There’s this question that when anybody finds out that I lived in the greatest city in the world (New York City, duh!) asks me. “Will you ever go back?” The responsible, adult answer is “Yes, but…”
Yes, but it’ll have to be for just the right reasons. Yes, but it’ll have to allow me to live like I live in Iowa. Yes, but it’ll have to be for my dream career… and only a career. Yes, but it will have to be the best decision for all of my family at that time… be it a husband, serious boyfriend, a child, children. This is my responsible side answering out loud, but in my heart…
I’m screaming, “Yes yes yes, tomorrow!” I’ve been in withdrawal. Now, I’ve never been into drugs, but I have been in love so I know what addiction is. The good kind of addiction where you absorb every drop (like a Sham-Wow) of his personality, his sense of humor, his beauty, his eyes, his half smile, his entire smile, his stable feet, his big arms, his entire being. Then one day it’s over. It’s gone; taken from you before you can breathe in his cologne once more to make a memory… even though your nose has memorized it for months. Your eyes seep more than you thought was humanly possible and you get pissed when the cheap store-brand tissues break in your hand; enough is breaking already. You read his last texts for hints that this is a joke or that you could have seen it coming. But there’s nothing new. You refuse to wash your bed sheets and pillow cases because they still smell like him. You go temporarily insane, nagging at easy targets, screaming at traffic, and lashing out at horrible television drama plots. You’re late for work and it’s his fault, even though you haven’t seen him in days. Your heart is a sodden, poor excuse for a muscle because a muscle is tough and gives you strength and just as you are thinking this you yell out, “liar!” in the middle of dinner. You’re in withdrawal.
But when you encounter a city that entertains you all night long, that can be your company on your loneliest days, that can surprise, shock, and tempt you all in the same 24-hours, that only loves you more than you love it, you know you’re having the love affair of your dreams. All of a sudden that man in your life becomes second best. You mute his ringing apologies because there is just too good of a street band playing. They flip and your heart flips. You space off and forget text messages from him for the holiday lights at Rockefeller. The city is just like having the perfect man, except you can’t hold its hand. Plus, how can you hold his hand when you are fighting a million people at once among crazies and sketchy Elmo impersonators? Your city sets the world at your fingertips; it greets you with diversity and introduces you to the best of everything, including fine dining and street dining, a chatty taxi driver and the one you want to punch, and the greatest friends who you would never have known existed without it. Your love affair couldn’t be more potent (and I’m not talking about the sour steaming holes on the streets) or worth it. But with all love (so far in life) comes heartbreak.
When I moved to Manhattan in June 2010, I was single. I was finally over the Midwestern man who selfishly stole from me. He had abused my heart for many-a-months and my mental status was always day-to-day. He threw me for the loopiest loop I’ve ever experienced. Roller coaster’s tracks would break trying to compare. I let him throw me because I loved him. You all know that feeling… love, the human kind. It’s hard-core.
But when you fall in love with a city like New York, you say it’s love because everybody will forever say “I ❤ NY,” right? And you know because you own a t-shirt proving it, right? I have one too and I lived there for 13 months. It wasn’t as much of a souvenir as a little part of the city I called home. When you wear your t-shirt from your weekend visit or week-long stint, do you long for its smell, kind of like your ex’s borrowed pillow that rests next to yours? Does your heart burn like that first week with Mr. Could-Have-Been-Right? Does your stomach get butterflies? Mine does.
I left in July 2011 and for the first three months I suffered like an addict in rehab. I was crying at a drop of a scene from David Letterman. I was crying watching Gossip Girl reruns on Monday nights alone in my new, one-person, no-roommate apartment. I was screaming and honking my horn at kind, law-abiding Iowa citizens. I was twisting my words and searching the yellow pages for New York pizza. I was hoping for this departure to be a joke even though I left on my terms. I cried before bed and every morning waking up to the quietest and darkest outside in the world; I may as well have been on Pluto (Yes, the nonexistent planet). I woke up from dreams in Tribeca dancing in my favorite club. I stared lacklusterly at the pictures in my living room I dubbed my NYC room. I was in withdrawal, utterly lost. So I put on that shirt.
That was shirt like putting on my ex-boyfriend’s old baseball shirt. New York gave me that shirt. It was a gift. And I’m sure if I could dress Manhattan, I’d give it a shirt that reads, “I ❤ Jenn” and it’d wear it with honesty. Because New York loves me too. The difference between an ex-boyfriend and an ended love affair with New York City is simple: New York will take me back in a heartbeat and as far as my ex goes, he can kiss my butt… okay! my ass! (Censorship, psh.)
So yes, I’d go back to New York tomorrow because no heartache will keep me from the city that would take me back with liberty to be myself. Logic might, but then again that’s always been my downfall in relationships. The city loves me for who I am and will forever give me its all. That love affair has topped any man I’ve ever loved. Mr. (human) Right, you’ve got big shoes to fill. Try 8 million.