Quarantined City Soul
City fire escapes hold a special place in my heart. I'll tell you why in a moment, but I just wanted to make sure you understand why this is a blog post and not just a caption on IG.
I'm a city girl--like, literally, but also, at heart.
I was born and raised in NYC. I moved away from the Bronx at age 14 but found myself back in the boroughs and later Jersey City around age--I wanna say-- 22? So that's an additional 8 years living that city life. And for the longest time, my parents, who had up and moved to rural Pennsylvania when I was 20, used to tease me about loving the city, which I had denied, because it felt like I was being accused of something horrible.
It was like if I validated what they thought--that I preferred the convenience, the stimuli, the "buya"--it meant something negative about me. Like I was a restless soul. Like I couldn't know peace and quiet. Like I needed the grit and noise to feel alive. And, listen, I was, and in some ways, still am a quiet girl, shy and unassuming. But how can I be both city and...whatever it is I am, is what I used to think.
I no longer occupy those specific existential thoughts any more. I know we humans are complex and aren't obligated to stay prescribed to one way of being. So, mom and dad, I am officially okay with being called a city girl, because I totally am one.
And you know what? It's hard not to be one when I have all of these really neat memories of growing up in the Bronx, like the time we endured a summer Blackout.
It was scorching hot, and my mother, siblings and I would sit on our fire escape, just trying to catch an elusive summer breeze. We'd grab snacks from the kitchen cabinets and then people-watch from the safety of our third floor apartment fire escape. At night, it was cooler, and like us, our neighborhood realized the temperature outside was more bearable than inside where our air conditioners had ceased working. Maybe they were also buying snacks, or like my father, perhaps, they had ventured outside to purchase ice from the nearest bodega in an effort to prevent their groceries from spoiling. Either way, the city was just as alive--if not more--during a blackout as it was devoid of one.
Without television, nighttime people-watching was the most popular form of entertainment for us. My father, who used to work as a bouncer in Manhattan nightclubs, would bring us back all sorts of silly toys he'd found people selling when coming home from work in the morning hours. Things like light up swords, or blinking necklaces. He'd even had a full tube of glow-in-the-dark necklaces. The ones you had to crack to activate the glow, you know?
Well, we'd busted out a few of those and wore them on our fire escape. The light attracted our neighbors below, and suddenly, my dad, sister and I started cracking all of the necklaces in the tube--neon pinks, blues, yellows, and greens. Dad started tossing them like Frisbees from the fire escape as people cheered and thanked us as they walked off all aglow.
It was the first memory I think I had regarding city solidarity, and it helped define what neighborly meant to me. City folk are accustomed to holing up away from one another. We know separation really well, even in apartment buildings with dozens of other tenants, but it isn't always this way. Sometimes, it's as magical as finding yourselves quarantined and rapping Biggie Smalls' "Juicy" in unison.
There's a lot about living in cities I love, and existing among others is the main reason. Ultimately, I find that loving cities means you love others. You enjoy your social lives, because human interactions are important to you.
Being quarantined has a lot of us city people struggling, because we're home, craving action and stimuli. We miss interacting, but we're strong.
I hope you're all healthy and safe. I can't wait to interact with you all again.
Until next time...