Walks Through the East Village

There’s that underground jazz lounge where the first champagne cocktail is free for blue-eyed girls with bright smiles. It’s where that older Polish man with a boa gave me and my friend A a feather to wear in our hair. My friend A, who is now married, living just a handful of blocks and subway stops away from me. It’s where I became hypnotized the first time by live music – watching the pianist dance across the keys, the saxophonist breathe and move deeply and creatively calculated. It’s where I sat in a Forever 21 dress at 19 years old, pretending I was old enough to split a bottle of wine with a man I didn’t really know, but was paying. It’s where I went when I wanted to feel classier and older than what I really was, where I wasn’t the girl from North Carolina who interned at Cosmo, but I was just a woman. A woman who somehow lived in New York fucking City.

There’s that hookah bar on St. Mark’s that never carded me. I wasn’t sure if I liked hookah all of the times I went and took smaller breaths than everyone else, but I knew I liked the sugary-sweet sangria, long before I knew what good alcohol tasted like. That’s the place where there are couches in the corner, cushions on the floor, where you can sit Indian-style or extend your legs long, far across to the other side of the table. That’s where I took my friends when they visited, to show them a new-something they didn’t know about, something terribly urban (though later I realized it’s not). That’s the place where just a few days ago, I brought a guy from Williamsburg to that very corner and though I didn’t know him, my red wine haze told me to kiss him. Right there, on the first date, with hookah saturating my hair and my breath. The breath that was making his glasses and the cold window behind us steam up.

There’s that movie theater on the east side that’s a hop, skip, Metro card and jump from Brooklyn. It’s where I saw that movie with a name and plot I forget, with Mr. Possibility, summers ago. It’s where we bickered between Sprite and Diet Coke and then snuggled through the movie, his hand on my thigh, my head on his shoulder, sitting awkwardly so we could touch, even though it’s uncomfortable and definitely unromantic. There’s the cheap Thai place a few doors down where we went once the credits started rolling, where we sat in that booth in the back, with polyester seats and fluorescent lighting. It’s where we talked about the future like it was our promise, where he leaned over to me while I was tactfully slurping a noodle I could barely hold with chopstick, and kissed my forehead. It’s where he said he wanted to always take care of me. It’s where maybe somewhere, deep down in his butchered heart, he thought he could mean it.

There’s that frat-tastic bar on Third Avenue that I absolutely hated going to. But I went the night after my birthday, with a terrible cold, barely able to speak and I waited for him. His sister and brother-in-law kept me company, bought me hot tea, tried to ease my worry. M showed up when he didn’t. Until two hours later. That’s where the man I thought I could love forever made me doubt if forever existed, for the first time. That’s where my then-highly-intoxicated boyfriend decided to go home alone instead of going home to work something out with me. That’s the street where I slammed that cab door shut and he didn’t look back. Around that corner, that’s where M promised me that he was just my first New York love, not my last. There’s where I walked myself home, bitterly sober and instantly lonely, wondering if I’d ever believe her.

There’s that bookstore where I curled up with a latte and my computer, writing about love and hoping for it. There’s where I sat for a few hours on late Saturday afternoon in the most brutal days of winter, reading through a book I didn’t intend to buy (but did). There’s the travel section where I met M for a day of shopping in the West Village for my birthday, and ended up bringing home an 8-pound puppy on a Sunday night. There’s the magazine section where I looked eagerly for the tiny engagement magazine I had a print piece in when I first moved to the city, where Mr. Possibility stood at the end of the aisle, smiling at me. There’s where he whispered in my ear as we looked at my bylined spread: “I would know you apart from anyone, just by the way you move so beautifully.” There’s where I listened to Adele while avoiding the self-help section, a year later, wondering if I needed a book about getting over someone or if I could just write the book myself.

There’s the park on Avenue A that I found so terrifying, hidden behind small rooftops and appearing out of nowhere in between the graffiti buildings along the east side. There’s where I stumbled in too-tall high heels in the cold with a friend, trying to hail a cab at 3 a.m. after a night of flirting and boozing, smearing lipstick and turning heads I didn’t care to see again. There’s where I wanted to sit down so badly, just to give some relief to my tired legs, but I didn’t, even more afraid of what lurked on the Manhattan streets I was still getting used to. There’s the address where, three years later, I fell in love with a new part of town while dog sitting for a friend who just signed a lease. There’s where the park felt so different and so much more welcoming, a place for coffee and running, a place that wasn’t so haunted, after all.

There’s just one small part of my home. Just one neighborhood in all of the eccentric zip codes of this island. Just a cluster of streets before Houston, where East Village turns into the Lower East Side, where Stuyvesant Town becomes Union Square. There’s just a few memories, a few local, dates and weekends at local pubs and restaurants, bookstores and theaters, I’ve Google mapped and others I don’t need to look up to find. There’s my walks through the East Village for the past few weeks, remembering the adventures, the love, the disappointment, the fever, the dreaming I’ve experienced in the short time I’ve been able to live where the 7-year-old me always knew I would.

And there’s the older me, the quarter-life-crisis-ing me, reminding myself that if so much can happen in just under four years, so many more beautiful, surprising things are surely still to come.

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Star Light, Star Bright, First Wish I Make For Me Tonight

If you visit New York City, you will find several things: buildings that reach the clouds, people from every country on the planet (and in all stages of life), hidden gems that no tourist guide should ever get a hold of, and the next big thing on every corner.

You will also find love in the simple places and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch yourself wanting to take a picture of the city you’re buzzing around with – just so you can capture that feeling, that energy in something you can take back to your own zip code.

But no matter how many pictures you take, views you see, or places you scout out –one thing you won’t find in the city of dreamers are stars. Much, anyways. And as a gal who was raised in the south and spent many-a-nights laying in her backyard watching the stars compete in quantity with the fireflies – it just may be the one thing I miss about living in North Carolina.

I’ve seen the stars twice since I’ve lived in the city. The first time, in Columbus Circle, Mr. Unavailable was quick to tell me they were probably just planes. I glared at him and matter-of-factly responded with: Maybe you’re just a jaded New Yorker, hmm?

But last night as I was walking from the train to the gym, iPod on shuffle, 3-inch stilettos on foot, I saw a star. I looked around to see if there were any other stars showing their face and waited a second to see if it moved (I guess it could be from LaGuardia). But no, it was not only an actual star and the brightest star, but it was the first star of the night. (If it wasn’t, I’m pretending it was, anyway.)

Without hesitation, I closed my eyes and made a wish, smiled, and kept walking –just like I always have. It didn’t occur to me until I was on mile two at the gym that I had made my very first wish on a star that was a desire that had nothing to do with a man. And even better, I made this wish even though Michael Buble’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” happened to come on just as I saw the star.

Sure, I’ve wished to move to New York and to be a writer, but it was always coupled with another plea: find me a man or make me fall in love! I’ve even gone as far as giving stars deadlines when they should have this perfect person to me, and while I adore stars, they wouldn’t make great freelance writers because they’ve never met this time limit.

But last night, surrounded by the buildings I see daily, I made a wish that wasn’t about falling in love. Had nothing to do with romantic notions or happily ever afters or getting hitched or having babies. No part of my wish was about kissing in the rain or walks through Central Park.

Although I can’t give it exactly away (it wouldn’t come true!), the wish was for something that came from true bliss, complete happiness, and incredible personal contentment. For the desire to have something that comes from a place of thankfulness and bloom of sincere peace.

I don’t believe my over 20 years worth of making wishes on the first star I saw were wasted on men, nor would I go back and change my words – but there is something gratifying about making a wish independently.

And really, that’s what this whole journey is about. In so many ways, single women get lost in the instability and the uncertainty that comes with being a minus-one. We stand guard by our phones and put ourselves out there and we read every self-help book imaginable to try and figure out “what we’re doing poorly” or “how to attract the man we want” or “the way to lose ten pounds and get a husband in a year”. But in reality, there isn’t anything wrong with us, nor is there anything bad about desiring a remarkable love and person to share our lives with.

It’s not about how we look or what we say at a bar or how long we wait between the first email and the response – it’s about the feelings we have towards ourselves. If we love who we are, if we believe in what we have to offer, and if we trust that we really can’t screw up what’s meant to be (because, we’ve tried, right?) – the rest of it just falls into place.

Does this mean I’ll stop making wishes? No. It just means that if I’m always wishing for the same dream (or the same man) – maybe it’s time to take a risk and wish for something that’s just about me.