This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.
Daytime is calm, the stillness sometimes disturbing. The quietness discomforting. You are used to the chaos and the screaming babies and wailing sirens and businessmen yelling into their iPhones and the overcrowded sidewalks.
The air just hangs and the sun beats down heavy and you can feel the weight of it in everything: expectations, disappointments, boredom, unanswered texts, uneasy silences.
Not yet Memorial Day and the city is already emptying out. The college kids are reselling their textbooks for $5 a piece, standing in lines for caps and gowns before retreating, heading back to their childhood beds or to new cities and new jobs. Everyone’s gone away. Gone home or gone to the Hamptons or to the Cape or to – God forbid – the Jersey shore.
You sit and shiver in an over-air conditioned office. Meander the streets in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else eats lunch at their desks. You stand on the corner and gawk at the gawking tourists, pity them, their JanSports that sit on their bellies, the sweat that beads on their foreheads, their overly cushioned sneakers. Even the ones who speak English speak another language.
At night, though, everything changes for the ones who are still here. It feels like there is maybe magic in the air. It’s not pollen you’re inhaling, but possibilities. You feel infinite. You feel electrified. You feel alive. You’ll say yes to anything.
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
When I hear Paul Simon sing that, I like to imagine for a moment that he wasn’t talking about ‘80s current events. I like to think he was talking about New York summers nights, the time when you are young and have nothing to lose, where it feels like you will remain frozen at 22 or 23 or 24 forever.
The summers where connections are made in mere days and sometimes lost just as quickly.
The summers where you hustle through your office job by day to spend the nights dreaming, but not sleeping.
The summers where inspiration is everywhere and all that was familiar seems new again and the wild youth are full of the naive and narcissistic belief that every generation who came before them thought: that like nothing like this has happened to anyone before.
We are stardust, we are golden.
Joni was talking about Woodstock, but because she wrote it in a New York City hotel room, because she never actually went to that farm upstate and instead created an imagined feeling, I think also about us. How everything changes when the sun sets, how New York becomes an enchanted playground when the golden hour turns into twilight, and everything is suddenly radically different than it was just a few hours before.
How it’s a never-ending charmed hour.
How you can feel the past on your clammy skin while living in the present and trying to see your future.
How you often utter, “Fuck, I am so old!” the panic leaving your lips seconds before you remember how young you truly are (you are so young) and you will never be any younger than you are in this moment.
New York’s summer nights are the closest we will ever get to time travel, to feeling like we live in a different era completely. New York’s summer nights are the only time when time seems to stand still, to not exist.
The anticipation of these few fleeting months are what keep us here through long winters, what allow us to hang on when we feel like quitting and going home. They are the real prize of living in this challenging town, but you don’t realize it until they fade into fall, asking you to wait for them:
Don’t forget us. Don’t go away. We will be back.