24 February 2011

Memory Lane

While I walked to Duane Reade, I was thinking two things: I can’t wait to live alone again and I remember this.

It was seven o’clock, which is a fine hour to be awake if you’re a morning person or your dog needs walking, and a less fine hour to be awake if you only got back from Williamsburg at two and have totalled four hours, at best, of fitful sleep. But I guess no one had noticed, between the time I left on Friday afternoon and returned in the wee small hours of Saturday, that the last roll of toilet paper was damn near depleted. I’d been afraid this might be the case and considered stopping at the 24-hour bodega right across from the train station, but I decided to have some faith in my roommates’ observational prowess because it was cold and I was tired.

Although they are lovely people, that faith in them was unfounded, so when I woke up for the third time, late enough for the city to be stirring and stores to be opening, I threw some real clothes over my pajamas and headed out. This would never have happened to me when I was living alone, I thought as I walked down my street, and if it had, I’d only have myself to be annoyed with. But it wouldn’t happen. I would at least have known to make the late night dep run. (I say bodega, but in my head it’s still dep.)

Then I hit Amsterdam, and suddenly I remembered another Saturday morning in February. It was the beginning of reading week, and I was on a night bus. I fell asleep after customs and woke up in Jersey to watch the sun rise over Manhattan. Then I was waiting for the A at Port Authority, rehydrating, explaining to a guy on the platform that I was from here originally but living out of town, and bidding him a good weekend when the train arrived. I got off in my current neighbourhood, to stay for a few hours in my current apartment, just after seven in the morning, and the scene was exactly the same: faintly peopled streets, trash blowing along the sidewalks, all illuminated by the early morning light particular to wintertime.

I was born here, in a hospital I pass whenever I take the M3 to the Met, so I’ll never have a story of my first time in New York, but I have places to which I return and return and return, where I have overlapping layers of memory. When I walk along East 77th Street, where the sidewalk sparkles, I remember my teenage self wearing Converse and a camel-coloured coat and being enchanted, and I am enchanted all over again. When I sit with a book and a coffee at 9th Street Espresso, it makes me smile to know that my order has never changed even though the colours of the walls have.

I have a whole set of memories of this apartment from before it was mine. Sometimes I’ll walk into the bathroom to do my makeup, and I’ll remember reapplying red lipstick the first time I was ever here, and I’ll remember that night and that party and the dress and the shoes and the cab ride uptown, how the first things I wanted to see were the washer and dryer. I stayed over the night before I moved in and it was just like all those other nights I’d stayed here, when I woke up early and walked into the living room to see Florida sitting on the couch, eating yogurt.

It’s strange to be surrounded by things I remember. All my life, my modus operandi has been to get up and go someplace new, where I can reinvent myself as necessary. Even as kid, I chose to go to a sleepaway camp where I didn’t know anyone.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll feel this same way when I go back to Montréal. I stayed long enough to have favourite cafés and routes to walk, and whenever I passed my old buildings, I’d remember the experience of having walked through those doors and lived in those places, but I don’t know whether it can ever have the sheer depth of memory that New York does.

No comments:

Post a Comment