The Epilogue

This is the epilogue of a series of posts on San Francisco. Find the others here.

Though brief, my San Francisco adventure reminded me why I love travel. It sharpens the senses and forces you to confront pieces of yourself that surface only in the unfamiliar. It also forces you to look at the you you’ve left behind at home.

This trip made me question some things.

Mainly, my second year in New York couldn’t be more different from the first. The first was full of exploration, curiosity, the new. My second has had a bit of that, but along with it the realization that change is the city’s only constant. This I knew before but hadn’t yet seen.

Time moves quickly here, and so do lives. Things fade into the background as priorities shift. People you’ve grown quite attached to leave as easily as they arrive. Even restaurants are unreliable. I remember eating at my new favorite noodle spot one night and returning the next day to find it had shuttered.

I’ve always thought myself comfortable with change. If life were like the Girl Scouts, I’d wear a badge of mobility on my sash. I can adapt to most things, I’d say, pointing out where I spent chunks and snippets of my life.

But change can also harden you. Perhaps it’s why people here are so tough to get to know. They’re all too familiar with transience, that being here today doesn’t mean you’ll be here tomorrow. Everyone has a guard up, a wall only the worthy can breach.

The only way to cope is to let the city change you, too.

Living here has made me braver, stronger and wiser, but it has also drained me. Now that I can call this home without the term conjuring images of a different place, I’m ready to see what else is out there.

If only for a little while.

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In five months

“I’ve got something to tell you.”

“What?”

“I might have to move.”

It came as a surprise to me, who, just three months before, had uprooted myself from a whole two stops away. The shock lasted all of three seconds.

After all, in New York, people move about as often as they do laundry.

My awesome roommate and I eventually bid farewell, though I have a feeling we’ll see each other just as much as we did when we shared a wall. Which was almost never.

I’ve been a ghost.

Before Ground Zero, it had been five months since I last wrote.

In that time, I moved to a new apartment, was promoted, lost a roommate and found a roommate. I rediscovered the art of writing too quickly, of staring too long at a blank Word document and of furiously researching, interviewing and writing before lunch only to do it all over afterward.

I’ve gotten lost in the Supreme Court, have been to DC more than I’ve been to Richmond or Baltimore, and have read enough court decisions to know there’s much more to know.

I’ve developed a routine, finally. It took being far too busy to go anywhere to finally acknowledge that yes, this is New York, and yes, it’s just another day here.

The novelty is wearing off, the excitement of the new has been replaced by the excitement of a rare weekend of nothing. My longing to be out is superseded by my need to stay in.

The city’s long train rides and days and nights have forced me to be conscious of time.

An extra hour lingering at a bar could mean the difference between a subway ride home or, if it gets too late, a $20 cab ride. An additional minute fussing with my hair in the morning could mean a longer wait on the platform after just missing the last train, setting off a series of missed transfers and scheduled calls. A Sunday afternoon in bed means putting off laundry another week, which means wearing my already questionable jeans another day. Or two.

Buns are key. So are flats for sprinting on the subway. A bag on a Thursday should be big enough for Manila folders but not too big to lug around for happy hour.

Around 5 o’clock on a Friday, as if on cue, women line the bathroom sinks to brush their teeth and whip out the eyeliner. There’s no such thing as stopping by the apartment to freshen up. Appointments with friends, six months in the making, wait for no one.

Somehow, there’s routine in unpredictability.

Nobody knows why the train is late when it’s late. It’s best to double the time you think you need to get somewhere. A dinner reservation actually means “We’ll seat you… eventually.” A sudden late night at the office turns into the takeout of your choice. Chinese? Italian? Something cheese-intensive?

In five months, I moved from a painfully small room to a painfully even smaller room. I learned to lock the window after weeks of leaving it unlocked, study the workings of a once obscenely loud, now comforting radiator, and discovered that some things are better recycled than discarded.

My new roommate moved in last weekend.

So far, all I know is where he works, last lived and what soap he uses. So far, he’s nothing like the last one.

I’ll probably tell you all about him later, in five months.