I have a wonderful life. My two children are smart and loving, beautiful and inquisitive. My home is a rock fortress atop acres of cedar and oak and native grasses, with a garden and pathways and a porch with large rocking chairs. I sit alone so many nights and marvel at the screeching of cicadas and how they interplay from tree to tree, rubbing their wings together. I drink strong coffee with cream on Saturday mornings while watching the cardinals hop and flit and turn their little red pointed heads towards the west. And when the sun peaks I set out the tea pitcher steeped with handfuls of mint to warm.
And yet in the midst of this very good life I grow weary. There is so much to shoulder. So many burdens. I desire the freedom of my youth, when I grabbed the last cherry popsicle from the box and jumped through sprinklers. I laughed at jokes and washed my hair for dates and celebrated a new year with cheese dip and sparkling apple juice with my parents. Life is more complicated now. More heartbreaks and bills. More decisions that matter. More life behind you than ahead. And the stifling Texas heat? It can flat-out drain you.
When you live in a place that fuels your soul but your heart is empty, where do you turn? Only one place works to recalibrate my nerves and it beats like a drum like a chorus like a lover like a friend like a sweet bite of cake and a jeweled ring. Don’t look back. Don’t stop to think about it. Fly to the place where you can breathe.
New York City.
So I planted myself on an airplane seat and lifted through the air to a different kind of freedom. Through tunnels and between steel that rises and when I cobbled along the streets I inhaled urine mixed with exhaust and rotten garbage and the whiff of 5th avenue perfume and Wall Street hair grease and overdrunk hydrangeas in Battery Park. And when I unpacked and unloaded, I laced up my practical shoes and I walked. I walked and walked and walked until my calves ached. And slowly the burdens lightened, and the emptiness filled in, and a smile of a different sort flowed inside the empty spaces.
There is a magnificent heart to this city. It’s full of promise and buzzing with life where you eat at 10 pm and meet beautiful strangers and walk alone in bars and wander into antique bookstores and land in French bistros at 9 am on Fridays. People are struggling to find their voice, and yet there is so much talent pouring over the various facets of this town that it mixes like chocolate into milk, swirling.
I went a few days early for a legal conference with no plans except to eat puff pastry at Balthazar and sip on espresso. I sat on the second row at the Ambassador theatre, watching beautiful people sing and kick their legs and do remarkable things with their bodies. I clapped loud and got all teary at the energy they spent on practice and everyone was probably laughing at this poor sap from out of town wearing heels. In intermission I stood at the back alone and smiled a crooked smile, for this is a place I have lived and loved before in another life.
I returned home strangely full. Full of life and tall handsome dinner dates. Of strangers and dancing. Of crispy pork and snap peas and current scones with raspberry jam. And back in the land of reality I faced four-year-old tantrums and a daughter who rolled her eyes and loads of laundry and dishes with cemented oatmeal residing in bowls. And yet it wasn’t burdensome. I took in waves of breaths and dug in. I sat on my front porch sipping my coffee with cream, thinking about sun tea steeped with mint. I think I’ll have a cherry popsicle and dance in sprinklers and toast a new year with my parents eating cheese dip. Maybe I’ll wash my hair for dates and start again.
Oh the city, how I love you. And my home, how I treasure you. The juice runs down my cheeks, cool and sweet. I pluck you fresh from the tree, your red skin shining, and put you in a basket. And in my sundress I carry you back lovingly toward home.