Monday, July 22, 2013

The Definitions of Summer

A bead of sweat rolls down my back.

We’re sitting outside, and someone is attempting to strike up a conversation with me, but all I can think about is how Grandma used to say, “Ladies don’t sweat; they glisten.”

Well… I must be the shiniest, most glistening being under 
New York’s summer sun.

Dear Grandmother,
I think I’m sweating.

Sweaty, sweat.
Shiny faces, slimy seats.
Everyone looks like blotchy-faced zombies as they emerge from the subway during the morning commute. I pity the men, wearing their undershirts and button downs; their khaki pants and socks—Lord, help the poor gents in blazers. My spaghetti strap dress feels like one too many layers.

Humming, humming. 
AC units and open windows.
I love the sound of fans—the white noise that silences a city. It reminds me of when my sisters and I would sleepover at the Erdmann’s house, and a ceiling fan in their playroom tucked us into our dreams. Sleep often escapes me, but in that house, I was always out like a light. 

Food frying.
Sizzling, smoldering.
One staple of our city streets is the halal cart, serving up hot chicken and lamb with tzatziki-covered rice. But damn that smell in the summer, the heat wave of greasy meat that smacks you in the face. It’s too hot to eat. It’s too hot to woof down pungent lamb. Worst of all, it’s too hot to prepare food outside—where do you think all of that sweat from the man’s forehead, dicing up your roasted onions, is going?

Sunlight, stinging.
Never ending days and electric nights.
It feels like there’s more time in the summer, perhaps because it doesn’t get dark until after 8 o’clock. So we go to work, we go to dinner, and there’s still more time. Time for ice cream, time for drinks. Time before the darkness gobbles up the sky. How lovely to walk home at midnight, knowing we squeezed everything and more out of each golden hour.

So yes…
The utility bills are higher.
Makeup melts in my room.
Candles melt in the apartment.
Bread is kept in the fridge.
Hair sticks to your face.
We sleep in sheets.
We take cold showers.
We search for central AC.

But of course (if you know me) you’ll know I wouldn’t change a thing. 
I wouldn't change the Bryant Park movies,
Or the fireflies.
The fresh fruit stands,
Or the brilliant blue skies.  

New York is viscously vibrant in the summer, and it’s during this season the city feels most alive—like a bustling, breathing creature, ready to explode.
Maybe that's how it is everywhere.
Maybe all warm nights are heavy with expectation. 

And how could you not love the suspense? 


Monday, July 15, 2013

Sleepless Strolls and Sherbet Sunrises

There she was… New York City.

I sat on the Brooklyn Bridge with two friends, unsure of which way to look. Manhattan was on my left, Brooklyn to my right, and the East River beneath my tired feet. The bold, summer sun was about to peek over our city’s horizon.

We hadn’t slept, but adrenaline and caffeine moved us forward. As Kristin, Heather, and I had neared the Brooklyn Bridge’s entrance, our conversation had dropped off and we walked in a quite line toward our destination. Now we stood in between two boroughs, silently watching the clouds move over our peaceful city as she snoozed (because she never truly sleeps).

I was in awe.

It was 5:30AM Friday, July 5th 2013, and I felt lucky; lucky to be living, and breathing, and seeing the city like I was seeing it for the first time. All the different buildings were poking up toward the sky, like manmade flowers reaching for an elusive sun. I couldn’t help but think of the men and women who’d lived and died here before, in this extraordinary garden of good and evil.

As I watched lines of light tear through the sky, I felt a certain pride one only feels for a place they’ve truly connected with—a place you might even call home.

And that’s what New York is, right?
A place I call home.

Which led to another thought… a statement I jotted down on an envelope several years ago in a particularly frantic moment. I’d written myself a small reminder about life, while eating a microwaved potato and drinking cheap wine. The note said:

Home isn't where the heart is because my heart's all over the place. Home is where I’m living—not where I’m residing, but where I’m actually living. Home is the place where I stay up late, and wake up early, because I’ve just got to keep living.

(Editor’s Note: In the original text, I believe I spelled “residing” wrong. The word has been altered for your convenience.)

There’s nothing fancy about that quote.
It’s no mark of literary genius.
But it’s a genuine, hand-written note that I still carry around
 with me in my purse.

In two weeks, I will have officially lived in New York for three busy, insane, lovely, ridiculous, draining, amazing years. And when I watched the sun rise over our city, something happened. Something came full-circle, like I’d always known I would end up standing on the Brooklyn Bridge watching a sherbet-colored sunrise in mid-July.

So as rays of light grazed Manhattan, I thought about that girl from a few years ago. The one who moved up here from Virginia with six plastic bags of clothes and a sleeping bag. She didn’t know anything about retail, but she landed a job at Bloomingdale’s for 12 bucks an hour—and that was good enough for her, because she was already head-over-heels in love with this city.

The best thing about that girl? There are millions of people just like her, who move to New York with nothing but an unshakable thrill to begin an adventure. Those people, the tons of them, are all bent on being here and sharing the now. We (the New Yorkers) are a collective force that hold a special place in my heart.

Just then, the sun erupted over the horizon. A jogger ran past us, and traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge increased. Taxis rushed people home from bars, while commuters crawled in from distant states. An almost tangible shift interrupted the hushed atmosphere…

Another moment was beginning.
Another adventure was underway.
Another story was starting.
It was the birth of a brand new day. 

And thank God we were able to witness it.