I wrote this last week. I don't necessarily feel like this now (especially the stuff about Austin), but I figured I'd post it for posterity's sake.
Why does the past come calling today? Why do the grey streets of New York, with their grey skies above filled with grey pigeons flying low above grey canyons of stone buildings, why today do they fill me with longing? When there’s no one else to call, when all the friends are off on their errands and the darkness gets too thick, I return to my pain like a three-legged dog worrying a bone that used to be his other leg. The longing is not for a person, but for a time before, a nostalgia for possibility, a sense that, in a new city, I could remake myself. Instead, I have found myself again.
I traveled twice from childhood to some simulacrum of adulthood. Once when I moved to New York, and once when the ghost of myself finally caught me here, ten years later. He grabs me by the back of my shirt, he shakes me, he says, “You see? You see what you were supposed to do? What were you thinking? What were you thinking?”
The air is clear, or maybe it’s just my eyes. Everything looks sharp edged and defined, and I find myself searching the faces of the people I walk by in the streets. They don’t seem to notice, the beautiful clarity, the perfect dull pearl of the light that turns New York city into the exact movie it was when I first moved here.
New York existed only as a TV show when I was growing up. That pearlescent sheen of soot and smoke, grit and grime was New York to me, only I didn’t know it. But I remember the first day I came here, riding in the back of a cab from JFK towards the Upper West Side, and the day was like this, a fine, cool, grey July day. I looked out the window and remembered a land of Welcome Back Kotter, of Sesame Street, of Barney Miller. In a way, living in New York has been like revisiting the part of my childhood that was only lived in 30 minute segments on TV.
Some people dream of living in New York. I’ve never understood that. It’s sort of like dreaming of having a really nice wardrobe. New York is designer labels and fine leather, it’s Prada or Coach or Louis Vuitton with the perfect hat. I moved to New York because I knew Tucson was kicking me out, and I didn’t have anyplace else I needed to be. There’s no actual reason to live anywhere; you just have to go on a feeling, I suppose.
Sometimes Steph talks about moving to Austin, but I get a bad feeling about that place. It reminds me of the things I hated about Tucson, the superior small town hipsters and their insular clique, the smug superiority. I spent too many years alone in that town. New York, I found friends, parties, love, creativity. Tucson was “How Soon is Now?” land, where you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die.
I even have friends in Austin, or people I think of as friends, but I don’t know, it just seems wrong, somehow. Or it could just be a combination of a backache, a cold, a sinus infection, these beastly antibiotics, a grey day in a city I have grown to love but which I will eventually leave. Perhaps I’m only feeling a phantom of future pain, a remembrance of loss to come.