Yesterday, between the Union Square AT&T (where I picked up a new iPhone) and Mayson Kayser, where Tom and I stopped for a leisurely bite to eat, it occurred to me that New York – especially on a misty fall afternoon – was a magical place to be, and that my time here was limited.
By then we’d already walked through the bustling farmer’s market, where I’d sampled some freshly sautéed shishito peppers and petted various friendly dogs. We had four hours before an early 6:30 dinner with friends in Chinatown – just long and short enough to warrant our staying out and about. We decided to keep walking downtown.
It began to rain – not hard, but something undecided between mist and drizzle. The shishito pepper had made me hungry.
“Let’s go there,” I said, pointing at the Maison Kayser just a block away from The Strand, where we intended to while away the better part of four hours, “We can share something, have a coffee and pastry.”
In the cafe, sitting across from Tom – passersby with umbrellas walking to and fro behind him – I was reminded of other cities in which we’d wandered in the rain, mostly London, Bath, and Paris. In those cities, we had no work, no obligations but to enjoy ourselves and yesterday afternoon I was revisited by that light and happy feeling. Monday – all Mondays and the work-related anxieties that came with them – seemed very far away.
Lately a lot of our talk and my thoughts have been around leaving New York. While for the time being, it is just talk and thoughts – I’m trying to stay at my job for longer than a year and things at Tom’s job are just picking up – we both admit from time to time to feeling a certain antsyness.
I’ve now been in New York for a little over three years – longer than anywhere else I’ve lived in my adult life since age 18 (and writing this now it’s just hitting me). So maybe a part of it is the biology of an itinerant soul. But you know how it is: the grass is always greener on the other side. And since the start of 2016, since Tom and I have started to think and talk and discuss the future, the other side hasn’t really been New York.
“What about the west coast? What about Europe? What about Asia?”
“What about living close to family? And friends? Where to have a baby? Where to raise kids?”
Add to that a long winter, spent unemployed, when a lack of funds and guilt prevented me from enjoying the city (and Thailand) too much, and then a spring dive back into employment where summer was promptly consumed by long days trying to understand the efficiencies and pointless urgencies of advertising production and commuting to and from the office with other stone-faced worker bees whose eyes never met mine and whose ears, even had they not been plugged by earbuds or covered with obnoxious Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, wouldn’t have heard much from me because slowly, I was feeling as though I had nothing to say.
Punctuate those long weeks with a whirlwind of out-of-town weddings of friends who’ve either left New York to settle in what seemed to be more family and job-friendly pastures or had never ventured to live here in the first place, and after all the festivities left me wondering, “Where next for us?”
All this made me, Mondays to Fridays and on a few exhausted weekends, all but blind to the beauty of this great city. Then it was fall. One morning I emerged from our apartment, startled to feel the drop in temperature, to smell the crispness in the air. Summer had left with an Irish goodbye and I was reminded of my first fall. The eyes I had for the city, the optimism I had for myself. That was three years ago! A three-year wink.
It’s a bit frightening but also enlivening. Walking into the café with nothing planned but an afternoon browsing at the Strand (which would lead to a coffee with Neel at The Coffee Project and then beers with more friends at The Randolph at Broome and end with nostalgia inducing bentos at Taiwan Bear House (featured here in the NYTimes), I reminded myself to start looking again.
We shared oeufs norvégien and a flourless chocolate cake, watching tourists coming and going from the tables around us. They ate quickly to accommodate self-imposed itineraries while we ordered coffee, tea. We, a young couple, sipped and smiled. Quick on our feet but choosing to move slowly, we vacationed in our own city.