on grates and solid ground (orig. published sept. 10, 2010)

01Jul11

I first came to New York, on a visit with my dad, when I was fourteen or so.  I was fascinated by the grates in the sidewalk, some of which have trains running under them, which we don’t have in Denver.  I wouldn’t step on them for days, and couldn’t understand how people didn’t fall in or how ladies didn’t get their high heels caught, or drop diamond rings or cell phones down them.  It took me awhile to internalize that they were sturdy and safe and weren’t going anywhere.

I decided to move to New York in a characteristically impulsive fashion, and though I kept making preparations to leave, packing up my stuff and shipping it out, applying for student loans and other things, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance kept it from seeming real.  I kept expecting it to fall apart at the last minute, to come to nothing like so many of my plans do.  And then, somehow, my parents were driving me to the airport, pulling up into the arrivals level by accident and shooing off a security guard, giving me hugs, telling me to be safe.  And I had a boarding pass in my hand.  And I was really going to New York City.  To live.

And oh, lord, I thought the world was going to end.  That I would get out there and something would go horribly wrong, and I would end up back in Denver, with no options and a lot of debt and humiliation.

I was in New York for a week before I flew back to Denver, just for the weekend, for a meeting that had been scheduled months and months ago that I couldn’t get out of or commute to remotely.  And then I flew back to New York, and to my surprise, my stuff was still in the apartment where I’d left it.  Which I guess is my apartment now.  I still feel a vague sense of surprise whenever I go home, and I haven’t thrown out my broken down cardboard boxes yet because I feel like I still need to be able to pack up and leave if I have to.

But, it seems, I live in New York.  And I haven’t fallen through a grate yet.

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