To Leave New York

Two days ago, we left New York.

I’m actually writing this from the road, in the beginning stages of what’s to be a month-long stint of travel with my family. We’re going from one end of the country to practically the other with lots of stops in between. It’s The Great American Road Trip, and it’s not my first one. I’m very Kerouacian that way: I like to hit the road and I like to drive and drive and stare out the windows, open to whatever thoughts want to wander across my brain. I like seeing what the country is really like. I like the first feelings of freedom and the giddy anticipation of what potentially lies where the road ends. Even if you know where you’re going, you can’t always be positive what it will be like when you get there—that’s why I love the road.

In order to leave New York, I had to come to New York….

We moved to New York just two short years ago, catapulted from restlessness and ravenous for adventure. We came to New York, and by the action alone fulfilled some dreams. We came to New York with other dreams in mind too. We spent the better part of those two years sorting through all those visions and ideas, diving headfirst into what the city offers. To be clear: New York is as magical as they say, and I still can’t believe that it was really my life to walk the streets and know the people and claim little bits of that energy as my own.

There is a lot of speculation when someone leaves New York. It’s internal and it’s among friends. Heck, I was only here for two years, and I’ve had strangers speculate my motivations and my intentions, my successes and my failures. My husband and I struggled through reasons and logic and needs and wants, and we decided, together, that it was time to leave New York. We made our choice in full confidence, and I felt released from the city; until someone told me I probably over-romanticized my experience here, like I wasn’t made of the stuff the city requires. I wrestled in that for some time, worried that the place I’d loved so much had never really been mine. But then we left New York anyway.

So, in the face of that, I have concluded: You can’t over-romanticize New York. New York is what it is, and all people, everywhere, have a love-hate relationship with the place. Some people love it more than other people hate it, but its glittery allure turns everyone’s eye at one point, even if it’s just on a movie screen or in a magazine picture. That’s why leaving New York never has anything to do with leaving New York, and everything to do with everything else. Even lifetime New Yorkers leave New York. They get out and they go back. New York in and of itself is a constant; New Yorkers are not.

As a resident, I left New York plenty of times. I flew out just to fly back in. I felt relief watching the city shrink from view in my rearview mirror, only to rejoice in her majesty upon returning. But there is something different about leaving and not knowing when you’ll be back again. Two days ago, I watched the city grow smaller and smaller, and foggier and foggier. I felt all of the little pieces of New York that are in me floating around and stinging with the friction of being pulled away, felt as though I was being bled and leaving a trail behind the car that kept us painfully connected somehow. On my second to last night in New York, my husband took me on a date. We visited the MoMA and we found a dark, tiny, candlelit restaurant in the West Village, the kind of place that only people who like the West Village can appreciate. When the night was winding down, we headed back across the East River to our home in Brooklyn. “Take the Brooklyn Bridge?” I asked him. “There’s something I’ve always wanted to do.” As we drove up to cross the iconic structure, I pushed myself up, popping my head through the sunroof of our Jeep, spreading my arms wide so I could feel like I was flying from one borough to the next. Manhattan twinkled behind me and I said goodbye. It was a cold night, and the air was sharp, so I had borrowed a tiny Welkin skull cap from my daughter’s closet. The winds from my flight lifted the hat from my head and sent it swirling back behind me before I could catch it.

It’s pretty likely that there’s still a miniature black beanie laying in the left lane of the Brooklyn Bridge, halfway between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Maybe it drowned in the East River. But when I remember that last New York moment, I will always think of that hat—which had been gifted to us just as our city adventure was beginning—fluttering back and touching down safely in Manhattan, leaving a little piece of me behind.

Now I’m on the road and I’m in my element, but I’ll never the same with all the little pieces of New York in me, with the hope that maybe New York is a little bit changed, with a piece of me in it. Which is to say, you never really leave New York.

(Sarah Noel is a writer and the editor of LaTonya Yvette. Photo)

2 thoughts on “To Leave New York

  • Reply gram February 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    😭😭😭 Heartbreaking.

  • Reply Claudia Guerreiro February 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    so beautifully written. the best of luck to you all wherever the roads will take you.

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