I am a sentimental girl and I save far too much. I save old pictures, love letters, clothes I’ll never wear again (because they remind me of a specific event,) and dried flower petals. I keep everything because to discard certain things feels as though I am discarding a part of myself. A couple of weeks ago, while in Manhattan, my old friend Michael and I went out for a couple of (overpriced) drinks. He and I have been friends many years so of course, we share many memories and “remember when” stories. My memory serves me well. I remember insignificant details—almost on a photographic level, a blessing and a curse. I am a force to be reckoned with in an argument. After wading in the nostalgia, Michael asked of why I’ve remained in Little Rock. I find myself tightly wedged between a rock and hard place. I wish I had the courage to live outside of Arkansas and yet, the idea of leaving my family and friends leaves me with a lump in my throat. When polling friends and acquaintances who’ve found the courage to uproot, I discovered most were nudged due to a career transfer or a significant other. Very rarely have I heard, “I just packed up and moved.” I know a handful who have and they are satisfied with their decision, yet the absence of reason tends to be uncommon.
My visit to New York stirred something unexpected in me. I had the notion I would enter the “big city” and feel an overwhelming sense of home. My grandparents were born and raised in Queens and Brooklyn, so I harbored this romantic fantasy of being cradled by the city. Instead, I felt anonymous. To quote my mother, “Manhattan is almost dehumanizing. No one cares. You are insignificant.” I was not a brick in the wall, I was I was a speck of dust in the brick. Chicago, on the other hand, entered my veins and allowed me to exhale. I assumed New York would be a magnified Chicago and learned the two cities are absolutely incomparable. It was great to visit with Michael and his wife Brooke, don’t get me wrong. They both bent over backwards to show me the city, plus conversation with both was always enjoyable. But the city itself? People exist like sardines in a bottomless can. Stench and all.
With Michael in Soho. Supporting the hogs in NYC.
I’ve struggled with the composition of this “blog” because indecision constantly rattles in my head. My straight line gets altered, crooked, and bent. To move or not to move? That is the question. I struggle because I don’t dislike Little Rock. It’s familiar. Despite outside perception, Little Rock is full of neat, intelligent people. Certainly far more than given credit. I know several implants to Arkansas too, all who originally believed Little Rock would be a temporary home only to fall in love. It’s not a rarity for me to walk into the grocery store, restaurant, post office, or boutique and not know a third of the people there (again, a blessing and a curse.) I don’t feel like running away from something. I feel like running towards something. I know it’s probable my fear and uncertainty will morph into regret. The word regret is typically not in my vocabulary.
Yesterday, I played a CD a co-worker made for me several months ago. Song two played “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. Song two played me. I arrived at my destination before the song played out so I sat in my car and listened until the song was over. I felt a knot in my stomach. I felt a rush of remembrance. Isn’t it amazing how a song possesses such power? Certain songs leave me defenseless. I usually can’t predict the song. It just happens. One exception is “True” by Spandeau Ballet. This song guarantees time travel to my past every time. Scents are another trigger, perhaps the strongest. There is a distinct smell (fireplaces and cool air,) that when mixed with a certain gray hue in the sky, can knock the wind out of me. I find myself trapped in a yesterday. Nostalgia. Bittersweet. Most of my moments of this nature originated in Little Rock, hence the hesitation to allow another city to own me in such a way. This is the topic Michael and I discussed. Songs and scents paved the way to “why are you still in Arkansas!?”
I believe some people experience nostalgia more often and intensely than others. Some disregard it. Maybe some never allow themselves to note the actual moment, therefore there are no aftershocks. Maybe I think too much and should live in the now rather than the now I knew. Maybe remembering is good, yesterday is after all, the bridge to today. Maybe I should remind myself that I am young and a world of new nostalgia awaits. Little Rock is “little.” New York felt too “new.” Maybe I should trust Chicago, and just… go. I feel like the girl who cried “Chicago” and I know it’s because I haven’t completely convinced myself it is the literal right move.
Michael said, "You need this one for your blog." His rebuttal to my, "I don't want any pictures of just me."
Brooke and Michael. We stopped at a local bar by their apartment in East Village for a cocktail.
This was taken moments after the conversation that inspired this blog.
Then too many shots happened. The shots inpired these photos:
Yeah, that's a tree found on the street.
And I don't recall this photo being taken. Proof it happened though.
World Trade Center site. Surreal. Humbling. Heartbreaking.
Times Square. Brooke and Michael shared a hidden treasure-- a terrace (no people) overlooking the chaos.
With Brooke (I call her Brooklyn) in my last moments in the city.
Michael and Brooke: Thank you for your hospitality! Arkansas misses you guys!!