I bring to your attention my first opus.
I returned to New York from vacation.
This wasn’t the first time I spend a week or two away from the city. I’ve traveled to an island along Venezuelan coast, to Boston, to Wisconsin countryside, to Montreal, other places, as a tourist or on business. Always, when it was time to come back, I regretted the moment. Like an unreasonable toddler demanding more ice cream than his little belly can process, I had been hungry for more strange life: people, their clothes, the dialect, what they eat for breakfast, the way they sway their bodies when talk, landmarks in a foreign town, skies above the beach or ferns in the woods. I was literary dragging my feet to the plane or the bus; I was inventing mental candy for myself – “your garden is there, waiting”, or “they probably finished construction at the hotel project by now”. And it’s not like I live in some tiny town with homogeneous populace speaking in same boring overtones; New York have long menu of wonders to choose from. As well as all the monotony of daily routines, tired faces at work, newspapers and suspicious stains littering sidewalks, rats strolling along subway platforms.
This time was different. I had a wonderful vacation, possibly my best so far. I enjoyed it tremendously, it was a feast of sunshine, beautiful buildings, road views, boats, trains and beaches, interesting people, precious wine and new food.
Still, I surprised myself with this hurrah! feeling when it was finally my turn to pass my passport to a customs’ officer at JFK and he said, with heavy Brighton Beach accent, “Welcome to New York!”
Welcome indeed! My eyes moistened affectionately listening to the taxi driver, somewhere in a middle of dark Queens, demanding exact directions to my house in Brooklyn – or I should get prepared to pay extra , “coz this one is a big city, man, who da ya think I am to know every damn turn!” I told him I enjoyed his driving style and tipped him well, too well I think, judging by his sudden impulse to help me out with my wheeler. I know I went a bit money-happy with sweetly familiar US notes in my wallet, longer, duller and more substantial to the touch after colorful European currency.
In the morning, when I went out on familiar route ( lock-the-door, walk-to bus, bus-to-subway, Brooklyn-Manhattan, walk-to work) the city felt fitting like worked-in glove.
Humidity? Free skin moisturizer.
Dog-poop in front of my porch? One shove and it’s on the road, for sanitation to clean: I’m the one paying you, dudes!
Crazy jogger-neighbor waved passing by.
Metrocard still had 2 paid trips in it so I could breath some cool air on a bus to subway.
I recognized people on the platform; they did, too: a Greek woman who works for Vera Wong came over to ask where had I tanned so good, in Greece? and the male nurse waiting for the right door at the head of the platform handled me Metro paper, nodding ”Being away?”
In midtown, walking up the block to my building, I was greeted by UPS guy, a Pakistani owner of the deli across the street (Basmati for lunch today, come!) and a 34 St. Alliance’ street sweeper in green uniform. My building guard told me he has missed me and called down the elevator. Even my boss complemented my new earrings and said “Trips to Europe suit you” before loading my desk with "ASAP"- redlined drawings nobody touched for 2 weeks.
I was home. First time in 14 years living in this dirty, scary, unforgiving and best in the world city, I truly felt it: I was home.