The Thing About New York City . . .

You’ll always run into someone who will tell you it was better just before you got here. Since you got here, it’s just not as good—it’s now a mall. It’s now a ghost town. You should have seen it a year or two before you got here, though.

Saying that is ridiculous. Like New York needs anyone’s approval. New York City doesn’t care about any of us. It’s just there like the Grand Canyon is there. You can visit. You can live here. You can leave. As far as New York City is concerned, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do—this city isn’t yours and it never was.

Before my time here, while the Bronx burned, the Yankees were also in the Bronx, winning the World Series. Woody Allen was in Manhattan making movies that never mentioned baseball or the Bronx. New York carried on. It just didn’t care. And new people still kept coming.

New York City has a waiting list. Those who are on the waiting list need the city to get cheap enough for them to come here. That was me, decades ago.

The city was repairing itself by the time I arrived, but it was still a mess. The dark streets were terrifying. I was in a subway car once: As the doors shut, I saw blood splattered all over subway car walls from a gunshot wound. A homeless guy once set fire to his feet in the doorway of my apartment building. I was mugged at knifepoint. None of these things was particularly unusual then. I loved living here, though: Everywhere else was just a suburb.

If the city continues to falter it’ll attract the waiting list. Those people will come, eventually replacing both you and me. The city will move on—and not to bruise your ego, it won’t remember us.

New York City is hurting, but so is America. New York City is always the tip of the spear—when there’s money to be made, we make more of it here. When the country is a dumpster fire, this city burns. Leaving New York doesn’t make you a failure. Staying doesn’t make you a success. Find your own reasons to live where you want—it’s not a problem for New York City to solve. It just doesn’t care.

About Meakin Armstrong

Fiction writer, fiction editor, journalist, and copywriter.
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