November 11, 2003

I'm almost gone too.

Even when I was 16 years old and swore I'd kill myself with whatever
blunt kitchen instruments and over-the-counter drugs were available
if I had to stay in Poughkeepsie another day, I was never as sick of
that town as I am of New York City now. And have been for a good two

But, at last, I am. Two weeks back, my acceptance letter from the
University of Nevada/Las Vegas arrived. Now I'm looking at my last 60
days here, probably less by now. And wondering when I'll feel

New York City was the place that made me who — well, more like
what, really — that I am today. When I was 14, all I wanted to
do was get here, be here, be a part of here. Two years later, I was.
And 16 years later, all I wanted to do was get out. I watched all my
friends leave for Los Angeles, Paris, Woodstock, Tucson — anywhere,
just so long as it was away from what used to be New York City. The
last 24 months or so have been like a neverending open-casket
funeral: sitting next to the coffin, staring down at a face you used
to love, thousands of smiles and tears and smirks and tempests that
once crossed this face, fading with the rouging and embalming, the
serene smile sewn onto its lips. Just a stranger, now, and all you
want is for someone to tell you, yes, you can finally leave.

I spent the bulk of my adult life within a mile-square radius, and
now I don't know this place, I don't know these people, this race of
giggling Laurens and guffawing Steves crowding the Thursday-night
sidewalks on a spree from their corporate jobs--or the equally rigid
bevy off recent college graduates with their bangs and BMX bikes,
their $35 T-shirts form non-existent summer camps, all of them
seeming to think they own this town now. And they do. I don't
recognize this landscape of martini bars and tapas restaurants,
boutiques and bistros, the overnight over-population of tan
cinderblock apartment buildings studded with holes for air
conditioners and spikes for cellphone reception. No more pierogi
lunch counters, toilet-stinking rock clubs, doorstoop 40s, dusty
bookstores, old-man dive bars opening at 8am, trannie hookers,
graffitti taggers, chess players... sure, it's a cliché, but my
cliché beats their cliché hands down.

The other morning, I went into the newsstand/deli on Houston (the one
that remained but relocated when Ray's pizza bought the entire strip
mall between Orchard and Houston just so they could run Sal's pizza
out and take over his lucrative post-last call market share) for this
morning's Daily News and orange juice. The owner, who's been
selling me morning (and morning-ish) newspapers and beverages for the
better part of a decade was there. He hadn't been around in the
mornings and I hadn't been going in as often, and he beamed at me and
announced, "Everyone else is gone! You're the only one left!"

"Huh?" sez I.

"Everyone else used to live here, all these years, now they're all
gone. You're the only one left."

I told him not to worry: I'm almost gone too.

Posted by lissa at November 11, 2003 10:09 PM