If You Wanna Live in New York City…

Honey, you know I will.

This month marks my sixth year of living in New York City.  Friday was my dog’s first birthday.  I woke up at 5:45 on the nose this morning (the dog’s choice, not mine), and I stepped into my dogwalking trousers and my worldtraveler hoodie (a battered, beaten  number that was once turquoise, now white; is drawstringless; unfit for public view, except at 5:45am to walk the dog).  Out the front door we went; into the sucking humidity of the New York City morning; me still batting away the cobwebs of wonder at why I was up so early, how I had been in the city so long, and how the dog had grown up so quickly.

How did I get here?

That, gentle readers, requires a more nuanced answer than had I previously thought.  I never thought I wanted to live in New York, per se.  And then it dawned on me that I always had wanted to live here; perhaps there was a part of me that always knew I would.

In a practical sense, during my third year of law school, when it became clear that going back to California simply wasn’t an option, I had pressed Andrew to take a job in New York…and then the balls were quickly set in motion.  “Mommy” got her way; Meredith got hers; and perhaps Andrew was the one who never had any say.

I always thought I’d followed; maybe I had led.

So I came by chance; I came by choice; I came by rented truck and red Volvo station wagon.  I came for good.  At least, I think.

How have I been here so long?

I have been a fiancee here; a wife; a student; a lawyer; a patient; a divorcee.  My first year in the city, I timed my walks by New York City songs; exiting the subway at Bleecker Street to walk to NYU…the walk was longer than it needed to be, but I wanted to play the song over and over in my  headphones.  After fighting with my husband: Don’t Sleep in the Subway.  When I didn’t think I’d make it through that first year, and I didn’t know where else to go: New York’s Not My Home.  Learning to love the city; going to Yankee games and pretending to be a fan: New York, New York.  And then, old songs; new songs.  Cresting the Verazzanno Bridge during my first marathon: Empire State of Mind

The Year the World Fell Apart and I traveled between here, there, and everywhere, the only constant in my life was New York.  I have never been so homesick for a place as I was for here: the stench of summer garbage; the sicky-sweet smell of streets after a rain; the sneezy scent of New York City trees in Fall.

And then, home.

Living in this city is a constant adventure — one of late nights into early mornings; one of buzzy parties in dark rooms, champagne till dawn; one of sitting through feelings of heartache and doom; one of showing up in quiet rooms; one of excitement and joy and thrilling to the unknown.

Living in New York is hard.  Every day is a choice, and rarely is it an easy one.  But when you are spent, broken; when the day or week or month has given you more than you can handle, you find you are walking down Second Avenue behind a woman trilling, “Alleluia,” and that is all you need in that moment to remember that the city won’t forsake you.

(…Part 1 of a series on my six years in New York…)

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