New York Weekend
I knew I should be sleeping, but guessed I had the whole four hours to New York to do that. Anyway I was too in awe of the greatness of MegaBus. I had snagged the front seat of the top deck. It was like flying, but with my feet up.
I wondered if there was anything more beautiful than early morning in the city. The day was clear and crisp, and the sun hit the buildings at just the right angle, showcasing the architectural collage of the city of Boston.
As I was waiting for the bus the sun warmed me, lighting my breath, giving it shape. I peered sleepily through lit-up bangs at the rooftop gardens, and thought about how far I had come. Not in most aspects of my life, my friends would remind me too often, but in my bus travel to and from New York City.
As I walked down Avenue C to E 14th, the sky overhead was cloudy and bright, teasing me for being so tired on a New York evening with long lost friends. Its soft glow made the tenements look dark against the rosy firmament. A steam seemed to rise from the warm, wet pavement, turning the streets to Avalon in the shadow of the power plant. In its grey and industrial way, in the way of empty city nights, the night was breathtaking. And beckoning.
I sighed and fumbled for Joe’s keys.
As I lay in bed, waiting for sleep to claim me at last, I listened to the same people I had heard in the afternoon, only now they had company. Opera man no longer sang, but entertained with wine. A little shindig across the hall was punctuated by raucous laughter. Together, these voices mingled into one clear sound. “Why are you in bed,” it asked. I turned over in response, sleeping within minutes.
10.3 3:52 AM
“Why do you give in,” it asked, and maybe that is what it had been asking before.
“I’m tired,” I said. “I’m not from here. It’s late.”
“Weak,” said New York. And I thought I could hear ice clinking in a glass. And I got the message, as Joe’s coffee maker turned on at its usual time. I got up and creaked over my busted black converse and tied the laces around my ankles a few times. I was getting too old for this.
10.3. 4:15 AM
I had left a note for Joe and closed the old door to his apartment with a shush and tripped down the stairs to the street. It was already hot, and there were already people about, and I was disappointed to find that my audience with the city was over, kicking some broken glass out of my way as I half stomped to Cooper Union.
“I don’t give in,” I told nobody, “that’s not what I do.” I kicked nothing.
I checked my phone and found a few texts from my closer friends that I hadn’t found time to see the day before. “Lame,” one said. “Brunch tomorrow,” another said, “Be there.” I felt guilty, but I had no intention of seeing them. And I walked.
I walked to Union Square and remembered the day someone was selling a wagon full of puppies, taking a picture of the fuzzy little yellow labs wriggling out of the Radio Flyer, and feeling my life was set as long as that image remained in my mind. That was the day of the farmer’s market rhubarb jam and kissing privately in public. The anonymity of being in a strange city was exhilarating that spring, the spring before everyone I cared about moved there, trading inscrutability for being a part of the big, bustling, creative whole. My friends hadn’t seen me the same way since.
Perhaps, I thought, as I hauled my way higher up the city streets, 27th, 28th, I shouldn’t have left art school. But I remembered why I did, remembered the feeling of being broke, missing out on live music and new movies. I had my job now, and all the new shoes I could ask for, but all it ever got me was a sometimes sadness and a growing distance from the people I loved and envied.
Jess Mullen is a writer from Boston. A perpetual student at the Harvard Extension School, she draws much of her inspiration from oral tradition and travels abroad. Visit her website at jesswriteseveryday.wordpress.com.