The charcoal from the grilled chicken gyro cart on Seventh Avenue. A bit of exhaust fumes. Dank air rising from the subway grates. Orchids and $6 2-dozen roses, multicolored gardens wrapped in plastic under a green awning deli on every corner. Someone's hand-rolled cigarette, stamped out but still wafting underfoot.
Coco Chanel could roll all that into one oil and call it Manhattan. Or Paris. Or London. Just exchange the food from the cart. Add in a few taxi horns, and some chatter, and you've got yourself a strange mystical perfume.
I miss this City. Not always. But I do miss it. I don't miss the schlep. I don't miss the small indoor spaces where for 18 years I always felt claustrophobic (and didn't even know it) and longed for a bit more room for my books. Where I didn't necessarily ever just come 'home' to my 400 square foot apartment, take my shoes off and want to hang out all night. I always wanted to leave, to wander the sidewalks. The apartment was not a place of landing, more of a place to change your shoes, grab a coat. I don't miss the constant noise. I do miss the hum. Different than noise. I miss the people-watching, the walking, that slightly arrogant feeling you get after finally getting your city feet under you and helping out a tourist, that "Oh yeah. I'm not FROM here but I KNOW this place" cocky confidence. I miss the food. I miss that food is available even after 9pm. I miss the languages, the accents, the skin colors. And I miss the edge: the anger or the impatience, the hurry, the moment of kindness in the edge.
Not that I don't love where I landed but it doesn't yet fit. I get back to the Village and I breathe in the fumes and feel like I'm 23 again. Or 33. I'm beyond that and I don't belong here now. But it gets in your skin and stays like a tattoo or like an old scar that you can run your hand over and feel the groove. A mixed tape from an old boyfriend that even though the love is long faded, you can't bear to throw the tape out, warped and inksmeared.
A dinner with a friend on a familiar street playing catchup. A drink in the cafe I'd pass on the way to therapy every week where I'd think "I want to stop there sometime and linger". A pair of boots I can't afford at one of my favorite shops. Yankees hats and street hot dogs.
I miss it here.