Dear Monologging Editors:
So I’m on this damn bus again – the Chinatown bus that runs from DC to NY and back. It reeks of urine and disinfectant, but I suppose that comes with the territory when a toilet is permanently affixed to your mode of transportation. It’s been nearly four years since that first week in NY. Sure, I’d been before with my parents, but I was so bound by pubescent angst then. NY was a place, not an entity.
I’m propping Wes’ head up with my jacket. Mere minutes into our trip and he’s out cold– slumped in his seat, head flopping all over; it’s very distracting. Me? I’m all edges, too anxious to sleep or think clearly. I just want to get there.
Right, New York. So four years ago was my first time really experiencing NY. It was July then, so warm and humid you felt dirty the moment you stepped outside. I remember how black the soles of Wes’ feet would get, cultivated after hours of walking the city, refusing to pay subway fare. It’s the dirt that I like most about NY – it sets everyone equal, you can’t avoid it. I’m not clean enough for DC. Everything there is manicured, premeditated, perfected. NY consumes my mess and raises it, no need for pretense, come as you are.
Still, NY is about status. Not just money, like in DC – with its sprawling mansions and little taste, no, NY status is intellectual, where you fall on the spectrum of cool. “Where do you live and how much do you pay?” An endless race to be ahead of the trend, fueling the city and exhausting it. I remember arriving in that first Chinatown bus, spat right out in the thick of Midtown – lights flashing, tourists swarmed, the warm dusty air of the subway penetrating the ground. I remember thinking Wes must have ‘made it’ if he was living here. I wanted to make it too.
Wes is starting to wake up, a little drool staining my jacket. I can see the outline of the city now and feel the anticipation welling up around me. There are a couple first-timers on this bus, I can tell.
Soon enough, NY becomes like any other city; travel and age does that to you, I suppose. You learn your little neighborhoods and get too comfortable in them; when you live on an island you really shouldn’t make your world smaller through routine. We sated ourselves on everything bagels and Papaya dogs, and eventually Wes left his hovel for mine. He became one of those ‘enlightened’ New Yorkers who had had enough of the city, and spread his gospel to anyone who would listen. One year later and here we are again; the siren call of the Big Apple, right? Wes has signed a new contract with his employer, so it looks like we will be here awhile – struggling to make it, to reach the top, but never quite getting there. This time, though, I’m ready to play.
Read more by Emma Burdett at http://wingandwell.wordpress.com/