The last time I went to New York, I lost my camera in a cab (or in the street, or in a restaurant; truthfully, I don't know where I lost it, I only know that in the midst of taking pictures of the most glorious snowstorm of my life, I went from having it to not having it anymore). The loss was devastating, not because of the camera itself, but because of all the pictures that I had on the memory card inside.
I returned to the big city last month, armed with a new (fancy!) camera, determined to prove to myself that I'm not as terrible of a photographer as I had so far proven.
My trip wasn't about taking pictures, though New York provided colorful backdrops and vibrant scenery gorgeous enough to camouflage my inexperience and it just so happened to fall the weekend before I had to present my end-of-photography class project. But honestly that's not why I went.
No, I really I went to see old friends and colleagues, feel cold air on my skin, and enjoy the kind of inspiration that only comes from a city that rarely sleeps.
I also needed a Valentine, and I knew if I asked nicely, New York would be mine.
And he was. Perfect.
Along with friends Lauren, Katy, Molly, Elise and Laura, my beloved offered me a long weekend full of delicious meals at his finest restaurants, spontaneous street dance parties at strange hours with new friends, endless shopping excursions at sample sales and several day-long walks to nowhere in particular.
We went to a "fashion" show (I'm using this term liberally) and then conducted our own cat-walks and photo shoots on the lower East Side, drank rich coffee during the day and Dark n' Stormys at night, and laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. A lot.
I found my happy place.
I felt alive.
Strangely confident in a place that used to intimidate me so.
I have longed to make New York my home for a while, but lately I've started to doubt if that will ever happen, and while I am saddened at the thought, I am also trying to be honest with myself about what I am capable of. I feel too young to give up on a dream I've had for a long time, too old to start over in a new place, and just old enough to understand exactly how much I'd be giving up if decided to do it anyway.
Sometimes I wonder, also, if the love affair I'm having with New York only exists because our absence from each other makes my heart grown fonder. Are we in a long-distance relationship that survives so lovingly only because of the long periods of time we live a part? What if we lived together and discovered we hated each other? I don't know if I could bear it.
When my trip was over and it was time to leave, I climbed into the back of a cab that smelled so bad, my eyes started to water. Always looking for a sign that will tell me what to do and how to feel, I thought the cab may have been a metaphor for New York and a reminder that I needed to escape the stench of the city and get back to the south. On the other hand, I considered, what if the smelly cab was the smell of the disappointing reality I was heading back to and needed to escape?
My beloved was sending me mixed signals. How very cliche of him.
Nonetheless, as I waved goodbye to my long distance lover, promising that I'd see him soon and maybe next time I'd stay even longer, my eyes legitimately started to cry - and I honestly wasn't sure whether I was weeping because I was leaving my love, painfully aware that our get-togethers might only ever be long weekend rendezvous or if the stench from the cab was really that offensive.
Some things, I guess I'll never know.