No one rides the buses in New York City unless they have to. The subway takes a quarter of the time and is generally more reliable. But I kind of love the buses. I like the back right corner seat the most, especially when the back half of the bus is elevated so I can see out the window. I like that it never makes me feel claustrophobic and no one’s ever yelling on the loud speaker to “stand clear of the closing doors.” I like that the people who take the bus aren’t in such a hurry. I’m on the 104 bus, heading south, because the train isn’t stopping at my station this weekend. But we passed the next train station, and I’m still on the bus. I think the 104 goes all the way to Times Square. I guess we’ll see.
I turned 25 a couple of weeks ago. 25 doesn’t seem like a possible age to associate myself with, and I’m sure it’ll take the next ten or eleven months before I get used to saying it. 25 means the last year I can be on my mom’s insurance, the year I’ll find a real job (hopefully one that gives me my own insurance), and when I’ll have to start paying back student loans. But all of those only make 25 feel daunting. It’s better to think that 25 is the year I’ll graduate, the year I’ll finish my thesis, the year that I’ll leave New York for somewhere new, or somewhere warm, or somewhere familiar.
I’ve been craving familiar things. I went to DC a few weekends ago to visit my best friend from college who I hadn’t seen in too long. The best friendships are the ones where you can eat Thai curry on the couch in sweat pants while watching X-Men, and it doesn’t matter that you haven’t seen each other in a year and a half. I visited a couple of museums while I was in DC, but I couldn’t make myself care about them. I only cared about coffee shop conversations and visiting my friend and his family. And I was reminded again that I’ve put myself in a position to always be far away from people I care about.
On the bus back to NYC, I saw a horrific wreck that put me in a weird mood. There was an incessant beeping noise that persisted for all 5 hours, and I tried to sleep in a position that set my whole spine and rib cage on fire. I got home to my empty apartment, my Halloween pumpkin on the table with mold in his smile, and I wanted to turn around and get right back on the bus.
I saw my favorite poet read a few nights later, and he made me miss home and New Orleans and possums and pancakes.
One of my oldest friends came to visit last week. He arrived in the evening and had to catch his bus back just after midnight, but it was nice to see an old friend even thought it was only for a few hours. I brought him to get his first slice of New York pizza and a Magnolia Bakery cupcake, then took him to see the new World Trade Center, even though it was too rainy to see the top. He kept offering his seat to women and children on the subway, kept running to open doors for people, kept saying ma’am and sir, and it made me feel far away from home and glad that I have some life-long friendships that distance doesn’t diminish.
My best friend from college came to visit the next night. We got bagels and coffee in the morning, like we have a thousand other mornings in settings that weren’t this one, and even though I no longer eat bagels or drink coffee, it felt right. We went to the Museum of Modern Art, which I’d never been to, and I had the experience I’ve had in museums in New York, Rome, Florence, and Madrid— the experience of having to remind myself that even though I’ve seen these paintings hundreds of times in my life, this time it’s real. This is the time it counts.
That night my Columbia friends came over to celebrate my birthday. My roommate baked a cake and everyone brought snacks and drinks. The last birthday party I had was my 18th— it was small, with a few high school friends, and we ate pizza, drank Powerade slushes, and watched Aladdin. Seven years later, I’m in a city I never though I’d live in with an apartment full of people I’ve only met in the last year and a half, people that have made me happy to be here even when NYC has tried its hardest not to let me be.
I like finding familiar things in the new ones, and I like letting what’s familiar be new again.