It’s a funny thing, to be in love with a city. I’ve been in love with New York City for years. I still remember how I met her and that instant that I knew I wanted to return and stay. I was seventeen years old, in high school, and visiting Columbia University for a second-look. I had walked in from 116th street, not in the center of College Walk, but on the north side. It was night, and campus was lit like it always was. Looking up, I saw the stone and brick rising around me and I knew.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like, if I had chosen New York over everything else. What if I had turned down UCSD to stay on the East Coast? It seemed like such a brainless reflex decision back then, as I stood in my baby blue gown on May 16th, telling the Dean of the Medical School that I’d go- I’d come! Only afterwards, when the gravity of those flippant excited works sunk in, did I realize what I had done. I booked a one-way ticket and spent a few last days with my then boyfriend. The morning of my flight, he made me a Nutella sandwich and as my plane lifted off from JFK, I cried. Holding on to everything from then, I kept the leftovers from that Nutella sandwich in its Ziploc back in my room until my mom, completely grossed out, threw it out for me. My memories of the City then became a series of short 30-second scenes: walking off the elevator on the 16th floor of my dorm and seeing the Empire State Building at night; curling up on my windowsill in the daylight and watching students come back from class; standing on subway platforms with my practiced unfocused stares; a few steps on dirty cracked sidewalk on a sunny day.
Promises were made that I never kept- that I’d go back, that I’d always go back.
I’m always being told that making plans is always the best way to ensure that your life doesn’t turn out the way you had planned. I don’t regret leaving. How could I, when I met Husband in California? On days that I especially miss being in the City, I remind myself that I’d rather be married and in Salt Lake City than single in New York. Cities are cold creatures who will never love you back.
All the same, I’ve never forgotten about New York; she will always be the one who’s gotten away.