Remembering New York

This morning I was remembering my first fall in New York. I moved to Manhattan just before my 20th birthday in May of 1998. I stayed up every night that summer until dawn, smoking cigarettes in the living room and watching the lights twinkle distantly on the Chrysler building through the window.

I had insomnia those first few months. Not until the first vestiges of a rosy pink dawn bled into the sky would I crawl into bed, my sighs filtering silently across my pillow as I finally let go of consciousness. It’s hard to say what I thought about all those nights. My mother mostly, I think. She had lived in New York for 17 years before she married my father and I often wondered about her life there, about the places she lived, the streets she walked down. I have a few journals from that time, their entries a meaningless and incoherent jumble of grief and nuanced adolescent wonderings.

My insomnia broke with the cooler weather later that fall. I began waitressing in a restaurant in Union Square and I started classes at the New School that fall. My life was suddenly busy with schedules and assignments and endless tables; there was no time to sit up all night watching the lights of the city through the window.

I remember October evenings, the air surprisingly cold after such a warm summer, walking through Astor Place, past the library and all the shoe shops, the subway stop and the Barnes and Noble, crossing Broadway and continuing on along a quiet stretch of 9th Street until I got to 5th Avenue, where I would head north a few blocks to my classroom building on the corner of 12th Street and 6th Ave. I loved those meandering walks, past the delis with their fresh flowers and fruits on ice, the bustling crowds on Broadway and 5th, the fashionable women and the height of the buildings rising up all around me. I felt so alone in the midst of all of it, like I had a secret somehow.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget those walks, the walks that continued all four years that I lived in New York, each fall the cool air evoking memories of that first year, the cool air here in Chicago now, bringing those same memories back to me again.

p.s. Greg has a really funny piece up on The Nervous Breakdown today about his early days as a writer in Cleveland:

Rewriting a Media Guide is Easier When You’re Both Lonely and Looking Important


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