“Connor, it’s rising! It’s rising, I can see it!”
The sun, a lioness waking from her nap, stretched and woke at approximately 5:30am in the Upper West side of Manhattan, late June. I had not slept, chose to stay up all night for the sun.
It was my second night in the strange city, New York City, on the creaky mattress provided to me by Barnard College. I had gotten into the pre-college program a couple of months earlier, and this night was the start of my whole month away from home, living in the city and taking classes over the summer before my senior year.
Connor, the only thing I missed from home, shifted in his bed, sending crackling noises through my earbuds. He was miles away in our small town and we had been FaceTiming through the night. He didn’t say much, simply watched me watch the sun. I was so caught up in her rays that I forgot he was there.
“It’s funny, isn’t it? I used to wonder how this is the city that never sleeps and here I am, I never slept. I’m apart of the name now, you know?”
He hummed quietly in response. That’s another funny thing- time zones. I was three hours ahead and he, three hours behind, yet he was the sleepy one. But I couldn’t fathom sleep when the sun was streaming in through my blinds, creating horizontal jail bars across my face, though I had never felt so free. The birds were speaking to each other and the cars were driving by, early commuters on their way to work. Columbia University was across the street. Columbia felt like the real deal, the actual college, but I knew that was false – I was at an actual college, living the real deal. I had put hours into my application to this pre-college program and I had found the way to get myself here, and what is more “real” than that?
Connor was asleep now, and so was the feeble ache I felt that stretched from my corner of Manhattan to Dublin, California, my hometown. I sat up in my bed, mattress creaking, and looked out the window. The sun was moving quickly now, like she was struggling to keep up with the fast pace of New York City. I watched as the jail bars across my face rose, above my eyes, my eyebrows, my forehead… I adjusted my phone from where it was propped up, fixed it so that Connor could still see me. I don’t know why, because he was asleep, but I think I just wanted to feel seen in this city. It was easy to feel invisible in a place like this.
But there’s something freeing in that too, something I never had in my small town – insignificance. The sun’s jail bars in Dublin trap you, hold you there for everyone to see. Here, the sun’s jail bars are just that – sun. You can choose to push them apart, step out into the city before you, because no one will care if you leave. It is too big a city for everyone to know everyone, and that was strangely comforting. I was free to do anything, be anything I wanted.
My second night in New York City was no grand adventure. I didn’t get lost on the subway or see any attractions. I went on the best kind of adventure – the quiet, inner kind.
I ended the FaceTime call. I had never understood the beauty of “the city that never sleeps” until now.
This is why. This.
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