It was a warm late summer night. We sat on my building stoop, lost in our own thoughts while taking in the street chatter – the locals wandering past; the cars idling, then accelerating; the sirens wailing.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done this,” I said.
“Done what?” he asked.
“This. Just sitting here.”
“Really?” He was incredulous. “It’s calming. You get to know your neighborhood better.”
We lapsed back into silence.
Growing up in a bubble of Los Angeles suburbia, and then moving to another bubble of a college town, I never really gave much thought to sitting on stoops. Moving to New York City, I had, once or twice, entertained whiling away some time on brownstone steps…innocently in Manhattan’s West Village or Upper East Side perhaps, but never in Brooklyn… or specifically, Bushwick. I still remember the culture shock I underwent when I first arrived with my bags and cat in tow. It was nighttime. I took a car service. We passed through eerie graffiti-stained walls after graffiti-stained walls, ghostly run-down buildings after run-down buildings. Garbage. Hooded figures. Sirens. Noise. From lush manicured lawns, open clean roads and huge Tuscan-inspired homes under the Southern California sun to this grimy, intimidating scene, I was immediately unnerved, and I started counting down the days until I could move across the river to what I assumed would be nice parts of Manhattan, onto streets where I was more familiar with thanks to shows like Friends and Sex and the City.
I never even gave Brooklyn a chance.
The next few weeks were spent agonizing to family back at home via phone. I knew no one in the city, and I felt completely out of place. But soon weeks turned into months, new friends were made, he floated into my life as a happy accident, and perspectives shifted shortly after that. The conversation on my stoop stayed with me. Once I stopped rejecting Bushwick and Brooklyn and started embracing the unique elements, I found it to be surprisingly relaxing yet invigorating, but, most of all, welcoming. Full of deep-rooted personality and endless artistic exploration, it oddly offered me a sense of place within the broader context of the world. And with someone like him to explore the sights and sounds, the place really finally felt like home.
I never sat on my stoop again, and after a few months of enjoying each other’s company and discovering the hidden beauty of our shared neighborhood, we eventually accepted that all the logic in the world defied our “what if’s,” and so we parted ways with heavy hearts, back to running on parallel tracks in this world of temporary. But I often think back to that warm late summer night. It’s fascinating, really when you encounter someone who leaves an imprint on you so deep that even the smallest trigger – a song title, a film, a name, a scent – will engulf you without warning in a tidal wave of emotions. Sometimes the faintest smile will twitch at the corners of your lips for the memories, but most of the time, you may just ache for what could’ve been. You’ll dwell on those feelings like self-inflicted torture, compulsively re-opening wounds and refusing to let them heal. But eventually, as you realize some of the best things that wander into your life aren’t meant to stay for good, those relentless stabs of pain will evolve into occasional dull prods against scar tissues on your heart. Like atoms in black space, you both will spin off in vastly different directions, never to see each other again, and although the triggers will diminish and some memories will fade like ghosts from a previous life, a piece of that person will stay engraved on your being forever. But if people truly enter each other’s lives for a reason, all I can hope is that I left some magic on his heart as well, whatever that magic may be.