I still could not believe that Anja was leaving New York for Berlin, permanently, the next day. She and I took one last walk together to her goodbye party.
As we strolled along Houston Street on the dark December night I watched all of the people bustle and cars and lights stream by and noticed all of the familiar landmarks—the garden on Second Avenue, the flea market on the Bowery, the cozy little restaurant on Elizabeth that I had been wanting to try—as if I was seeing them for the first time.
We continued to walk in silence, wrapped up in our fantasies and memories of the city and that stretch of street. I thought about coming home from Casey’s house one hot summer morning. My annoyance at his failure to take me to breakfast seems silly now. As I passed Risa, I laughed out loud—Anja didn’t seem to notice—as I remembered the night Michelle and I drank sangria and danced with the waiters there until 4 am. And the billiards place still evoked the curiosity that it always did—who plays pool in the middle of the day?
As we approached the party, the pit of nostalgia in my stomach expanded. The fish and vegetables mixed in with stands of hats and I Love NY t-shirts and people sitting out in the cold selling their goods seemed to push me over the edge of sadness and no longer was I planning on saying goodbye to my best friend Anja. Instead, I was saying goodbye to my truest friend and most beloved companion, my city.
Imagining leaving is like having my life flash before my eyes—all of the love, anger, passion, depression, abandon and strength that this city brings out in me balled up into one rock of desolation and sat in my belly as we approached the softly lit restaurant slated for her sendoff.
I slipped away from the party to call my mom and tell her how sad I felt. I think she understood that the feelings went deeper than saying goodbye to a friend. She said, “You are always sad. But you are always moving on.”
Later that night, Anja and I took a cab home together and I got out at her corner. As we said goodbye, I tried to muster some tears. But we both realized that moving on is what makes life in New York what it is. I promised her I would write and call and I walked down the street to my cozy apartment. I looked out my window at the Empire State Building and I realized that New York will always be here, ready to embrace me, and my memories.
And I finally felt better about my decision to move.