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A Letter to the City

New York, you and I have both changed.

I met you when I was younger. My cheeks were red when I first stepped into your train station. “So many people, so many people.”

I had been to cities before. But, when I was 10, I realized no city was even comparable to you. You were a different kind of city. There were passion and blood and dreams everywhere I stepped. You didn’t smell of ocean salt and food like the cities in California. Miami smells warm and humid. You smelt of love and pollution and whatever the guy sitting next to me on the train was eating.

You’re quite ambitious, you know? You’re busy and intense and when I realized I could handle you, I realized I never wanted to be without you. A few weeks later I was 39,000 feet in the air and I missed you. I missed your stained streets and sticky skies somewhere deep in my chest.

You don’t sound very appealing but nobody ever really knows you until they spend some time with you. They’ll know what I mean.

I was in Paris the next few years later. Then Brussels, Amsterdam, and soon I made it to London. They were beautiful – unexplainable. But, not unexplainable like you. Their skies were clearer and so were their streets. I think when I first met you, I was around millions of different people each day. And those people weren’t like the ones in France. In Brussels, people didn’t rush like New Yorkers. Sure, 5:00 at night was busy, just like it was with you, but it wasn’t the same kind of busy. It was a relaxed busy. Let’s go home and eat dinner with our kids kind of busy. Not, I have a deadline in the morning and if that’s the last deadline I make before I die, then so be it, kind of busy.

New York City, I breathed your air again when I was only 16. I never forgot how wonderful you were. You are older now; wiser. I like to think I am too. I carried my purse close to my body on every street I walked. I did not wear stick-on earrings and my hair was not cut shorter than I liked. My hair was long and so were my nails; and I was wearing my favorite lipstick.

I had fallen in love with different people when I was 10. My family, a few friends, and my stuffed animals I slept with every night. When I was 16 and we met again, I had fallen in love with a boy. I had fallen in love with many books and art and feeling alive. Thank God I hadn’t met you again any sooner. At 14, I was lost. At 15, I was only existing. I was sad sometimes, too. But when I was 16, I had started to find myself. And my God, did I love you with all my heart. I loved being allowed to love something with all my heart again.

And I loved to be in love with a city rather than a boy with dark hair and soft hands.

I was learning to love again.

When I left I knew I would miss you. But, It would be a different kind of miss. The kind of difference between a cannoli from the store up the road from my house and a cannoli from a tiny shop in Little Italy. I would miss you, but not like before. I would miss you like you’re always a part of me. Not like when I was younger and every day I thought about you and I thought about how it would be to lose you.

No, when I was 16, I knew I would be back to the city as soon as possible. I knew I would see you again. I wouldn’t be afraid to say hello next time, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say goodbye, either.

Words by Emilia O. // Photography by Georgina Wong.

© 2015 Reef Magazine.


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