I am sad and confused and not quite sure what to do. New York is one of the great loves of my life, and I feel like we are growing apart. It has always been a part of me, always there in my heart, in my soul. And I am not sure if we are right for each other any more.
And it hurts.