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In the City
I smell like cigarette smoke and New York City, though I suppose they go hand in hand. I’m not quite sure what it is, but something draws me to the city. Maybe it’s how there are so many different groups of people living together. Even though fights can break out between groups, in most cases they live in harmony. Maybe it’s how you can buy a Louis Vuitton in the Upper East Side or a knock off for five hundred dollars less downtown. Maybe it’s how at night, when looking out of your window, you can see lights for miles and the city still has as much energy as it does during the day. For whatever reason, I love this city.
Originally I am from Bronxville, New York. It is a small town on the border of Yonkers. The people from school all seem the same. They drive cars that their dads bought, but they never earned. They only consider people valid if they have the latest Prada bag. It’s very easy to feel insufficient when forced to go to school with these people. That’s why the day after I graduated was the greatest day of my life; I moved to New York City, away from the people in Bronxville that are more cookie cutter than the houses they live in.
Someday I plan on living in an affluent area in Manhattan, not snobby, but pretty with plenty to do. At the moment I’m living in a five hundred square foot studio apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It’s far from glamorous, but rent is actually affordable without losing your life to a job. I only work at a CD store in Williamsburg at the moment, though one day I hope to work in a studio so that I can always be around music. Most people my age in the city are here as college students. I thought about attending college but none of them really seemed to fit me. I’m sure one day I’ll look back on my choice not to go and regret it, but right now I just couldn’t go and feel happy.
I met one of my best friends at the CD store, her name is Anya. She was born in Moscow but moved here to go to New York University. When I first moved to the city, I felt lost as I didn’t know anybody. She offered to show me around the areas I had never gone to, introduce me to new friends and show me where other indie people hang out. Through her I met Aleksandr, her cousin from Novosibirsk that is now living in Greenwich Village. He is a sophomore at Columbia University. We may have only talked once but I like him more than most guys already. He can actually form a sentence and knows who the president is.
Today I woke up at seven, which is actually fairly late for me. I got ready and left my apartment for work. Right outside my apartment there was a homeless man with a cup he used to collect change. I’m fairly certain he is a permanent fixture on the neighborhood. It really wouldn’t be the same without him. I’ve given him money before, so I walked right by him today with no remorse. I’m sure that makes me a bad person, but one develops quite a thick skin after living in the city long enough.
After walking a short distance I got on the M train at Central Avenue to go to Williamsburg. There’s nothing quite like the subway in New York, especially during the summer. I’m pretty sure that Egypt is cooler and at the moment I’d rather be there. Today the subway seems extra crowded, though that’s probably because all of the schools in the city are officially closed for the summer and kids are now free to roam the city. This has made me realize how truly annoying I must have been when I came into the city as a younger teenager.
In a few minutes I was in Williamsburg. The nice thing about taking the subway is that it’s generally quick, especially compared to driving through the city. I had a few minutes to kill before I went to work, so I decided to go to Starbucks. There was a fight about to break out between two people nearby. I pretended not to notice. The Starbucks in New York are always crowded before people have to be at work. It can get old pretty fast, but after having my caffeine it doesn’t matter that much.
I arrived at work in a minute after walking briskly from Starbucks. The store doesn’t look amazing from the outside, but if you want a CD that nobody else will have, you have found the right place. Currently our biggest sellers are Blonde Redhead and Bon Iver. Even though the store usually only sells CDs from bands that most people haven’t heard of, it is almost always packed. I’m pretty sure all of the hipsters in New York City have been here at one point or another. We tend to get some very interesting customers. If CD stores were carnivals, then I’m sure we would be considered a freak show.
When I got in it had just hit 8:30. We already had a few people poking around. Usually people don’t start coming in until later, but we just got a shipment of Iron and Wine CDs that people are clamoring for. Anya was already behind the counter. Currently she was ringing up possibly the thinnest man ever who was sporting dreadlocks. The second he got outside he started smoking, in true hipster fashion. I have never smoked, but many of my friends back in high school did. A lot of teachers thought that I did because I was around them so much, and that got on my nerves.
“Hey Jules!” Anya called as she saw me. Most people just call me by my real name, Julia, but everyone at work calls me Jules. I don’t know why as I never said that people call me that, but I don’t mind. “What’s up?” she said as I walked to the counter. “Not much. I just think that there will be many mad parents tonight when they find their kids have been away from home since they left for work.” I replied. “I know, the trains were crazy this morning, weren’t they?” “Mm.” I said with a nod of my head. For the next ten minutes the two of us rang up all of the customers in the store. In about an hour, the store is almost guaranteed to be full.
“How did your date with Mike go?” I asked her. Mike owned a loft in Soho and was what he called a “starving artist”. “He ended up being a complete bábnik. I suppose I should have known he would be though. All of those artist types downtown are. It seems like they don’t care about anybody but themselves, and hurting woman doesn’t phase them any.” “Well, not all of them are like that. Take Aleksandr for example, he’s good. If he is there have to be plenty more like him around, you just have to keep looking.” Anya looked down and said “I suppose”. She never had good luck with guys. She would give her all and would get nothing in return. Every time a relationship doesn’t work out, I always try my hardest to comfort her. The only problem is I’m never quite sure of what to say as I don’t think love has rules. In relationships, you just have to go with the flow and not pay attention to what anybody else says. If anybody really knew everything there is to know about love, then divorce would be obsolete.
Like I suspected, the store was full again in an hour. A group of teenagers with ratty Converse were standing in a corner, discussing the cutting edge bands from the area. In high school, I was one of them. I always liked underground bands first in school and months later somebody popular would find out about them and bring them into the mainstream, but by then I would have already found a new band to be a groupie for. In one of the aisles was Khenan, a guy in his mid-twenties from Jamaica. He is a regular in the store and was well known in Williamsburg. Nobody feels uncomfortable around him and he always tries to be friendly. Most of the other people in the store look familiar, but I don’t know any of their names.
I spent the next few hours working hard, ringing people up, helping people find CDs, stocking the shelves and cleaning any mess that I found. By one I was able to leave for lunch. Most of the time I just grab a bagel from a nearby coffee shop as I’m not a big eater. Today I was actually feeling hungry so I walked a few blocks to Fornino, a restaurant with the best brick oven pizza in the area. I expected to just grab a slice and leave in a few minutes, but when I got inside I was blindsided. Aleksandr sat at one of the tables, waiting for his food while reading The New Yorker. I didn’t know whether or not I should interrupt his reading and say hello or if I should just order. Before I had much of a chance to think that over, he looked up and said “Hey Jules, its been a while, huh?” “Yeah…it has.” I said, shifting a bit. He motioned his hand, offering me the seat across from him. I sat down as if I were a robot.
Surprisingly enough, once we got talking, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. We talked about politics, an art gallery he was working at in the Village, and music. We had similar tastes, so we recommended bands for each other. One of the bands he mentioned was Kino, a Russian alternative band. Even though he loves New York, he really seems to miss Novosibirsk. I can’t imagine missing home, but I’m sure Bronxville is a bit different from any place in Russia. Our food was ready at about the same time, so we ate together while continuing our conversation. “I’ll be at the CD store later on today, around closing time. I’m taking Anya to the Village. See ya later Jules!” he said as he left. I left shortly after him. Its amazing how in such a big city you can run into people when you least expect it.
When I walked in the store, Anya looked at me with an amused expression. “I know that face” she said to me. I looked at her like I didn’t know what she meant. “Either you won the lottery or fell in love.” “It’s the latter” I said. “I mean, I don’t really know if that’s it. Could it be? I don’t think so. I mean I don’t know him well enough. I could someday though. I think.” A customer stood at the counter staring at me.
The rest of the day seemed to go by fast. There were a lot of customers so there was never any down time. The entire time I was working, it seemed as though I was in a dream. It was weird. I always tried so hard to protect myself by not giving away my heart and I did just that in a matter of minutes. Like he said, Aleksandr was at the store by closing. “Hey Anya. You ready?” he said. “Yeah. Let me just grab my bag in the back room.” she replied, running off. “Hi Aleksandr” I said. “Hey.” he said with a sheepish smile. “I was thinking, maybe we should go out for coffee sometime. Sound good?” “Yeah, it does” I said. I’ve always been told that I should get to know someone better before going out with them, and I’m sure that’s the smartest decision, but I’m listening to myself this time. For once, I’ll listen to my own advice; there are no rules to love, and all that one can do is go with the flow.