It took longer than I thought it would to sift through and decide the fate of my belongings. Most were trashed, carelessly tossed into a industrial-strength garbage bag and eventually carried down to the dumpster, while the others were assigned to a piece of luggage or one of three Uhaul boxes. At 1:00 AM on Saturday, I meticulously packed my tiny Volkswagen with everything that made the cut and went to bed. I left the city for the last time with that morning’s sunrise.
Oklahoma City to Manhattan is almost 1500 miles, which meant I had to stretch my trip into two days. I crossed Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana that first day, stopping in Indianapolis to watch the Thunder win game 4 before I slept. Sunday was an easier, more scenic drive through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania (I DROVE THROUGH A TUNNEL! FOUR OF THEM!), and New Jersey before I finally ended up in Harlem.
I’ve been a New Yorker for forty-eight hours.
Parking is an ungodly exercise in patience. It takes four different keys for me to get from the stoop to my tiny room. The elevator is so old that the door swings open, all stained linoleum and ancient scribbles. At dusk, telenovelas and Selena stream from behind the walls of every apartment on my floor as families return home. From my window I can see into theirs – a man bending down to release a toddler from her stroller, mothers slicing chicken into strips for a cast iron pot, school-aged children seated at a small formica table, homework ignored for the television. The sight of these families, nothing and everything like mine, pricks at the backs of my eyes. I miss my mama.
But I am falling for New York. The way the air smells like warm dryer sheets after everyone has showered. The eager men who rush to open the door for me and offer crooked smiles in response to my thanks. The en plein air markets littered along my block, the fruit and produce carts determined to save my waistline. The sound of teenagers chattering in a language I don’t recognize, stopping briefly to toss the crusts from their dollar slices into the trash.
It’s nothing like Oklahoma, but this time I won’t hold a grudge.