Thursday, June 19
It was a smoking-on-the-rooftop-’til-3 am kind of New York night. I had just gotten off the train, thereby rounding out my journey from Texas. I made the solitary walk back from the train to my apartment, thinking about how I had just spent a week sharing a bed with friends and family, sometimes 2 to a bed, sometimes as many as 6. The physical affection, touch from loved ones in the most innocent of acts as I’m slipping from conscious to unconscious is no longer a reality here in this city. My bed is for me, just me.
I stomped up the four flights into my apartment building, surprising my roommates whom I hadn’t seen in one week, and whom I had forgotten to inform I would be out of town. I often forget that slipping in and out of town like a vagabond isn’t the best way to maintain those relationships I’m so hesitant to truly build but crave. It’s okay, I had thought, I’d only met these two people three or four times prior. They didn’t need to know where I was.
But when I saw them, it was an odd sense of comfort. Strangers whom I’d interacted with only a handful of times were no longer strangers, not in this city of millions. We’re all strangers until we’re not anymore. And we weren’t.
We’re roommates, occupying the same space, if only for a few weeks. Something about breathing the same air in a confined space with people engenders trust. We’re all on the same side of the wall, we might as well stand side by side. So we poured ourselves a plastic cup of whiskey, grabbed our fireworks purchased in Virginia, and headed up one flight onto our rooftop. The alarm that forbade this secret hideaway no longer blinked red, the lock on the door broken, the hideaway ready for us on this night.
The air is crisp tonight. So crisp, with a slight breeze, the kind of perfect weather that if I were living in suburban America, I’d get in my car with the windows down and drive towards my teenage years. 2 am and we’re lighting fireworks, pointing the sparks to the northern lights, celebrating something. Anything. The night.
There, five floors above the world, the entire borough sprawled before me. No skyscrapers, just windows peering into the lives of others trying to get by. Some left their kitchen lights on, others crumpled in bed next to lovers. The night was well into its slumber, the moon preparing to hide itself once again for the day.
The city the same as I had left it the week before; it’d be the same when I leave it again next week. But tonight, tonight I was living above the lights, making my own fire. The air became crisper as morning began to sing. We puffed our last cigarette, we lit our last firework. We called this our night, tomorrow’s night would be the same as we’d left this one. Time for bed, the morning would claim us once again with responsibilities and conversations and all the things and people that didn’t belong up on this rooftop. The morning meant I’d be me in relation to you; this night I was anything but.
And really, it’s summer nights like these that make living anonymous and alone in New York City all the more seductive.