One WTC, New York
I came upon myself walking. Mostly walking. It was well past one am on a Friday night, when New York stumbles, half-awake, into the kitchen for a drink. The city felt clean for once: soaking wet with spring rain and half-obscured in the darkness. I think this is the only time when the buildings and the street signs and the double-decker buses can see themselves at all, what with puddles making fun house mirrors from the pavement, distorting back all manners of truth. Even the trees stooped down to look at their own faces, new leaves heavy on the branch. It’s all about reflection. And romance, maybe. There were an inordinate amount of kissing couples out there in the rain. Maybe someone was filming a rom-com every several hundred feet.
They seemed to mock my singular state, reminding me how every emotion I currently harbor is both unwanted and unrequited. But still, there is much to live for as a lonely particle in space. I am young and able to enjoy the light from half-empty bars spilling out into these wet streets. My past few days have operated like an all-night diner. Thursday afternoon, night, and early morning were completely spent at a friend’s dormitory where we soldered our electronics projects for hours straight, kept awake by the frantic passage of too-fast time against the workload of circuitry and sound. Still, everything got built the very minute we left for class. I was manic and giggling. He was nauseous, clammy from stress. I think, in the end, I will look back at that night fondly: even soldering on my hands and knees on his dirty floor, burning plastic fumes and IC chips corroding my eyes until they went bloodshot. Red like the cherry of his cigarette glowing hot in the dark while we walked back from Seven-Eleven at three in the morning with my cherry lime ricky fisted tight and a four-pack of toilet paper under his arm.
The oddly prosaic nature of the scene makes me treasure it more. Like the next night when we were drunk on tired I went over again to let the weariness really sink into my bones. I kept time while the boys sang a pop song and played guitar with stitched-up fingers. I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums, oh what a shame that you came here with someone…
It’s oddly sweet on acoustic guitar. And this sweetness followed me into the night as I trekked from the home of one friend to another. My feet were turtle slow and stumble-steady while my thoughts spun circles around my head and raced into the night. I thought of the glow of that room I’d just left behind (messy, boy-sweaty) and the welcome light of the friend where I was headed (cramped, made for sleeping and not living). And I thought of all the homes of all my friends: how they would look as they returned, as bone-weary as I, to those halogen glows of familiar bedsides. I could map them out (Midtown to Chinatown, East Village, West Village, Chelsea, Queens or all the way out to the far-flung reaches of Brooklyn) like stars and hang them up like a constellation. They’d be the only visible one in Manhattan, at any rate.
And I walk between them while roaming the Earth, weaving unsteadily now (actually weaving: it took me over an hour to get there) between Chinatown and the West Village. There’s a stop at CVS to buy a toothbrush: it’s day two of not having come to my own home to the far-flung galaxy that is New Jersey and halitosis is not the answer. It takes forever, though. That purgatory of a midnight line.
It doesn’t matter. It is needed in the way a bed is needed. And when you’re closing in on hour 44 without sleep, an air mattress on a friend’s floor may as well be a palace. I will fall asleep on her floor while she is in mid-sentence, my slip from consciousness obvious even as it will be inevitable. But she, bless her heart, doesn’t mind. Because we’ll talk over breakfast. Because there will be other, inevitable nights when I make the long trek to her home.
And if I could find somewhere to belong: let me hang with them, hang my own weary star in that constellation of bedside lamps shining out into the dimness.
I love things most in the night: like my friends. Like the puddle-wonderful city.