New York is half theory, half harsh realism. It is, like most of this great American experiment, symbolic and we feed off of its significance. These bright lights and inner idealism juxtaposed with its gritty resolve and “to-hell-with-it” attitude complete the paradox of the American dream: simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. This is not to mythologize the city or drool over its glimmering façade like a bumbling tourist. I come here namely to disappear, lessen the weight of my “being” by slipping into the nameless crowd. I relish that am a “nobody,” and wear it like a badge of honor.
What do you hold onto, and what are you willing to lose, to risk? I wanted back my glowing forms abounding and went searching for them. I watch the egalitarian morning light creep through the decaying subway platform, and it feels nostalgic. Alone, I find myself wandering the halls of museums like an addict desperate for poignancy in a way that only a city can infect. It is like the painting I hovered in front of at the MoMA. Dripping in bright, near neon colors, the woman looks distant and unappeased. I feel the colors, and they are heavy. I will not trade this saturation for stability but the temptation remains. Let me drown in the beauty.
I find New York best navigated alone, not in loneliness but hopefulness. I count the meter and rhythm of my steps amid the turning leaves of Central Park, feeling the measured gait of my leather boots as they tap cobblestone. There is something about moving your body, controlled and graceful at the rarest times, in the poetics of public spaces, thinking of Bachelard, thinking about all the thoughts that our bodies are capable of holding simultaneously. Thinking, in the least cliche manner I can, of how we are chock full of the multitudes of memories. Sometimes, “aloneness” can be a synonym for “deliciousness” or “deepness” or “I am just fine and let me show you.” I sit on the worn stools of the “1860’s French” decorated bar in Williamsburg alone and ravenously tilt oyster shells towards my mouth; I slowly suck the leftover ocean brine from the shells and savor the taste of the sea mixed with lemon and horseradish. I take a sip from the cocktail before me and hint a smile with the edges of my lips. It tastes just as good alone as it does in pairs. Alone in the city affords the ability to turn inward for affirmation and to be delivered from constantly counting the abacus of other’s desire for you. For a moment, I did not care.
In the end, a city is only a conglomerate of communities and steel and the symbolism we inject into it. My friend from Brooklyn and I lodge ourselves into the crevices of the pullout couch and sip bierzo from stemless wine glasses. We are at the point where the ethereal feeling begins to set in. The conversation is quiet and aimless; it wanders like the thoughts that tread their way across our minds. We need nothing from each other and, yet, the other’s presence is invaluable. These tiny gifts of solitude secretly saunter in and out, and we reach for them as they pass by.