I crave city noise, sometimes. I kind of like it when I hear sirens, not because I want trouble, but because I know the neighborhood is alive. The neighborhood is awake. I don’t mind falling asleep to the sounds of rowdy kids, walking the streets and yelling obscenities. I don’t mind hearing cars honk incessantly as traffic accumulates. These city sounds let me know that I’m not the only one who isn’t in dream land just yet. These city sounds keep me company; they’re an antidote to overthinking spells; they’re an antidote to the potential loneliness that can manifest after midnight.
Until I was 10 years-old, I lived on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Our apartment building had a green awning in the front. This is how I distinguished it from the other buildings; ours had that trademark green awning. Nowadays, people remark how I didn’t really grow up in Brooklyn since my preteen and adolescent years were spent in the suburbs, but I simply look at them and say, “No, I really did.”
In our Syrian Jewish community, orthodox families walked to synagogue for services and religious holidays. Small children held onto their parents’ hands as they crossed the street with a sense of purpose rooted in ritual. Shoppers roamed Kings Highway and other avenues, walking in and out of Chinese and Russian storefronts, Middle Eastern grocers, and Eliyahu’s Pharmacy. Sidewalks were often congested, but I never minded having people nearby.
The subway tended to be off limits unless I was riding with an adult present. It’s a different world, my mom would say. In fifth grade, my friend had a birthday party at the Botanic Garden and a few of us girls rode the trains, along with her parents, across Brooklyn. I was never interested in cars or driving, but I liked riding along the tracks to get from Point A to Point B. I liked hearing the train rumble as it sped towards and away from the station.
In fifth grade, I found out that we were officially moving to Long Island. Part of me eagerly anticipated living in a house with a staircase and a grassy backyard. Yet, I was also overcome with worry about leaving the only place I’ve known. I was 10 years-old when I was diagnosed with chronic heartburn due to stress.
Nostalgia isn’t black and white. It’s not Brooklyn, good; Long Island, bad. In Long Island, I forged new connections. I grew threw my teens. I faced some pretty serious challenges. I fell in love. I endured heartbreaks. I fell in love again. And I’m still growing; I still have painful lessons to learn and transcend. And while change may be mixed, while change may be infused with bittersweet embers, I would not mind listening to the sounds of a city again. I would not mind at all.