New York I Love You; or, Wisdom Under Duress
There are always friendly faces or short-lived past lovers passing in and out of my field of vision. I let them go. I don’t plan on staying long anywhere. ¶ I am beginning to see a trend. The first man I loved with a decade on me once remarked, “You’re very wise.” Another, regarding me from across a narrower gap of years, consoled me: “When you get older, you stop feeling as much.” I took it to heart. Not everything means anything. More often than not, it means nothing at all. These days it takes me less and less time to arrive here.
Between destinations on the L train I said “I feel this city has broken me like a wild horse.” He, the latter lover, said maybe that is a good thing. A horse ought to be put to work. Roaming free contributes to nothing. Perhaps I am beginning to agree. I still could not help tossing and turning every night I spent in his bed, despite his kind effort to hold me still.
A portrait of this past winter that has changed me so disconcertingly: Fielding advances, cigarette between my teeth, calculated posturing on Houston Street, slouched under the wet snowfall – “No, it’s not, it’s hail,” I hear someone protest. I grimace, to myself alone, "Everything here is so... iconic." The iconic structures that had, surprisingly quickly, devolved to my eye into a dull concrete backdrop are all obscured in the fog. My stomach sinks with anxiety pangs, as has become custom. "Every iconic thing might as well be invisible to the underprivileged’s eye anyway," I tell no-one.
There are always friendly faces or short-lived past lovers passing in and out of my field of vision. I let them go. I don’t plan on staying long anywhere.
"When you have stood still in the same spot for too long, you throw a grenade in exactly the spot you were standing in, and jump, and pray."
— Renata Adler, Speedboat
I initially left New York frightened of this encroaching cynicism. I sensed instability at the core, the impending threat of radiation fanning out to contaminate every thing. Not unlike how they say a dog can smell cancer in the body. An abstract malaise had come to preoccupy me as I have seen it consume countless others surviving in this pressure-cooker. For some it manifests as desperation; for others, a gut resistance to settling down. I am not the only one. It has become a recurring subject of discussion among my fellow Brooklynites: the dreaded perpetual looking ahead to the next incoming fixation, unending panicked search for some absolution, and each time, finding none, moving along at a frenetic pace to see if it could be found in someone else to siphon.
Now and again, pacing my North Brooklyn neighborhood in some instinctual craze, I would mistake what turned out to be my own reflection in a pane of glass for a frowning stranger, wearing skepticism in her brow as a pathetic excuse for armor. One exercise in futility after another. I, too, perched in vain on tip-toes atop the pinpoint spire of one of many unfathomable heights. Just another one of six million lightning rods watching the storm roll in.
Come the solstice I had fallen out of love with the things that until recently I was certain defined me. Not things per se, but people, ways of thinking, or the expected sequences of adult life. To call this period anything resembling reinvention would be fatuous. I am fortunate to be young enough that any change qualifies still as “growth.” But I am growing not straight up but askew, becoming ever more hostile to consistency and routine. The most marvellously stimulating things tend to happen when I deviate from my regularly scheduled patterns of existence.