I’m standing at the main entrance to the World’s Largest Store in New York City, the ground floor all bright marble and perfume counters and music blaring, and I’m wondering if you’re upstairs working. You found a job waitressing in the sleek new restaurant with stellar views of Manhattan and it’s really hitting me now that we both live in New York again. That for the first time in eight years, I live near you.
The city you’ve come back to is different from the one you were born in – like, do you remember so many visitors everywhere, all the time? And everyone has money, it feels like, except the ones who don’t.
And it’s different now because you’re the age I used to be when I lived here, and I’m – while not shopping cart old lady age yet – a lot older.
Some boys surrounded me in Bryant Park earlier. Maybe they were messing with me, I don’t know. But this was the Bryant Park of now, not long ago, and I was sitting in a section called the Reading Room on a pert green chair with a pile of books courtesy of Bank of America next to lots of other people browsing the classics, so it was more weird than threatening. The boys, young and black, twelve or thirteen years old, six of them, sat down all around me in green chairs. What are you reading? they asked, where did I live, and did I like basketball? I started telling them about growing up in Pittsburgh and how there was no pro basketball team, only a great football team the Steelers and the mighty 70’s Pirates and I think I bored them away because the next thing the one boy who’d been the first to sit across from me was shaking my hand goodbye. “Come back!” I wanted to say, and realized I’d liked talking with them, and that I was lonely. I wanted to be connected to something in the big city of my youth and my dreams, and if it was some kids with nothing better to do, well at least they aren’t the Benefit sales rep at Sephora or a coffee bar barista, so – fine.
I guess that’s how I ended up here at Macy’s, on my way to catch a train upstate. Wanting to text you to see if you’re working upstairs, but my phone battery is dead and I can’t find an outlet to charge it. I applied for a job at Macy’s a long time ago and wasn’t hired, so I’m proud of you. I don’t want to mess anything up, appear in the middle of your huge restaurant in your huge city in the middle of your shift and throw you off.
You’d do a double-take and maybe even drop a tray load of food. (Of course you wouldn’t. But still.)
Instead I push through the revolving door and back out onto 34th Street, where I stop at H&M and look through a rack of clothes I don’t want to buy.