“A city so nice, you have to say it twice.” I know, I know, I stole that from Letterman. But seriously, say it with me: New York *deep inhale* New York *long exhale*. There’s just something about this city that both fills your lungs with glorious, energizing, buzzing life and sharply takes your breath away with humbling, awe-inspiring admiration at the same time. My friends and family know that I never refer to NYC as “It”, but rather as “She”, because the ongoing personal relationship I forged with her back in 2007 has been nothing less than intimate, transformative, loving, spiritual, at times tumultuous, but always constructive, and to refer to her as an inanimate object or a mere thing would be irreverent and point-blank treason in my eyes. I had gone through so much during the 5+ years that I lived there throughout my twenties: growing strong, learning forgiveness and humility, letting go of anger and guilt, looking forward with faith, living each day with joy and love, and taking every step with confidence. She held my hand and guided me along our journey at each and every turn, offering endless encouragement, the perfect mix of tough and tender, preparing and equipping me to eventually say farewell and set off to sail the world.
When I said Au Revoir to her, I didn’t actually mean the literal doomsday “until God we meet again” goodbye, but a more temporary, “you’re perfect, I love you and will be thinking of you, hold tight, kiss the air” see ya soon. And then a year of exotic travels, amazing new friends, love affairs, delicious eats, dancing in the streets, plane, train, yacht, tuk-tuk, and speedboat adventures flew by. I was all mixed emotions when what seemed jarringly sudden, I found myself hectically packing up all of my belongings to board another flight… back to where I started. New York *gasp* New York.
It’s not that I had forgotten about her or that I didn’t want to see her again, it’s just, I had forgotten what she felt like, her scent, her sparkle. What had, just one short year ago, been so intense and so intimate, was suddenly difficult to even conjure up. I was embarrassed and confused. “But I’m so loyal,” I pleaded with myself. For someone who heavily prides herself in her fidelity, I was shocked to be confronted by these hazy memories of her distant regards and vague smells. Can it be that this past year has sculpted and changed me to the point where I’ve outgrown her? Will I recognize her? Will she recognize me???
In hindsight, I see that this reaction was perhaps a bit melodramatic, and in all honesty had only lasted maybe 13 seconds at most, immediately replaced by the elation and excitement that my impending return home induced. So with a hop in my step, the following day I boarded my flight back from Paris’ CDG to NYC’s JFK and enjoyed the ride.
It took only 20 hours to get back into the full swing of things once I landed. These first few hours were obviously spent contending with cranky travelers, aggressive taxi-drivers, late-summer hot sticky humidity, torrential rains, and inevitable jetlag, but after I got my initial embarrassing “bonjours” and “pardons” out of the way (because how freakin’ WEIRD it is to have EVERYONE speak English), I got a good night’s rest and woke up with a giddy smile on my face. We were reunited, and it felt oh-so good.
Walking down Park Avenue from 95th Street to 51st was a much-welcomed haven of smiling doormen greeting me with warm “good morning’s” and “have nice day’s”. People bustled, dogs barked, children giggled. The gigantesque glass skyscrapers seemed to envelope me with their tall bodies, hugging me, welcoming me home. The energy from the long avenue and buzzing cross-streets zapped away my fatigue and filled me with positivity and exuberance. I saw my former co-workers and bosses, dined and went out nightly with my bestest friends, attended a Yankee game and two Broadway shows (Forever Tango and Newsies), down-dogged in daily yoga classes, and soaked up every second of the sunny two weeks I spent traipsing around Manhattan. I felt silly for having doubted her. Because here we were, picking up the pieces right where we left off: telling stories, catching up, refueling, and falling back in love all over again. So when I finally told her that I wouldn’t be staying long, that I still had business to attend, and that my next adventure would be Down Under, she just smiled softly, gave me a squeeze, and looked away. I’m sure out there on those streets, there was a young twenty-three year old girl, calling for help, and as she once did for me, she would be there for her too, forever guiding, forever encouraging, forever loving. Besides, she knows I’ll be back.