Greetings From New York.

Why try?
Why try?

I wrote a poem for my friend Billy years ago. It goes like this:

In New York,
I think of you;
When I am,
I always do.

To tell the tale of this poem, however, we must leave New York for a moment and return to Chicago. When I moved to the city in 2001, I found a decent studio apartment for an unheard-of $420/mo. A year into my life there, Billy called to say he was moving to Chicago too. I felt like I had won the lottery. I was really lonely. Bill and I had met in college and instantly liked each other a lot. He was a tousled musician, I was… Well, it’s up to him to describe a junior co-ed me. But we bonded on enough occasions to become bonafide friends.

When he was on his way here, I nabbed him a unit in my building, so we were sort of like roommates except I didn’t have to wash his dishes, which was for the best. And so it was in the early 2000s, Billy and I were the best of friends during some tough times. We were both struggling to carve out lives in Chicago and we clung to each other. We never dated. We were just…Mary and Bill. He wrote songs. I wrote poems. We both worked nights: he worked the desk at a mental health facility on the west side; I worked coat check at a couple nightclubs downtown. We were simply there for each other, and even though he’d disappear for awhile or I would, we always came back together just in time.

 

Today, Billy is in a rock band that is doing very, very well. It was always so clear that that was exactly what he would do with his life. We always knew. And I always knew that it wouldn’t be long before I was making a living doing what I loved — and we were right about that, too. By 2005, I was a full-time freelancer, writing and performing; no waitressing or coat-checking needed.

So why is the poem about New York?

Because some of the best memories I have of New York City involve Billy. It hasn’t happened in a long time, but for years of our lives, even before that important time in Chicago, we would frequently end up in New York at the same time. And we’d connect and have an adventure, some bacchanalian night that ended up with him driving me in his red car to wherever I was staying. Sometimes we’d make out. Sometimes we wouldn’t. But there was always love, always creativity, inspiration, and learning.

One night, in Times Square, we were walking around. It started to rain. Billy was a few paces ahead of me. Suddenly, he turned around and grabbed me by the face and kissed me full on the mouth. He pulled back from me and smiled this huge smile and said,

“This the first night of the rest of our lives, baby.”

And we walked into the blur of Times Square, into the city, into the night. I’m pretty sure we were holding hands.

In New York,
I think of you;
When I am,
I always do.

 

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