I always start each morning with an iced coffee, black. If I don’t get it, the day always feels just a bit off. I don’t care about the weather, the occasion, the circumstance, the coffee always needs to be iced, and it always needs to be black. I’ve had good days, bad days, great days, and terrible days, but they all started with the iced coffee, black. Today was no different.
Until I ate a macaron.
Daisy was visiting for the first time in a long time and we agreed to get coffee and macarons because well, why not. I always believe that when you let someone in that deep into your heart, unless something horrible happened (and it didn’t) you’ll always have a connection. So we met in the Shoppes at Columbus Circle and walked up to the third floor where we got coffee, a pistachio macaron, and a chocolate eclair. I’m pretty sure the level of bougie-ness was off the scale (which was not helped by the gold leaf on the eclair), but sitting there at a table overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park as the morning sun shines down upon it was worth it. It was late enough where all the people going to work had shuffled past the bakery, but the tourists hadn’t come out in force yet. I made fun of her for the tiniest fleck of gold leaf that refused to budge from her lips after she bit into the eclair. She teased me, well, for being me, which is fair enough.
We ducked out before the crowds would fill the building, and we just wandered uptown, without a plan. It had been deathly hot and humid the past few days, but today, the weather finally broke a little. There was a constant breeze that broke up the stagnant heat, and the humidity finally waned. I’m 95% sure that it was just the weather changing, but that last 5% was convinced that Daisy was the difference.
She’s not from New York City, so we just meandered through the Upper West Side. Daisy’s the type of girl who can see the details, the small things that by and large we miss every day. Walking with her and pointing out the little architectural flourishes on all the buildings was fun, but it felt like old hat, it’s something that we used to do. I think that made us both a little wary because we both had moved on, and we’ve both grown from when we were together. So I decided to take her to Brooklyn, and since she’s never been, Daisy was in.
I don’t know how it all happened, but for some reason, no matter where we went today, there were no crowds, no lines, none of the usual inconveniences of New York sprung up. I’m still not convinced today actually happened, which is why I’m trying write everything down in one night.
The subway ride from the Upper West Side to Williamsburg is not exactly short. It had been quite a long time since I’ve taken a subway without headphones in my ears, but Daisy is Daisy, and no matter what, she can get me to open up. The abrupt swaying of the subway cars and the starts and stops means that you’re going to end up bumping up to people, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when this happened, but it still felt a bit odd to be that close to her again. After talking over coffee and macarons, we had bypassed most of the catch up chit-chat and that ride was spent talking about how we were living our lives. We talked about the small random things that made our lives well, our lives. We laughed the laughs of people who were old friends, people who had nothing to hide because we knew that there was no point. We still knew each other better than anyone else, and the A train to the L reminded me of that. As we were finally pulling into Bedford, she told me, out of every person that she knew, I was still the only one who sought no safe harbor. I never settled, I pursued what I wanted, and never held on to anything that anchored me down. I didn’t really know how to process that, but luckily, we pulled up to our stop. I dashed out of the subway and led the way up the stairs to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is still New York City, but to someone who’s only experienced Manhattan as “New York”, Brooklyn may as well be a foreign country. The architecture is different, the feel is a near complete reversal of Manhattan, and Daisy was a bit taken aback. I make fun of her for being a “damn hipster” all the time (even though she’s not) but now was her first real chance to embrace the hipster lifestyle. Daisy took to it like fish to water. She dipped in and out of vintage shops running her hands down floor length gowns of yesteryear. She threw on leather jackets generations older than her and mean-mugged in the mirrors to the delight of the store owners. We shopped for eccentric knick-knacks that only Williamsburg has, and for a few moments, we went full hipster.
I don’t go to Brooklyn much, but I remember the first time I made my way down there, it was refreshing and helped me clear my mind when it was cluttered. I ended up in a bakery eating a piece of strawberry banana cake, and figuring it all out. Since then, every time I make it to Williamsburg, I always stop by that same bakery and get a piece of cake, pie, or some other delicious baked good they have on hand. I brought Daisy with me this time and I saw her eyes light up as she marveled at the display of desserts in front of her. She chose the tiramisu, I got a key lime blueberry pie. I have to say, she chose correctly.
Funnily enough, I think we always did things backwards, and our dessert tour of Williamsburg before we had lunch fit right in with our prerogative. And then we wandered into a record store. Daisy’s one of the only people that I actively seek to go record shopping with. She understands that it’s not just a matter of browsing and buying, it’s a quest, a calling to discover, explore and find a part of yourself. We indulged ourselves for far too long wandering around the stacks of records we found, badgering one another to listen to an album that we ourselves had, but they hadn’t heard yet. Walking down the aisles and carefully rifling through each record, pulling one when something called out at us, either showing each other the ridiculous album art, or making the other promise to remind them that they have to buy this once we were able to go on another vinyl binge.
Finally famished and our sugar high from pastries and cake running low, we finally made our way to an eatery that basically exemplified every stereotype of Brooklyn, a restaurant that focuses on eggs. I always maintain that the truest sign of being comfortable with someone is the ability to sit down for a meal and not feel like the silences need to be filled. I think the addendum to this is when you both decide to order the same thing, which is exactly what Daisy and I did, after going through the menu and gently mocking it in hushed tones. It never gets old, but the simple act of sharing a meal with someone always brings you closer, no matter the circumstances. Of course, using portrait mode on your phone to take ridiculous photos of each other with the hipster surroundings and forcing each other to add hot sauce to each other’s meals doesn’t hurt the bonding experience.
I decided that we should move on to another part of Brooklyn and since we were both a little beat, I decided to call a Lyft to get us to Dumbo. To get off our feet and kill some time, we ducked into this furniture/interior design studio, you know the exact type I’m talking about, the type with the ridiculously expensive things that no sane person would ever buy. As we walked in, the lady working at the counter didn’t even look up from her phone to catch a glimpse of us. To be fair, I don’t think we were a risk, I doubt either of us could have made off with a couch or something through the front door. We walked through the perfectly curated set ups as we waited for the driver to pull up. Daisy settled on a couch in the window display of the store, and she quickly waved me over. She told me to sit down next to her and hold my ear up to this blue thing. It of course sounded weird, and when I put it down, she whipped out the price tag and showed me that it was an ostrich egg shell, painted blue, which could be mine for a cool $475.
There was a bowl full of them in the window display. Some things I’ll never understand.
We both laughed and then whispered to each other about how incredibly ludicrous this store was, and wondered how places like this stayed in business. For a moment I forgot that we were in the window display, and it was just a couch, somewhere. And then I realized that the store should’ve been paying us for being a part of their display. There, in the beautifully curated window, were two people, laughing, whispering, and simply being happy without a care in the world. In short, we put life in that beautiful, but otherwise lifeless image that the rest of the world saw as the first impression of that store. But the shopgirl could not care less because it probably wasn’t her store, and let’s be honest, I wasn’t buying that fucking blue ostrich egg for $475.
When our Lyft finally got here we hopped in rode quietly across Brooklyn. We could see a storm far off in the distance, but we still had a few hours of sunshine left, and we were resolute about making it to Dumbo. Our driver of course, had other ideas. Driving in Manhattan is pretty easy, the island is basically a giant grid, but in Brooklyn, especially by the bridges, the streets and ramps are a maze. Our driver missed his turn, and before we knew it, we were over the Manhattan Bridge. I was about to complain, but then I looked out the window. The view from the bridge is nothing short of breathtaking on a normal day, but that day, as the afternoon sun was waning in the west, with the storm rolling in from the same direction, and the blue sky with picture perfect clouds in the east, it was hard to imagine capturing the scene. So we both just marveled at the view through the windows, silently thankful for our directionally challenged Lyft driver.
When we finally made it back across the bridge, the car dropped us off at the foot of the Manhattan bridge and we meandered our way along the shore to the point where both the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are anchored. You’ve all seen a million pictures of it, and unlike me, Daisy is not a fan of Instagram, but even she had to take a picture of it. It’s one of places where even though you’ve been saturated by images of it, actually being there is breathtaking, you have to take a moment and let it wash over you. It’s a place where some people will be only once in their lives, most people never, and you get to be there in that moment.
As we went to go get ice cream, I thought in my head about sharing something. I believe that in order to survive in New York City, someone needs to have their secret places. Places that only they know, because the city is a crush of people, which is what makes it amazing, but at times overwhelming. We all need our secret places to find some solitude, a place where you can get perspective. I’m fiercely private about those places, I only have a handful and in a city of eight million people, that in itself is already a minor miracle. We were close to one of them, so I decided to ask Daisy if she wanted to take a walk. She agreed, but then immediately started to make fun of how slow I was moving. Listen, I can’t eat ice cream off of a cone and walk at the same time. I can’t tell you why, but I just can’t. It’s like my brain can’t process the two actions together and therefore I can only do one of the two things. As such I will stop walking, lick, starting walking, then do it all over again. She mocked me relentlessly.
But, as she and I finally finished our ice cream, we finally approached the landmark to guide us to my little spot. It’s all the way at the end of a park, where the boundaries start being a little less well maintained, where the tourists don’t venture. There’s a sign that’s faded and weathered, and that’s when you turn into the last possible path that the park has. As you walk, you’ll make a few twists and turns through the flora and fauna that’s not as manicured as the parts of the park closer to the ferry landing. The only thing this path is trying to do is to guide you back towards civilization, towards the parts of the park where you’re supposed to be. But, if you pay attention, you’ll eventually find the most faded fork in the road, as if the other way existed a long time ago, and it’s been forgotten. We broke off to follow this faint whisper of a trail, and if you get to the end of it, you just run into a wall of green. This in itself isn’t so bad, and it’s a nice quiet spot where no one will bother you. But if you look, if you really look, and the light hits at the right moment, you’ll find a break in the foliage, where the path continues but where the trees and other greenery have overgrown their bounds and covered it. I walked toward it, and Daisy asked if I knew where I was going. I asked her,
“Do you trust me?”
I held out my hand, she took it and followed.
When you find the right place, the branches give way easily, and you finally get to my favorite place in New York City. It’s this little landing with no railings, no signs, just a concrete bluff past a wall of green. The thing is though, the concrete just tapers down into the water with nothing stopping you. It’s surrounded by wooden posts in the water to prevent ships from docking, and the dozens of posts extend far out into the water as if they were trying to create a mosaic in the river. To the west, you see the Statue of Liberty, to the north you see the skyline of Manhattan, and to the east you see the two bridges. Behind you, the greenery encloses you and grants you silence from the noises of the city. There, you can hear the waves crash against the shore, the ships off in the distance, and you can actually hear yourself breathing. I looked over at Daisy and she had the same look on her face that I had when I first discovered that sacred place. A look of astonishment and peace. It makes you feel at once disconnected from the city yet eminently aware that it’s surrounding you. It’s my favorite place and I escape there whenever I seek solitude, only this time, I shared it with someone. We didn’t say anything, we didn’t do anything, we just were simply there, in that moment. It was enough to know that we were alive, we were awake, and that we shared a moment in time. We sometimes forget that existence in itself is a gift, and the fact that it’s temporary makes it all the more precious.
I forgot how long we spent there, but by the time we left, the storm that we had long seen on the horizon was upon us and the sky opened up right on top of us as we tired to get back into Manhattan. Daisy and I were absolutely drenched, and lighting literally struck a building two blocks ahead of us, with the resulting thunder causing her to jump a clean foot off the ground, I laughed, but I immediately got my comeuppance when I almost got arrested. Since Daisy didn’t have a MetroCard, we’d been doubling up to sneak through the turnstiles all day. We finally got caught the last time and while Daisy made it through unscathed, this guy did not. As she laughed silently at me past the turnstiles, I had to do the walk of shame to the machine and buy a single use ticket under the watch of an MTA employee. Super fun.
We finally got back to Penn Station and Daisy had to make her way back home. As we said good-bye for the last time in a long while, she slipped away into the crowds, I didn’t know how to feel. It was one of those days that neither of us could forget. If I hadn’t been there myself, I would have thought someone was making the whole thing up. But the thing is, it simply could not have happened with anyone else. It was a day that could only occur with the perfect happenstance, with the exact right impulses, with two people who knew each other deeply. There’s an inimitable alchemy of circumstance that always seems to happen when Daisy is around and I’ve given up trying to explain it. Because whenever I try to, I start to see things that aren’t there, imagining that there are grand cosmic forces at work. That the day-to-day minutiae that obscures my existence is secretly working to weave me stories that define my existence, a story that I’m often too inclined to believe.
As I made my way down the concrete canyon that is 34th Street to head home, I listened to music trying to remember every little thing that happened that day, and I knew she was trying to do the same thing, setting her memories to the soundtrack coming from her headphones on the train. Both of us re-living and remembering a day that was nothing short of perfect.