Dear New York,
It was June 22nd when I realized how much I love you.
It was a beautiful day in Southern California. It was sunny and bright and the highway looked like a set on a movie.. but God, New York, all I could think about was you.
Your gritty, rat-raided, pissed-puddled streets. You know me, New York, better than I know myself. From the lonely walks at two am with the tear glazed streetlights to falling into the snow, alone, on the winter’s first snowfall- you’ve seen it all and know me too damn well.
Southern California does not know about anything. It does not know heartbreak and it does not know holding on for your life from a taxi cab window. It does not know cold, hard pavement in the middle of a late November night or that feeling when you look into a bar bathroom mirror and you are alone and so vulnerable.
New York, when I fell in love with Him I fell in love with you because suddenly, you were brighter. You were more radiant and happy and everyone I passed was whistling Disney jingles and God, life was so good.
Sundays were fire escapes, cereal without spoons, his white apartment in Chelsea and The Velvet Underground on vinyl. But, New York, one thing you’ve taught me is that “you can trust me,” probably means that you can’t and that “I love you” means “I love you, but I love myself more.”
When I lost him it was eleven pm in August and I ran to the river. I sat there for an hour and cried my eyes out in front of middle school kids trying weed for the first time and awkward couples on first dates. I watched the kids take hits and I knew that they wanted to cough but were embarrassed to and as I focused carefully, I started to laugh. Yes, New York, remember that night? I was sitting there on that bench like a fucking lunatic, laughing and crying and shaking and wanting so, so badly to be on the other side of that river but New York, another thing you’ve taught me is that we’re all a little crazy. We are all so deluded in our own ways but New York you have taught me, you have taught all of your children, how to embrace our eccentricities and our little flaws. So, as I sat there on that bench I was not embarrassed at all. I was not ashamed and I was not hiding, I was sobbing and heaving because that was the night that I realized Joey Kennedy not asking me to the seventh grade dance was not heartbreak. This was my very first one.
I’ve never thanked you, New York, for helping me get through that because without you, I have no idea what I would have done. From small apartments filled with red cups and shitty trap music to your subway cars packed with tall men in suits and nannies with children, you grabbed me, New York, and you showed me 19.7 million other people that were not Him.
This past December I went to Santa Con with two of my best friends, New York, and as much as I’d like to believe I am not the kind of girl who would be at a place like that, I was that kind of girl for a day. Yes, I bar crawled from the West Village to the East, Santa hat on and a reckless Aden and Dale on either arm. You were probably laughing, New York, knowing that I cringe at these types of people, you know, the type of people who go to Santa Con and are way too into St. Patrick’s Day. But guess what? You didn’t judge me. No, you never judge me—remember three Sundays ago when I left Aden’s apartment building at nine in the morning wearing his sweatpants, hoop earrings, and my heels from the night before? The morning that I fell face first into the concrete outside of his lobby because your sun was way too strong for my eyes still half closed with clumpy mascara. Anyway, I got right up and kept walking and I don’t think that anyone saw it but you, New York, so thank you for not laughing at me.
Yes, I know I’ve been messy. I’ve been on your streets and your subway platforms at hours I don’t know if I should call “really early” or “really late.” I’ve had those walks, those morning-after walks where sometimes, New York, I have no fucking clue where I’m walking to. I’m just walking, not sure exactly where I am going, feeling like if the sunlight caught me on the streets, I would] undergo some terrible chemical change. Those are my favorite walks, though, when I’m still a bit wired from the night before and I’m walking amidst crowds of people who seem to have their shit more figured out (they make me feel like it will all turn out okay) because I know that anywhere else, New York, I would feel so goddamn alone.
I went through this phase last spring, as you’d probably remember, where I was really into sugary drinks and loud music and clubs packed with old frat brothers from New Jersey. I remember the first time I went clubbing, right on 9th avenue and 13th street. My friend and I had met some guys and they were talking to us, raving to us about their apartment in midtown with “killer views and a sick sound system.” When we told them we were from New York- yes, born and raised- they looked at each other.
“Guess we’re not impressing you then,” one said.
He was right. Do you know why? Because, New York, even though I was seventeen and trying so hard in my black mini skirt and my mom’s cherry lipstick, I knew that I’d experienced so much more than these ex-Sigma Ki’s from Connecticut ever will. They don’t know you the way I do, no matter how much rent they pay on an apartment, trying so hard to show their friends and family back home how much of a true New Yorker they’ve become, they will never know you like I do.
They don’t know what Horatio street tastes like at three in the morning after having a few drinks too many, or how good the nachos were at Tortilla Flats after getting high for the first time. They don’t know Flatbush avenue before there was an organic supermarket and they don’t know Harlem before it became “like super cool now,” as I heard a woman next to me on the train say today.
New York, when I turn eighteen in April and I blow out those candles, I will be surrounded by a bunch of smiling adults who all believe that they raised me. They are so proud of the woman I’ve become, the little girl they raised. But, New York, I owe myself to you. The scar on my knee from first grade on 59th street in Brooklyn, having to explain, “you’re not a slow walker, I just walk really fast,” carrying around pepper spray on my Jansport—everything I say, think, do, and believe is because of you. So, as I stand there on my eighteenth birthday, New York, know that your little girl from Brooklyn thanks you for turning her into a young woman.
P.S.: The other night I was gripping onto a taxi cab window, vomit spewing from me with no end in sight as the driver raced down 6th avenue desperate to get me out of his hands. A man in a car passing me saw me and he screamed out, “I love you!” To that man, I love you too.