With city lights below me and the pitter patter of rain on my window, I was ready to see it. I wanted a beaming welcome. I wanted to see the lights of the Empire State saying come on in. I wanted the Chrysler to glisten and tell me I was home. But there was no shiny welcome, just a blur of light, a runway, and a rumble when the tires touched down at LaGuardia Airport. I would have to wait to see the city, just as it would wait to see me.
The airport deserted, I navigated through it with ease. I’d arrived in the city that never sleeps, and yet it seemed to be doing just that: sleeping.
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No people, no lights, no glorious skyline, just a lonely boy in a darkened terminal. I stayed at friend’s house in Queens for the trip. That night, I drifted to sleep with the sounds of the subway out my window. I could hear New York, and I knew when morning came, I would get my chance to see it.
The sounds of the subway greeted me once again when I awoke, but this time they were accompanied by voices, footsteps, and dogs barking. Ready to join the commotion, I proceeded down to the kitchen. It was six o’clock, and my friends still lay asleep in their bed. I walked around the house, alone. A cloudless day had dawned. At last the owners of the house came downstairs and we were ready to depart.
Five blocks later, we arrived at an elevated train station. Here was the sound that had been taunting me through the night, and in three flights of stairs, not only would I see the subway, but I would see it. New York was waiting. I paused. The stairs were steeper than any I had seen before. The railings thickened by coat upon chipped coat of paint. With each chip, a generation of the past shone through. Did they climb these stairs? What did they see at the top? Would I see it the way they did? What if it was just another skyline? I knew, it wouldn’t be. I knew something truly great would happen at the top of these stairs. Life rarely grants it partakers anything truly great, yet I had one, right here, waiting for me.
The journey up those stairs is where I draw a blank. In all honesty, I can’t remember a darned thing about that climb. All I know is that I had no idea what would happen at the top, and I was okay with that. With a swipe of my MetroCard the gates of the station opened.
There it was- New York, in all its glory. It felt so unreal, yet here the city sat, right in front of me, glittering in the sunlight. I gazed for what now seems like hours. The Empire State was as beautiful as it had been in my dreams. I could hear the Chrysler telling me, I was home. I saw the torch of Lady Liberty and wondered how many before me had seen that torch, how many before me had been beckoned by its glow. Yet none of them, I knew, were as truly great as this moment.
All too soon I was back in a familiar terminal but this time it was lit. The skyline faded away as I flew westward. I felt like crying, but I realized then that no matter how lonely I might feel, this wasn’t goodbye. New York would always be with me, and one day, I’d be back.
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