I ran on adrenaline for 5 days. It was bliss. I wanted for nothing other than more. And then some.
It surprised me how much I still loved you. I’m different to last time we met and of course you are too. And yet, like all the best relationships, you brought out my spirit instantly. I’d forgotten how light I could be.
At our wedding reception, my husband surprised me with a speech that took my breath away. I was his “feather in the wind”.
Over the years since, that turn of phrase has haunted me. I’ve felt anything but. Leaden even. And sorry for him that what drew him to me was no more. I apologised some days: “not exactly feather in the windish…” But it seemed to just be so.
Then I stepped onto your singing sidewalk. All that I shouldn’t like, and in some ways don’t, hummed me back to happiness. People. Yuck. People everywhere. Double yuck. Consumerism and billboards and horns bleating and shopping bags laden and overpriced everythings and construction hammering and smells that hit. So loud. So brash. So much muchness.
And I couldn’t stop grinning. Even when hiding my smile I could feel my eyes shining. So. Happy. To. Be. Here.
How to explain what you love…who you love…why…how to word up mystery and chemistry and rhythm.
I walked well. I didn’t bump or lurch. I hit my stride and it felt just right. I wasn’t too old or pained or awkward. There was space here for me to ride. Just enough in the slipstream for me to slide right in.
So I’m here and I’m walking at this pace that’s bright. I’m loving every corner and feeling that swell of humans pushing past. There’s something happening everywhere. New York doesn’t pretend that change isn’t always. We’re not the rocks we pretend to be. We’re fluid and connected and all together one.
New York doesn’t ask you to be small. It tells you you are. You’re an ant man. You’re nothing at all. You’ll soon pass and another will step in. You don’t amount to much.
And yet it does so with delight. For it’s a joyous ride. You’re nothing and part of it all. You’re no one and so are all those other ones streaming past. You’ll soon pass but until you do…New York says you’ve got every right to go for it. To love it big time.
There’s no shame here in having a go. It still is possible. The cab driver’s been here for 10 years. He loves Manhattan passionately. He still gets nervous driving some days. He says “I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s hairy sometimes”…but he loves it. With the sort of love he wants to let you know about. I LOVE THIS PLACE. He shouts it to me and out the window to the bustling crowd. He tells me “now this is a place you can make a go of it. You can try and you’ll get somewhere. You gotta put the effort in but you can do it. It’s a good thing for the young people. To know they can do something. They can be here and make money. They can work and be a part of it.”
I feel part of it here. Not self conscious at all. My self sort of fades and blends with the others. I feel part of a tide of restless humanity. Of creativity and curiousity and living it souls.
There’s so much going on that surrender becomes necessary. A sort of why not go with it.
I eat a burger. I’m usually not a fan. And then a hallelujah this is what I’ve been missing and I only just suppress a happy dance. I’m so happy. This is a moment of bliss. I know it will pass and yet here it is. I’m smack in the middle of it. Here’s the groove and here’s the light and here’s the smile surging through me. And in another bite or two I’ll be done.
Another time I’m walking down 6th Avenue. The sun’s on me and I’m heading to the MOMA shop. I go inside and am standing near the jewellery. A shopper suddenly turns to me, beaming “Hey I remember these from when I was young! Do you?!” and he’s holding a calculator watch and jabbing at the tiny buttons. His face is so lit up I can see the kid in him and I suddenly miss my boys who would love those tiny numbers. But I’m happy for the guy. I get the tiny joys. I get the awesome wonder that you can’t expect or predict but keeps on finding you.
In a Soho café there are 4 guys talking round a table. They seem to be working, though loosely, and are discussing strategy. A blonde guy leans in and you can hear the smile in his voice. “It’s like my grandfather. He had a store on the upper west side. It sold socks at 30 cents each or 3 for a dollar and people would go ‘yeah I’ll take the 3 for a dollar’. Humans!”
In the drugstore I hear of the pharmacist’s dog. He’s regaling his staff and a customer with a listing of its feats. I’m trying not to giggle. It’s a long story but he seems so thrilled to be telling it. His enthusiasm is infectious. Finally, he pauses to take a breath and his assistant passionately declares: “she really is exceptional. It’s. That. Simple.”
And there are dogs everywhere. Outside my hotel window a woman is cradling her pup like a baby. On its back with its little legs in the air. And she kisses its belly as she crosses the road. Smooch smooch smooch. And a pause. Then some more.
I don’t feel lonely in NYC. I feel part of the whole mess of it all. Just a tiny part but a part. Part of the flow. And connected to the creativity and jarring contrasts and brain buzz and body beat.
The haughty and the humble. The uptight and the loose.
So many words. Everyone talking – yacking on their phones – to themselves – to each other – walking and talking and eating and talking and sitting and talking and talking to me and around me and near me and over me.
And why use a few words when you can use many? Refreshing for me who lives for words and has always ached with discomfort around the silent types…those “men of few words”…
But here! Waxing lyrical – street poets – cabbie orators – passionate walkers – opinionated shoppers and thank you mam and enquiring and checking in and billboards and signs and posters and art squeezed in and graffiti kicking and signs of life all round bursting at the seams.
And still eye contact. Plenty of it. It surprised me.
The sweetness of meadow flowers in Central Park. Their perfume heightened by the brewing storm. The humidity and the thunder rolling in.
The sudden downpour catching us off guard. Huddling in the opening of a building with others. Drinking green iced tea from a takeaway cup. Not liking it one sip and loving it the next. Everything changing and making way.
Talking to family back home whilst walking after the storm had quietened. A sudden thunder rumble and my family hearing it as it happened. You’re hearing New York thunder in Central Park. Live. For some reason that made us all feel happy. So much connection. So much possibility.
And noticing my freedom since the last time I was here. I’d thought that I was much less free, having married and had 3 children since I last tripped your city streets. Last time my beau and I held hands and caught snow on our tongues and snuggled and smiled and dreamed of our future. This time he’s at home kid wrangling and I’m their mother and need to be back as soon as I can. I’m heavier yet lighter than ever. I’m more tired and yet awakened inside. I feel so gorgeously awake.
I’d imagined a bit of a weary trudge, an out of my depth overload. A daggy domesticity. A fogginess. But none of that happened.
I felt free. Not free from my little family – free within it. Buttressed by their love and support and gentleness with me. Held by their happiness. I was buoyed by their well wishes and urged to drink it all up. For me and for them. It was intoxicating.
Blissful and blessed I’m now home, but I miss you already city of my soul.