It’s 6 p.m. My roommate Heather’s not back yet, so i have the luxury of listening to my music without headphones. The day is winding down, much too soon, and cars honk here and there as they rush home. Wheels sound slick on wet roads.
It’s 7 p.m. My suitemate Kristen takes her usual evening shower. Maybe i should shower early tonight, too. I’m tired and i’d like to go to bed early, maybe wake up early to finish studying. But Heather will be back soon and i wouldn’t be able to sleep with her in the room, typing away on instant messenger. My pills rattle as i look for my glass bottle of Vitamin B6. I press down firmly on my pill splitter until one tablet snaps neatly in two, giving me two manageable doses of 25 mg. No need for 50 mg at this time of the evening.
It’s 8 p.m. Our heat’s broken again; i turn on my electric heater. It clicks merrily as it heats up the oil inside. The satisfying click, the promising click… Heather’s back, and we make our usual small talk, but there’s more to talk about tonight. Sometimes i think we turn every mundane event into drama to compensate for the lack of excitement in our lives. An ambulance blares and honks its way down our street as Heather and i discuss the latest passive-aggressive behaviors in our suite.
It’s 9 p.m. The heater whines and buzzes to indicate that it’s reached maximum temperature. It’s still cold. I walk over to the room thermostat and press the fan button to no effect. The radiator makes a jerking sound as if it’s going to do something but doesn’t blow any air. Kristen’s removing her dishes from the dish rack; she closes the cabinets and returns to her bedroom, shutting the door. My turn to do the dishes. At least the water will be hot.
It’s 10 p.m. The wind howls through high-rise valleys and building vents. The locals next door to our building chatter into the night, savoring the last puffs of their cigarettes. Delivery trucks growl, rolling up 1st Ave. Someone on the street yells, “Watch out!” The city has so many people and sometimes it upsets me that i can’t care for every one of them, that i can’t know what happens to every one of them.
Recently, i’ve been experiencing NYC in a strangely sentimental way every time i commute into the city for work. I find myself snapping out of my usual thought-filled daze, looking up from the sidewalk, and just taking everything in, as if i were discovering the city anew. And i can’t help but assume that i wouldn’t fit in anywhere other than New York. I have these thoughts regularly, but these days, the conviction is so unshakable. Sometimes when i ride the subway, i like to stand and hold the pole even if there are empty seats and casually look around and observe the people. I don’t know what it is about subway trains, but i instantly feel comfortable and content in that sea of strangers who are so absorbed in their own bubbles but also refreshingly friendly, when given a chance to be. New York friendly is a rare kind of friendly: not overwhelming, not interfering, and most definitely not forced. Friendliness in New York is warranted, not expected, but it’s also surprisingly prevalent, if you know how to interact with the people. It could be in a quick nod or even just a glance. Wherever you find it, it’s cool, never clingy, and it always brightens up your day, if only for a fleeting moment. Perhaps “friendliness” is not the right word. Maybe it’s solidarity.
The bubbles definitely exist, but they’re so clumsy and thin and easily breakable, and not many people realize that everyone needs and wants to break out of them sometimes. There’s a secret camaraderie among New Yorkers, and i’m not sure how much of that exists—and if it does, what it’s like—in other big cities. And so this is the question i’m faced with now: do i leave New York knowing that physically, it’s an unhealthy environment for me, but risking never getting used to a population that behaves differently? Do i go for the people or the environment? In a way, i guess they’re one and the same. What i really wanna know is, what are people in other big cities like?
*photo is of street artist Keith Haring and was taken by Chantal Regnault. found here.
Anyone who’s lived for a significant period of time in NYC has a mouse story. I have three, but let me tell you about my most recent (and triumphant!) encounter:
I was woken up at 2am by rustling noises, covered in sweat (probably from the Nyquil i took before bed). Immediately, i thought it was the mouse that i’d been hearing at nights, so i braced myself, stood on my bed, stepped onto the top of my drawers (to avoid stepping on the floor and getting bitten by the mouse in case it scurried across it) and turned my lamp on. Then i sat back on the bed and kept my eyes peeled. After a few moments, i saw it: it was in the garbage bag hanging from my radiator. It came up to the top of the garbage for a split second and plunged back down. My heart skipped a beat and i started sweating even more, so i hastily put my hair up. But honestly, i was so scared that i’d forgotten if the mouse was still in the bag or if it had leapt out and gone into my tote bag, which was hanging in front of the garbage bag, from the same hook on the radiator. And when i realized the possibility of it being somewhere other than the garbage bag, i leapt into the corner chair and just stood there helplessly for about a minute. Then i thought, “This is ridiculous,” so i sat back on the bed, but as far away as possible from the radiator. And then i noticed a piece of easter grass on the bed where my back would be, and i started having a panic attack, cos i thought maybe the mouse trailed it up there from the floor and it had actually been in my bed and crawling all over me while i was passed out from the Nyquil and maybe that was the real reason i woke up and maybe the struggle with the mouse was what had made me sweat! I knew it was possible because if that mouse could climb into my garbage bag, it could have climbed ANYWHERE. That meant any surface or object in my room could have been contaminated! Then i shook off these bad thoughts and tried to focus on the situation at hand. I tried to think back to when i saw the mouse and came to a pretty firm conclusion that it was still in the garbage bag. I had several options:
I was feeling down tonight, still suffering from this and grey weather, so on the way back from a 10pm Trader Joe’s run, i had a cigarette in front of my building, holding a bag of strawberries that i hoped would cheer me up.
I didn’t expect the scenery above: the sky was a dark indigo with a tinge of green, and the grey clouds wrapped the nearly full moon—a perfectly white moon, just the way i like it. As the smoke from my mouth tangled with the air, fading into the clouds, the street lamps soaked the white-bloomed tree in amber, and i was happy for a moment.
Maybe a full moon will be waiting for me tomorrow night.
There’s something about New York. It’s amazing and depressing at the same time, and i’m starting to feel more of the depressing part these days. Despite having grown up in urban and suburban areas, i feel like the city is becoming too much for me. All i can think about these days is retreating to nature. I used to love taking aimless walks here, so i went out this weekend to take advantage of the warmer weather, but i didn’t enjoy the walks this time. It was an opportunity to think to myself, but the roads, the cars, the crowds just got to be a bit much.
I was taking the E train downtown as part of my usual daily commute to school, when a homeless lady came to the center of the car and asked for food, any tidbit, anything to eat or drink. I wanted to give her something, but i didn’t have anything on me. A young lady sitting in front of me gave her a granola bar. When the homeless lady moved to another car, a little girl sitting next to the generous young lady questioned her mom about the homeless lady. “She’s hungry. Why’s she hungry?” The mother whispered an explanation into her ear. Then after a few moments of thought, the little girl went, “I’m hungry too!” The young lady and i laughed along with the mother. One stop later, the young lady started to cry. A few stops later, the mother and daughter got off the train, the daughter tickling her mother, going “Tickly, tickly!” And at West 4th, i got off, making my usual way to class.