When I first moved to New York, I had a skin graft on my arm so I wore long sleeves every day to cover it up. It didn’t pose much of a problem until it became summer. Then I just looked like an idiot who didn’t know how to dress appropriately for the weather.
When I first moved to New York, I had to go to hand rehabilitation on 34th and 2nd three times a week. I liked my hand therapist. She was a no-nonsense woman named Pat from Long Island. In the two and a half years I went to see her, we became very close. I saw her as a sort of maternal figure which was something I needed in the beginning. Actually, it’s something I still need now.
When I first moved to New York, I ended things with the only friend I had in the city and subsequently had no social life. Sometimes I would walk to Murray Hill from my dorm in the East Village and do homework at the Borders on 2nd Avenue. Other times I would go uptown and just walk for blocks and blocks, taking in the city that was going to be my home for at least the next two years. It was cold. It was snowing. It was the first winter I had ever experienced and it was extraordinarily lonely. When I finally met someone who I knew would be a lifelong friend, I jumped for joy. The first time I slept over at her apartment in Bed-Stuy, I felt like I was building a real life here. Creating connections, laying the foundation, and carving out a place for myself. There’s something so comforting about a friendship sleepover.
When I first moved to New York, I lived with three strangers, only one of whom I ended up getting to know, and that’s because my other roommates were terrifying. One of them never left his room and when he did, he’d walk around in a ratty robe and eat Cheese Puffs. The other one was a closeted homosexual. I really wasn’t given much to work with there.
When I first moved to New York, I was 21 years old and looked so young. I see the pictures from back then and wince. The city has aged me. It ages everybody but it feels especially personal because IT HAPPENED TO ME. I’m convinced that certain days I’ve experienced since living here have singlehandedly aged me two years. They’ve had to.
When I first moved to New York, I drank too much. I used to go to Dallas BBQ and drink two of those Texas-style margaritas and chase them with a Vicodin. Yes, I was foolish. Yes, I was reckless. No, I’m not particularly proud of myself. I felt like it was my job to be that asshole eating drunk pizza at 4 a.m. in the Lower East Side.
Eventually I moved out of the dorms and into a studio apartment. Eventually I made real friends and stop drinking so much and no longer went to the Borders on Second Avenue and wore tank tops during the summer because, screw it, my skin graft had turned into a scar! I knew which blocks were the prettiest to walk down and said good-bye to a lot of friends that I thought would be with me forever, and said hello to some new ones. I traveled to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, which made me realize that I was living on a coast full of other states — some of which only took a few hours to drive through.
It didn’t have to be New York though. It could’ve been anywhere. This could’ve been your story. This is your story. Because what I’m talking about here is universal. What I’m talking about is a very specific moment in which you feel change enter your bones and create a kind of brain freeze sensation. You are no longer that person who walked alone. You are no longer that person who looks too young for their age. Everything is different now. There are stories. People have seen you naked.
Like with everything else, it’s bittersweet. I met someone the other day who had just recently moved to the city and I felt jealous because I wanted to be in her position. I wanted to be a person who didn’t have any stories yet and was willing to travel an hour on the subway to some silly house party and could still drink a lot without feeling the consequences and had never had someone see her naked before, at least not in this city.
But then I remembered the loneliness that comes with that feeling of being new, the uncertainty that casts a shadow over you EVERY SINGLE DAY, and I thought, “Meh, I’d rather have been around the block than be the new kid on the block. Let New York screw her for the first time. You couldn’t pay me to relive that pain again!”