New York Second

Leave Behind

Leave behind the dread and dreary city. Leave its cars and trains and buses, and the people, the mass, moving place to place and all arriving individually, and never arriving all at once. Leave behind you the construction and its cranes and the loud noises and the silent swoosh of the barricaded trees, lining alleyways and crammed into parks, into wide closed spaces.

X 42nd Street

X 42nd Street

Then, when you step off the platform in the countryside, and the sun is always low in the fall and the clouds are golden as the leaves, then you will have arrived. But you won’t stay. You can take yourself out of the city. You can take your things and your ideas and your present body out of its rumble and rage. But do not call this escape. Do not call this a stunt breakout, jumping a prison fence or abseiling yourself with strings made of hair or your own bedsheets. Call it by what it is, a temporary refuge. An attempt at heterotopia, not even utopia, because utopia implies a future, and a plan, and not just an in-between. Call the fields fields and the tall grass beautiful and not an obstruction, that’s when you’re halfway there. Call friends on the phone and share the pictures you just took of the castles in the distance and the ever flowing Rhine, and the green hills of earth, and you might feel like singing.

You remember that you can’t. That you’re just a city girl city boy city human made for the city by the city and of it. And your quick moment away from it all will mean that you’re once again aware of it, and at peace with it. Because you need peace from the hustle, and you need a view of a landscape that does not end at an intersection, even if the stop light is friendly and turns green without fail and delay at every request.

This is you now, and has been you all along, and there’s no need to apologize. There is grounds for recognition though. You have long packed a moving truck and arranged all your furniture in it and driven it across these same country roads from a city to a city, because it does not matter so much to you, or any of the other cave dwellers of the concrete jungle, which jungle you’re in and what is the language spoken and the food sold and the customs observed. You just need to be here, where there are others, so you can be full and well and good enough alone. You find community in its absence, and you find the most exciting thoughts in your mind. As if they had been there all the time and you were just happening across them, as if you were allowed to discover, half pith helmet and half ethnographer’s pencil, what was there. As if your mind was a castle of valuable sand that the national council on the research of the thing you need to know about had given you a grant of ten million money to sit and listen and watch, and first of all, travel. But the council has not because it does not like you and it abhors the fact that it does not exist, and so you wander on.

Shoes

Worn Soles

You trek with shoes you bought from a man standing in front of his shop and telling you to try the different sizes, and you paid in cash and walked off with them, their foamy cushion so comfortable under your soles, and the blisters that they gave you next to the big toes, were not so bad if you just kept walking, because your feet got used to the pavement underneath and the return of their necessity, after you’d sat behind that screen for so long, typing words and reading lines and crossing the former out and underlining the latter.

Once you’d made it up the mountain, you had sat there, and you had gazed, your eyes that once needed glasses to look into the distance because they were no longer accustomed to it, taking in the view quite naturally, their focus adjusting to a sharpness never before experienced. Your heart beat quickly but regularly, still excited from the ascent, and your mouth formed a smile in one corner. And then you just stood there and you looked, and you wanted to do so many things at once, to write home, to call, to make known that you were here, but you didn’t. You didn’t because you did not need to, and not needing to felt good.

You returned to your home and you breathed slowly now, and your eyes went back to looking at things up close, but the smile never quite faded until weeks later. And when you looked into the mirror and it had gone for good you looked for where you had stored those shoes and put them on and set off.

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