I came to visit one night. To make sure I could live here. We had drinks, my friend and I. And talked about life now, a year after school.
And then I took the red-line subway home, to my little pocket on the Upper West Side. I climbed into my too-small bed, in my too-small bedroom—my too small bedroom without a door--and I cried.
I cried for the all the things I imagined I was losing. I cried for failed expectations and the perpetual push away of that line—that demarcation of success.
And then I woke the next morning, washed away exhaustion and disappointment, and set about busying myself with all the tasks a move demands:
Telling the roommate. Letter of notice. Cleaning. Packing. Painting (oh the painting). To take the bed or not? Change of address. Weaning the wardrobe. Trips to Goodwill. Cajoling friends into helping with the actual move.
And all the while I was afraid. You see, I’d lived on the Upper West Side for five years. Two years in a dorm at 66th street, followed by two different apartments at 104th, and finished by my near-year stint at 80th. A forty block radius, in which I conducted my life. A forty block radius in which I attempted to become an adult. And yet here I was hurtling myself a hundred blocks north of my-so-called-home.
It was a product of funds. Of not having enough to live in such a “prime” location. It was capitulation, this move.
And yet I found that as I ticked away all those tedious tasks, I began ticking away other things--things I’ve long talked about but never acted on.
I bought a bike. And went in search of the perfect swimming pool. I found it at 145th and Riverside—I’m going tomorrow for the first time. I began to keep track of expenses and I (wait for it) did my taxes. And this idea of growing up, becoming an adult was suddenly an appealing notion. For the first time in my life (truly, the first time) it seemed thrilling, actually.
And so this move became about more than necessary funds, or the lack thereof. It was not capitulation, but decision. A choice. A change. An opportunity.
I spent the summer after my sophomore year of high school in Manhattan. Five weeks. I took the bus in every morning and walked thirteen blocks south to 27th street. And the city revealed itself to me and I to it. And I fell in love with mutual revelation.
I have spent five years trying to rediscover that love, or to recreate it.
Washington Heights is the most topographically diverse area in all of Manhattan.
Before I moved up here I would throw this fact around, using it as currency—one of many justifications I employed to convince others that I was in fact excited to make the move uptown. I don’t tell people this anymore, I don’t need to, I don’t need to justify anything. But because we’re all friends, I’ll tell you...two blocks north of me is a park where back in day, good ol’ George Washington set up fort with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Mmmmm…I hate to brag, doesn't that history just turn you on?
And the street I live on is hilly. It bends to kiss the Hudson river. The George Washington Bridge stands guard against the skyline. It is strong and constant. The bakery across the street sells a roll that reminds me of my two week stint in Cuernavaca—we’d walk into a panaderia with two dollars in our pocket and walk out with two brown paper bags of bread—it was a happy time when one survived on bread and milk alone.
I can always find a seat on the A train. And the apartment gets light. And I have a door!
The grocery store on 187th is small and clean and wide with inviting aisles. It carries pumpking flax and ciao bella gelato. I could marry the grocery store! There are no crowds to fight, no throngs to move against. Fairway was always an experiment in tolerance and agility.
I love the relative calm here. The near silence. I love the ubiquity of bikes. Yes, the ubiquity of bikes! What a satisfying statement! And more than anything I love that it feels small and lush. It is a neighborhood. And I have found my Manhattan and mutual revelation is once more mine to unfold.
I loved Australia. The whole experience was divine. And yet there was no better feeling than climbing into a yellow taxi after a 20 hour sojourn, asking the driver to take me home, and for the first time in five years of Manhattan living, believing in the power of that word. Home.
I am home. And life is good.