my transition to new york seemed so smooth that it must have been the calm before the storm. there were a couple of initial hiccups: accidentally boarding an express train, losing my unlimited subway card. i’ve accepted that living in this city entails a general and unavoidable hemorrhage of funds that makes paris seem inexpensive.
i thought i had secured housing but it fell through days before i had planned to move in. but after a brief sob-sesh on second avenue and a beer or two, i realized that my clash with life’s unexpected dramas was in fact the official debut of my new york experience. if my romance with paris dwindled as it became comfortable, it would be illogical for my newest adventure to begin smoothly. and so it went.
several days of panic and aggressive apartment-hunting landed me a new spot. check. and so i’ll officially be among the hoards of twenty-somethings making their daily commute from brooklyn up to manhattan, the reality that “moving to new york” seems to entail. from what i can tell, manhattan is an impossibly expensive island, whose only affordable rooms are dark, windowless cells in three-bedroom apartments, dungeons that still cost $1250 a month. i didn’t move to new york for that. nor did i move here to live in the stretches of anywhere, USA that defines some areas of brooklyn.
and so i’ve struck a balance and will be moving to a sunny (for now) apartment in park slope, home to the world’s hippest thirty-somethings and their kale-fed babies. if brooklyn is, broadly speaking, summercamp for yuppies, park slope is where they go to hatch.
though my brief spat with new york’s housing market is behind me, my discovery process has yet to take off. my weekdays shift between the subway and the office. but don’t be fooled–my indoor routine provides sufficient entertainment, from the subway’s human zoo to the inane interactions that define office professionalism. among this week’s F-train winners include the old man who popped six pieces of trident into his mouth, which he chewed for approximately six seconds before promptly spitting them out. also worth mentioning is this morning’s young couple: the boy so helplessly fawning over his gregarious female companion, constantly trying to kiss her neck and touch her waist but routinely thwarted by her endless attempts at conversation. i imagine this is a common annoyance for men. women really do talk a lot.
which brings me to the formalities of an office: the constant hum of “how-are-you”s, “doing well”s, and trying to make what you’re working on sound interesting, just to follow the flow of weekly meetings. sometimes meetings swallow the day. sometimes there are no meetings at all. sometimes i read things and edit from when i arrive to when i leave, and my eyes hurt, and the next morning when i read the new york times i question comma-placement, dangling members, hyphens, and dashes.
and so this seemingly mundane routine of shuffling from office chair to subway car begs the question: does karina miss paris?
sort of. abstractly. missing holds a negative connotation–a state of longing or wishing that i were elsewhere. that’s not how i feel. thinking about my little studio, my street, the canal, and my daily wanderings, i don’t want to be there, because i’m too consumed by where i am. but i relate to these associations with a distant nostalgia: my parisian routines have become an abstract reference, tucked beneath layers of busy-ness and the exhausting process of constantly getting my bearings in new york. but every time there’s a lull in the madness, that string of parisian snapshots resurfaces in my head. and a funny feeling starts brewing in my stomach.
i have yet to diagnose that queasiness. nostalgia is a strange beast. paris became mine, and now that it’s gone i’m torn between propriety and letting go.
so now i’m trying to figure out what to do with that prior attachment. searching for ways to weave paris into my new reality without falsely hoping i can reinvent it.
and i’m also trying not to forget how i felt before i left paris. that feeling that my time there had gone stale. my realization that the city could perhaps no longer satiate me, and that, as my friends slowly parted, the loneliness i had for years thought impossible might find its way into my long walks. that possibility remains unproven. i won’t know if karina-in-paris could be forever-resilient to loneliness, but she was, while it lasted. and i guess i like it that way. that i left before paris could have completely soured.
but now that i’ve returned to the usa, to a city where i’ll probably reside for an indefinite while, i’m trying to accept that my time in new york will not benefit from the resilience that accompanies an alternate reality, but will constantly be marred by the frustrations and difficulties of everyday life.
paris always offered an escape, a way to decompress, to be revitalized, energized, rejuvenated. when i last returned after a 5-month hiatus, i recalled the way that the city made me feel like i mattered. like i was important and pretty, that i had a sense of purpose even while taking the most aimless of walks.
new york is the opposite, it seems. i’m here because the city matters, but i pale in comparison to its global relevance. i’m the smallest i’ve ever been, one of a million sardines clawing at the last bit of remaining space on the subway.
i can’t tell whether resigning to being insignificant is about paris and new york, or if it’s just about growing up. or if feeling special is actually just feeling at home–that wonderful sensation of being where you’re supposed to be.
it’s possible that i won’t ever recreate that sense of belonging, that in indulging my attraction to paris i locked myself into monogamy with its streets and sounds. it could be that nowhere else will ever compete.
i suppose i’ll just have to wait and find out. so far i can say that i’m not displaced in new york, but i’m far from grounded. i’ll see when that floaty feeling settles, or when i discover new things, or if i burst into tears on any more street corners.
then i’ll reassess.