It is an afternoon that feels like a morning. Even at 3pm or maybe 4, I’m saying good morning to everyone. The light agrees— It’s yellow. Objectively slantwise. I’m going home from Brooklyn. Pathetically— or understandably, or consequently, or randomly— I haven’t spent much time at all in Brooklyn since moving to the Upper West Side. Three times. I’ve been to Brooklyn three times. But every time feels like a transgressive vacation. I’m ashamed of how much I am excited by (for example) exposed brick and twinkle lights. Of broad outdoor seating. Of three-storied buildings. Of wood-paneled floors, pool, and red leather. I woke up this morning to sky. And trees. Plants. These things are all things that happen in Manhattan. Yes. These things have largely been coopted by the forces of gentrification, idealization, and cultural white-washing. Yes. But I woke up to the sky and the sun on my back and oh how full my heart was. (It’s a feeling, perhaps, like pouring over Mrs. Dalloway. Of picking up Virginia again and again.)
And so from Brooklyn this morning that is an afternoon, I am making my way home. Stepping up onto the island from the Union Square Station, I reintroduce myself to Manhattan. I’ve seen her, now, from yet another angle. Like seeing your father from a distance makes you remember you have a father who is a person and who walks. From across the East River, New York is not the word for itself, nor is the Empire State Building a symbol of itself, but the skyline is something that holds itself up. I, idiotically, wonder if it could be getting on without me? Of course it could be. It always will. I am barely an appendage, let alone a cog. But nonetheless I step back up from below and reacquaint myself to it. I do this by, as I have found myself wont to do whenever I find myself in a new area of Manhattan, slipping into a bookstore, and then a coffeeshop, and then a park. My fingers go over titles and I remind myself that I’m a writer and entirely foreign to this city. I remember Anne of Avonlea and feel her coming back to me.
I’ll tell you briefly about falling in love. There are loves you spot from far-off. You look across the East River, hear tell of Prospect Park, and you know right well that a first date with Brooklyn would go well. That none of your friends will be surprised that you and Brooklyn had a lot to talk about and that Brooklyn even paid for dinner. And then there are Manhattan loves. The ones you swore off pretty early, being just not the concrete type or too picky for the Manhattan bandwagon to reciprocate the nod you got from across the room when you first got on the Penn Station escalator. Brooklyn loves are (bear with me) like an ice tray: You know that you can easily enough pour yourself into the mold, slot into a freezer, and find a solid cube (I said bear with me) in the morning. You’ll stay in the freezer for a while, enjoying yourself, your mold, and your freezer. Then one day you’ll get dropped into lemonade and remember how brilliantly sour you can be and bid adieu to that ice tray. Now, with Manhattan love, there’s no pour, no freezer, no mold. There’s the living of unsimilized life until one day, books under arm in Union Square, you feel a drip. And another. And you realize you’re melting and Manhattan’s melting and you’re all goo and it’s not all that bad.
This afternoon-morning, I feel the drip. It’s running under a linen jumpsuit down my back and pooling at the tie at my waistline. It’s also sweat.
Here are things melt me on the way home:
– The whistle on the subway, how vivid it is. (The petal, the bough—)
– The frequency that my little mind reaches out to passersby with an address. Like a dog on a leash, I dash out with an unspoken thought like, “You look so happy today” to a quiet gay couple or to a woman in a risky, skin tone bodysuit: “Don’t worry, you look fantastic.” Or a “fuck yes” to the t-shirt that says, “I don’t owe you anything,” beneath story-winding lipstick.
– How tenderly I feel about my mind while I walk in the city. For so much around me, I feel myself facilitating observation: Robiny (Anne), I say, what do you think of that? What would you write of that? How could you be Virginia in this space? How’s that this way? Do you love this? Don’t you? How much this city somehow makes me a friend to myself and a necessary ally.
– The wonderful moment walking past the park. I notice first the men playing basketball, how glad they are to be there. How good they are. Then I notice the men’s soccer game. First, I watch the ball-carrier across the pitch, then the overlapping run, the tap, the cross, and…. then in the foreground (like a whistle in the subway) I see the net I’m looking through, and the boy whose shoulder I watch the game over. Ten? Fourteen? Somebody’s little brother, or some neighborhood kid. I want to cry— the kid allowed to play with the big guys, but only in goal. His solemn, proud position. His useless, temporary spot. His incredible dignity in it. Simultaneously, I hear the request: “Can’t I come this time?” and the report: “I started out my career tagging along to play goal on 108th street…”
– These things. These layerings, perhaps? These layerings of face over face, of my mind over cross streets, of fashion over story over park over life over life over life… These things do and require melting. This tight binding of worlds (to lend yet another metaphor, for Manhattan, too, is a layered knot of metaphors, syntax, and parentheticals) that doesn’t require (or merit) unknotting, but instead a tender tracing, and losing (yes…the losing is the most important part I think), of strands with the finger tips.
I walk my last two blocks home in love. How ecstatic is this island. How entirely obvious. How intolerable. How tough on the tongue. And how intoxicating.