This — This Is What New York Is

Photo by Roxanne Earley
Photo by Roxanne Earley

New York is for the people.

It doesn’t bother to pretend as if it is for show. It thrusts itself out into the open. New York exposes itself in public and shouts wildly into the frigid night air, “use me!” So we do. We slither through its veins like opiates, coursings through the musculature that makes this living organism move. We beat, we pulse, we dance in the streets.

We slop around in our own mess- blood and piss, murder and sex. A writhing mass of limbs clawing up towards the sky. A burning pyre. If there were gods, they would have forsaken this place.

The people have made themselves the Gods of it. Shadowed faced, beneath purple and green pulsing lights, swathed in gossamer or satin- bejeweled bodies, fuzzy minds. The people rest in feather beds on high, not even realizing that they wallow in their own misery. Oblivious to their ignorance.

And still: It is endlessly, breathtakingly beautiful. It isn’t symmetrical. It isn’t well kept. It is messy, overgrown, and unruly. It is infested with rats and roaches, acid rain burns the leaves and the flowers. Polluted fathoms ark and deep-swirl all around, pouring from the mouths and bowels of the people.

Our brains leak out of our ears a little more with each passing day. It feels so good.

New York is for the Children.

It is the promise of a tomorrow. It is the hope of some kind of anything. New York gathers us all to her bosom and feeds us shiny, sugar-coated dreams. She sings the midnight lullaby of trains screeching through the tunnels and afternoon musicians in the park. She whispers stories of greatness.

New York tells us stories about her past. We walk with her, hand in hand, down the streets of our greatest heroes- be they icons or legends; real and invented. We can feel the ghost-steps of marches, of rallies, and riots. We can hear the people chanting. We can hear them changing the future, shifting the present into place.

New York is for the children. She raises us right and hopes we’ll do good by her when we get older.

New York is for the Students.

It is all dressed up with shirts and ties. Its college sweats and flip-flops. It’s dressed down during the day and dressed up at night.

New York is an all-nighter with any kind of takeout we could ever want. It’s shitty apartments, high rent, and struggling to find where we fit. This city is our daily education, leading us through the streets. It is a Mecca. It is a pariah.

Every part of the city has a school. Every school has a crowd. Every crowd has a love.

They all love New York.

New York is for the Living.

It is full of life. It is a testament to the unwavering power of the human spirit. It is always growing, ever upward and outward. Sometimes I wonder if New York is trying to take over the world.

New York basks in the daylight- it lays on its stomach and warms its back as the Hudson trickles by. It strolls through the parks with young lovers, and old friends. New York is the sound of children laughing and dogs barking.

New York is busy and productive, and it means well. It is daydreams and ambition moving through our bones. It is full of people who are so good, although they may struggle.

We are human, and we fall. But we are also living, and we can change.

New York is for the Dead.

It is the smoke filled parlors where the greatest figures used to muse. It is the parks that were lit by gas lamps. It is the docks where hardened men would work their sinewy muscles, the elevated train platforms standing silent watch over Time’s endless march. It is the speakeasies and the newsboys, the nickel fares, and the grand theatres.

New York is cemeteries beneath overpasses and next to hotels. It is the clash of the modern and the old; streetcars and horses- tenements and fifth avenue mansions. It is built up, burned down, and built up again. It is created.

The streets are filled with the ghosts of the past, watching us. Waiting for another generation to join them. To keep watching this place progress, digress, regress, redress, renew.

New York is for Me.

New York is for me. It is sweet anonymity and late nights. Its bare skin and soft sheets. It is a place where I can sort through all of the colors and peel back the layers of paint. I can do or be or say exactly what I want. I can decide on what to do without feeling torn. I can shine on my own. Nobody else needs to take care of me. Nobody else can.

It is a place where I have figured myself out. It is where I am. It is where I know what I want, and I am willing to wait for it.

It is beautiful. It is ugly. It breathes in and out and whistles in the sunshine, while it moans in the rain.

New York is for You.

New York is the hard-work of the newly arrived. It is the soft mouth and tender breast of a mother. It is the wide eyes and infectious smile of a child. It is the way a family is connected together: between boroughs or continents. It is 8 million voices, languages, and religions vibrating together in a constant chord. It is a color we cannot even describe.

It is all of the people that make it. It is a vast and endless confined in an impossibly small space. It is the Apple that fell on Newtons’ head, drawing them in with a gravitational pull that is hypnotic. New York is made up of the real.

It is where you can figure yourself out. Sure, you can do that elsewhere. That place will be your New York. New York is not for everyone, but the way it moves a person can be.

It is the people who are themselves that make it what it is. It is short and tall, fat and thin, graceful and clumsy, it is every single color and creed. It has work to do. It has goals. It bleeds.

It is everything.

It is nothing.

It is what it is because of what you make it.

New York?

It is for you. TC mark

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This post originally appeared here.

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