Some nights turn themselves over. A city— that sharp word, meant for big poems and accusations— sits. It leans onto its heels, rocks, and (slowly) flips a tanned arm upward and shows its soft skin. This happens infrequently in New York. Manhattan. The word itself is made of knuckles. I’m sure there are puppy-tummy cities out there, ones that gleam softly, smoothed by greenery or fleshed out by hospitality, but New York is not one of them. But even this city– this broken-nail city— turns over, and it happened last night.
I knew it was happening from the light on my air conditioned walls. Cream, pink, and doughy. Familiar in its alien sense. Entirely of earth in its most planetary way. And it drew me outside.
This had been the heat wave weekend. I don’t particularly want to talk about it (the thought makes me feel dehydrated), but it was enough to become the topic of the whole city. All together, Us of New York, uninterested in so many things this weekend. So many of us tired, uncomfortable, in need of shelter. Like God had taken us all and cupped us in big heavenly hands, then mashed us like bread. Awful and intimate and humble. But the heat wave gave us the cream and the pink of a glorious sunset. Last night, God unclasped his hands and lifted us up: look here, won’t you?
There’s not much more to say than that sunset last night was the blush of a heat wave breaking. And as it changed, so was the periwinkle, so was the yellow of the street lamps. It was the reassertion of color, the reclamation of the eyes over the pores. And it shrouded everything.
And everything stopped. It sat.
Nothing was not still in the light of the sunset. Nothing was not the light of the sunset itself. It was a sunset the Big Dipper could have dipped down into— all the way down to the Central Park Reservoir, skimming the surface, as even there the air would slosh into that dipper with a thick, swirling foam. You could breathe the sunset and feel it on your skin. You could see the buildings twitch their glowing foreheads against it. And, quietly, that underwater city— that drowned vie en rose— made me go soft myself. I leaned into New York’s touch, and let her thumb my cheek. I walked silent Central Park pathways like fingertips up a forearm. I considered loving this city in a real way.
A good city. Must be if God treats her like that. Must be… if she is, it seems, still earth. Still hurdling and drowning and floating. Still holding me bare stomach to bare stomach. Must be good if she too is tenderly yawning and stretching. If she’s sighing to herself and, widely and softly, falling asleep.