Not Final

Dear New York,

I love you.

You hardly noticed me, if at all.

Jersey gave me no warning. My heart fluttered when I saw your skyline nearly seven years ago. The snowy February spectacle proved more a winning distraction than to the tunnel and even the traffic. I don’t remember the other two very well or at all, and I’m pretty certain we passed through the Holland Tunnel, and I definitely know traffic teemed that mid-afternoon.

You welcomed me by leaving me to discover and explore by myself. You somehow sensed my curiosity, and you let me have free reign. How else are you supposed to control 8,000,000 people in such a small area? Everyone fends for themselves. They either find a way to thrive or they wither away. They become stronger and more confident or falter and fade.

It wasn’t a steady climb, dear beautiful City. I stumbled a few times, as you may recall, but you knew it had to be up to me to pick myself up and brush myself off. In some relationships, that might be negligent, but here, with you, it is wise and as loving as you can possibly be. You made like you didn’t care whenever I did something stupid or collapsed into bed after a long night.

Perhaps you didn’t care. It was difficult to tell.

It’s not like I needed the coddling.

You’re gruff. Dirty. Unsympathetic. Ever taller buildings eaving the sky I was so used to being open and wide.

You’re exciting. Your seas of people course vitality through your veins, with all these buildings like buttresses providing support and harnessing energy like a living, hydroelectric dam.

I can see from a mile away how unpredictable you are.

You seemed to mock me those times when I woke up after only three hours of “sleep,” giggly, hive-ridden, pathetic. Were you disappointed? You didn’t show it. You’d probably let me keep behaving like that until I destroyed myself. Population control.

You made me miss my family. You made me long for old friends and familiarity. You invited me to join you, and I hesistated at your frigid darkness and semiannual allergens; your extended winters and sloggy summers; your hipster neighborhoods and shadowed alleys; your people, everywhere, all the time; your strangers with furrowed brows and vapid stares, to and from work, the daily grind; your inclusion singled me out.

That aloneness, City? Best thing you did for me.

I fell in love with writing – look at this blog!

I lived for the weekends – Saturdays – if only to have the entire day to have you all to myself. A different attitude inhabits the city throughout the week. Not that isn’t fascinating, not that I couldn’t find inspiration, not that it’s any less beautiful or taxing or oppressive, because you’re the same thing all the time: ebbing and flowing; bringing in driftwood or a fresh tide; washing away dregs or rose petals.

Still, by some grand, understated miracle, I made some of the best friends of my life here. Though initially our common bonds were what we knew to be constant and secure, we also bonded through your uncertainty and change. My friends and I explored your streets together. We uncovered little treasures everywhere. We celebrated your seasons; we found fun ways to push through the winter: concerts, museums, bad made-for-tv movies at home with popcorn and cookies.

Once we got to spring, summer, and the first of fall, you couldn’t stop us. Nothing could. We walked and walked. We ate to our hearts’ content. We got wet in the river and at the beach. We roadtripped. We talked into the early morning. (But that also happened when it was cold.) We played hard on the weekends. Your street fairs, your protests, your smells, your music. The long hill on the west side of Harlem, leading up to Washington Heights.  The near-quarter-mile it is from 5th to 6th Avenue around Midtown. Your free hugs and headbands at Union Square. I got to know a lot of the little things about you, and maybe that’s why I love you.

You are one of the best friends of my life.

Almost seven years, City. I can’t believe it’s time to go.

I found a way to thrive. It wasn’t survival of the fittest where one king of the hill reigns. A lot of strangers still roam. I won’t get to know their names, but I discovered how to speak to them, regardless. I learned to look them in the eye and in that split second we understood how we are in the same moment, in the same place on this island stacked with concrete and masses of wandering bodies.

Sometimes, City, those connections last. And that’s what kept me going.

I used to thank my seminary students for “precipitating.” It’s going to rain tomorrow, my beloved. That’s got to be a coincidence, right? It can’t bring to full-circle the snowstorm that welcomed me. Your snow couldn’t keep me away, and now that I’ve been here a while and shown you what I’m made of, maybe you’re a little sad to see me go. I’m definitely not leaving as I came.

Thank you.

I hope you’re proud of me. It’s hard to tell.

I’ll come back, and we won’t do this again. I know my way around; I know what you’re about: I expect you to change. I’ll just pick up where I left off, both of us happy as can be. It won’t even feel like I was gone. I won’t forget the way you raised me, dear City. You absorbed me. I am yours.

I love you.


The Gun Show

She arrived at my apartment building Monday around 11am, all set to move the last of what I’d be putting in storage. I told her what boxes to move and where to move them. The boxes weren’t very light, and some of the items were awkward to carry, but she shifted them around with ease, like one of those Mensa puzzles, except for the very strong. When she flexes her biceps, I get scared.

I pretty much just sat around and watched.

Her help cut the time to about a third of what it would have taken if I did the job by myself. I wonder if I could contract her to other parts of the country whenever I need help moving.

She came to Becky’s apartment one evening at the beginning of this year. This is my first memory of interacting with her. I didn’t know much about her, except that she was friends with someone whom I was just getting to know, but I instantly liked her, and I knew I’d be seeing her more; making a new friend. She said as she left that night that it was good meeting me, and that I made her laugh.

She was there later that winter, the night of our church singles speed dating activity, when I decided, in a deli/bakery on the Upper East Side, to spill my feelings and experience about my biological father. She offered to hug me, but I declined and told her a hug would only make me cry. I think I was surprised or scared at how much trust I was giving. I definitely was amazed at how attentive and sympathetic those girls were.

It was fun listening to her sing a song she’d written for a friend’s birthday.

It was an honor to take part in a secret birthday scheme for her.

We went to Wicked once. It was the day I lost my job, and a friend won two tickets at the lottery and gave one of them to me. I knew of her personality and passion and pure and refined talent, and I knew I’d get to know more, and it was nice to have someone nearby while Elphaba and Glenda distracted me that night.

We also went running in Central Park. We got tired after a mile or so, then we wandered through the Ramble and some lady who’d already passed us twice gave us a thumbs up as she passed us again, then we sprinted the last 100 yards and a couple of guys complimented us on our strong finish. We high-fived each other’s awesomeness.

She translated a week’s worth of scripture lesson plans for Girls Camp into Spanish for me. It was probably in world-record time.

She’s quick to serve.

She has a strong sense of justice.

She’s always offering hugs, and she’s generous with her time. It has meant a lot to me.

She sometimes makes jokes that takes a while for people to get.

She’s righteous, but she can also drop it like it’s hot.

She’s all over the place. She’s perfect that way.

If she weren’t training for a marathon and didn’t know how to box, maybe I could kick her butt. Maybe.

Also? Jazz. This girl is a wonder on the trumpet. You don’t even know.

Get her started on politics or capitalism or international affairs.

Ask her about the man she loves.

I said goodbye to her this morning. I hugged her with all the gratitude and love in my heart. I took her friendship, her listening, her loyalty and dedication to goodness, her humor, everything that is beautiful and true about her with the hugs she gave me. Hugs I could not decline.

So what if I cry?