My love affair with Manhattan began as a crush. I became completely infatuated with the city after watching the Broadway musical turned major motion picture Rent when I was sixteen. Yes, that’s right. Something about extreme poverty and debilitating diseases seemed utterly romantic to me. After that I became obsessed with the humble beauty of fire escapes and neglected apartment buildings. I was absolutely certain that I would make it to New York one day, so I did.
I finally met New York when I was eighteen. Young and starry eyed I arrived at the door of my dormitory wearing a new outfit my mother had purchased for me days before. I settled into my tiny bedroom filled nothing but a single bed, one dresser, and a sink and knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. For two memorable months New York was my man. In the mornings I would take the train to 23rd street and walk two blocks to the yoga studio where I worked. I would stare unapologetically at the people I passed on the streets or waited with in the subways, pretending to be one of them. I would laugh with New York when the derelicts and ne’er-do-wells called me pretty and begged me to marry them. I would get drunk with New York, standing on the roof of my building singing to the city. I even fought with New York when I took the wrong subway and wound up in the wrong parts of town. And in the evening I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the streets below.
I didn’t want to leave him. But of course mothers will be mothers and mine was determined to make me finish high school and attend college the following fall. So I said my goodbyes, vowing that I would be back one day. And I was, for weekends, sometimes weeks. I came back to smell the city, visit old friends, and fall in love again. Every day I spent with him assured me that he was my dream, and that New York was my somewhere over the rainbow.
The last time I was in New York was almost two weeks ago. Now, I’m aware that visiting right before a hurricane was supposed to hit probably wasn’t a good idea but luckily I got out before the winds kicked up and the water came in. Regardless, New York and I found ourselves on different pages. The cab drivers overcharged me and the bank froze my account. Faces were cold and unfamiliar and found myself missing Columbus’ quiet streets and affordable food. I tried to party with New York but instead I took too much, threw up on my shoes and ran away from my French guide. It was like bad sex or emotional cheating. I woke up cold in the bed the next day hating New York and realizing finally that maybe we just weren’t meant to be together.
There was this guy, a real guy not a city, and it was kind of the same way with him. We made love happen in two weeks. Then he left (the way men sometimes do) and moved to Spain, then Germany, then California and last thing I heard he was living in a tent on top of some mountain in Oregon. Needless to say it didn’t work. But loving him felt like loving New York. I would wait to see his face appear on my computer screen the same I would wait to see that silvery skyline peak over my airplane window.
Then this other guy showed up completely unannounced. He’s actually quite perfect. You know, with looks so good they make you weak and a voice so powerful that the mere memory of it in your ear moves things inside of you. Things that you never thought would move again. This time it was two days. Two days of kisses and conversation that was so sweet it left butterflies lingering in the pit of my stomach. But he left to, because his life was waiting on the other end of some airport terminal and his goals were riding the conveyer belt at baggage claim, waiting to be picked up.
So here I am with this great sense that I’m not where I need to be. That this universe is trying to tell me that I’d better pick up and leave if I’m tired of being left. But then there’s this other thing idling above my shoulder. An eerie sense that perhaps I love the things I cannot have because I’m unable to see what’s right in front of me. Well, I”m not going to waste my youth dreaming of tomorrow because I’m unsatisfied with today. Or settle for a life that wasn’t chosen for me just because it’s easier to do so. Working on a dream is like working on a relationship and true love doesn’t end with an argument anymore than it can with one bad weekend.