I love New York City like a child loves a carnival. I await a trip there bouncing with anticipation and giddy elation. The second I arrive, I stare in wide eyed wonder at every little thing, trying to soak it in through my pores. I want every thing! I want to see every person, giggle at every freak, smell every aroma, eat every deep fried delicacy, get caught staring at lovers in dark corners, and tilt the whirl on every single wild ride. When it’s over though, and I’m out of tokens and tickets and pocket money, I’m glad to go home–hungover and ashamed at how much I ate and how flagrantly I overdid it–the fairground walk of shame.
Living in New York City would be like sleeping over at the fair. In the crowds and bustle of my temporary frenzy, I usually don’t notice how dirty the pathways are, how crooked and scary the carnies, how rickety and rusty the rides, but after dark, when it’s not just fun and games, I don’t really want to revel in the aftermath of every one else’s fun. The romance of the food, once so bright and appetizing, is an acrid burp when the streets are lined overnight with overstuffed garbage bags. The spinning streets turn from Valhalla to vertigo in a blurry moment when the empty comfort of a hotel room pales in comparison to the warmth of your own bed.
A Manhattan morning shows my alienness acutely. The fairgrounds give way to a fast moving stream of slash marks. Slender ebony-clad workers whisk by expressionless. You can tell that I am one apart. It’s the smiling, the eye contact, the general sunshine that comes from my pores–I’ve stayed too long at the revelry and my fresh faced friendliness, a welcome giggle in the whorl of the night, is an irritating dam in the flow of the everyday here so I seek refuge in the quarters of the city that have been set aside for visitors like me–with the art that loves me unconditionally, the landmarks who are impervious to my foreignness, and the cafes who grudgingly offer me a window seat for rude gawking.
When I’m home, all of my memories are fond, but this city will never rank among the ones where ‘strangers are always welcome’ or where everyone feels at home and I think that New York is alright with that. And so am I.