This is a love letter to you, New York, because I have been gone for four months and won’t be coming back for yet another one but I am counting the days, I am crossing off boxes on my calendar (wildlife scenes, pretty pictures of nature, which is what I am living in now and it is beautiful and harsh and there are no subways here, there is no sushi, there is only desolate long roads and the crowds are spruce and aspen trees and the lights at night are only the dead light of stars burning faintly from billions of light years away). I am watching “Law and Order” marathons just to catch a glimpse of you when they show exteriors, just so I can smile and say “my friend’s apartment is around the corner from there” and “I love that restaurant” and “I’ve been to that bar”. I am humming Frank Sinatra and the Velvet Underground. I am shouting out to Brooklyn with Jay-Z and Nas. I am crazy as a child at Christmas. I am tossing and turning in insomnia sheets, sweaty and disheveled at the thought of coming back.
This is a love letter to you even though I know you haven’t been faithful, you’ve had hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of one night stands in my absence, maybe millions even; and you have thousands of new people who’ve moved in with you too, who have fallen in love despite your exorbitance, your neediness and your noise, who are starting long term romances with you, who are going for walks in your parks every morning with you, who are biting down on chewy bagels on your benches and sipping weak sweet bodega coffee and standing in your lines; they are settling down with you, New York, but I don’t even mind. I’ve never been a jealous lover, New York. I know you need your freedom because we have so little space. And, let me tell you, my beloved, my Nueva York, ma Nouvelle York, mi cuidad, space is what I am living in, the vast space of everywhere outside you and it is overrated. It is nice to stretch out but, after a while, you uncoil yourself and realize that it’s too quiet, that there’s nothing to do.
Oh New York, I miss you like a phantom limb or a phantom geography that I place over the landscape I now live in like tracing paper. I sketch you in over what’s really here so that clumps of pine trees rising up close together become a grid of buildings and cawing crows and chattering squirrels are cell phone squawkers and commuters surging down the street. Even though some of the things I love about you in are gone (Coliseum Books, I miss you, even though I’d barely gone uptown in years), even though the downtown Downtown/Uptown with its back patio for dogs has been closed for years, and what used to be Limbo coffee shop on A has been a knitwear store, a jewelry store, an eyeglass store, for too many years now, even though what used to be the Second Avenue Deli is boarded up and still not even changed shape and become the Chase Bank it said it would be before I left, still the thrill isn’t gone. What I love about you comes back! You renew yourself. You resurrect. The Bulgarian Disco (Mehanata, if you must be precise) lost its lease three years ago and I thought I’d never get to dance amidst Slavs again. But it moved north and east and now it’s closer to my apartment, within walking distance even if I drink too many seven-dollar beers. It lost its liquor license and the Footloose-inspired rant I sent to my community board didn’t change a thing but now it’s open again, months later. Accordion punk music blossoming like some late-night auditory spring.
Or so they tell me. I’m still in the hinterlands dreaming of you, New York. I’m imagining the glinting stars and sparkle of your pavement as I look up at real stars above me. I’m thinking of you, Big Apple, when I bite into small ones, when the polished red skin breaks and the sharp sweet juices inside spill down over my chin.