five more blocks. i promise.
The weekend was full of quick jaunts – runs to the market, straight routes between two apartments, dashes across sidewalks holding the newspaper to separate my hair from the falling rain. To think of it, the weekend itself was a quick jaunt. Jenn had never been to the city before, and I hadn’t seen her in seven years. She’s shaved her head since we embraced last; more newspaper for my own vanity.
Living here is exhausting. I could see it in her face by the second day, and in her knees swinging her calves down sidewalks like great dead weights. I can see it in my eyes, too, in the lines that were not beneath them before and the way they sit, unimpressed, closer to my skull than they had been previously. I had to work one of the days of her vacation and considered this as I deflated myself against the doors of the train in the morning. I thought about coffee instead.
The things I have to show for being a New Yorker are wonderfully, woefully intangible. Every morning at 59th St., I have the urge to run up the escalator. I can’t explain it, I just need to. And I do. This animal lives in me, restless, unable to sit still, as a result of living in a place where the standards of excellence and immediacy throb at a steady clip. I go to sleep at night having held infinite possibility in my hands every day.
And Jenn will never know about those things. They are uniquely and privately mine, yet a shared experience with ten million other people. And that is unique and private in itself. Dealing with people who do not share that bond has grown hard for me.
But that afternoon, on the Q train across the bridge, I cradled radishes in my lap and listened to her talk about her husband. The day’s last light shone through shopping bags slung across the arms of strangers and one bike haphazardly leaning on its owner. Since Jenn stopped wearing makeup, her pores have cleared and her great big blue eyes have grown even brighter. They shone wide and then crinkled when she laughed about his hairline receding and settling further and further back with age’s advance. She called it cute and meant it earnestly.
She rubbed her bald head and leaned back into the light, still talking, and the train moved steadily forward despite the stillness roaring in my breast. Suddenly, jarringly, I had found myself confronted with one of the only things that living in New York does not guarantee me (and might actually impede, truth be told) outright. That must be love, I thought. In the flesh, both of self and another. It was plainly beautiful. That must be love. I had trouble hiding my tears as we got off the train.