Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"walking through new york"

I had a big creative assignment in one of my classes this semester. The assignment was to act like a "flaneur" and write about New York City. "Flaneur" is a French term used to describe idlers, or wanderers. In 18th century Paris, this was a way of life for Parisians (and still is). Writers and artists would wander the streets for inspiration and pure observation. My piece is a poetic story.

This is what I came up with.

“Walking through New York” 
-a story of the city in autumn

It’s funny how different a city can look when you walk through it alone in autumn.  


It was a windy Wednesday. The air just cold enough to shuffle through my skin and make me shiver as I walked to the bus stop. The bus stop, once inhabited by a collection of friends, became a mark of isolation. There I was, remembering the faces of my friends taking up the air on the edge of 78th street. Now I stood alone. Making sense of it all as I took the long journey to the other side of life. Remembering the smiles, the crazy laughter, the obnoxious joy that one gets when surrounded by youth and possibility. 

I thought about youth and possibility as the bus slid through the tunnel. New York City seems to be the central hub for youth and possibility, or at least, it attempts to be a city that never dies. The people on the bus seemed to attempt this as well. Their faces, mostly worn out like the outer layer of skyscrapers. Their eyes, like tiny windows that fog up against the torrential storms of a hard life. They looked out of the bus like they were looking out of a dying dream, watching the morning’s hopes drown in deep cups of caffeine. 


The bus was full now, and the fullness mimicked the city streets, with the diverse voices mingling up and disappearing down into the air vents. I remembered my friends, once sitting and filling up the seats on the little bus. They were replaced by young men in suits and ties, focused only on the end of the ride. Never learning to embrace the calmness of the temporary dark only found in-between the city and the other side.

When I got out of the port authority station I was greeted by shadows. Everywhere, people on the streets seemed to create them, be them, and sink into them. This was a city of shadows. A couple of months ago I walked through them with an army of youth, and now, it was like I was walking through them for the first time. It was an exploration of layers, a witnessing of the dark corners of the city colliding on the white sidewalks. There were so many people, so many dark corners. The streets were so full, yet so empty. I was stuck underneath a sea of gray and black. The skyscrapers were challenging me, and I was enveloped in a game that could not be won. There was no sun. No stars. I had to squint to find the slices of light.

The autumn treated the New York City trees kindly that Wednesday. They were still hanging on to some last hope that streams through the veins and lines on their leaves. I suppose that autumn is really a collection. A collection of last hopes, last tries, and last pushes of strength before winter rolls through and buries everything beneath its vast coldness. A young woman pushing her sleepy toddler through Central Park seemed to share this secret with me, smiling to strangers and hanging onto the leaves of hope before they would all fall and display their death on the dark streets.

I observed one of these brightly dying leaves tumble softly into a worn out cup captured by a bearded homeless man, hoping he would become part of the corner he was nestled in. It made no sound, but it rested within his grasp like some final wish. He looked at it and wondered at its fading veins and strong hues. His eyes were not foggy like the passengers on the bus. Instead, his eyes were clear, now focused on the wall that was staring back at him from the other side of the street. I could tell that there was life on that wall, and all of his dreams were plastered there and played out again and again in his head. 

His mind was like the autumn. Full of last hopes, last tries, and last pushes of strength. His dreams were like those falling leaves, bursting with color even when slowly surrendering to seasonal deaths. 

I smiled at the poetry before me and continued on my walk through the city. There was a pair of teenage lovers in front of me, holding each other’s hands tightly. As tight as they were holding onto each other, their hands still shivered from a coldness they could not erase. They ignored the leaves holding onto the fragile trees. As I walked behind them I started to realize that they ignored everything around them because they knew that everything around them was stronger than they would ever be. They knew that even the dying leaves showed more effort in their grasping onto a branch. Love was everywhere, but it was not even close to their little hands. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at their attempt to create something that could never survive even the mild winds of autumn. If only they looked around occasionally. 

The only real beautiful things in the city were the things that had the bravery to realize something was ending in the fall, and that this ending was inevitable. It was a rarity to realize the sight of endings were special and gorgeous against the ghostly silhouettes of the battered buildings refusing to die. But the smile of the young woman, the dreaming eyes of the homeless man, and the parade of colors that the leaves provided all comforted me. 


We all shared a sacred secret that the men in suits and ties will never be able to uncover. We witnessed youth, we dreamed of possibility. But we loved the sight of all of those things falling away and remaining only as memories. We appreciated the death of the leaves. We laughed at the sight of hopeless love. When winter comes, we will remember the day in the park, the shadows on the streets, and the falling dreams. We know that the leaves will watch us again underneath them. We realize that young love will eventually look up and learn. 

A couple of hours later, I sat once more on the bus sliding through the tunnel of in-betweens. I looked out the window and enjoyed the lonely ride, feeling like one of those leaves dancing through the air one last time. In that tunnel of darkness, I was content.                       

When the coldness of life slides through my bones—I will think of the autumn, and I will be ready. 

-angelica delucca

1 comment :

Clair Pimley said...

Very nice. Enjoyed the photos as a compliment to the story.