Sunset Panic



399 Thames St, New York, NY 10006

Neighborhood: Financial District

I decide to slip out of the office to see the sun set. I look at my watch. It is a ten minute walk from my office to the west side highway. My heels slip off my feet as I put on a pair of winter boots and fetch my coat and earmuffs from the employee closet. I am missing a glove (there’s always something missing; a sock, a spouse, a yin, a yang) and I’m already anticipating the chill the lone hand will endure.

My boss looks at me with disgust as I turn my eyes downwards and run away from my position in life. I am ashamed, but also so close to breaking down from a combination of carpel tunnels, and being overworked that I cease to be available to guilt. All I care about is the sunset. Nothing else. I will have to hurry to make it on time.

The elevator is crowded with hot breath and uncomfortable gazes. I shift my weight from one foot to another anxiously, and come out of the elevator as a horse comes out of its gate. If I don’t rush, I will be late. I point my body west and walk like an arrow towards the sun. My eyes are still down, denying the city its titillating dramatics. I know that if I look up, I will forget my objective. To look up in New York City is to purchase an immediate theater ticket.

Because each of us is on sale here. We have images honed to perfection. The downtown fauxhemians, the uptown gilded monogrammed millionaires. Questions are guillotines of judgment, ‘where do you live?’ ‘what do you do?’ Even artists have lost their innocence and can speak in inspired sales pitches that spew like glossolalia. Every word a thousand times practiced on the thousand ears that had to endure ‘the pitch.’

As hard as I try to keep a consistent pace, I walk the city’s stop-start schedule, obstructed by prams, umbrellas, scaffolding, vendors, vagrants and Mexican messengers careening through the city streets on bicycles. Bodies are strewn everywhere, upright, alive and fulminating with opinion and lurking rage. The sirens are singing warnings, taxis are honking, and garbage bags squat arrogantly on the side of the street. My thoughts screech to unlikely endings, and recommence only to screech again. The fast thoughts breeding anxiety. There are waves of people passing, crashing onto the riverbed in ferries, Staten Island, NJ, Brooklyn, Queens, and teeming into streets that invite opportunity and dreams. I want it all to disappear just for one moment- all the potential and all the beauty and fanfare of being a part of the world’s greatest challenge.

I pick up my pace. The flat white winter light reaches me through the Avenue’s and Streets that cut fine slivers between the landscape of brick and concrete. The last time I saw the sun or moon was over three months ago. My twenties have been spent in the delusion of a societal pyramid scheme. I wake up everyday in a dingy, overpriced 300 square foot apartment and rush to my office cubicle where the florescent lights turn my skin a pale and permanent reptilian green. I get paid $40,000 to make my employer $500,000 a year. And when I’m not making my employer thirteen times my annual salary, I’m being shuffled through cubicles called shops, to cubicles called bars, to cubicles called restaurants, where my wage is converted into money for the same mega corporation that I work for. As I walk towards the sun, I notice that there is a lot of bustle but not a bench in sight. The only rest stations available are the aforementioned retail and service outlets. The scheme abounds in this capitalist utopia.

I break out into a run. I can no longer wait. My heart starts to beat faster as the overbearing buildings begin to recede into a backdrop and I can see the sky peeking through the last of the City. I am now one block from the Hudson River and crossing over into Battery Park City. There is suddenly space all around, and an El Dorado of benches lined up at no extra charge. I have reached the end of the line. My office treated skin is steeped in the reds and oranges of a descending sun, and I feel myself melting into composure. The colors are vivid and imaginative when there is nothing to block the sun. My eyes no longer shuffle at my feet. They turn upwards and outwards.

The river is flowing and the sun is subtly descending with sovereign-like pomp, the view uninterrupted all the way to New Jersey. My heart stretches out with the horizon, and I am no longer afflicted with the short sightedness of my daily self-absorption. Nothing is dashing by or badgering me for attention. The City is peaceful and looks charming and powerful from where I stand. I stretch my limbs and invigorate my body with the breathtaking panorama. It wants nothing from me. I am neither required to lift my hands in applause or offer money in remunerative appreciation.

That is the beauty of this immense City in which eleven million people struggle just to get by. It lets you worry just enough, then opens up and gives you everything you ever asked for.

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