Jonathan and I are both homebodies. Both of us would much rather sleep in, snuggle with a blanket, read a book and write all day long than frolic around in the city. Yet here we are, in the city that never sleeps, hand in hand, inhaling dense smells and taking in the footsteps that never stop falling. The scents of grass, smoke, body odour and clinging wet garbage stirred into the heavy summer heat make me tired, but here we are, traipsing down fifth avenue, struggling to process the millions of stimuli that attack us with every breath.
Pick your battles. I really have to work on that. Tips, anyone?
The whole traveling thing has never appealed much to me, as I had written about that a year ago, and people often call me foolish and ungrateful for not being excited about the travel opportunities that have been handed to me without a price other than my time. Most people would love visiting London, Scotland and New York City. Names of places that strike idyllic images in our minds of drinking tea, hearing the sound of bagpipes and most currently, probably the Avengers/insert title of cool movie/TV show set in NYC. But here’s the thing – I dislike traveling in extremely commercialized places, where I feel like I have to be on my toes all the time, for the fear of being tricked and cheated simply because I clearly look like a tourist. This is the case with New York City, where people constantly approach us to offer us deals and discounts for world famous attractions, or simply to fight for survival by picking at whatever scraps we are willing to give away.
Yet the thing about New York City that makes me dislike it so much is the very thing that holds its charm. The people provide the energy flow and the people that snake through it day and night is enough to make me want to lay on the grass of Bryant park in the sunshine all day long and watch couples kiss on the grass, a college student study for her next final or eavesdrop on intellectual debates. We even played a little game.
“Let’s say you’re…that guy in the blue shirt.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Lunch. I work here.”
“What does she do?”
“She’s a doctor.”
“I somehow imagine her in short blonde hair and a black dress. Kids?”
“Mmm…not yet. We’re still looking for a bigger apartment.”
And then I resumed sipping my McDonald’s sweet tea, with its styrofoam cup too large for my small hands, wondering how accurately (or not) we had pictured that guy in the blue shirt’s life. That’s what I did, most of the time in my head, throughout our trip as people who pass by me blur into one large foggy summer memory.
Then there’s the homeless person poking around trash cans for plastic bottles and soft drink cans, making a living out of tourists’ consumption. There’s the aspiring musician who autographs CDs, hands them out to people while asking for a tip in place of it and mistakenly calling us husband and wife. There’s the lady from the church passing out cards with Bible study information on it. There’s the young man in an over-sized red singlet who recognized the flustered voices of lost tourists at the subway station and kindly directed us to the other side of the platform.
It is a large, intimidating city which hides its treasures in narrow dirty alleys or sometimes displays its jewels right smack in the middle of Central Park.
Despite having acquired a vague familiarity of this city, I am extremely grateful that this summer I no longer braved it alone, but with one I love.