Summer Nights, New York | 2

Sunday, June 22

Tonight was our dance party in your apartment. The iPhone was our disco light, the iPad our DJ. The four of us with our unrhythmic swaying and pumping and twirling. It didn’t matter though, we were dancing in the dark with our eyes closed. 

Our four-person dance party. I think you were dancing because you were drunk. Maybe you were dancing because it felt better than not moving at all. I couldn’t really tell. You? You never dance. I didn’t even think you were capable, much less wanted to. Me? I dance every day. I was dancing because I was shaking off all of my demons of the day.

The only way to get rid of them at the end of the night is to make it so hard for them to cling on. Hour after hour their claws dig in deeper, making their home on my shoulders. By the end of the night, my shoulders are so heavy with their weight, because they are not light creatures, I need to dance them out with all my might. I think you could have been doing the same. You were dancing with the same determination and vigor.

All four of us moved our feet and swayed our arms, bumping into one another. The music was fast, then slow, then so fast we could barely catch up. Years of friendship tangled in a sea of arms and legs moving together. Three childhood friends and me. I just met you a couple of years ago, but because I grew up in the same neighborhood, too, I was welcomed all the same. I shared the same boredom only those who grew up in suburban homes but dreamt of city streets knew.

And so we kept moving. We were no longer confined to strip malls or church on Sundays or high school proms. We shook those demons off. The ones that tied us down to a past that’s no longer relevant.

When we tired of dancing, we felt energized to stand. I could stand tall, then, because my shoulders were bare, though they were raw with claw marks. Doesn’t matter, though, let the blood run and the wound sting. 

The moment we stopped, the apartment became too small. On the fire escape, we shared stories and confessions as only cramped spaces designed for emergency situations could elicit. We talked of meaningless sex, but I don’t really think it’s ever meaningless, but maybe that’s a conversation for another night. We talked of past relationships, because what else do you talk about that’s of meaning? Relationships hurt and they leave you burdened by their existence and extinction. They’re the types of demons that never go away; they only become more kind.  

Tonight was the night of many confessions, whether we meant for it to be or not. The others went back inside and it was just us two. I could barely shake off my demons, I couldn’t handle yours, too. Not right now. We stood there together, still, and swallowed the silence until our bodies could move again. The demons took advantage of our hesitation and perched again on our shoulders, their weight somehow exponential to what it was before. They dragged again, heavy once again. 

The weight didn’t matter though, because tonight, this night, we danced!

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Summer Nights, New York | 1

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.