New York is in its most amazing prime: fall.
The leaves are changing, the weather is ideal for a light weight everything, and each sight you see is just absolutely gorgeous. To celebrate the majesty of the season, I decided to take myself on a date. If I am falling in love with little ol’ me, part of the romance is treating myself to a day with me, myself, and I.
After a three-mile run, I dressed up in a tight black sweater dress and high-heeled brown boots with my leopard print pashmina, and headed to the subway. For days, some little voice inside my head had been telling me to go to the Met; so, for once, I listened.
When the train arrived at 86th street, I headed through the park, around the reservoir to look at the changing colors and the beauty of the sun reflecting against the water while the wind tousled my hair. Every single direction I looked, I was captivated by how perfectly peaceful the city can be -even with so many people constantly surrounding you.
I walked slowly and freely, observing and taking in everything around me. I turned off my iPod, I put up my phone, and I embraced the simplicity and the stillness of just being alone. I didn’t have to talk to anyone, discuss what to do next, or where to go: I only had to speak to myself. When I wanted to stop and stare, I stopped. When I was bored, I continued. When my feet hurt, I sat down. When I wanted a water, I got some. And of course, I took pictures of the skyline.
As I walked through the park, I saw beautiful babies in strollers and toddlers playing catch with their dads. I saw couples holding hands and stealing a kiss. I watched tourists figure out their next move, and New Yorkers push their way through them. I heard languages of every kind and sirens in every direction. I brushed by friends giggling at a share secret and artists bargaining for a fair price for their original design. I witnessed a homeless man begging for a dime and runners brisk by me without missing a beat. The park’s energy was vivid and real, unforgiving, and relentless. It was superbly New York.
Once I reached the Met, I carefully wiggled my way between crowds, made my donation, and explored the vicinity. I walked through centuries of artists, rooms from long ago, and sculptures that once lived on four different continents. I smiled at strangers, half-way examined my map, and continued through each room thinking of all the people who have seen, touched, and been part of every single piece in the museum. I admired a couple vigorously discussing a piece of art before turning to each other and smiling, and the gentleman kissed his wife’s head.
And of course, as I crossed into the medieval room, I found a knight-in-shining armor. I tilted my head at him and decided that since I was on a date with myself, it wouldn’t be polite to dream of the man who once was in that suit. And then again, I thought I wouldn’t want to because it looks very stiff and painful –not quite something I’d like to snuggle up to.
Once I reached the top floor, I realized how tired my feet were getting, and that the sun was just beginning to set. I looked through the window and watched the trees dance in the breeze, and for a moment the world paused. New York felt like home just as it always has, but the peace of it started to settle in my soul. And when I feel good in my soul, I always want to have some lovely red wine to sit well in my tummy.
So off I went, back through the park, crossing landmarks and even more strangers. I walked passed bridges and lovers, pennies on the ground, pigeons hopping along, and faces of every shape and kind. I didn’t touch up my makeup and I didn’t feel cold or lonely -just confident. I walked until I was on the West side near my train and found a cute Italian restaurant that looked to the east.
I asked for a table for one outside and a kind Italian man brought me a menu and a gracious smile. I ordered a tall glass of wine, a tomato and goat-cheese salad with bread, and ate every single bite while I read an old book I’d been meaning to read for weeks. I listened to the wind and the conversations around me. I observed the people walking by: families and friends, women with babies, women in heels. Men with collared shirts and running clothes, children laughing and playing in the streets. Elderly couples bickering at each other, women drinking Starbucks, and smoking cigarettes. The city was embracing its people and as an observer, I took full advantage of the presentation. The diversity is beautiful.
The date ended with a walk back to my apartment, just about ten blocks, and I thought of how truly blessed I am to live here. To live in the one place I’ve always, always wanted to live. And for the first time, I realized how lucky I am to be single.
Before the cute little girls in pink jackets who will call me “Mommy”. Before the man who will come up behind me and wrap his arms around me and whisper in my ear. Before the ten pounds that will most likely come with age. Before the canes and the wrinkles. Before the bills and the heavy decisions. Before I no longer can call this city my home address. Before I must consider another person with every single choice I make, road I take, or direction I go. Before there are loads of laundry and dishes to wash that aren’t mine. Before there are soccer games and retirement plans and houses to keep up. Before there are in-laws and anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations. Before I am part of a ‘we’. Before I am a mother. Before I am a wife. Before I am menopausal. Before…the rest of my life, I have one of the most precious gifts anyone can ever have, and many have fought for: freedom.
The freedom to just be. To just go. To walk or to run. To stop or to play. To wonder or to discover. To believe or to question. To cry or to smile. To wake up and travel or sleep in and to stay. To hope or to disdain. To achieve or to succumb. To be…
It was the best date of my life. And I know, with my whole heart without any doubt or insecurity, that I’ll call the next day. And me, will still be there waiting.