I’m in packing mode now, getting everything ready for three months of back-packing and storage. Nostalgia is hitting me left and right and I am reminded of my young self when I first came out to NY, fourteen years ago. Who knew student loan statements could carry so much emotional weight?
I ended up going to Coney Island after all, and stopped at Di Fara’s on my way back. Stroke of good luck in hitting the place right before the evening crush, with the octagenarian DeMarco himself working behind the counter. He was just as I remembered him from years ago when I first went, except maybe stooped a little lower and needing to prop himself against his workbench as he moved. Unfortunately, he did not make my pie, which came out from the kitchen somewhere, but it was still good.
Things change, even this, and I’ve changed as well.
On the train going over the Manhattan bridge, looking at the skyline of downtown, I simultaneously felt what I first felt when I moved to New York City – a sense of wonder and awe at its grandness, a curiosity about what each street held; and, my own sense of familiarity with it all, now. I worked in those buildings, know people who live in them. I have seen the views from those windows and spent my days and nights discovering its surrounding. I have my favorite bars and cafes, little mid-range sushi joints tourists hardly frequent, and an urban park offering pockets of shade. It’s a marker of how far I’ve come, but it is an odd sensation, feeling as if you are standing in the same place at two different times of your life.
I remember walking through Greenwich Village all those years ago and above a cafe, a young woman not older than myself, leaned out into the sun with her man wrapping his arms around her. It was like, every Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron movie, right there. And I, too, imagined leaning out of a NYC apartment window with the arms of my love around me. I wonder at my youth, the optimism I felt in what laid ahead for me.
While I have had my share of romance here, it’s not the same as I imagined it, then. People’s complications, past hurts, theirs and mine, gave me such sorrow and lead to so many dead-ends – I could not have envisioned that for myself.
I think, if I could talk to my younger self, I’d tell her it’s never as important as I think it was, and that I cannot love if I am in pain. I wish I could tell myself I’d find people who would make me hurt in the way I already feel hurt because my pain wants to be seen. Wants to be heard. Needs to be felt.
I am such a different person now. It makes me feel a little sad, but it also makes me feel proud. Here, I grew up, in the gauntlet of NYC.
I took this picture out on Coney Island.