20 Aprils

The girl cried. Hard. Her aunt tried to soothe her: you’ll be back, don’t worry, it’s only for a little while. Nearby lay the youngest, 7 at the time, 8 in a month to be precise. She was annoyed. Very, very annoyed. Crying, she thought to herself, is for wusses.

It was 1992. The next morning, they were headed for America.

***

The youngest woke up. What time it was she wasn’t sure. Even more difficult to tell was where. Flying over the ocean, perhaps, into the abyss. No one else stirred. She cried.

***

It was cold, this New York. There were people everywhere. They walked everywhere. To the laundromat. To the grocery store. To the Rockefeller. What happened to the trees? The grass? The dogs and cats and rabbits and chickens? Here, they were quiet. The neighbors could hear every creak and squeak and thump.

***

“Where are you from?”
“The Philippines.”
“That’s where your parents are from. Where are YOU from?”
“The Philippines.”
“You left when you were a baby?”
“I was 8.”
“Why don’t you have an accent?”

***

So much happens in 20 years, yet 20 years pass in a blur. The girl is now a nurse. The boy wizard a computational biologist. The youngest a journalist. All in different cities. One in New York.

They never did go back; it wasn’t for a little while.

It, it turned out, was home.


In five months

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.