It’s a strange thing to live out of a carry-on and backpack, filling the days in between flights being homesick for places I’ve never been to – for far off islands with turquoise waters and impossible sunsets setting into orange sand dunes. I’ve lived airplane ticket to airplane ticket for the last 4 years, marking time with passport stamps and suitcase wheels lost to moving sidewalks, moments measured by a compass rather than a clock. Ten consecutive days was the longest I had spent in one place. And then I came to New York.
I was initiated into city life by taking a pigeon wing to the face, and by watching the guy I was on a first date with stride across the bar to kiss another girl within an hour of meeting me. This was what everyone had warned me about – the brutal city that would rip your heart out and throw it in front of a speeding cab. The city of garbage lined streets, the smell of trash spilling out from alleyways and occasionally masking the stench of urine wafting up from hot asphalt. The over-sized rats that dart in and out of subway tracks, an occasional distraction from the honking and the crowds and the relentless loneliness.
And yet, New York, I love you. And I don’t mean that in the colloquial way, but in that ridiculous all-consuming inconvenient can’t live without you kind of way. As Simone De Beauvoir so aptly put it, “there’s something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” And it takes a certain kind of unconditional love to love living here, despite the potholed streets and absurd prices and the guarantee of noncommittal heartbreak and rejection.
Because in two subway stops, you can travel through twelve countries. From the cannoli lined storefronts of Little Italy, to the rainbow facades of Chinatown and all of the winding alleyways in between that promise adventure. Where every single subway ride is the most random sampling of humanity, people of all walks of life confined to a single space if only for the briefest moment. Where my morning coffee on the fire escape is imbued with dreams emanating from passerby’s skin in an almost tangible, completely irrational way. Because everything about New York transcends rationality.
In my very first blog post in February 2016, I wrote: You see, no one has ever given me a reason to stay in one place. If and when someone does, I’ll know it’s real. I’ll know that I’ll be able to happily call a place home, because sometimes, home isn’t four walls or the familiar curve of your favorite pillow. It’s wherever another soul calls you to return to day after day. Until then, my heart yearns for the unfamiliar and distant corners of this tiny planet that each and every one of us calls home.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that a city could imbue me with the desire to stay put and the impossibly foreign concept of homesickness. Because when I’m not in New York City, my mind wanders to the views from Rockefeller Center onto the circuit board streets dotted with cabs and food vendors, pink sunsets against mirrored skyscrapers tinged with the unwavering resilience of every human who calls this city home.