A story about shifting tides.
It was that one August week in Brooklyn when the lumpy bags of trash stewed and steamed on the sidewalks, when the sirens spooned the thick air like pudding, when everything and everyone dripped. I was subletting a friend’s apartment for a 12-day stay, and the place had air conditioning, plus a dishwasher — transformative luxuries I never experienced in my own Brooklyn abodes over the past three years. In this city, extra layers of sweat and suds and soggy skin had always seemed inevitable. The bizarre balmy gauze of the humidity only intensified my strange sense of displacement. I was in the city I call home, but technically homeless, mentally jolting back and forth between feeling at home and feeling jilted. Like the heat wave, poised for an eventual ebb, I was there only temporarily, and everything seemed tenuous. The point of the visit was to test the waters, to reassess my stance on New York after my summer away so I could decide where, exactly, to anchor myself next. In the meantime, I was unfixed, floating. … I switched up my regular running routes, pounding pavement through neighborhoods I had hardly touched before, since I’d always lived in the northern half of the borough. One day, I wound up in DUMBO, and when I came careening around a corner to that waterfront view — the face of Manhattan, with its glimmering skyscraper teeth in a grin and bridges outstretched like arms — I lost my breath for a moment. “I love you,” said my brain. Something primal inside me always says “I love you” when I look at the city’s magnificent expanse. I stopped jogging and stood for a while on the dock, watching the tongues of waves lap in and out, thinking about how New York was first built as a port town. It was made to bring things in and send things out, in and out, in and out, a tide that shapes each visitor like a shimmered grain of salt. It softens you or sharpens you, depending whom you are. It hugs you close with its morning breath and its stubbly cheeks, and then it sends you off. The people who stay for good are those whose own transitions align with the ebbs and flows. Think, for example, of the first-time mothers who now tote their gurgling mini-me’s on their hips to the new Whole…
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