You move to New York, for any one of a million reasons.
You move because of that feeling in your gut that you just have to. You move to New York because you saw Fame when you were five.
Or you move to New York so you don’t end up married to your high school boyfriend, who is the kindest person you have ever known, and who bores you to tears.
You move to New York so you don’t have to spend the rest of your life watching him be a great husband, a great father, a great everything you never wanted and couldn’t tell anyone, anyone, or anyone.
You move to New York because your father or your brother or your childhood best friend has sneered faggot curled-lipped at you for the last time.
Or you move to New York because it worked out okay for a friend. Because you got a job there. Because it’s the only place you can do the thing you most love to do.
You move to New York because your spine can’t shake the drag of that class ring across your cheek, because you can get a good job and wear the right clothes and buy a cool car, but to them, you’ll still be weird or ugly or fat or loose.
You move to New York because it feels like the fucking apocalypse is coming, and, even in this nerfed-out post-Giuliani playground for tit-sucking rich kids, you know you’re better off here than anywhere else, because beneath the organic food stores and RayBans there is still a coat of dirt slicking everything and i mean everything. Because beneath the air-controlled condominium surface, at its crust, this city still has a heartbeat, and it isn’t afraid of the apocalypse because, hell, it’s BEEN the apocalypse. We’re even on good terms with the roaches.
You move to New York so you don’t have to listen to your mother catalogue all the ways you’re turning into a whore. You move to New York because you kind of like the idea of whoredom.
You move to New York because life is shit-scary and you’d rather be shit-scared here than anywhere else.
You move to New York to be proven wrong.
You move to New York because your family sucks, or because they’re perfect and that makes you feel like you suck.
You move to New York to study with people you just recently learned were REAL and not gods who dance up and down the spines of your favorite books.
You move to New York because it looked pretty damn good in the movies, or because you’re sick of having tampons ink-bled with red marker tied to the slats of your locker.
You move to New York because cutting or puking or getting trashed is the only thing that reminds you you’re alive. You move to New York because all you can think is
“What’s so bad about owning up to the fact that shit hurts?”
You move to New York because here you have reasons to hurt. You move to a city where everybody hurts, where the rent breaks your back and the girls AND the boys break your heart. You move to a city where a million people have drawn the same breath you took right there on that corner, where a thousand people have cried on that park bench you cried on after that big fight. And you’ll never know anything about any of those people, about who they were or why they cried or how they came to be sitting on that park bench like you. Hell, it’s New York, they might’ve been dating the same asshole you were.
But you’ll never know that. You’ll just know that you’re adrift and you’re in pain, but fuck, so’s half the city, and knowing that doesn’t stop it from hurting, but it does make the hot red buzz of it sting just a little less, doesn’t it?
And when your ass is numb from sitting wood-slatted and your eyes are puffy from ashamed-wiped tears, you’ll grab the huge satchel of shit you carry everywhere because you work three trains from home, and on your trudge to the F, you’ll see a homeless guy rocking himself to sleep in a doorway with what might be piss leaking from what might have been khakis and you’ll think it’s cold enough, he’ll probably die tonight if he doesn’t get indoors.
And maybe you’ll call 311, or maybe you won’t, but in either case, you’ll make it home eventually (even if the F is running on the G) and when you get there, you probably won’t do anything stupid like fall so deep down the rotten pit of your pain that you try to off yourself. And New York will be one of the reasons that doesn’t happen. Because this place is terrifying in its size and anonymity, but also in its possibility. Because whether you like it or not, it’s a new city on every corner, and what it was yesterday is not what it will be tomorrow, and living here, breathing here, walking here, this city forces you, day after day, to hold close two gems of knowledge: that life will go on, whether or not you choose to participate, and that there are things worth bracing against.
You move to New York because life is overwhelming and tough and confusing, and because here, you have a million chances to feel overwhelmed, to GET tough, to chip away at the confused.
You move to New York to live on top of strangers, to be uncomfortable and exhausted and challenged.
You move to New York because here, your deepest personal tragedy is a drop in a big filthy bucket full of tragedies. There’s one for every yellowgold rectangle lit up against a brownstone in the middle of the night. And your continued ability to breathe, to move, to get out of bed in the morning, it yanks you along and it denies you the luxury of wallowing, of standing still, because someone is getting on the subway car behind you, muttering and breathing cigarettestink on your neck, and someone else who’s younger and smarter and hungrier is vaulting towards your dream job, and your Metrocard has expired and you have to keep your shit together enough to fumble for change in your purse or you’re going to be stuck in Chinatown inhaling that fish rot smell til you die, or at least til it quits raining.
And even when your world is splintering around you, you cannot escape the inescapable here: that you are part of a wash, a thrum, a never-ending, everchanging stream of people. You cannot escape the fact that nothing here ever ends, really. People bicker on the street, film crews commandeer city blocks, taxi drivers crush their horns, the light at the top of the Empire State building flicks off at twelve-oh-four, glass shatters, a woman screams, the city breathes and the chorus of car alarms jolts us to sleep so we can wrestle through the next day of trying to make it, of working too hard, of cramming our things into too-tight spaces, of getting fired, of getting fucked, of getting pissed on, both literally and figuratively, and of shrugging it off, because this is worth fighting for, because the unbelievable can and does happen here, because the awful and the sublime not only coexist in this gorgeous grotesque metropolis, but they cohabitate, they bicker and raise voices and throw glasses and then they hatefuck until it turns into making up, and when they’re sticky and flushed and exhausted and starving, they go out to dinner, at Balthazar in flush times and Odessa in slim.
You move to New York because you know it is home, because you feel alive here without a razor blade pressed to your inner thigh or a toothbrush down your throat.
You move to New York because the city, like you, is always rising, rising, rising at the same time that it’s burning down.