island on the island

The sun shines in a different way in this city packed with eight million souls all living outdoors. Summer time in Oklahoma is spent in shady backyards or underneath central air conditioning, people venturing out for barbecue and popsicles only once the sun has started to set. New York lives every day outside. Everyone belongs here even if they don’t anywhere else.

You can accomplish any goal in New York as long as you still have the strength to reach. Moving 1500 miles away was easy; dealing with the aftermath from the people I thought loved me is the hard part. I shoulder the stabbing comments and the even worse silence. Nothing can break me, I remind myself. But the negativity is slowly wearing me away and today I am just a shell. The things that mattered, don’t.

Slumped against the peeling walls around the elevator, I hear a thump, and then a scream. Another quick set of thuds come from behind these too-thin walls before I turn up the volume in my headphones. Nothing is important today.

A group of boys holding sticks circles an orange iguana. The lizard looks up from the pavement and then at me, as if it realizes time is running out. I walk faster.

In the park, a boy emerges from thick, still rustling bushes and moments later a girl follows, tugging at her jeans. A woman the color of coal pushes a blanketed baby past, a yogurt covered toddler yipping at her ankles in Spanish. A few feet away, children still in school uniform tease one another until one girl, stoic up to that moment, sits on the edge of a slide and quietly folds into tears. I watch the others surround her with apologies. “We didn’t mean it”, a boy stammers, shoving his hands into his pockets and looking decently embarrassed. “It was just words.”