Last year, I went to Bard College, in the Hudson Valley, for a semester as an exchange student (it was awesome, but that’s another story). It gave me the opportunity to stay a few weeks in New York City. A city I’ve visited with my family, with my friends, by myself; a city I loved (and still love).
I’ll always think of it as the one that captivates, mesmerizes, and tires us out. It will always be the one that caused my emerald green Converse shoes to wear out. I’ve kept them, preciously, in a corner of my room. I can’t get myself to throw them away, and yet, I will never wear them again: the city pierced multiple holes in their soles. They are the living memory of these days, when I was walking up and down Manhattan Island. When I glimpse at them, all saggy and sad under my closet, I feel like they’re screaming at me to put them on again, to go back there, from avenues to perpendicular streets, to go down Central Park West, cross Chelsea, before walking to East Village and going back up 5th to Central Park, where I could lie down under a tree and let them rest a bit.
Yes, they covered miles and miles of macadam! They walked up and down the city pavement, under the rain or the sun, in the snow, or on icy days. The city ruined them; it totally destroyed them. The burning feeling under my feet told me so: find new travel companions, these one just let you down without warning. And yet, I took them back to France, along with the I love New York stickers, the Bard College cup, the hundreds pictures I still haven’t sorted out. They are the proof that a few months ago, I was spending my days wandering around the Big Apple. Wikipedia will let us know more or less clearly why we call it that way… If you care about my opinion, I have to say that New York City has nothing to do with an apple. It is neither round nor smooth. No, it is made of a thousand spikes, holding the sky, Atlas of the modern times. If you want to keep up with the fruit metaphor, an ananas seems a way better image to me, with its multiple stabbing points.
Yes, I agree, while blabbering on and on about my poor sneakers, I may have forgotten what matters: if I didn’t realize the pitiful state of my shoes before I burnt my toes on the asphalt, it is because you don’t watch your feet when you walk in the streets of this city. Your eyes go up, always, and look at these skyscrapers tickling the clouds. You wonder, at every single crossroad, seeing these varied architectures, these buildings, so welcoming. You hope you could get inside, and enter a cosy flat, with tacky mauve walls, where close friends lived one after another. And you’re amazed as soon as you enter one of the museum marking the island out: the MoMA, so calm and peaceful in spite of the number of visitors. The Met, so gigantic and rich, that it asks all your attention. And where you come back, a few days later, fascinated by such beauty and knowledge. I had the chance to see the exhibition dedicated to Alexander McQueen: I don’t know a thing about fashion, about art, maybe a bit more. I stayed hours in these dark rooms, packed with a dense crowd, people elbowing me, others pushing me, pressing me, walking on my feet, because I wouldn’t move, hypnotized by all the things offered to our eyes. When I finally got out, I just needed silence. Frantic research of the Greek pottery room on the museum map. Every Classics student knows very well that ancient vases only interest him and its peers. I was right, one floor up and a few rooms on the left, no human being contemplated the heroes’ deeds, Athena’s and Apollo’s acts, anonymous warriors’ and athlets’ accomplishments.
There we are, this city, where I felt so little, nameless too, and yet, at home. This city, so welcoming, so enchanting. These strangers, who became for a few months my neighbours, my friends, my family even. These streets, that are now as familiar to me as my everyday bus ride to the Sorbonne University. This place, where I’d still like to be.