“God, I would miss New York.”
It’s a conversation we had often, in that little office 19 stories above the city streets, sipping our latest triple-shot, extra caramel foamy concoction. We would rebelliously neglect the ever-present ping of incoming emails to gaze out the windows and absorb. “It’s not going anywhere,” she finally announced in that perfectly blunt way of hers, “and neither are you” — a moment’s hesitation — “right?”
It was true; I had no plans to leave. Quite the opposite, really, I had a situation of which most city-dwellers can only dream. After four years of shelling out $900 a month for an Upper East Side basement room with a near-constant ceiling leak, the company I work for had set me up in a million-dollar luxury loft just across the river, in Hoboken.
I didn’t even mind not being in the city. The skyline was close enough to be a mural outside my window and my commute to work had actually shortened such to allow for an extra press of the snooze button here and there. Besides, who needed to sleep within the city’s borders when they spent their everyday in a reckless, sheet twisting, life affirming, love affair with her?
The caveat: This new apartment was not mine alone to call home. I had landed in a models’ apartment, my Den Mother title making my charges up to 12 twiggy 18 year olds all pushing 6’ and many speaking only broken English. Oh, what a glamorous life.
Because I didn’t have the heart to reprimand them — each wide-eyed and excited that their dream had bought them independence in the flashy city they had only seen in movies — dishes piled up, beds went unmade, boys were tentatively sneaked in at 2am when they thought I was long asleep. I laughed it off. I could relate, you know: I was only 25 — and yet those 7 years seemed to distance me in a way my half-assed title never could.
I was not 18. I was no longer an import fresh to the city, prime for marring with the ever-so-enlightening power yielded by New York alone. I was not 18. My innocence had long been flushed away and my once starry-eyes jaded by the experiences of a too-cold existence. I was not 18. I couldn’t charm my way past bouncers despite an obviously fake ID and drink with the gleeful abandon of a job well done. Opportunities were still many and freedoms still mine, but a responsible adult was slowly permeating my every fiber and no amount of fighting could dissuade her. I was not 18.
That, fall I began to realize that it was not some unfounded fear of being forced out of my city that swathed me in an occasional dark, twisted cloak of depression, but a fear of growing up. New York, in all its magical, inexplicable glory, represented youth. It was to she I turned to escape the rural Texas town of my upbringing. It was she who tempted me with her promises and bright lights, and she alone who had made good on each. Yet, my city and all of her charms were a constant, invasive reminder that I was aging out of many of the privileges she has to offer. I felt myself detaching and I was fighting like hell to hang on but, through my battle, I was only wearing myself out.
I am still here, and still without plans to leave, but as the thought creeps into my mind more and more frequently, I don’t feel such an urgent need to banish it. I would miss New York, just as I miss those college football games and summers that held no purpose but to waste them dreamily, but… perhaps… the west coast also holds some promise.