Today marks my seventh week in The City. Forty-nine days of experience, knowledge, memories, and adventure. I’ve gotten on the wrong train at least five times, hung out on three separate rooftops, and got my wallet stolen once. I’ve savored the good food and stomached the not-so-good, ignored the homeless beggar one day and pitied him the next, gone to the same bagel shop every morning for an iced coffee and a smile from the cashier. In many ways I’ve become a New Yorker. In many more ways, I am still a stranger to this town.
What I leave behind will be little more than some receipts and that weird stain in the microwave. The next person to live in my apartment will know nothing of entire evenings spent at the lopsided dining room table; they will not be able to explain the hole in the bathroom wall (not my doing), or the inescapable smell in the entryway (also not my fault). I can be as forgettable as every other traveler passing through The City. There’s certainly been enough of them. But that’s not enough for me. The City might not remember me when I leave, but I will remember The City.
I recall the first night my roommates and I went to the Corner Bistro for dinner. We go back on a near-weekly basis, and that makes me feel at home. I also remember the bus/walking tour we took on our first day here. We walked around Times Square as a group of forty-five people, and that made me feel like an outsider. My entire stay here has been dedicated to proving myself as a native, but I so often feel like a fraud. It’s taken me this long to feel secure in my knowledge of The City and its layout; only now do I feel genuine in my rants about tourists and subway stench.
Perhaps the strongest indicator of belonging to The City is the fact that I’ve spent the last three weeks in an air cast for an injured foot. My boot has seen the Gay Pride Parade, the High Line, eight flights of stairs in a quest to reach a friend’s rooftop, and an uncomfortable amount of grimy subway platforms. Being in a walking boot in The City, being forced to keep pace anyway, has made me strong and resilient to the unwavering harshness here. That, most of all, has made me a New Yorker.
Two weeks until I find myself back in my quiet New Hampshire town, with its lack of public transportation, pollution, and active nightlife. Two weeks left to soak up everything The City has to offer me. In a way, I’m content with the experiences I’ve gained, and in other ways I feel like I’ve done so little. I haven’t been up the Empire State Building, or walked the Brooklyn Bridge, or met any celebrities. But I’ve gained the knowledge and experiences of someone who actually lives here, who stays long enough to create a routine, to see change, to make a difference.
I suppose I think about my impact on The City so much because it has impacted me to such an extent. This summer has given me a taste of the New Yorker life, and I’ve enjoyed it. Whether I’ll come back for seconds is anyone’s guess, but I can see myself here. The City is addicting; everyone here seems so much more important, more significant, more vital. I want to feel important, significant, and vital. I want to be a New Yorker.