I pass the cronut bakery every day on the way to the subway. Let’s start with that.
This is the part I can’t wrap my head around yet. I’m trying to latch onto something, to familiarize myself with a neighborhood, a drycleaner, the sound of my keys in the door. But then on every street, the blazing attractions of the city crop up and I am disoriented. Is this a commute or a destination? Am I on vacation or does this belong to me, now?
I haven’t really gone outside. The transition at work has been swift and heavy, and my after-work exploring has been of the backseats of yellow cabs. But even there, it creeps in, this city’s magic. I’ve been driven home each night by a Greek chorus of men with beautiful voices, from Jamaica and Puerto Rico and Charlotte and the Bronx. Every one laughs the same delighted way, when I reveal how recently I’ve come. “Well! Welcome,” they grin into the rearview mirror. “Cali-for-nia! What a change.”
* * * * *
We haven’t been seeing much of each other. I’ve been padding out in the mornings before he wakes up, to go shake off my confusion at the gym. Endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t second-guess their monumental life changes when it’s too late. But when I click our door back open (second try: remember, it goes to the left!), he’s pulling on a sweater and giving a kiss and bounding off to drink from the fire hose again. I am proud of him, of his ambition and his work ethic, and his desire to stretch his brain in unprecedented directions. And I also would love to eat a meal with him, to hear how his parallel new life has been unfolding. This is completely uncharted territory. Always, before: we were together and I was a boundless well of empathy. I can hear the scrape at the bottom now, and it terrifies me.
* * * * *
The volume of the city is staggering. Not the decibels, but the sheer unfolding columns of people and their cubic output. The daily continuing is a regular-sized miracle: the piles of trash, enough on each street for a village, whisked off to oblivion by the beeping trucks that grind through our dreams. The crush of commuters piling into a subway car and leaving the platform bare, only to be replaced in a laughably short second by a doppelgänger crowd. None of it ever stops, or sleeps, or even thinks about taking a break. You take very deep breaths on the subway, and in your apartment, and you start thinking of a restaurant space more as temporary real estate than a table. This is mine, for right now.
I can sit here and take it in.