I’m walking from the subway, passing through Fort Greene Park on my way home. This park is my favorite thing about where I live. It’s a two-minute walk from my apartment and has a runner’s loop that seems to have been made for me; a playground made for children but that I like to pretend was made for me; and, arguably, the best sunset views from this side of the Manhattan Bridge.
I just “pulled over” to write these words, because that’s what happens when it’s a Friday evening in early autumn and you can’t help but write it out. I spent the morning reading and studying in NYU’s main library. When afternoon hit, I walked across the street to Washington Square Park to lie in the grass, under the sun. I tell myself I’ll keep working but as soon as I close my eyes and begin listening to Friday in New York City unfold around me, I am pulled in to the worlds of the students, the sunbathers, the lovers, the locals, the tourists, the musicians—even the well-trained and almost cute pit bull playing with a Gatorade bottle next to a man who is clearly not his owner. The man is deeply tan and wearing a Speedo, so he’s probably a German tourist, but he seems unfazed by strange dogs, so I can’t be too sure. This city is full of nuances that challenge every small thing I thought I knew about the world to this point. I think this is a good thing, but time will tell.
There are already small piles of leaves building up under the trees that line my daily walk to and from my Brooklyn apartment. I wonder how these trees will change during my first autumn, winter, spring here. I wonder how I’ll change during my first autumn, winter, spring here.
Walking these streets that comprise my new home, I can’t help but feel something close to whole. Last year at this time, I didn’t quite know up from down. Today, though, I’m composing poetry in my head. I’m reeling from graduate school classes, books I already can’t put down, conversations I could stay up all night having. There’s a bar—called “Bar”—two blocks from my apartment that serves the best egg-white-whisky-sours I’ve ever had. Every few days I buy fresh fruit from three different street stands because I don’t have to pledge loyalty to just one, not just yet.
I say “thank you” often enough that people can tell I’m not from these parts. In the notebook I carry around, I’ve started a list titled “Strangest Things I’ve Seen in New York.” I don’t understand the classifications of grocery stores—convenience, deli, bodega, market, “that corner one”—and I have yet to determine how to exit the subway station at West 4th Street without walking for ten minutes through a creepy underground tunnel maze that I’m pretty sure is a setting in a John Grisham novel.
But, there’s this: a slice of NY cheese pizza in my bag cozied up to a bottle of Montepulciano wine. A stranger asking for directions because he’s sure I know my way around. And this whole grad school thing, which is both harder and more thrilling than I anticipated. It’ll be a challenging, uphill climb for the next two years, but I am exactly where I am supposed to be. And that, more than anything, is why I’ve been grinning this entire walk home.