In New York I face a thicket of emotions as dense as the city itself.
I love its buzz and its edge. The city has the ability, with or without my permission, to suck my marrow through and leave me spent, and in some ways I love this, too, though it's also the reason I left.
I love the vertical height of the city and the moment when I realize I haven't looked up in days because I'm too busy absorbing everything happening on the ground floor. When I do look up, I smile and remember that there is SO MUCH MORE.
I love that I can cross the street whenever and wherever I feel like it and I'm not going to get a ticket and I love that if someone thinks I'm an asshole, they will tell me.
Yesterday I took the A train to 168th Street to visit Jocardo in Washington Heights. I thought about my first time on the subway, how I watched people. I tripped out on how different we all looked from each other. Packed tightly together, different-colored arms and legs and feet pressed against each other, all making our way somewhere. All the skin hues made me think of Benetton ads and the United Nations, but with less eye contact and fewer fake smiles.
Last night I also remembered how it felt sometimes to take the train in the middle of winter, not excited about where I was coming from or where I was going and not having any food at home and stopping for greasy Chinese takeout and carrying the drippy plastic bag the last six blocks through a biting wind. Spilling hoisin sauce on my boots, I used to glance into plate glass windows of restaurants I couldn't afford and saw beautiful people sharing small tables in intimate corners saying clever things to each other. Sometimes I just wanted to cry.
Yesterday Jocardo and I ate together at a restaurant called Jesse's Place in Inwood. My blood sugar had dropped so I felt temporarily shaky and humorless. When our waiter asked for our drink order and Jocardo, instead of answering, cracked a joke involving the lyrics to whatever song was playing in the background, I stared at him with a look that said IT'S TIME TO FOCUS, MY FRIEND and said, "Yeah. Beverages. Mimosa or Bloody Mary?" Jocardo, who is familiar with what happens when I don't eat, was chastened enough to zip it and answer sweetly, "Mimosa, please."
He added, "You know that waiter is thinking, wow, if that's their first date, he's BOMBING," and I agreed. "You're not getting into my pants."