Big Crowds Single You Out

A heavy feeling I bore during my week long stint in NYC 4 years ago. 

The three hour bus ride from Baltimore, Maryland felt like my first day of school. I was the new kid. The non-New Yorker who spent more time filming the scenery than trying to recover lost sleep. The hyperactive nerd who felt the need to talk about everything and say things like “Hey, I saw that in a film once!” making those around me cringe (probably proper New York residents who hear that much too often.)

Arriving at Time Square was a moment I wont forget. 11am and the Big Apple was electric with activity and mayhem. I stood in the middle of Broadway and West 47th and dared to look up. Though the sun was dim (it was early December) it was enough to make me squint and instinct told me to lower my head. But the chills in my chest told to me keep my head high; look where you are, E. 

And in that sole moment it happened. 

I gripped the straps of my back pack and breathed in the piercingly cold air. It was a city of millions in which I stood, and yet no one gave a damn who I was. I looked at the buildings towering over me, teasing the sunlight with their height and shadows. I felt so small, and yet so free. 

It was here that I realised what it must feel like to move to a new city; one where you don't know anyone yet you feel like you know the city already. 

I lowered my gaze at those passing by me and I thought, “Don’t you know where you are? Get off that mobile phone!” But alas, they were locals. Natives to the land of the high-rises. To them, it was just another day, but to me it was another lifetime. 

“Excuse me!” A shrill voice cried behind me. 

A woman hand in hand with her young son quickly ushered me out of the way so she could pass onto the road and hail a taxi. I suddenly became very self aware: here I was: an alien, strapped to a back pack and holding onto the sunlight for dear life. I loved every second. 

I continued to stare at those around me. Elderly couples hand in hand yet still managing to keep up with the speedy pace that defines New York. Groups of teenagers adjusting their fitted caps to cover their ears from the cold (vanity -1, utility -0) and families bustling about from intersection to sidewalks, just trying to get home and stay warm. 

I realised that here, I am the strange one. I am the one who moves too slowly, speaks too politely and thinks too much. If I was to survive this city for the next seven days, I would have to embody the New Yorker.

And my goodness I did.