I Am Too Soft For This City

2013 November 20

That’s what I thought as I waited for the F train. It wasn’t because I saw a rat skitter across the subway tracks or the fact that my rental turned out to be across the street from the projects (the neighborhood was perfectly safe). No, it was the trio of high school kids performing on the platform behind me – one on guitar, another on trumpet and a vocalist. She was what got to me. Easily good enough to be on The Voice or X Factor and, instead, singing in the Delancey St. subway station. As I willed myself not to cry, I realized I was probably too soft for this city. And that I should probably drink more water.


And, yet, I’m too hard for other cities. I can’t seem to find the right fit. As I told a friend this morning, being friends with me involves weathering periodic freakouts in which I contemplate burning my current life to the ground and starting over somewhere else. Three sublets in eight months and not having owned a bed since 2010, you’d think I’d want some roots of my own by now. And yet, I’m scouring Craigslist for options in Portland, in Chicago. I’ve driven across America and not found a permanent resting spot. I think of cities I feel affection for – ┬áSan Francisco, Boston, Pittsburgh – and wonder if the affection was a product of time, circumstances and never outstaying my welcome.


It sounds glamorous or at least intriguing to hear me tell it. I have no idea where I’ll end up next! I’m currently location independent! Everything I own fits in two suitcases! What’s less glamorous is wondering if you’ll ever find a place you look forward to coming back to after a trip or fretting about having to replace a stranger’s kettle when you accidentally burn the bottom out of it. A bed, a sense of belonging, something resembling a home. I watched Frances Ha this week and while I thought it was a pretty weak effort overall, I did identify with the character’s unmoored existence. She’s 27 and bouncing from apartment to apartment, putting a “free” sign on one of her chairs and leaving it on the sidewalk because it won’t fit in her storage unit.


As I remarked to another friend, this kind of life gets less charming with age. Eventually, you need commit to a place or commit to a nomadic existence. Either way, you’ve gotta settle at some point, for something.

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