It was a beautiful day; night on the Upper East Side.
The sky was clear, the humidity was low. I walked home from work up Third Avenue. The locals were out in Full Force — the preppy young families with the mommies wearing oxfords tucked into twill skirts; the daddies decked out Nantucket Reds with their buttondowns untucked; babies outfitted in pastels and patterns, coordinating with Mom and Dad, carried high in the sky on Daddy’s strong arms. The single girls were in boat stripes. And the fashion-forward ladies were all in their matching racerback tank dresses — some of them ripely pregnant; others of them svelte from hours of studio cycling.
It was all the same. It is always the same.
The dogs, groomed for summer, tangled each other and their owners in their leashes, eager to sniff the summertime smells — lotion on legs; Tasti D-lite dripping off of hands. They eagerly licked the juices left behind by the garbage bags on the street.
I forget, sometimes, that I love New York. Why I love New York. That I love it, irrationally, even when it stinks of garbage.
I came here, in part, because of my ex-husband. I talked to him earlier today. I am a client of his firm’s and I’d called to ask him a question about a work in progress. We hadn’t talked in a while, and got side-tracked down memory lane.
God, think of how long we’d have been married — if we were still married! I remarked suddenly, chuckling. He seemed a bit startled that I would have said it, but he laughed softly.
Excuse me? he said in a way that he tried to make sound mock-hostile, but was really sort-of hurt.
I just mean that…I’m feeling old, my voice faded a little.
What madness to think that I had started out in the City seven years ago as somebody’s wife! How strange to think that I’d already lived that life; that I’d had that moment of wearing a white dress, and eating wedding cake, and throwing a bouquet, then flying back to Manhattan.
I don’t think I’d move. I’m staring out at the view from my office — over New York Harbor. I can see the bay, the boats. All the way to Newark Airport, and the shipping terminal at Elizabeth. I can see the Statue, and Ellis Island. I can see the tall buildings of Wall Street, but my view is unobstructed. This is what I want to see.
And I thought on that for a moment. I can see directly at; over the 59th Street Bridge, I replied.
Do you remember, he said, That night that we went to the biergarten in Astoria? That night with CJ?
How could I forget? It was years ago, and even CJ had mentioned it when I saw her last. CJ and I had always done things together, but that night, we’d felt charitable and had invited Andrew. They’d made me be the designated driver, and they’d split a few pitchers of beer, while I’d had to drive them home. The trip turned out to be a series of incidents and near-accidents — culminating in me driving up on to a bike path while trying to get on to the FDR.
Do you remember, he continued, That was the first time either you or I had ever been over the Queensboro Bridge? We’d been all over the world and yet neither one of us had ever been over that bridge.
I had forgotten that. And how could I have forgotten?! The Bridge had become such a part of the fabric of my post-marital New York. It was how I so often got to JFK. But it was also the hardest part of the Marathon. It was the part I trained for the most; it was the part that tripped me up. I had run my first Marathon immediately following our split — in very small part because Andrew had resented my distance running, and finally fulfilling that dream was a relief.
We reminisced a bit more; talked business; hung up. But I was shaken by the revelation.
I run the Queensboro Bridge often. It reminds me of what kind of runner I am. I put Paul Simon on my playlist on repeat play, and I hear Slow down, you move too fast… come through the headphones over and over and over as my feet pound on the path.
And that’s the funny thing about a marriage in retrospect. The grand romantic gestures were the easy part. I forgot — at the time, and even after — that the local landmarks; the wonder of discovering the every day stuff was really the most important part. That the small stuff is the stuff that sticks; lingers; builds the foundation of two lives lived together and apart.
I didn’t know that the first time I drove across the Queensboro that I would later cross it on foot. And I didn’t recall last weekend when I drove across it back to East Hampton — back to where I decided that I finally had to ask for a divorce — that although I’d been around the world with Andrew, he’d remember that we’d once shared that tiny, mundane moment of Feeling Groovey for the first time together.
My New York, it seems, is mostly made up of small stuff.