I climbed onto a Greyhound this morning and rode it through New York State. The bus driver, a husky man named Andre, told us as he carried us through the Lincoln Tunnel, “Welcome to the greatest city, not only in America, but in the world- except for Toronto.”
I disagree. Toronto sucks.
He parked on Eight Avenue and 34th Street, I pulled my little suitcase from the belly of the bus, and descended the stairs to the A train uptown.
On the train, a well-dressed gay couple replaced another on the bench opposite me. A trio of homeless men shambled along holding out paper cups to collect change. A man with stained trousers and the high voice of a Disney character walked along asking if anyone had seen murmurmurmur. A few women hollered “Aqui!” at an older Hispanic couple, and the couple bobbed their heads in thanks as they carried their suitcase onto the 72nd Street platform. Two models, with immaculate makeup, glossy curled hair, torn jeans tucked into tall boots, chatted about the time God had spoken to one of them and why it had led to her write letters as an art form. After 125th Street the train emptied considerably, giving sound-space to the tremulous voice of the blond nine year old telling her daddy all about what her friend had done in class that day.
At Dyckman, I climbed up the steps into the darkness. It’s Sunday evening; most of the discount clothing shops were closed and most of the takeout Chinese and pizza places were still open. Men hung out in groups outside grocery stores and barbershops, calling out to female passersby. White bags of trash were piled on the sidewalk for the collectors, paper napkins and food wrappers rolling down the sidewalks in the warm spring breeze. I followed the path I walked for the last three weeks of my time in New York last year, to my friend José’s apartment building, a C-shaped prewar brownstone complex. A woman carrying two slices of birthday cake on a paper plate, topped with a conical party hat, held the door open for me. I lugged my suitcase up to the second floor and stepped inside.
I’ve only been back four hours and already I’ve recognized more different states of mind than during the entire three months I’ve lived (on and off) in Buffalo. The alienation of watching strangers’ relationships carried out before your eyes on trains and sidewalks. The possibility you could run into the next French indie rock band genius, Indonesian feminist scholar, or Brazilian revolutionary on any park bench or subway platform. The joy of being able to order up any type of food you want long after most people in the country have gone to bed. The aesthetic pleasure of living in a city full of designers and actors almost stern in their devotion to style. The likelihood that half the people riding home with you are either insane or carrying a disease you’d rather not know is clinging to your jeans.
It’s rare to find a place that matches the pace of your thoughts, link by link. Yes it’s large, yes it nearly wiped my brain with sensory overload last year, yes I may find myself just shaking my head at the sheer inanity of so much effort. But tonight, I’m so glad to be here.