It is a wretched day in New York. A cold relentless drizzle has engulfed the city. Puddles are coalescing into filthy brown lakes at every street corner. Weary New Yorkers are walking at an even faster pace than usual, a sparse army of nearly invisible faces, hidden away in the recesses of thick hoods. I ventured out to buy books, having just finished the only book I had brought with me – a misguided thought given that my trip is 3.5 weeks long. Twenty blocks to the bookstore, twenty blocks back trying to keep three new books dry. It is a wretched day indeed, the kind that makes you want to stay in your pajamas and share a couch with your persons, head on his/her chest, legs piled up somewhat precariously. The couch, perhaps, is a little too narrow, but you don’t notice.
To me, these are melancholy days. The ones where you long for everything, what exactly you can’t quite say, but where just about anything will do to appease that nonspecific angst. The ones where I listen to what my dear friend C calls “tragically depressing music”, although I would argue that those are precisely the days when I am most able to enjoy all the rawness of The National‘s gorgeous songs. Being in New York is a chance to see dear C. She soon will be abroad to continue her culinary journey and the thought of not seeing her for months on end is simply one I cannot hold in my brain. Yesterday C and I meandered around Union Square under the bleak but warm December sun, had brunch, tried on ridiculous dresses, and had our nails done. It was girly, it was simple, it was perfect. We talked of living in New York and of my fears of moving to the city and feeling lonely. She disagreed passionately. She shared how the woman who runs the laundry business she uses weekly is a vital part of her life and a friend, a weekly encounter to look forward to, and how fellow gym members know each other’s names in her yoga classes. “People are desperate to connect, especially in this city,” she said.
In the evening we went for dinner and drinks at the lovely Freeman’s, a cozy restaurant tucked at the end of a dark alley in the Bowery. As if to prove her earlier point, she knew the bartender, F. We chatted among ourselves and sometimes with F, who was warm and eager to chat in between drink-making. I’ll never be friends with F, and most likely will never see him again, but in that moment, at the bar, we all connected. We were present and we enjoyed the moment. Later, C started talking to the man next to her – or was it him to her, and from a passing comment about risotto a bond was formed over a few hours and a few cocktails. P was his name. He was from South America. He had that distinctive non-American air about him, and wore tight jeans and shoes that hadn’t gone unnoticed by my non-American self. We talked about nothing in particular, from our respective jobs to trying to guess what herb was in his risotto and other things now lost – or perhaps best left – at the bottom of our cocktail glasses. Later in the evening he claimed needing to sharing some thoughts. C and I agreed to play therapists. He had met a girl in the city some months ago. He was soon leaving for his home country, unsure whether he would return to the city. He had also left a long relationship back home that was in sore need of closure. He didn’t know what to do. “Isn’t it funny”, I told C later, “how life is the same everywhere?” It doesn’t matter what country we are from, what brought us to a particular place, or what we believe. Relationships are always at the center of our lives. The three of us chatted a bit longer and exchanged phone numbers, knowing full well they will never be dialed. I even walked a dozen blocks with him out of my way to prolong the connection. He was very handsome with soft brown eyes and a light three day beard I would have loved to run my fingers through. I knew I had to enjoy it for what it was, a spontaneous, charming few hours of togetherness that transformed the evening into a memory. And so we parted after the familiar peck on the cheek. On the subway home, alone among strangers, I did not feel lonely.
We are desperate to connect, because life is only meaningful when shared with others.