Thursday, July 25, 2013
Denizens of New York
I miss this city most when I am about to leave it, even to journey to the place where I am more surely from. I am not a natural traveler, although I did pick up and leave the land of my birth to move to an entirely new country when I was 18. What's more, I knew when I was 5 years old that I would do it. I visited my Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie here that year, and that's when I decided. The city felt like a pulsing thing. There were so many different sorts of people, every one of them with a story. I made up stories about the rainbow of humans who surged past me on the street and silently I decided. This was my true habitat.
At 5 I already felt out of place in my everyday circumstance, a feeling that miraculously vanished on the streets of New York. Here, I was just another one of the city's denizens, a chubby child in navy blue jersey shorts that rode up over my chubby thighs, and lacy ankle socks that sank inevitably into my brown leather Mary Janes, but no one quibbled with these shortcomings. I was folded in, unquestioned. I felt freed. So all through my childhood I waited, knowing what came next. And when it was time for me to apply to college, I sent off just one application, early decision, to a school in New York City. I knew I would get in. I can't explain. I just knew that my moving to this city was inevitable and going to that school was how I would make it happen.
But now, one the eve of traveling to pack up my mother's house in a beachy place, I wonder: Do I want to grow old here? My uncle is long gone and my aunt, at 94, seems so alone to me, even with our family just across the courtyard. Perhaps that is just the province of old age. My mother seems lonely too, despite living in her son's home in Jamaica now, her two grandchildren coming and going throughout her day. I imagine when I am old, I will want to be near to the two cousins who are like sisters to me, both of whom moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Am I, very late in the game, starting to feel the pull of another place? And where will our children settle? Where will they raise our grandchildren? Surely that will have a bearing. Such brooding thoughts for an ordinary Thursday.