An Only Child in New York City
I grew up as an only child, which I think is supposed to make me intolerant of people.
When I was nine, though, I saw Annie and envied the orphans who all lived together in the Municipal Girls Orphanage. Empty bellies instead of full? Mop gymnastics? So worth it.
I loved my parents, and I’m grateful I got to read my Beverly Cleary and (secretly) Clan of the Cave Bear in peace. I was free to leave my Playmobil figures set up mid-story in my room indefinitely without the interference of siblings, but I probably wasn’t an only child in any past life.
My parents had also raised four children, close in age, before me. My mom and dad liked to read quietly too, so I think sometimes they thought of me like there were four of me. “Go outside! Play with your sis — ”
As a result, when the time came, I would love living in a college dorm. Afterwards, in two decades of roommates, I only had two I didn’t like. At 30, I started a second career working in coffee shops. Customers and co-workers, college students and other ne’er-do-wells, all jumbled together behind the counter like puppies. Then, add to this mix, at 34, I moved to New York City.
A Southern friend lately said he was thinking of applying for jobs in New York.
I told him that New York was like the funniest, smartest, filthiest person you could ever meet. And this person makes you run laps up and down icy subway steps all winter, and sometimes trips you. He said “sounds about right.”
This will sound weird if you haven’t lived in New York, but after a year or two, you sadly realize you can’t “keep” everyone you meet, not even the soulmates. This isn’t Greenville, South Carolina. With 8.6 million people, you’ll probably never see them again. It’s catch and release out here, friend.
But if you’re not specifically trying to network or find someone to sleep with, you can spend a whole day just hanging out with New York. You can take the Q to Union Square to buy the good coffee beans and ask a stranger if she’s Parker Posey. You can confuse tourists asking for directions, tip the showtime guys dancing in the sky over the East River, write the Parker Posey story down in a notebook, eat lunch with a friend, and then meet their friends.
How did we start our conversations? We just talked. Did we say even goodbye? We companionably just stopped talking because we’re talking to New York, and we can be quiet with each other. The city that’s always with us, because we are it. The big, smart, funny, filthy, stinky jumble of us.
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