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Street Haunting: A New York Adventure
'The self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.' ' Thomas Szasz
In the season of winter and the month of December, most people begin to scrutinize themselves in order to find a flaw. The flaw(s) they find are then put in a list, literally or mentally, and then become a resolution(s). This resolution is upheld for a week or so, until it is conveniently set aside or forgotten due to the first responsibility or duty, that the person deems more important than remembering the promise they made to themselves or others. This pattern occurs just as surely as birds migrating in the winter, or salmon swimming upstream to lay their eggs. But in the last days of my adolescence and in the midst of my becoming an adult, none has ever felt more passionately about keeping a resolution.
The hour should be the evening and the season winter. Alongside me is a journal, a Moleskin, that I received for my 18th birthday with the quotation above inscribed in its cover. This brand of journal has been used by the likes of Hemmingway, Van Gough, and Picasso, and other names synonymous with greatness. Its pages were meant for self-reflection, ideas, and stories. Like the artists above, I've chosen an abstract theme to interpret and portray in my art: love and romance. In an earlier essay about this topic, I wrote how I felt romance had been tainted, and taken into unachievable levels by the film industry. However, during this month I've never been able to detach myself from its addicting and comforting grasp.
This month for the most part, is time for families to rejoice amongst one another. Many forgive and forget past grievances in order to celebrate the seasonal holidays to come, as well as usher in the New Year. For me however, there is something about this month that generates within me, a hole of loneliness and sadness that is filled and remedied only by the feeling of a relationship. Perhaps it's the numerous commercials in which the advertisement portrays a young couple exchanging jewelry while holding hands and walking through a park, or a couple sharing a kiss under a mistletoe, that draws out the weaker part of me. Whatever it is, the emotion elicited by this month, is the reason that I have never spent this month alone. In fact, to avoid spending this month alone, ever since freshman year I arrange a fling or date, despite my better judgment. The past flings have usually ended poorly with the woman hating my entire being for not taking the relationship seriously enough, or some other excuse they can muster, highlighting my unworthiness and the lack of attention I give them after the month is over. This year, however, following the advice given by a close friend, I decided to forgo the seasonal rituals of 'wooing' a woman and instead go solo. His advice lead me to forge a resolution to stay alone, until I've matured enough to understand the difference between true passion and seasonal infatuations.
New York City is ranked among the top 10 most romantic places in the world a statistic I've acquired through multiple websites, such as travellingboard.net. And at this month and this season, it can probably rank within the top five. It is also the city where most of my romancing takes place. Each December, for the past four years, I've taken on a routine of taking a significant other out for the night. The City has always brought out the best in me. When I was in Manhattan I knew the right words to say, the right moves to make, and the right places to go to evoke feelings of affection and comfort. In the City I was in my element. This is where I would conduct my experiment, traveling into the city alone, prepared to record what I noticed in order to prove whether or not romance and feelings of love, are truly present on this month.
I walked east of my parking spot on 49th street and approached one of the most densely couple-populated areas of the season, Rockefeller Center. As soon as my eyes caught the Christmas tree I could easily distinguish the couples that were either taking a picture under its light, or asking a complete stranger to take one for them. Normally, during the rest of the three seasons, this area would entertain businessmen out to lunch rather than couples and romance. As I stood against the fence of the famous Norway spruce tree, journal and pen in my hand, I incidentally heard the numerous mutters of the people. I first noticed a couple that were color-coordinated for the seasonal event. He was dressed formally, as was she. He was wearing a red shirt with a white tie underneath his black blazer. He was Caucasian, his hair finely combed, resembling that of John F Kennedy. She was a light-skinned African American; she had long brown silky straight hair resembling that of Beyonce. She wore a short red dress that ended mid thigh, a wide white belt that came across her mid-section, and a long white blazer that was open. They looked elegant, beautiful, and rich, like they had come straight out of a high-end fashion magazine. They looked at each other as a third party took a snap shot of them in front of the tree.
From the way their eyes never strayed from each other's faces even after the photo had been taken, I saw an intense emotion of passion and affection. They thanked the man for the picture and didn't even glance to look at how they appeared on the camera. I'm sure if they had they would've seen what I saw, flawlessness. Then they turned to the tree; they looked as if they were scrutinizing it. He looked at her, and in a soft voice said, 'I'm still leaving tomorrow.' She looked at him with disappointment; 'I understand that.' She quietly murmured. She laid her head on his left shoulder and he put her arm around her waist. For a moment they were together, and, from my perspective, in love. They stood still for a moment, seemingly held by the flashing red, green, and blue lights. After a few minutes he took her hand and disappeared into the crowd.
For a moment I stayed motionless, fixated on his words. Where is was he going Is it permanent? Does it signify the end of their relationship? I couldn't help but ponder the answers to these questions. I felt intertwined in their relationship's state because in retrospect I saw myself in that man. The way he carried himself with a slight arrogance, the way he knew that his attempts at romance would only last but a mere moment, and the way he kept his distance knowing he was leaving. However, amidst his emotions I saw another. The other perspective was eye opening. Looking into that woman's eyes I saw devastation, like she had been fooled into believing that she had something magnificent only to find out that what she had would be taken away, like she had been hallowed out of emotions. I closed my journal and felt ashamed, recollecting my past experiences with women, I felt guilt in knowing that I could've given and taken away the same hope that she had.
I decided to leave Rockefeller Center. As I walked uptown, I noticed that most of the people who passed me were in pairs. As I walked further north towards Central Park, I noticed that the couples grew in numbers. I never thought that Central Park would be the destination of so many, especially at this hour. I heard stories from my co-workers that Central Park past 7 o'clock was a haven for drug dealers, prostitution, and violence. They've told me that jogging or merely walking through there would surely lead to a mugging, a robbery, and even a rape. I was scared at first to enter, but went anyway paying no attention to my better judgment. As I dwelled deeper into the park, I remembered that there was a small restaurant that was stationed on the lower end of it. I kept walking and passed others who seemed to be doing the same. I felt reassured that nothing would happen as long as there were witnesses to vouch for me, but I still walked briskly.
Approaching the Tavern on the Green Restaurant, I noticed an elderly couple sitting on a bench. They held each other's hands and sat close together, they were arguing in some foreign dialect playfully. She zipped his jacket up, only to watch him zip it back down. She gave him a slight nudge and he just smiled back at her. I didn't know if they were married or just friends, but by the way he stood up first offering his hand to her for help, I knew they loved each other. He took her hand and entered the restaurant, I continued to watch him as he took her coat affectionately and lead her into the room. He was delicate with her, not because she was elderly or because she was a woman, but because he loved her. They were given a table, and as they approached it he pulled out her chair declining the waiter's gesture. He sat down across from her and again held hands as they opened the menu.
Watching them helped my guilt subside; replacing it was a feeling of envy. They had something I've always desired, something I could never attain despite any accomplishments or achievements that I may attain in my adulthood - love. The affection and emotion they shared is one I could never sustain past this month. I lose interest, feeling, trust, and all the components that create and maintain a relationship as soon as the month and the holiday season comes to an end. I felt deprived of this emotion, like a child without a mother.
I chose to leave. With my head down and my mind preoccupied with thoughts and feelings of an eminent and inevitable future alone, I exited at the south end of the park. I walked two streets to the left towards the subway entrance. It seemed ironic that I passed a quartet choir that sang 'L.O.V.E'. With every letter of their song I felt more pessimistic about the feeling. 'L is for the way you Look at me.' They sang. No, L is for lonely, a feeling I try to escape every year of this month. 'O is for the Only One I see.' No, O is for my Obsession, trying to find affection in anyway possible. 'V is Very Very extraordinary.' No, V is for vainly, a trait that describes how I choose my relationship. 'E is Even more than anyone that you adore.' No, E is for eternity, which feels like the time I'll spend alone. The song they sang proved harmful for my self-esteem and seemed to only magnify my insecurities. As I left, continuing towards the subway, I felt a sadness that left me embittered and afraid. I succeeded in finding the correlation between this month and romance, but at the same time, I was discouraged by the insight I gained about myself. Feeling empty, seemingly deprived of an emotion that brings such happiness, I decided to go home. I waited for the 'C' train to arrive and among me were even more couples. I slouched and put my head down, hitting it again and again with my Moleskin journal.
'Wise men say, only fools rush in' - Elvis Presley
A single line sang by a busker(public musician) playing a guitar, had lifted my spirits. He wore a black beret, a puffy long sleeve Northface jacket, and jeans. He played a guitar that had a white sash and an exterior that looked as if it had been weathered down. The frame was light brown, and the strings looked as if they could've snapped at any second. An audience had gathered around him, amused and relaxed by his raspy rendition. I could see how moved the audience had been; the couples holding each other just a bit tighter, and those alone had an cheerful smile that lead me into believing that they were thinking of their significant other.
Though the song is about an uncontrollable desire to be with a loved one beyond all doubt and reason, it spoke to me differently. I realized that though adulthood approaches, it was only the beginning. I have my whole life to find someone to love. To have that same feeling of completion that the elderly couple did; to share the same intense passion and desire to be with someone as that woman in red did. I was a fool for believing that I was lost, a fool for thinking that I had no other opportunities to remedy my loneliness, when in fact I had the rest of my life.
Only fools rush in; I was in such a hurry to find true love that I had forgotten that it takes time to develop. Patience, was what I learned from my experience and along with it came a feeling of reassurance that love will come in time.