More than almost anything else, moving to New York has made me reflect on the moments of my life that seemed unimportant when they happened, but have stayed with me regardless. Although I left home right after high school, it turns out that I really needed to move completely away from family and lifelong friends to figure out what I want and why I am.
I grew up in a small yellow house that sat on cinder blocks and looked identical to every other home on the block. My brother and I, 18 months apart and with faces just alike, spent summers together and indoors since our mother didn’t know any of the neighbors enough to trust them with us. Most days we crept around the hardwood floors as quietly as two bored children can and tried to sneak cold hot dogs out of the refrigerator without Mama noticing. It was too hot to go outside until our father came home from work, so around 5:00 every afternoon we’d drape ourselves across a loveseat and count down until we heard Daddy’s car in the driveway. Stalled in front of the television with beer and cigarettes, my dad usually stayed in the living room once he got home while the three of us finally ventured outdoors and padded around slowly on the warm neighborhood sidewalks.
Two days ago I trudged through Flatiron in cheap flats that were not made for these streets and a spirit just about ready to break. Walking hasn’t been a habit since I was young and skipped over the cracks in the evening pavement in every effort to not break my adjacent mother’s back. But the air here doesn’t smell like my mama and so I turn mean, huffing at tourists to move and rolling my eyes at couples strolling idly by. I stop at a produce cart for bananas and as I give the bright eyed attendant a dollar, my eye catches a small boy trying to catch up with the long strides of his inattentive father. My mind flashes back to just a few days after my move.
“I can feel it”, I said, struggling to catch up as my taller friends traipsed ahead on the busy sidewalk. “This city is going to change me.”
Without turning around, one tossed back a quick reply. “Don’t let it.”