Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New York is my ex

New York City is my looming ex. When I think of the city, my stomach jerks. I remember my many awful experiences being here. I think of the times that I have been stood up by the subway, the heinous buildings that I am reduced to live in; despite the fact that I lie to myself promising that the flooring and lack of ventilation won’t really be so bad.

As with many exes, after the feelings of contempt and anger fade, I remember all the wonderful things about New York. Picture Woody Allen’s cinematic black and white stills of the city-- the Lower East side in the morning, Central Park in the summer. I have of course, never experienced any of this; however, I cling to the advertisements with a fondness that I could never get from real place themselves. It is this artifical backdrop that I fucking love.

Comparing my versions of the city is like comparing my relationship with a schizophrenic. I admit that there are two different personalities, yet I cannot accept that they share the same face and name. I ask myself, why do I stay in a city that I acknowledge as vile? I do not know. I am in effect, a girlfriend in denial.

The odd part of this situation is, I am not just in denial about why I am in New York. I know that there are other people like me. There are handfuls of twenty-somethings are living around the city, complacent with the traffic, the bad apartments and their misery in this place. They are at the same time, reluctant to move away. We, the transplant generation, are in denial. We are in urban living denial. I wonder what is it about New York City that keeps us here.

Immediately, my own experience comes to mind. In truth, this is not my first time living in New York City. I first lived here, three years ago for a summer. It was the worst experience of my life. To begin with, the city resembled a Grecian bathhouse. Imagine shirtless hairy men and a stench from the sewers that would never leave. To make matters worse, I lived in yet another three floor-walk up apartment with bad central air.

The summer reached its climax when I discovered an abandoned cat left two buildings down. I didn’t know much about the owners. My only memory of them was that they had a “Buy Black” sticker on their front door. Dealing with a forlorn creature in a city where I felt alien, put me over the edge. I ended up having a weeklong break down, in which I spent most of my time crying in the corner of my apartment, rocking my girlfriend’s cat. Yeah, it was definitely a Carrie-esque finale. I ultimately had to be escorted out of the city because I could not ‘hack it’.

I eventually did return, or, well, was forced to return because of a lack of other options, and have grown to appreciate this place. I argue that, like coping with an ex, we temporary dwellers stay in the city because we need a kind of resolution. Many of us know that we don’t want to be in or with New York City forever; however, we stay, believing that it is important to remain here for the time being. Maybe we need to work at our jobs a little longer. Try something different. Be somebody else. We need a period of flux or transition; and the city, the ex, is here, while we decide what we are leaving this place for.

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