I sat on the edge of the fountain in Washington Square Park two days ago and watched the girls who knew they had long legs saunter their short shorts around and sip drinks gracefully. The Italian men with cigars smoked in the humidity, and the smog over the city made us squint. The tops of my feet ached after walking over 10 miles of street, or so said the Map My Walk app, but not a lot would have stopped us from walking on and getting gelato from a street cart later that evening and then moseying over to the shopping district, then Little Italy, and then, later, back down to the subway. An old man sat by his window in a brick building that we walked past, gazing out over the street. Policemen stood with their hands on their hips at street corners, and pretty French women spoke calmly and then rapidly to their small girls and smoothed their hair. Young men sold pastries from their sweet-smelling carts on the street, and construction cones surrounded a great, steaming pipe that rose out of one of the manholes in the middle of the road. Crowds of people crossed back and forth at every crosswalk, and I noticed all the men with briefcases and the smart-looking girls with their big, leather designer bags.
The lights of the theaters were just blinking on when we finally reached the subway on Sunday night, and the city was in full, glittering display by the time we returned to Manhattan. We took the C and E trains most places, and as I sat on the bench, scrunching my toes against the grit on my sandals and feeling the hot gasps of heat from the trains as they rattled deafeningly past on the tracks, I couldn't help but think of Nick Carraway and his being "simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
This city truly never sleeps, but in a different way than I had always thought. Maybe the city was anxious? Out looking for love? Too busy to stop and rest? The only face out of the thousands that I can truly remember from my time in New York City was that of a little girl who dumped her cereal and milk on the floor accidentally at the hotel's complimentary breakfast, and then, with a panicked, confused look in her eyes, left the bowl on the tile and ran off to find her mother. She came back within the minute, looking down at it worried and biting a nail, and then darted off again, unsure of what to do. A man walked right through the milk, almost slipping, and then regained his balance. Soon, two janitors came and mopped the mess away, cracking jokes and laughing as they went.
I can't help but think that out of these millions of people and all the different life experiences they have had, the things they've thought about, and the emotions they've experienced, that there is something the same between us all. Some common thread of human occurrence and relatable understanding. From Harlem to Manhattan, to those buying drinks at the lemonade stands in Central Park to those waiting for the buses in The Bronx, each of us has experienced some degree of shame, some degree of joy or anger. Sadness, and whatever else life brings. We are all corresponding and parallel, but beautifully disparate in a thousand different degrees at once. I think this is what amazed me most about New York.