Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made

We planned to live here, Dave and me. I'm almost glad I don't have access to those old notes and letters he wrote me when we were 17, 18; they're back in New Jersey, but I haven't cracked them open and smoothed out their creased folds in a long, long time. If I did - if I could, right now - I'd look for the one, in particular, where he talks about our future, about what we'll do when he get to New York. He'll be a teacher, & I'll, of course, be a writer; we'll live in an apartment on a busy street, but not on a floor so high up that we can't hear the world below.

This city is the ultimate dream for an indie kid-turned-adult, isn't it? Is there a former emo kid among you who didn't promise yourself you'd move here when you were old enough to leave your parents' place behind & strike out in your own? My dream came from a childhood of watching "Newsies" on repeat; Dave's came from music, from a teenaged lifetime of hearing about a bright, buzzing city so different from our small, narrow hometown that we could scarcely imagine it. New York signified adulthood: We could do whatever we wanted, any time we wanted. In a city that never slept, we wouldn't have to, either. We could subside on coffee & poetry & lyrics & and love. "Do we have the strength to make it there?" he wrote once, in a song about us, "Would you think less of me if I said yes?"

In the years since Dave died, I have shed countless tears for the plans made long ago by two naive Ohio teenagers who dreamed of bigger, of better, of together. Seven years after his death, I am relieved that those bouts of tears come less frequently, but still, there are times when I come into New York City & I stay in a hotel or with a friend who lives on a busy street, but not on a floor so high up that you can't hear the world below. It's at those times, when I lie awake late at night in a city that's always abuzz, that I focus on the sounds that drift up from below - an ambulance, a group of rowdy kids, a dog barking - & I catch those old emotions creeping up on me again. Mourning memories we never made.

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