This is the story of how I got to New York.
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can’t do,
Now you're in New York!!!
These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York
New York, New York
— Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
Back in April, I was lying in bed one morning reading New York Magazine, as is my reigning weekend ritual. The cover story was “Why People Still Want to Move to New York in Tough Times.” It was about exactly what you’re thinking: all those random people from East Neverwhere who pile into the city annually hoping to make something of themselves and compete with the best of the best.
It was a random story, it could have been written at anytime. But this one was anchored by a new statistic that showed half of all young people in the US wanted to move to New York—-even in the recession and the subsequent collapse of the city's leading industries: media, finance, tourism, and by proxy service/nightlife.
I wasn't surprised by the stat. I'd rather struggle here than anywhere else too.
The towers fell three months earlier. I'm in the last semester of grad school. The air outside the luxury downtown one bedroom apartment that I call my “dorm room” and share with a roommate still smells like crisp metal and something else I’ve never been able to put my finger on. I see Mr. Ex every weekend. Saturday night is for showing me some new part of the city I’ve never seen— Harlem, Tribeca, West Village, wherever. Sunday is for watching The Sopranos, or whatever’s on the HBO lineup. I don’t really look forward to the show as much as look forward to lying on the couch up under him.
It’s December. I graduate in about three weeks. I’m still interning at Oneworld with no prospect of a job in sight, but the ENC and Executive Editor keep throwing me freelance work. My Managing Editor has an extra room, a large closet, really, that she says I can live in until I find a job. It’s $400 for a large hole. The LIRR traim runs right by the window and the room shakes when it does. It’ll be tough living— a long way from PG County, a long way even from the luxury building where I’ve lived in my whole time in New York. But it’s worth it.
Three weeks later
My boxes are packed. My Dad is driving up to NYC in the morning to pick up the stuff that won’t move into the hole with me.
The phone rings. It’s the ME.
She’s so sorry. The room? One of her three roommates promised it to someone else a long time ago, and he needs it earlier than expected. There’s nothing she can do. She’s so, so, so sorry.
I don’t call home. I call Mr. Ex.
He’ll hop in the car, be at my place in 45.
I run to the store for a pack of Newports. And chain smoke in the window and cry until he gets there.
I’m a puffy-faced mess by the time he arrives. And the apartment’s got to smell like hell, especially to him; he hates smoke. We sit on the couch and I sit in between his legs and cry into him the whole night. He’s one of maybe three people in the world that can talk me off a ledge (Tariq and Ace are the other two), but I am inconsolable.
I’m not just leaving New York, I’m leaving him too.
This is the worst night of my life.
Around 8 AM, my father calls to say he’s outside the building. I kiss Mr. Ex goodbye a million times, then ring my Dad up. I tell my Dad then that I’ll now be apart of the precious cargo headed back to DC.
He and a friend pack up the truck. I ride in the back with my stereo system on my lap and cry the entire way home.
My father is… hurt, I think, that I’m treating moving back to Maryland, back with him and my Mom, as the worst thing that could happen to me. I can’t even muster up the ability to fake like it’s okay. I cry until I fall asleep.
I wake up on two hours later on 495 and realize this is not a nightmare. My eyes sting. I'm probably dehydrated from all this sobbing. I start sobbing all over again. My Dad and his friend pretend not to hear me.
This, I imagine now, must have been what Randy felt like going back to the halfway house at the end of Season 4 (The Wire reference.)
This is my worst fear come true.