Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe that it is especially hard to know what to think or say right now. In a time of so much uncertainty, Roger Cohen, of the New York Times, offered a reflection on New York City, dubbed Come Back, New York, All is Forgiven. With so much information and content shouting for space on the internet, our method of communication and contact, Cohen’s piece offered a sense of home, a sense of familiarity in unfamiliar turbulence. Analyzing what it means to be (my)self within this City, I couldn’t help but write my own love letter to the moments often forgotten within the city that never ceases to amaze.
Will you remember me, New York? Will you greet me with your open arms of smelly sidewalks, your thunderous roar, your hidden moments of splendor? Or will you sense betrayal, cursing me with sudden downpours and untimely signal delays for leaving you during your most arduous moments? I was acting selfishly, convincing myself that by leaving I was doing you a favor; one less person to worry about. In reality, sweet Lower East Side, I was worried I wasn’t tough enough to spend weeks isolated with you. Will you recognize the spring in my step, the innate ability to navigate the maze of downtown streets, the hustle I will feverishly return to? Can you forgive me?
Will you remember me, New York? I remember you. You haunt my daydreams. As all falls still, all I yearn for is your restlessness. The silence of today is deafening. These noises are foreign, the quaint hum of a smaller town routine. The things I would do to trade the croon of a lawnmowers engine for the rumble of a jackhammer. I miss your soundtrack, perpetually looped, and unforgivingly deafening.
New York, do you remember it the way I do? Do you remember the pure bliss that would wash over the streets as the first warm summer day bathes us in golden light? How you could fall to the background of numerous unique and dazzling scenes in a blink of an eye? Perched on a stoop, you became witness to countless moments in countless lives. You are stranger, a face without a story to many, yet, you have the chance to impact millions. New York, will you allow me just this one more chance to prove to you how much I crave and need this anonymity? I’m just another shadow on the streets, breathing in your horrid stench, a blend of forlorn trash reminiscent of the memories of the previous eve, the aroma of future meals to be shared, fumes from Uber Pools carrying star crossed lovers, and the odor of countless other strangers.
Will you remember me, New York? Will you. I remember the echo of basketball shoes squeaking on the tar of Washington Square. The faint riffs of familiar songs emitting from Airpods destined for the subway grates. The hiss of airbrakes on buses carrying passengers to their destinies.
Will, you recognize me, New York, as I warmly accept a brunch invitation? You’ve grown to understand that part of my whole attempt at being a New York “cool girl” is that I reject the notion of brunch; the overpriced excuse to drink alcohol before 1 p.m. on a Sunday. New York, we both recognize the cost of a pancake, so why am I expected to pay upwards of $20.00 for the delicacy? Will you forgive me for my frugal mindset? Will you understand that I’ve been petty, forgoing opportunities to bask in the radiance of my beloved friendships, just to save a pretty penny? Will you forgive me?
I remember your faces, New York. I miss the hazel eyes of the mango cart worker who typically runs the Lexington Avenue/53rd subway stop around rush around, offering siracha on the juicy treat for all who enjoy a little mix of sweet and spicy. I can describe the brown locks and full beard of the gorgeous server at my favorite Italian hideaway, offering the coveted window corner table for my notebook and me. I recall the vibrance of the new collar my neighbor purchased for his small dog, a dog who is always stressed to share the elevator with me and my laundry. I miss the unfamiliar familiar faces of my commute. My commute-I swear I’ll never complain again about you! I’ll wake earlier. I treasure Mondays, tucked away on the M Train, a crossword, and a fresh outlook for the week. These days, I’m not entirely sure when a Monday is, or what makes it unique?
I remember my routes, the innate path my New York city-dwelling feet continue to take. The cross streets I will always turn right at. The avenues I find comfort in. The familiar apartment windows I will always smile at. Particularly, my favorite window on the third floor of the corner of 1st Ave and St. Marks. Late at night, the stranger sits by his window, smoking presumably a joint, perched on his fire escape. On more than one occasion, we’ve locked glances, exchanging a magical wave. I miss my familiar strangers.
New York, do you remember the skyline? The twinkling, luminous, exceptional skyline? The fleeting feeling of flying as you cross the Williamsburg Bridge back into Manhattan, wondering where the night will take you? All the lights still on. Lives being lived individually, united. I miss you. Do you miss me?
Will you remember me, New York?
Will you remember the lite mist cast upwards on a windy day from the Washington Square Park fountain?
Will you remember the evening buzz of tables for two, the clinking of wine glasses over an overpriced steak, the hum of New York coming alive to celebrate simply living here?
Will you remember the crowds? Will you remember the pace in which we all previously lived our lives, hurrying past all of these details we so desire? Will you grant us these moments again?
Will you grant us summer in Central Park? How about impromptu picnics? Rooftop views? Apartment parties, offering new and blessed friendships? Dinner parties? Will you bless us with your radiance as we watch fireworks light up the nighttime sky, celebrating our independence? Will you grant us this?
New York, I remember you.
New York, will you remember me?
Feature Image via Jessica Golightly