My New YorkPosted: September 3, 2013
This is my narrative/essay about my reality of New York. I chose to write about my arrival to the city, because it was such a mix of disappointment and tiredness that couldn’t forget about it. Thankfully, my experience has improved far beyond my initial impression, but I still think it’s interesting how I hated this place in the very beginning. Plus, I like my essay.
Good Night, Sleep Tight, No Dreams Tonight
I’m here because I flew here, crossing half an equator and passing over the Arctic. If there were penguins moving about the sparkling ice, they would have watched a noisy bird as it tore apart the sky. It had no companions in that heavenly navy expanse but static and omnipresent discomfort, torturing its passengers into impatience. All we, prisoners in the air, could do was wait for the constant drone to pass. We waited for the shaking and vibrating carpet to turn into stable linoleum, and the flashing television to become welcoming smiles. Maybe it happened, but no one bothered to look up and check.
Everyone looks tired here. The woman behind me is unaware that her luggage cart kissed my behind once at the baggage claim line, and once more at customs. The dark-skinned security officer glances at each form handed to him, scribbling pink highlighter as they all pass the examination. No one wants to tell him that they are smuggling Cuban cigars and forbidden herbs. We shuffle in a scraggly line through makeshift pathways. A few mothers, too eager to escape their children, squeeze too close to the slower, indifferent passengers. The line looks like an ant trail now. In clusters of two or three carts, each group of passengers and mothers with children leave the busy baggage claim, the disgruntled customs officers, and that final stretch of corridor to the arrivals hall.
My mother leads our group of carts at the front, and like meek ducklings we trail behind. Awaiting us at the end of the light were not smiles but glares from an equally exhausted audience. At the front of the crowd a squat man well-dressed with a placard nods at passersby, praying that the next man will meet his given criteria, so he can get away from this dreary place and sleep tonight next to his wife. She hasn’t spoken to him since yesterday, after she snatched his cigarette and put it out with disgust, again. This morning his boss had told him to look for someone not tall but not short, with dark hair and dark-circled eyes. He is a businessman, so he’ll be carrying dark-colored suitcases as well. What a fine description to match the dank parking lot and car exhaust outside. The first passengers from my flight to walk outside take a deep breath, and an even deeper sigh, as they hurry off in taxis, running to the nearest private shower.
I follow my mother diligently, eyes glued to her back. Hundreds of eyes follow us, perhaps wishing we were their family to bring home. My mother continues pushing her cart through the crowd until it comes to the small parting at the door. Then, she pushes on. It was a small bump in our sleep procession, but now my mother is no longer the leader, instead following a tall, skinny Indian man. We learn as we boarded his van that he will be our driver tonight, our first guide to the infamous Big Apple, the vast drain for all the world’s fantasies and dreams. That’s Freedom Tower, he says, pointing vaguely to my right. I can make out a skyline composed of twinkling lights, but I really see nothing but a net of black velvet that wrestles and ties my attention to the temptation of eyelids on tired, red eyes. This is the Brooklyn Bridge, he points again. I can’t see anymore, but feel the bumpy road that jostles me away from slumber.
The inside of the hotel elevator is kind to its visitors. A soft hum envelopes my mind, and my mother’s as well. She is leaning against the tarp-covered wall, eyes closed before mine. My mother nods off gently, unresponsive to me and the stranger who would converse only with his long shoelaces. They’re tied together in an elegant butterfly form, yet double-looped firmly to drooping socks. My own shoelaces look helplessly back at me as they lay trodden and knotted on the used flooring. A dim black light shines just enough to illuminate the advertisement on the metal door: Great style at an affordable price. Underneath it, a list of locations numbers sixty-two, but the light gray text doesn’t want to be read. The elevator is kind to it as well. No guest in this elevator can leave remembering those words and names.
We stand in front of our room. Clumsy hands struggle with keys, and in a hurry they fling open the heavy door so that their protesting body may soon be at rest. Suitcases are strewn across the floor. Smelly jackets are torn off and hung ungraciously on a dusty chair. The gray bedside lamp turns on silently and the grayer walls greedily absorb its light. I fall onto the white sheets, which would feel soft to any fatigued traveler. This day would be fatiguing to anyone. Is this really the city where I will spend the rest of my future exploring? No one answers, but at this moment no answer matters. Finally, my eyes and dreams can sleep. Good night, New York City, and may you wake me up tomorrow.