Dear NYC: It’s Complicated

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To New York City,

Six months after bidding you goodbye, don’t assume I’ve forgotten the irritation of the R train, at all hours of every day but especially nights and weekends. Resist believing that I’ve stopped resenting it for turning a three stop journey from the Jackson Heights platform and a seven minute walk from Woodhaven Boulevard into a half hour ordeal. You’d be naïve if you thought that the rage I felt whenever I’d step out of an F or E Express train and see red station stoplights across the ways (indicating, of course, that a local train had just left) one day just dissipated. Nah, New York, those minutes of my youth were precious. I want them back.

I’ve been avoiding you New York. I’ve been behaving the way I wish I could in my current breakup: I barely talk about our life together, haven’t seen you once, and don’t regularly entertain fantasies that we’ll get back together. But today’s six months. I’m going there.

I need you to know, first, that I have an utterly fulfilling life in Chicago. I’ve channeled the same curiosity that took me on daytrips to the Grand Concourse or in search of tacos in Far Rockaway when I’ve toured the torched Pullman factory or got my eyebrows threaded on Devon Street. Since September, I’ve been enrolled in trapeze class and flirted with the idea of becoming a full-fledged member of Chicago’s contra dancing community. I weekly tutor my bright but truant 16-year-old Elizabeth and improv ballet routines with my two pre-teen neighbors. At home, I barely manage to avoid rolling around on the floor to my roommate’s dramatic retellings of a nonsensical story of us pouring rice through a funnel.

I’m not interested in ditching Chi, I tell everyone who inquires about my next move. I’m not, New York. I’m not and it bears worth repeating because you’ll mangle and tangle by convictions in three months, mark my words. Why? Good question. After all, I not only partied on top of a chair after the Giants won title number three, I did so with the clan with whom I’d sat in suspense all month long. I rely on my neighbors for counseling, affirmation, and spiritual direction – the platonic ideal of relationships on the block. I befriended and dated my true co-conspirator in urban adventures. But damn, I still don’t know Chicago. I don’t know myself in damn city and consequently I can’t love it.

I’ve never powerwalked to the Green Line at 7 a.m. and groggily stared at my breath, observing it obscure the number of minutes I have until the next train. I’ve never neglected to pack my goggles when swimming breast stroke at the community pool because I’ve never swam a lap there, much less purchased a membership. I’ve never pranced around the Loop during rush hour or pinpointed that lesser-known elevated green space by the water where I meet up with all my out-of-office people. I don’t know the state of subway etiquette and I sometimes fear I’ve forgotten about my pedestrian ruthlessness because I defensively bike across six point intersections. I don’t eat Trader Joe’s salads for lunch at City Hall. I don’t know where City Hall is. I’ve read three copies of commuter newspapers all year. I devote very little of my free time exclusively to strange places and unknown people and I only speak Spanish to other gringos. I lost my swag once I realized I’d never have to elbow someone as a reverse commuter.

In some ways, my 9-5 bears eerie resemblance to the former: I’m a journalist with an office across the street from a McDonalds and Chase Bank. But over half my waking moments I dedicate to the suburbs, where spunk goes to siesta.

I’ll have it back, when I see you again New York. That 8 a.m. It’s Monday On The Subway hustle, that Madison Square Park people-watching leisure, that confidence of being fiercely loved by preteens in the coldest city on earth.

Before they parted ways due to irreconcilable differences, the presciently named band The Civil Wars sang “I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you.” That’s us, New York. That’s us. “I don’t love you but I always will.”

With so much admiration,

Morgan, a happy resident of Chicago

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2 thoughts on “Dear NYC: It’s Complicated

  1. Here’s the issue: You moved to Chicago right as things were winding down. Outside of Halloween, and Christkindlmarket and the Bears Chicago in the winter isn’t a lot of fun. It’s cold and icy and angry and full of crappy furniture on the street holding parking spots. But Spring is coming. Festivals are coming. The Lake will thaw. Lake Shore Drive will … still suck but it’s got a nice view. You also work in the burbs which as I have learned over the last few years severely limits the amount of time and energy you can dedicate to the city. I think once you have the chance to give Chicago more of a chance you are going to fall in love. Maybe not the deep, warm, passionate love you have for NYC, but a love none the less. Just hang on, it gets really really good here.

    • Hah glad you gave a shoutout to dibs there. I do really like Chicago (and I’ve probably seen quite about of it given that 1. I’m me, 2. I’m on a bike) but I do miss working downtown. Part of the city feels very enigmatic to me because I’m not part of that critical mass. (Of course, given that I’ve written at least twice about my commute before and how morally taxing it was, I guess I should be careful what I wish for!) I think I’ll be doing a follow up letter at some point directed to Chicago.

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