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The Intoxicating, Devastating Mystique of New York City


New York is magical on a good day and devastating on a bad one, intoxicating both at its best and at its worst.

New York is the fiercest lover you’ve ever known and the worst relationship you’ve ever been in, the one where you laugh and fight and make up and scream and almost leave a thousand times — but can’t pull yourself away from such a tragic romance.

In New York, you’re no one — to so many millions of others on the same thin stretch of land, you’re invisible, unknowable, a vacant face staring down at your iPhone even as you trudge along the avenues in the morning. New York offers the freedom to be infinitesimal even as you seek to become something infinite, the right to be forgotten by those around you even as you seek fame or fortune.

The anonymity you find in New York can be liberating — or it can be smothering.

There are nights when you sob into your pillowcase and question every choice that led you to this juncture, nights when you look up the entire house you could rent in another city for the same price you’re paying for one of four bedrooms in a small apartment in a dodgy neighborhood, nights when you go to bed determined to leave New York as soon as you’ve gotten what you came for — whatever you came for.

There are nights when New York will seduce you and squander your money on overpriced cocktails and uncooked fish, nights where you fall asleep on the train and miss your stop, nights when the summer heat clings to you and you pant for air conditioning, in an ironic reminder of how many times you cursed winter’s chill and longed for summer’s gentle caress. New York doesn’t care if you get home safe — and it certainly doesn’t care if you’re comfortable.

But even in your discomfort in New York, even on those days you curse NewYork and threaten to move, then — then there are nights when the sticky summer air doesn’t feel so oppressive, nights when the teenage girl sitting on your stoop with your neighbor’s son tells you you’re absolutely beautiful as you fumble for your keys. There are nights when you see your neighbors laughing and balancing gurgling toddlers on their shoulders, see people giving their seats on the train to sleepy-looking young mothers. These are the nights of quiet, vulnerable beauty, the nights when New York befriends you and the sudden intimacy is intoxicating.

These are the nights when you pull back the veil of discontent and see the quiet brilliance that shines in everyone who chooses to be here, to be alive and truly living in the city, to be a New Yorker by choice — these are the nights when you see the raw, vivacious beauty of New York.

New York can be disheartening. But New York can be nourishing, too.

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