City Girl Gone Wandering
The word “last” seems to color my every move: last time here, last time there, last time every-freaking-where.
A walk through Central Park in the snow is no longer a casual stroll. Instead, it is my last winter in New York—my final experience of snow, and cold, and seasonal change. Wiggling my toes in the Brighton Beach sand during last week’s heat wave reminded me of how, in a month’s time, my toes will be immersed in the black sand of an island 5,000 miles away. The beach experience that I have come to love—laden with Russian fast food and Corona peddlers—is over for me. Even walking from the N train to my 39th Street office, a stroll that (having done it for seven and a half years) I take for granted, is now something that I pay attention to. After all, it is a fleeting occurrence; I will do it only six more times.
Every moment is utterly saturated with meaning.
The traditions that have defined the entirety of my adult life are falling by the wayside, piece by piece.
Wait, I tell myself, there is still more time! I can fit an awful lot into a month! I will once again watch the sun set from the South Street Seaport, and walk the Highline with a cup of hot cider, and break my ass ice skating in Bryant Park! I will find the time to experience everything I love about this city before I bid it farewell!
Or maybe I won’t. Maybe those are all lasts that have already happened. Maybe those days are already gone.
Pieces of my soul are tied to these places. Each city block carries in it a memory, a moment in time that I can never again reclaim. Walking these streets for the last eight years has allowed me to carry the ghosts of the past with me. Now, with a long-term goodbye looming just around the corner, I sacrifice bits of each former self with every last that I stumble upon.
Yet, it dawns on me that every last was, at one time, a first: sharing an epic toast with John Pankow during my first Broadway opening night; turning eighteen like a champ by hosting my first bar birthday party in a dive behind Penn Station; or the first time I stood atop Belvedere Castle and glanced out at the Great Lawn, the entirety of New York unfolding before me like an infinite playground of steel and concrete.
For each block of this city where I have scattered the ashes of my former selves, I have also taken with me a chunk of cement. Memories are two-fold: we leave them just as much as we absorb them. So January may be filled with an overwhelming number of lasts, but February will be lived in an oasis of firsts.
Until then, I watch the lights in the tall buildings sparkle like fireflies under a charcoal night sky; I yell in the street, because nobody is watching; and I smile with the understanding that I have done it all before.