The memories of shopping for, applying to, deciding on colleges is all a bit of a blur to me now. At the time, I remember only feeling out of control and apathetic. I didn't want to stay in high school, certainly, and I knew college was expected of me, but I didn't care a lot about the ultimate decision, and I cared less for the process by which that decision was made. When fellow students expressed excitement over getting into State or getting into UNC, it was as if they were taking part in some foreign, ancient ritual for which I had no reference or savvy. The little Irish lady who worked in the office, Mrs. Doyle (really), must've seen this clearly on my face one day as I sat in her office, hastily filling out applications for the area girls' schools I had not previously thought to consider. She asked me if I could go anywhere for school, or to any school, where would that be? I barely had to ponder the question much at all before I answered, "I'd go to New York." I remember shrugging off her shock. I was a timid, quiet girl then (and still am to a degree). The strange part, to me, was that I don't know if I had ever actually considered New York or any other city before that very moment. But when I said it aloud, I planted some sort of seed within me.
For the next year, at an ill-fitting private school in downtown Raleigh, I was obsessed with New York. I wrote stories which took place in New York, stories in which New York was more a character than a setting. I dreamed about leaving and being there and making do however I could just to be there. I watched movies which featured the Manhattan skyline. I listened to songs about New York and bands from New York.
That window has passed now. Now my fantasies and google searches involve cabins in woods and farms on rolling hills. I've read a book about the New York underground (by which I do not mean the nightclubs Stefan reviews on Weekend Update, but the actual tunnels under the city filled with train tracks and the disenchanted). When I'm in certain moods I think it might be fun to visit, maybe take a train up there and spend a few days--not nearly enough days to see everything, but not enough days to start missing trees and my wild husband too painfully. (My husband, I should stop to note, feels choked and out of his element in dinky downtown Raleigh; were I to take him to New York, he would go feral, climb the tallest tree in Central Park, and I'd have to get animal control to tranq and crate him in order to get him home.) In particular, I still find the idea of New York romantic in December. My favorite moments in New York movies always happen on Christmas or New Years Eve.
My friend Kath just visited New York, she'd likely say too briefly. She's a city girl, so she's freely and proudly proclaimed in letters; an Edmontonian. She makes no qualms about enjoying fine things--eating good sushi, seeing Shakespeare in the park, experiencing art, culture, and smelly cheese. The postcard that arrived over the weekend from New York was of Van Gogh's irises, purchased in the MoMA gift shop. It was all so Kathryn, so lovely, so metropolitan, and I enjoyed spending a moment standing at the kitchen counter, reading her words, seeing a brief snippet of New York through her eyes and feeling excited with her, in a few days retrospect, as Lunchbox snuffled at my feet looking for scraps. I felt much of the same elation over the summer when Kath's post cards from France arrived. But I must admit there was a little extra something as I held a bit of New York, of Kathryn in New York, in my hand. I had wanted to be there, once, and though that's a dream I've grown out of, I can still appreciate the draw of that city, and I can easily let that thrill wash over me again.
Today, I am thankful for postcards from New York, and for the friendship of my sharp, worldly, beautiful (really, just breath-taking) friend Kath, and her handwriting which has not changed and still slants up on unlined paper, and the trips she's shared with me in notes for nearly a decade.