On the best days, I find the light without trying.
My hands stay gentle all on their own, for myself and for others. Everybody around me is a rich tangle of humanity, a cocktail of hopes and fears and breaking and trying again, and I’m no exception. I’m ready to endeavor, and every direction strikes me as right, and stories unfurl themselves at my feet. I may not have everything figured out, but something beckons me to believe I’m well on my way.
Then there are the days of stubborn searching, when gray washes itself over everything. Without thinking, I scoff at a woman ambling on the sidewalk, catching just a glimpse of the apology in her face. Guilty, I clobber myself for my impatience. With some coaxing, my fists fall apart, but I find them balled up again a few minutes later. And again, and again. Hour by hour, I move through the motions, working to feel inspired, scouring the world around me for meaning, and my steps are weary.
I want to believe I’m just as worthy of love on the hard days, want to convince myself I deserve company even when I can’t find an ounce of light within me to give out to somebody else.
The rough part? I’m the only one who can get me there. They were my hands that wove together this tapestry, the series of tangles spelling out the idea that I’m too hard to love on my bad days, and they will need to be my hands that pull it apart.
Central Park, and it’s warm but windy. We both settled on denim jackets, somehow, and I followed a whim to buy two pairs of tinted sunglasses from a stand near my street. He’s wearing the blue ones, and he’s telling me about his niece, the joy that loving her brings him, and I’m looking at him through rose-colored glasses.
We wander around and muse about different spots in the park –– Sheep’s Meadow, Tavern on the Green, the pond littered with turtles and canoes in the summertime –– and I realize this is one of my favorite things about New York City: All of us felt called to be here, for one reason or another, and so we’ve all stitched meaning into all its corners.
After some ambling, we settle onto a rock, and he shows me pictures of the time his niece visited. I tell him about the Columbia summer, how many Sundays I devoted to sitting on this very rock and reading, and we create makeshift plans for future Sundays. He kisses me, and I forget the people surrounding us, forget the many hundreds of people who’ve kissed one another here on this rock before, and let myself believe us to be the first and only.
It’s only later –– long after we’ve said goodnight and I’ve wandered back to my apartment, turned out the lights, and slipped into bed –– that it dawns on me how much of this day would have felt too beautiful to imagine for myself just five years ago: living in New York, kissing somebody my heart was reaching for, breathing and being without a single yearning to be anywhere, anybody else.
On the mornings I remember, I send my grandma pictures of taxi cabs.
Before I ever set foot here, before I discovered some part of my spirit tethered to the strange cacophony that is New York City, I had my grandma’s stories to paint a picture of this world. She’s an animated storyteller, committed to each retelling with her full gusto, and I’ve long been her widest-eyed audience. And Michael, she’d tell me, the taxi cabs! To her, they are a symbol of New York City itself, all the adventure and humanity and far-from-home sentiment.
Nine months into my first year living here, I forget to see them most days. My brain interprets them, now, as the vehicles most likely to speed through a red light. But, some mornings, I remember to snap a photo and send it her way. Her response is always the same: Be still, my heart!!
Each time, I grin the same grin. I love her spirit, and it’s the closest thing to a hug I can give her right now.
It’s the same thing I’m doing when I call my sister, and we leave each other on speaker and go about our days. For a little while, we forget the eight hundred miles between us, and we fall into old routines. I send my mom suggestions for her next visit, send funny screenshots of things to my older brother, update another brother on my video game progress. When I text my best friend the ‘I love you’ emoji. All the time, I am untangling what it means to say I love you across geographies.
And that’s just it, the thread tethering the stories together. Love looks the same, indifferent to the color of the sky or the time or space we find ourselves wandering.