Something And The City

The day before flying east from Boulder, CO to New York, my husband said to me: 

“Isn't it weird we didn't get those 24-hour check-in messages from United?"

It was with that we realized the purchase of the tickets (which was to have been made by me, never went through.) I know what you are thinking. Some kind of cosmic Freudian slip eh? I, the one in charge of the tickets and the one up in arms about going “forgot” to buy the tickets. Funny. I didn't forget. The stupid website wouldn't take my card. 

So with that we used up our accumulated miles and paid some absurd fee to bring our cats and less than a day later we arrived in the land of bright lights where the under world is a real world. 

I have now lived in New York for a year. Which by no means makes me a “New Yorker”. In fact, I often feel like the country bumpkin in the big city. Whereas in the other places beginning with "B" in which I have lived such as Burlington and Boulder, I had style (and by style I mean that whole flowey pants thing which I call Somatic Therapsit Chic), in New York I am plainly a dirty hippy. I am literally one of the tree huggers here. 

New York is an exquisite madness. She can be very mean, incredibly generous and wonderfully magical. In New York, the underworld is the real world with the subway as a massive equalizer. I supposes if you are ridiculously rich and can take cabs everywhere, you live in a different kind of world. But for most of us, we and the rest of New York City, ride the subway. 

I remember a few months ago the train was very crowded one morning during rush hour. Somewhere along the F line going uptown, a young girl got on the train with a huge backpack easily weighing more than her. She seemed on the way to school and she just stood there, with a wide stance, hands on hips and not holding onto anything as the train lumbered along. she barely even flinched or lost her balance. I thought to myself: “Well, if this little girl can do it, so can i!” I stuck with this can-do-attitude for a few weeks but it promptly ceased after I was riding the A-train one Sunday and was yelled at ferociously. And by the way, this was a different someone than the person who literally sat on me one time on the train. Yes. Sat on me. You can imagine the troublesome nature of such an event when your core wound involves questioning if you can exist in the world. 

How about when that lovely doctor contracted Ebola and before he had been diagnosed, had gone all out and about Manhattan and Brooklyn getting his organic farm share and going bowling. That did not bode well for me. I stopped riding the subway and going to dance. I didn't go for 2 months. 

How about the time I was walking home from the grocery store and suddenly out of nowhere a cop car comes swinging around the corner and 4 cops get out and grab the guy I had just walked passed. I later found out that someone had been attacked the previous evening at my subway stop. I am not making a one-to-one connection by the way. But needles to say, the two events really were very calming and encouraging as you can imagine.

Then of course there was the time someone literally spit on my foot as I was walking into the subway stop. And yes, I was wearing flip flops. I promptly stopped wearing flip flops on the train. 

Then there was the time, I was followed. Yes followed. For about 5 blocks. Spotted on the train, and followed from the station until I hid behind a giant truck for about 5 minutes and lost the person like Nancy Drew. 

Oh, and then there was the time, and this was early on mind you, I got so overstimulated and freaked out by the intensity of the city, I turned off all the lights and went underneath the bed, swaddling myself in a blanket. I proceeded to call one of my best friends back in Boulder who could barely make out what I was saying amidst my hysterics. I think  it was something about leaving New York and coming to live with her instead. Now, granted I had been here for a total of one week. Obviously I crawled out from under the bed.  Occasionally I need to be swaddled. 

Oh, and how about the time I tried to go grocery shopping in one those little grocery stores which all of you who do not live in New York think are cute and convenient. Well, they aren't. They are not cute. They are not charming. They are madhouses of insanity where your heart and hunger go to die. The store was so crowded with people so hungry and tired i was surprised I wasn't eaten. My basket was about half full with items when I thought “This is ludicrous.” I sat the basket down right where I was standing and walked out of the store with nothing. 

I cant say that I came to the city bright eyed and bushy tailed. I can’t even say I arrived with any form of excitement. I cried most of the plane ride and spent plenty of time in a resentful pout. And yet, there is that strange allure of New York. She is the Wild card. The madwoman. You never know what could happen because it is chaos here. Pure chaos. Once you accept her as the rhythm and you move with THAT, it does get a little simpler. I am excellent at people weaving. now. New York, I have discovered does not sympathize with your resistance and yet, she rewarded those who stick it out--those who are willing to be changed by her over and over again.

A friend, a New Yorker, once told me that you know you are New Yorker when you find yourself slamming your hand on the hood of a cab and shouting at the driver to back off. Yea, that happened. 

Another friend told me that the only way to survive is to meditate daily. Mission accomplished. 

Another recommendation was to begin drinking heavily. I now understand the recommendation. 

Still others told me to defy my marriage and refuse to go. 

While others told me to buck up and shut up. Build a thick skin and toughen up. 

I did get the recommendation to wear lots of scarves and always have the earbuds in. That has proven to work great. The subway is a perfect place to listen to the Hanuman Chalisa. 

They say if you can make it in New York, then you can make it anywhere. Well, that may or may not be true. I am not sure. I look at people who have recently made the opposite landscape moves to me and I think: "You lucky little shits". Somedays, honestly I do not feel as though I am “making it”. It more feels like I am slowly being squashed. Other days, I think New York was the best thing to ever happen for me. The troubles I faced as a newbie here are like floating in a Mill Pond comparatively speaking. Don't be fooled. I realize my New York is not everyone's New York. (this is meant to be a funny piece if you couldn't already tell).

I can assure you this. Once, twice, thrice, hell, I have actually lost count, I have felt like I was going to die. Like literally as though I was being ripped at the seems—stripped down to the core with nothing but a bleeding and beating heart on the floor. And each of those times I have thought, “I will never recover” “I will never make it” “I am dead inside”. And each time I manage to stand up all skin and bones and feeling heart, and keep on going. And in that getting up I am always reformed stronger. I have given up “putting myself back together”. Because the truth is I cannot go back. There is no going back after you get spit on riding the subway. I will never be put back together in the same way as before. Which is a good thing. The city is so abrasive that you could be cut, torn or demolished at any moment. But if you are willing, if you can withstand the pressure, and the grit, and you are willing to be changed, you can be polished. 


Livia ShapiroComment