I love to hate New York, and hate that I love it so much sometimes. This is one of those weeks.
It could be that the weather has relented enough to allow for activities such as uninhibited breathing, walking, and being free to not view a subway whizzing by you as a “pleasant breeze.” Since it’s not so humid that I feel compelled to live like a hermit in air conditioning, a sense of nostalgia is coming over me that reminds me of the first day I came to New York solo as an adult.
All I knew of New York City prior to that day came from limited sources; the opening credits to Head of the Class or episodes of Moonlighting my mom would let me watch while she was a few Michelobs deep. My concrete understanding of the city didn’t occur until I was in my early twenties. By that time, I was also able to pepper vacations with sexual experiences, and men I would sleep with helped me to further romanticize NYC.
Ugh, men. Amirightladies?
It wasn’t until I had a stable boyfriend that my disenfranchised desire actually started to make some sense. When he and I took a weekend trip to the city, he asked me on a walk through the village if I wanted to live there. Actually, he more or less made it a statement and framed it in a way I didn’t want to respond to at the time. Something like “I’d never want to live here, but you do.”
Looking down at the sidewalk (which isn’t a bad idea anyway in NYC) I mumbled some kind of incoherent response, not realizing that in eight months we’d be finished and I would be selling my things to make the move happen. Admitting I wanted to start a life in New York was like revealing I had a crush on my boyfriend’s asshole friend from high school. It was forbidden because he was terrible, but hard to deny because he was too sexy. Sometimes you just need to go with the quintessential bad boy.
Within months, I was finding myself reconnecting with men I had slept with or encountered in my time in New York as a visitor. Only now I had an apartment, and though it was in a basement somewhere in Queens with rodents, I truly didn’t seem to prevent myself from inviting men in to take advantage. Besides, I have a theory that my better hookups happen when I go to someone else’s place and can make an escape post-coitus or whenever I decide it’s over. So to have a less than desirable living space for myself meant that men typically would not have a hard time saying good night no matter how good I was, and I could have my bed to myself.
Following a few experiences of feeling embarrassed to host gentleman sex guests due to leaks in the almost-too-low ceiling and the occasional large mouse scurrying down the hallway, I decided to move out and get a real apartment. After all, the temporary space I had found was just to ensure I wasn’t sleeping under bridges instead.
I returned to business as usual by going home with men as opposed to them coming home with me. Sliding out in the night and catching a cab was more my calling card anyway, and I liked the control of being able to put the kibosh on the night whenever I felt like it. After accidentally falling asleep half an inch from a steaming radiator and waking up to a nose bleed somewhere in Brooklyn, I knew that sleeping around in New York even had it’s limits and I was better suited to seeking the concrete kind of life I had before I moved.
Now on my way out of NYC, I am finding the concrete life with men and a less shitty apartment isn’t easy to come by within these city limits. Maybe it will come next time around.
Not that I am nostalgic about the most revolting place I ever lived, but I am feeling nostalgic for the feeling of hope I had while shacked up there. I had yet to make mistakes in sleeping with men I now roll my eyes at. I was still in school and not sure what I would do when I got out. The hypothetical life, the career, the boyfriend all seemed like maybe they could happen at some point back then when I lived in what I thought was a cute kind of squalor. And it’s not that I feel like I failed in New York. I think I did well enough. I’ve just come to learn since that it’s actually normal to just barely stay afloat. So this is OK. Leaving is OK. I won’t live among mice again. And if I use my mistakes to improve upon my judgment, I will hopefully not find myself sleeping with a guy who keeps his bed so close to a radiator.
So, let’s be sure to let nostalgia not get the better of us, shall we?