The weather is strange today. It’s cold, except in the sunlight. There’s a strong wind. Winds like this, I tell him, usually mean the weather is going to change tomorrow. We watch the wind beat a no-parking sign against its pole. Leaves scatter. What do you think the weather will be like tomorrow? I ask. Cold, he says. It will be cold, and I’m not ready. I have no sweaters, no boots, no long-sleeved shirts, no winter coat. I’m not ready but I will be.
Twenty years ago this fall, my family left New York. We had lived here only a year. Housing was impossible, my mother was pregnant again, and my grandmother was sick. The Mets had won the world series. Halley's Comet came. I sat in the backseat of the station wagon, knees on the seat, facing the back window, and cried. We headed west.
Ten years ago in the summer I came to New York for a playwriting workshop. I spent most of the week or so hanging around with Vivian, an actress in her thirties assigned to be our chaperone, and Adam, a gay playwright from Yonkers. We ate hot dogs standing up. We climbed to the front of a subway car; on the platform we screamed into the draft of an approaching one. I took pictures: of the Brooklyn bridge, of the view of rooftops from my dorm room window, of Adam and Vivian in an elevator.
And of a mural: a bicycle shop, one whole wall of the building painted yellow and blue with a cartoon, French-looking couple cavorting on a tandem bicycle. I’m not sure why I took a picture, except that it was lovely and surprising. Except when I saw it I had a sudden, clear vision, a thought I had forgotten until recently. I could live here, I thought. I could have an apartment with plants, and buy groceries, and get a library card. Right here, in front of this wall, I could kiss the man I loved, I could be in love. I was eighteen. I took a picture.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I remembered. It was night. We had eaten Thai food, had drinks in silly glasses, talked of ice cream flavors again. There it was, over my shoulder, the bicycle mural.
I have a library card, a Metro card, a change-of-address. I get groceries and come home, home to New York, and every time I come to the mural, I stop and we kiss. Or, if I am alone, I say thank you. Thank you, I promise to always cherish and take care of this time, these people, this life.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.