| Family Tempo |

Welcome to New York

I’m standing in the vortex between worlds


In the mornings I come out of my apartment on 85th and make a sharp left onto Amsterdam. I walk down,



past the Insomnia Cookies café, the concept of which always makes me smile.

I cross at crossing after crossing; alternating between looking left and looking right because the roads are only one way.

I walk down,

and down,

and the humidity clings to me like a second skin, wrapping me up in a sticky, uncomfortably warm embrace. I cross over and over again.

Past Trader Joe’s, past Starbucks, past the bookstore — I make a mental note to go back there later.

Down Amsterdam, over and over the crossroads.

At 65th there’s a weird statue commemorating something, I’m not sure what, and soon enough I’m at 60th. I turn right and walk down the slope to building 227 where the security guard greets me and tells me to sign in.

I go up the stairs and the air-conditioning is a welcome relief from the sauna outside.

I get lost in a tribe of girls who are different from me. They wear designer Brooklyn, slinky skirts and denim skirts and sneakers, all have the same pom-pom; they talk about marriage and engagements and Monsey and all the prior arrangements they have instead of discussing schoolwork.

Today we planned a math midterm around a girl’s cousin’s wedding in Florida.

I stand quietly on the edge, looking for a place to hide until my class starts. But alas, a friendly girl pushes past my walls and asks my name and my major and hesitates when I respond in an accent that I’ve become acutely more aware of.

And then the follow-up questions of where are you from? and why are you here?

And I laugh in disbelief with her because I’m not sure where I’m from or why I’m here.

I just am.

And that’s when I realize that I just am.

I’m floating in this space in New York.

I walk to school and back from school and I sweat and dehydrate from the temperatures and I grocery shop and sort out school stuff and smile politely and answer questions even more politely.

My roommates chatter around me as I sit on my bed pretending to be absorbed by my phone because, quite frankly, I’m just too tired to do anything else.

I’m falling asleep earlier and earlier and getting into a routine and going to class and at last I feel like I have morphed into the next stage of my life.

But suddenly.

I have stage fright and I cling to the edges of the curtains of the stage, teetering forward, ever nervous, ever cautious to see what lies beyond the fabric.

So now I’m standing in the vortex between one familiar world and the next, wondering if I want to close my eyes and jump or if I just want to stay standing.

Welcome to New York.

Welcome to New York.

I smile to myself and flip the coin to reveal the other side of this crazy whirlwind journey of mine that has taken me to my apartment on the Upper West Side with its big, tall windows and high ceilings.

I walk freely down Amsterdam observing all the stores and noticing little nooks and crannies that I hadn’t noticed before.

The heat is still oppressive, but today it doesn’t feel so bad as I take my half-hour walk down to school and watch the world spin past around me, the rush of all that surrounds me, leaving me to just wonder.

So, wonder is what I do. I meander down Amsterdam and wonder about my classes, about what stores there are, about phone calls and emails and assignments. About flowers and books and buildings that are tall and majestic yet stick out like sore thumbs against the New York skyline.

And what a skyline it is, full to the brim like a jumble sale — a concrete jungle.

A mash of buildings meshed into one, with high-rising skyscrapers and low-rising brownstones, bricks and mortar, glass and mirrors all around me.

But all I see is the blue sky and I know that there is a whole big wide world out there just waiting to be seen.

The background is a cacophony of car horns and sirens, people talking and walking and the hustle and bustle of New York City carries on around me.

But I’m untouched by its ferocity, untouched by its overwhelming presence.

Instead I just keep walking,

wandering and


gazing at the haze of people walking in streams like ducks ebbing and flowing against the tide of the water.

The streets are overflowing, sidewalks

b u r s t i n g like banks in the springtime with people walking their ten thousand steps.

I see boots and sandals and flip-flops and trainers. I see Crocs and Doc Martens and high-tops and dress shoes and the occasional work boot.

I keep wandering and wondering whether they’re also lost in the abundance of it all or if they have places to go and people they call home.

I have those things too of course, but the novelty of this new city and these new people hasn’t yet worn off so while I am home—

I am not quite home until I feel that sense of relief at the end of a long day.

Welcome to New York.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 727)

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