Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.
* For D*
The last time we were in Hoboken a place you called ” New York’s ugly step sister” . We walked so close to the river, lay our hands down on the rusted railings, shuffling them back and forth, feeling our palms smoothen at the touch of flaky metal. We spent time staring at New York city in the distance. At that moment I knew what it felt like to be someone peripheral. On the edge of something great, but not truly experiencing it. This was the running joke here in New Jersey, how we were so angry because we were so close to the big apple, and yet we could not reach her. The city looked beautiful and quiet, its numerous lights reflecting on the Hudson river. A comforting lie it was, to stare at her and know that this was a mirage, a falsity. I knew that as soon as we hopped out of the Newport street station PATH on our way to 33rd street, the lie would become a memory. Nothing about her was as pure from the Hoboken or Jersey City vantage point. There was no innocence here in New York. Everyone here was a Samson, and the city was Delilah masquerading as a woman pure at heart. But when you slept at night, she crept up on you , seduced your will with stealth and cut off your strength.
We picked up stray stones and tossed them into the river, yelling at each other over whose ripples were the farthest. Whose ripples were the farthest… between the both of us, who had made more of an impact.. My reliance on you had exceeded outings, concerts and TV show reflections. It was now a codependency for intellectual sustenance. I had not known anyone who read and experienced so much, that I clung to you as a source. I could call at 3am to talk about the random dream I had the other day, and you could tell me shit about Freud or Jung and how they would interpret it. On the day I had bumped into you at a house party on Lewis Street, we sat on a stranger’s kitchen counter, amidst red cups ,strobe lights and pita chips , talking about how we wanted to scratch our names into the fabric of the world. It was ambition, motivation and a desire to live that made us friends. We wanted to be somebodies.We still did, but like everything else , the time was different . You were now teaching me how to detach.
” Look at her…., such a tease, so inviting, and when you get there it’s a fucking emotional roller coaster” you said gesturing towards the city like it was a magic show. My teeth were chattering. It was so cold, and after drinking at the bar, you with your blue moons and me with gin and tonics watching you comically articulate your thoughts as you tried to straddle between the blurred lines of drunk and sober. We walked as far as our legs could carry, huddled under jackets and woolen scarves. I suggested that we watch the New York City lights from the park benches.
” I’m no longer infatuated with New York” I say. ” She doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is, people come here with too many expectations. There’s this quote by some guy who says Woody Allen makes manhattan look too easy, he was right”. I can see your eyes lingering on the horizon. “Sucks though… cause im moving, i’m really going to miss this place… the east coast.. I always thought I would live my life here in New York or Boston.” you say slyly. You had never talked about moving before , to me, to anyone, I could feel my brow crease.
“wait what?..your moving where?” I stutter. My mind is racing fast now, I have already begun to imagine a life where you are not there, and what it would mean for our other friends, to repair a group dynamic that was already suffering at the hands of life and responsibility.
” I want to further myself you know, do the things I have always wanted to do.. Im ready to move on . Plus I got into physical theraphy school in Texas .” You reply.
” Dude Texas? seriously ?”I ask. It was difficult to imagine him , who liked to walk on the Brooklyn bridge late at night , eating Japanese in the East Village, sitting on park benches complaining about the city heat in the summer, walking into book stores in Chelsea and spending $40 on books he would never read, moving to Texas.
” Yeah man… seriously.. Austin to be precise, I hear it’s a great place to be at our age” You were about to go on and on about this new place you were going to move to.But I had to stop you.
” It’s New York, we knew what we signed up for, at least you did when you moved to Brooklyn!!” I shriek. We were both leaning so close to the railing now, I could see our dark reflections on the water surface. Every ripple from the stones we threw changed our shadows into beautiful and grotesque like figures. It was so easy to be something else when the tide turned, I felt myself becoming extremely annoyed with you.
” You’re going against the plan D”
” You know that is some college shit we made up, there is no plan!” You reply.
” You only say that because you have one foot in New Jersey and one foot in the city, you’re like one of those wall street guys, you’ve worked here so much that’s its a part of you, but you have no deeper allegiance because you can leave when you want.” His words hurt, but they were true. I had never really put both feet in New York. Like most things in life, I had dipped my toes in, and if the water got too cold, and the shivers too painful, I would simply take them out and leave. I had refused to properly commit to her, because the sacrifice was too much. Moving to New York, like the people in the movies was an ideology. I was not willing to immerse myself in it and get caught up in the fantasy.
” When did you decide this? when are you leaving? This is so weird”
” What about you, have you decided yet?” you ask
” On what?”
” Teaching in Seoul? South Korea? That was the plan right? If things didnt work out”
” Yeah, Im still considering it, that amongst other things”
” That’s the problem with you. You’re too tied to this place, to your Nigerian friends, to a life that hasn’t even happened yet. You say you want to do this and that, so fucking do it, just do it. You need to let go and experience the things you want to”
” What are you saying right now?”
“Nothing.. I just think you have a bad habit of doing things halfway.. starting shit and not completing it, committing and leaving when you lose interest”. He continued.
” Where is all this coming from?” I ask. My face now contorting in bewilderment. Why had he suppressed all these thoughts, only to unleash them on me now, at a time when he was leaving and I could not hold him in contempt. “Why didnt you say this a while ago?“
” I’ve always told you.. you’re not very good at listening”
” I have a short attention span”
” Yeah okay.” He jabs me in the shoulder.
” This isn’t one of those Henry David Thoreau or Emerson things is it? Cause yes I know, I have to go forward in the direction of my dreams and live the life I have imagined. It is so fuckign exhausting hearing all these quotes, when it really isnt that easy.” I replied. I was now exasperated by the entire ” live your life” phenomenon that had stalked me since I moved to the U.S.
“It’s not easy for me ..Because as much as it is hard for me to leave all of you, it’s harder to see you guys stay ,when I know there’s so much outside that you want to do” .
We are silent now, and I realize how right you are. It was pointless to hold onto this place. On to people, on to memories or future that had not happened yet. I hated and loved New York but my commitment to it was fleeting and I needed to figure out my next steps quickly. I would eventually have to leave at some point. Dreams were too big, and the sacrifices too painful to remain here. My relationship with the city was dialectical, a push and pull, a rolling stone meeting an immovable object. She frustrated me, made me hate her, yet I always returned , wanting to experience everything. I hated walking behind tourists on W52nd street on the way to work. I hated being pressed up against foreign bodies on the subway, pretending like my space was not violated. I hated the way people scurried like mice , crowding in front of the subway doors even before people got off. But I loved her too. I loved walking on W86th and Broadway and buying old books , where the leaves fell out after three months. I loved going to happy hour in the East Village, unlimited cheap chardonnay in Korea Town , marveling at how each portion of the city could change, supporting new life , like one giant dysfunctional self sustaining eco system. I loved how every borough was different, and you could be anyone here because everyone here were all just misfits looking for acceptance.I loved and hated her, and she wouldn’t let me go. I was to blame too, I was holding on to her too tight. I knew that the experience here would be unmatched no matter where I went- Seoul, London, Shanghai. That was what Delilah did to Samson. Even though she had cut off all his hair and taken his God given strength, he still loved her. There were too many of us here, masochists for the experience, glutens for the punishment.
” Are you upset ?”
“No , we’re fine.. you’re right.” I reply
“No matter where you go, no matter what city you are you’ll always be the same person if the things inside you don’t change. You can go everywhere , but you can’t run away from yourself” You continue.”
” Is that why you’re moving then.. to Texas for graduate school? “
” Well no. Cornell denied me, and I only applied to two schools sooooo.” We both laugh. It was either Ithaca or Austin, either way you were going to meet someone at some party and talk to them about how you no longer wanted to be a “somebody” , and when graduate school was over for you, you would leave, and do it with no apologies. I wanted to be like you, in the way that you loved deeply but you also detached easily. Not because you were afraid, but because you knew that nothing and no one truly belonged to you, that nothing was permanent except for change. Somewhere you had learned this lesson early, I am still trying to learn it.
“So did you sort out your rent situation in Austin yet?”
“Yeah. I’m going to be living in a one bedroom right on campus, my rent is $700 , it comes with a kitchen, living room, a really big closet.. its super nice.”
” Wait how much were you paying for your room in Brooklyn again?”
” 850 plus utilities anndddddd! a shared Bathroom.“
” … dude that is so brutal. you didn’t even have enough closet space.” We sit on the park bench now, our feet heavy from standing, and our hands cold from resting on metal. You start laughing, and I start laughing too. This was it. You were ready to go, to leave all of us, every memory we had created together. It was ironic that on your final week here, we would watch New York all the way from Hoboken as though she were a stranger and we had never lived it.
” Yeah I know.. New York city man, gotta love it”