It smells here. Subways make frequent appearances in my nightmares. No one should wonder whether a found pile of shit is human or animal in origin as often as I have. It's crowded. It's too expensive. Breathing is an art, space an artifact. I love it. You can find a lightbulb at 4 a.m. within 3 blocks. A beautiful woman will offer to help you with your bracelet when it's late in the evening and you're too tired and sweaty to deal with the clasp. I love that.
I love New York the way I imagine I'd love a sibling or a handsome, grand theater actor from the generation before mine. I love it despite thievery or its secret, but virulent alcoholism. Whatever role New York is today, it's perfect for it. Angela Carter said New York is a well-adjusted transexual. Bob Dylan said you could freeze to death on the street and no one would notice. Both are true.
As with all my loves, New York would probably be disappointed by skepticism. Could I be happy without New York? Sure. Do I need it? No, not at all. I can be happy anywhere. But I love it here.
Love, I was told once, was the feeling that you could not go without something or someone. Even at 10 years old that opinion seemed to me a cocktail of terror and disappointment; at the very least a threat to my agency and at worst a forecast of severe codependency issues. I don't love New York because I couldn't imagine myself somewhere else. I can imagine myself, happy too, other places. I just prefer New York.
I once saw a cab driver stop his vehicle on the Brookyln bridge, exit the car, retrieve a baseball bat from the trunk and wail upon the hood of a BMW whose driver refused to get off his cell phone. I even loved that in a perverse sort of way.
The food, Lord the food. I am the best girlfriend I could ever be when I'm involved with food. I am unguarded and brave and wholly available. I love that, too. I secretly feel like if we all only one great romance, mine is with a plate of pad thai.
If you need trashbags at 11 p.m. that's an easy errand. I love that you can buy a single stamp here. No one buys sheets unless they're sending wedding invites. A young man wearing his hair in two long braids that hung past his elbows called me beautiful by typing it into his cell phone and showing me the screen, but when I used sign language to thank him, he didn't know it. Maybe he took a vow of silence? Maybe it was a dare? Maybe he had a crippling case of laryngitis? It would all be perfectly normal and I love that.
I've been called a white devil, a bitch, a saint, a whore, a cracker, a dyke, a sweetheart... one time a guy called me a racist term for a Korean. I had to look it up, and I sort of loved that I was looking up someone else's racism. Not really sure why he thought I was Korean, and it's a possibility he was using a word he didn't actually know either, but - writing this list out now - I feel sort of proud that I seemed like all these things to someone. Potentially, I seem far more complex than I am. New York can do that for people. New York is like that herself; seemingly complex, really quite simple.
Dazzling, but relatively straightforward. Being here is like living in a thriving petre dish for proving Occam's razor. The simplest answer, no matter how weird, is probably true. Thinking that the man with braids who typed "you are beautiful" is some sort of monastic hipster? You're probably right. Oh oh! The guy carrying his prosthetic limb in his arms... who knows, but I bet it's a good story. Maybe it's a sad story. But it's something.
Once, I stole a Christmas tree. It was a long time ago. The man at the bodega refused to help me because he was in a dispute over a pack of fig newtons a teenager had allegedly paid only 75 cents for when a full dollar was due. I'd had free wine and no money and I love Christmas so so much. None of it makes sense (or excuses it) but I spotted a small tree, covered in red felt bows, sitting by its onesy outside the store. It was mutually determined we needed one another. In one fell, ungraceful swoop I lifted the tree from the sidewalk, tucked it - potted side against my hip - under my arm, and hauled ass down the road hoping to avoid police. But the best part to me now is that it's likely someone assumed, despite the odds, that I was tearing ass on a freezing December evening with a stolen miniature tree. They were right. And I love that.
Stories can happen anywhere, but New York is a story, the narrative plotted intrinsically like the Lascaux cave paintings or the pyramids at Ghiza. Sick passengers and window washers stranded on the 38th floor and the woman whose stroller rolled off the train onto the platform are practically religious texts. Fables leftover from the Pagan era or, you know, before Guiliani had the homeless removed back in the 70s.
People who don't love it here are making a mistake. I realize how rude and ridiculous and false of me that is. I even realize how it makes no sense, but I don't care. Mine is a hackles-up, teeth-baring defensiveness. If it makes a difference, I feel that way about music, my loved ones, and most of the court cases of the last 15 years. Hackles Up. Teeth Bared. It's the way I could gossip about a friend, but if someone else did I'd find a way to ruin that person's livelihood. I can hate the great tropes of New York. I've earned it. I can hate them because I love it.
I hate the tourists behaving like they're alone, I hate the heat of the underground; that humidity churning and undulating through the subway tunnels like a bog. Rats the size of kittens. The track fires. I hate the way rain means the F, N/R, L, G, and Q trains aren't running properly, and I'll be touching strangers, and one foolishly angry person will yell as though it's only happened to them, as though their anger is more valid, as though any one else will give a shit. The screaming teenagers. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd times I hear "WHAT TIME IS IT? SHOOOOW TIME!" in one commute. The people who lean on the subway poles. The men who pretend not to notice the very pregnant and very tired women. The girls in heels who notice and don't care because Jesus put them in Laboutins. The way it all still feels like high school. The gum peppering the sidewalks. The moments when you see someone you know on the platform, and hell you even like them, but you're so tired and you don't even like your friends right now and you just need five fucking seconds to yourself but you still feel like you have to talk to them. Crying because your bosses are back from vacation, and you love them, but you can't explain how fedex works one more time. The sickening fear that you might be too old for this. That you're just done. And you go somewhere green for the weekend. You lay on the deck. You watch old men work in their driveways (HOLY SHIT DRIVEWAYS) on the boats they're building for retirement and for 24 hours it's all you want. But then nothing is open past 8:00 and it's too dark to sleep and the silence is creeping you out and what the hell is comcast cable and why isn't Pat Keirnan on it? You need toilet paper, but it means you have to get into a car so you just find a bunch of napkins from the last time someone ordered takeout. Speaking of takeout, what do you mean there is no "seamless" in this neighborhood.
And you come home. And you're like WHAT TIME IS IT, SHOOOOWWW TIME! I love all that, too.