One is enough.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
An overwhelming number of my subway rides have been solo. Me and my nose buried in The Goldfinch. Me and my chin grazing Ta-Neishi Coates’ latest on my iPad mini-keyboard configuration. Me silently bequeathing names to my fellow passengers and whispering lines of prayer for their ambitions and losses, troubles and joys. Me on my third train platform in a 40 minute evening commute home from the Upper West Side.
Nobody knows me at all.
Almost every semester and summer I dwelled in Messiah residence life housing, I ponied up my $300 and enrolled in piano lessons. Without the accountability of an instructor and the sacrifice of an amount of money I might have used on a distant weekend away, I prioritized music. Forty minutes. Solo. Rarely spontaneous drop-ins. Me and the grand piano in a white chapel with high ceilings and voluminous, windows with rounded top edges.
Running around all day with a blue backpack, red leather purse, green book bag, and tripping over folks I like, love and delight in and 40 minutes of me and the piano and the sunlight on the ivory keys.
I had my hands in the proverbial copious social honey pots at Messiah and kept my group of friends mostly isolated from my 1-1 “go-to’s” and never felt intimidated attending guest lectures without a buddy. (Though finding two partners in crime the first day of school set the tone for a warm Messiah four years.) But I was never that person that lived and studied and danced with one tribe.
On a small campus, close friends of mine remained ignorant of one another and I found that comforting.
I’ve felt more than a little unnerved at the prospect of evolving into an introvert. Like a intrinsic part of what it means to live as Morgan Pomaika’i Lee will have to molt. And I’m not entirely positive as to the validity of this transformation. For instance, when I arrive home to a living situation where everyone has turned on his or her own television set behind closed doors, I wilt in the solitude rather than having a late-night Eureka moment.
But I won’t pretend that I don’t thrive on some level of anonymity. I wonder if I’m almost threatened by the idea of someone picking apart my lifestyle and locating a trope in which to place me. Sure, I’ve kept very few vulnerable thoughts completely within my head. But I maintain a large pool with whom to express those grave thoughts and it’s accurate to acknowledge that for the majority of processes in my head that I wish to share, I’ve intentionally sought out some, deliberately excluded others.
There’s another twist too–though, let’s be real, it’s a little hubristic to assume that my life has ever warranted such fascination that one would seek out a play-by-play of my days, in dreams of a grand reveal–and that’s the fact that even beyond my commute, much of my New York City life, I’ve never disclosed to anyone. As someone who prefers to the discourse of ideas and grows weary of recaps and as one who often adventures with one only companion or wholly alone, there’s much to which so many are ignorant.
And what’s confusing to me is the solace I find in this privacy. That I practically viscerally react when considering how much of me guardedly treasures this sense of “MINE” towards my New York experience.
Last month, Chelsea and I toured Wave Hill Park, an estate-turned-paid-attraction in Riverdale in the Bronx. Our trip to the grounds was my first time there since I made my way up there by myself a-year-and-a-half ago. As one of my closest friends in the city, whom I have cherished like none other, I had no way of knowing how much it felt that she was intruding into my personhood.
Why didn’t I feel like I was letting her into one of the most gorgeous green spaces in the city? Greater still, how had the city become something that was not just a land mass but a part of what it meant to be? How could I emote such a such a strong reaction of “mine” to something that belonged to the public and was touched by the masses?
New York will not be won. No one can own New York: test this city, and it will slap you down hard. The city does not belong to you, the joy of New York is that you might make it so that you belong to her.
Place yourself on any street corner in New York, and it is bursting with life. There is an anonymity, a perspective, that you gain from such surroundings.
New York City.
I don’t live in Bushwick. I don’t live in Bed-Stuy. For heaven’s sake, I don’t live in Brooklyn. The seven-floor building in which I reside is in a neighborhood you’ve never heard of but that which thousands of people from six continents have made acquaintance.
I am dauntless about 50 block walks and I don’t have a strong affinity with alcohol and I feel so tempted at this moment to try to force this uniqueness card, of which God may have already assured me, but which may help endear myself to you.
I’ve never signed a lease of an apartment capable of throwing dinner parties but I matter enough to this New York geographic movement we term a city to jump on a bicycle on a Saturday night and watch the sun sink low into the low-rise apartments of Jersey City on the Hudson River. And my heart swells.
Eight million people. Somebody every one.