The sewer smell from the underground immediately reached my nostrils as I stepped outside of the building where my office was located. It was an early night, and the sky, by exposing its black emptiness, reminded me that I didn’t see the sunset today. I always stayed inside, and I didn’t have the privilege of having a window.
I walked at a nonchalant pace still too fast to seem relaxed, while looking around in desperate sight of a taxi. When my eyes perceived the rooftop light of a yellow cab a few feet away from me, I sighed of relief, knowing that the wait wouldn’t be too long. This City made me grow impatient. I couldn’t stand being idle. I constantly sprinted after something, in a race for survival, seeking an isolated spot where I could hide from the crowd of tourists that invaded Times Square.
Their stunned looks of deep admiration before the million billboards covering the facades of all the buildings in the area disgusted me the more I felt them swarming around me like a frenetic colony of termites. They would devour me if I didn’t move, and I just didn’t have the time to wait behind them before crossing the street. They took pictures and stopped at every corner, not understanding while I shoved and pushed, forcing my way through them as if I was in the middle of a jungle. My machete in hand, I slashed and cut without mercy, looking for a way out, my eyes gazing at the cab as my ultimate shelter.
When I finally opened the door of the vehicle, I jumped inside and gave the driver my block intersection. In twenty minutes, I’d be safe and sound in the silence of my small East Harlem apartment. I couldn’t wait to be there already.
The car started moving and I quickly saw the crowd of tourists vanishing, their silhouettes becoming smaller and smaller as we entered 8th avenue and sped up through an orange light. I liked when we went fast, protected behind the window pane, my eyes glancing at the beautiful architecture revealing itself on the way. This was now my opportunity to sightsee. At last, I could breathe and relax, comfortable in the backseat, the little television in the separation wall blasting a clip of a late tonight show.
As we kept going uptown, I looked at the people wandering the street, and I dreamt. I knew why I came here, and I knew why I stayed. This City took me as a whole and spit me out as a mere speck of dust, but I still loved her with all my heart. I found her beautiful in every way, despite her stench, her crowd and her relentless pace. When we moved around Columbus Circle and up by Central Park, I couldn’t stop gazing at the green patch hidden in the darkness of the night. The park was gorgeous when very early in the morning, especially after an all-nighter, and by the time I went home, I saw joggers already burning their leg muscles as part of their wake up routine.
The straight avenues never ended, and I saw delis, shops and a million different boutiques on the way. I took mental notes of what was where, because I didn’t notice these things when I walked. I always went too fast, looking ahead and dodging everybody who stood before me.
I felt handicapped when I simply strolled around. That City ate me to the core, programming me to live at the speed of light, because that was just the way she was. She peeled me open like a ripe apple, and would let me dry in the sun if I didn’t catch up.
When I finally reached home, and I turned the key to my door, I knew I found my treasure island. The noise was gone, and the smell had vanished. It was just me now… until I heard the siren of an ambulance blaring a few streets away. That City, my City, never slept, and I’d be long dead before she even started dozing off.