New York C(yn)i(c)ty

It happened much swifter for her than she had wanted to admit. There had been the initial romance in jettisoning the Subaru, the entertaining chaos of relying on Mandarin-chattering drivers and their mysterious ticket-taking men to transport her between her college nest and “home” home, and the hubris of internalizing subway traffic patterns.

The commutes, while onerous during her first year, fluctuated and did not hold steady for longer than four days. She messed around with every grid formation she could arrive at between 43rd Ave. and Junction Boulevard and when the weather was fluffier, hopped off at earlier stops to gab on the phone under the trees.

Maybe she’d lasted so long because at the beginning half her travels had always sent up into the air, with views of vibrantly tagged warehouses and brick and stone apartments and when the doors had bolted open, the stale oxygen of the 7 Train car received a mild infusion of the smog outside. Maybe.

Maybe it the glamor. The narcissism.  She’d perused dozens of articles by enlightened 30-year-olds–and novels and autobiographical sketches penned 30 years ago–and all of these writers could magically bless grit into youth and transform dirt into history. She knew now that her story–all of its pretentious thought patterns–had first stood its wobbly legs on the backbone of the literary genre.

Part of what she clung to now, one year, five months into the New York City Fast Life, had been that the belief that the context, like every previous one , would take its Michelangelo knife and reveal another layer of tenderness, cleverness, and prestige in her soul. It would not have been for the first attribute that she might have picked law school but it was a world to attain the others. Of which she had little now.

She had not come here just to learn how to dislocate her shoulders squeezing into stuffed commuter cars. But nor had anyone.

There’d been a friend–of the type that she’d hugged but twice six months–who’d recently confessed she thought the city was tarnishing her character–“making her a worse person.” What a sorry lie to believe. What an overwhelming statement to see manifest in yourself.

Her underground commute, her office stasis, her sideline stalking of the city’s cool crowd (at least one of the cliques sparred on Twitter daily so she knew who They Were,) why go to New York City just to meet the city’s quota of romantic brunette former liberal arts’ degree holders? No.

But yes.

She felt more aware of the internal conundrum that it took to be a transplant New Yorker. It was almost a prerequisite to carry a certain level of cynicism. It could manifest through several mediums: flirting, Twitter, and guitar-laced lyrics.

But there was a danger to bringing it close to the heart because of the gumption and wherewithal mandated for thriving. And how much she wanted that–because in this city everyone shoved their cards up their sleeves, their shirts, their bras, their teeth, aspiring to bury their vulnerability yet feeling it uncomfortably chafe against their skin.

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4 thoughts on “New York C(yn)i(c)ty

    • Have you lived in a city before? I was raised in the suburbs, went to a liberal arts school in the middle of the country/suburbs and now live here.

      • Yes, I live outside of Chicago. But the differences between Chicago and New York are more than substantial, I think. Chicago has a neurotic core (“The Loop”) that has several of the same qualities you describe here, but it’s nowhere near as stressful or crowded or claustrophobic. I went to high school in San Antonio, but that city is so laid-back that it’s hardly even a city apart from the traffic, maybe.

      • Yup. New York is just an onslaught of buildings. I live out in a part of Queens where you can go blocks and blocks without seeing a stretch of open grass….though to me the biggest feelings of claustrophobia I’m feeling are from 1) being underground so much on the train 2) Little time outside and little daylight.

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