Why, and how, do you love a city so large, I’ve been asked. Since my first visit, as well as every other proceeding date, New York City’s immeasurable size remains one its most attractive qualities. Anonymity. Beautiful anonymity, how dearly I regard your humility. Disappearing within the ranks. Individualistic invisibility. Anonymity provides such a loving and infinite freedom for people like me — the difference between star gazing and believing you are seeing the world’s ceiling versus just the start of our universe.
The bustle of Canal Street always gets me lifted. My soul’s artery explodes, clashing with the limitations of my chest, ribs. Heart thunderstorms. A car horn blasts. Humid steam stains your skin. Sun bakes and wets your brow. Then, the light changes and traffic crams the avenue. Packed together we are, body seas. You want smoke, asks a local block-locker. Anything harder, he furthers. Nah, dude, I’m good, without eye contact. No fault either way. It’s just a grind. No different than most we revere in our cutthroat capitalist society.
Blare, blare. Horns continue their gunfight, ricocheting through the avenue. Ears, other vehicles getting vicked. Twenty years later, it feels like the same people are banging this strip. Knock-off T-shirts, cologne, handbags, watches, gold chains, mobile phones, electronics ranging from clock radios to earbuds, sunglasses, fatigues — name it, Canal’s got you.
By the time I left the five boroughs my dearest friend hit me up, exclaiming, I’m glad you made time for her. Anyone rooted in the City understands the pronoun. A relationship with New York City is a volatile romance with a fierce, living organism. Some days she welcomes you with blistering, lustful warmth. The next, she crushes you and devours your remains, laughing away her smirk.
There’s no reason to explain how it feels to leave your first love. But no matter where I’ve lived the City has been my benchmark. I dream about her. On occasion, I find the busiest block in my new town, squint my eyes and imagine the surrounding sounds are home: calling me back. Last night, I was looking into the midnight sky, tracing the facade of the tallest apartments on campus with my agitated eyes. Only glancing ahead, focused on the slashing wind; following a stranger’s tail lights into my dust storm.