Message in a bottle

By Kathryn Baxter
Woman Newspapers

I have lived in New York City for over fourteen years. Brooklyn, to be exact. I love my neighborhood. There is a deep-seated pleasure I get from waving to my neighbors; young and old, stoop-sitters and cafe owners, dog walkers and stroller-pushers, suit-sporters and tattooed rockers. It’s hard to put this simple, intimate joy into words. 

I especially love those mornings when the sun hits the side of a red brick building just right and it practically glows; when the crush of commuters are rested just enough to give each other a little space. Each new day comes with a collective forgiveness, a willingness to let go of yesterday’s crammed commute and irritable glares, allowing for the  kindness of holding a train car door or helping carry a stroller up the subway steps to take effect.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go of the narcotic buzz of this
town. Airplanes overhead, subways beneath, horns honking, motorcycles
revving, buses squealing.

And the people – the party that makes this city go: the writers and the painters, the dancers and the engineers, the pushers and the scowlers, the mutterers, the musicians, the bankers, the hustlers – folks dancing the delicate balance between thriving and surviving. It is a giant kinetic neighborhood where working only one job feels like underachieving. I’m an engineer, but also I’m a playwright. (Words I’ve heard this week.)

Here is what being tenured in New York City has given me: an awareness of how very precariously and perfectly we are perched at the highest point of a powerful and feral wave, and if we’re lucky we not only manage to surf but to dance atop it, too. This is what my city is about. 

I want to carry this New York City persona that I’ve grown into over the past decade and a half with me wherever I go. I may choose to leave, to slow down, but I also want to stay sharp. There are those of us who are fortified by this buzz. Some of us have grown the necessary callouses. But sometimes it simultaneously wears thin.

Besides, there is a big world out there. This city is such a collective, the peoples of the world represented so much so that I can forget that there are other lands, other people. And who am I to say I have seen it all, simply because I have seen so much?

So, maybe after eighteen years in Pittsburgh, a handful up north in New England, and now almost fifteen in New York City, it will be time soon for another adventure. Maybe I’ll to you next year from a ship at sea or a rocket overhead. Or, more likely, another state. But when I leave, will New York City leave me? Will I be lost without it?