Aside from bagels, the statue of Liberty and Sarah Jessica Parker’s foot face (have you ever stopped to consider just how much her face looks like a foot? I mean, seriously?) the street cry is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of New York City. In fact, some would go as far as to say that you’re not a real New Yorker until you’ve had a good street cry—so I suppose if nothing else, at least I’m officially in the club (please note the difference between being in ‘the’ club and being in ‘da’ club i.e. ‘now I am in the club’ vs. ‘Chris Brown is in da club’).
Every seasoned New Yorker has at one point or another been witness to a street cry—the howl of a desperate human who has replaced shame and embarrassment with loud, uncontrollable sobbing. Maybe they’ll rush past you in the street, mascara smeared cheeks wet with tears, or maybe they’ll sit next to you on the subway, shoulders convulsing and snot dripping rhythmically into their lap. These people are so caught up in their own crippling misery—in that divine moment when New York finally broke them—that they don’t even care how idiotic they look gasping for breath and drooling onto their collar like a small child who’s just been told that no, you can’t watch Finding Nemo again, now brush your teeth and go to bed.
Now, I’ve been through my share of difficult ordeals in New York—I’ve been jobless, homesick, down to my last dollar, lonely, scared, lost in the streets, sick, broken hearted and stuck in a blizzard—and I’d not once cried in private, let alone in public. There was one time when I was in Walgreens on Christmas Eve and as I was walking out the security guard yelled “God bless you and Merry Christmas!” at which point I welled up and let a tear or two roll down my cheek, but I had my period then so it doesn’t really count (insert period joke here, blah blah, isn’t it so crazy how women bleed out of their vaginas? Like, men just don’t get it HAHAHA LOL).
But there was one special day where I truly popped the proverbial street cry cherry, complete with heartfelt sobbing, mascara running, convulsive abandon. And the worst part was, nothing had really even happened. I had woken up feeling really sick with a runny nose and chest cough, gotten ready for work, traipsed all the way to the city only to find out my shift had been cancelled and that they’d accidentally called the wrong girl (God damned fucking Katarina. Get your own name bitch), so I could just turn my little toosh around and go home, thanks. On top of that, they couldn’t find my checks from the past two weeks (firstly, who still uses checks? Are you Don Draper? Didn’t fucking think so. And secondly, why do they spell it ‘checks’? What the hell is wrong with America?) and I waited around looking like a total tool for about half an hour before being told that I’d have to wait even longer for my pay.
I walked out of the building and immediately burst into tears in the middle of the street. I know what you’re thinking—”man up bitch”—but my tears weren’t really about the scene that had unfolded at work or my illness—hell I was happy just to have the day off! I was crying because in a very rare moment I felt vulnerable, alone, and missed my mum more than I like Bruce Willis, which is a lot. And even though it was a very tiny little kick, New York had, as it often does, kicked me when I was down, and I think I just finally cracked. I hadn’t cried properly in months, that gut wrenching, soul crunching cry that comes from somewhere deep inside that doesn’t necessarily signify sadness or melancholy, but just a completely overwhelming sense of frustration and desire for release.
So I cried. I walked down Lafayette St in the middle of Manhattan and I cried. I cried all the way to the subway. I cried with everything I had inside me. I didn’t care that people were staring—there was something so necessary about that cry, and when I finally came to my senses I found myself standing on a corner in Astor Place feeling nothing but a complete sense of weightlessness; relief. I had just purged myself of all the negative energy pent up inside me and I didn’t feel ashamed that I had done it in public because it wouldn’t have been the same if I was alone. It was the city that had made me cry, the city that I needed to cry at, and the city that I needed to comfort me. In the end, it was a refreshingly cathartic experience.
And it was as I was standing on the corner finding my emotional bearings that the city cut me a break. A small French woman approached me with a grin and an outstretched map, pointing and asking for directions to Washington Square Park. Dragging myself back to reality, I pointed her in the right direction. As she walked away I watched her for a while and I felt alright. I knew where I was going and I knew how to get there. I was becoming part of the city and the city was becoming a part of me. I smiled and had the thought I always have when I come back up from feeling down; that John McClane jumped off the top of Nakatomi Plaza attached to nothing but a fire hose and almost died, but everything still turned out OK in the end.