someone recently told me that NY was trying to become cycling capital of the world and I just had to laugh.
you know, that bitter resentful laugh.
I'm sorry to have to break it to you NY, but you are way, way out of your league here. After three years where I thought my feet had actually no other purpose than pushing the pedals, I am currently petrified to cycle down your streets with my super-duper Dutch mommy bike. Your (few and far between) cycle lanes are filled with cars, opening doors and pot holes that could eat both me and my bike up. Your residents are rude to bikers the point of having made my child cry.
You know I love you, but on this one thing, you suck.
I flew to NY one spring to get an
abortion. It was a child I wanted but could not keep. Ambulance sirens are to
NY what the sound of running water is to a river: constant and inevitable. But
this one was coming for me, the child having decided to leave on his (or her)
own terms, and thinking she might take me with her. The dirty streets of the
lower east side, with their chick boutiques and the overwhelming smell of left
over food from the previous night’s dinners, will for ever be intertwined with
that ambulance and the events that followed.
Whenever I return to New York the first thing I recognize
is the thick humid air. Not the hot
dogs from the vendor stands. Not the pretzels. Not event the bright yellow
taxis sliding through the fog. Just the air, so thick and wet it has it’s own smell.
New York and I have a history.
Some of it I was too young to remember, but I have proof in the shape of aged
photographs of myself posing in front of landmarks like the oversized number
nine on West
57th Street, or on top of the empire state building, with a foggyManhattan acting as backdrop.
This was the first big move. The first time my world was turned upside
down and sideways. The first time I was old enough to know I was being uprooted
and to feel the cold air on my
exposed roots. While my siblings were old enough to hang out in Washington
Square Park trying to look like Sid Vicious, I was still too young, and that backdrop
remained a mystery filled with secrets. NY was but a stepping stone, and
we left before I could get to know it.
I came back years later to
train for my first job. I lived with a group of strangers brought together by a
large corporate firm. The bubble was shiny and those populating Wall Street
still felt like semi-gods. Long walks on warm summer nights through crowded
streets, the thick humid air
embracing us and the sounds of heavy traffic together. We ate from the salad
bar at corner stores, with plastic
white forks that would inevitably break in our hands. Finally we had our own
money, so weekends were spent in SOHO shops wondering if our butt looked big,
or buying perfumes at Macys. Cheap and readily available taxis could take us
anywhere. All we had to do was
raise our hand and the world was ours. It was but a whisper and soon I’d fly away,
certain that I would return.
Which I did, briefly, to that
Still some years later, and
straight from the Rift Valley, I returned to the concrete jungle. This time I
came as a wife, a dreamer and an aid worker. I lived in the East Village
surrounded by shops with names and foods from Eastern Europe I could barely
pronounce. Every morning I took the bus up second avenue to the UN buildings. I
relished my Cheese cake at Veniero’s and spent lazy afternoons having coffee at
Mud, before it became a motorized franchise. We danced under the open sky on an
old ship at Chelsea piers. Late at night came the Cosmopolitans at Simones.
The night was young and so were we.
Another hospital, this time in mid town, gave me my first child. I
welcomed a loud and demanding baby in the arms of this city. It was spring. I
had planted tulips in the hope that they would bloom for her birth, which they
did. The heavy air embraced her under the shade of
overgrown trees that muffled the street noise for her slumber. And when she
couldn’t sleep, like the city, we
walked the streets surrounded by students from NYU or Parsons, eager to taste
the forbidden fruit. Soon after we left.
We’ve been back for seven months
now. The same humid air hits me as
spring draws near, and with it all the memories. There are tulips in my garden, their bulbs undecided about
their new home, or maybe they’re just waiting for her birthday. We live in
Brooklyn now. The streets are wider and quieter. I work from home and can see
from my desk the bulbs, the stray cats we took in for the winter, and my
children hanging from the monkey bars. Going into the city sometimes it strikes
me how far away it feels from this new piece of NY we are in the process of
discovering. Strolling down the cobbled Meatpacking district feels like I’m walking
in a distant memory.
I’m a mother now and my personal
compass searches for parks to have picnics and water fountains to cool us off
when the sun burns bright. A good Sunday afternoon includes a walk to the
butcher on Smith street and falafel on the Corner of Atlantic. Inevitably ice
cream. I go to yoga by donation and have traded my Starbucks for a soya latte. And then there is jazz. Music which I learned to love here, and
can only love here.
We are now searching for a house we can call our own. Where I will no longer have to dig up the bulbs up when we migrate. It’s only
right that it should finally happen in this city.
This was fun but hard. Especially as I was paranoid that anything I put on the list would magically happen… you know, murphy’s law, never say never (outloud) and all that. So, without further ado, here’s the list of the fifteen things I do NOT want to do before I die.
1.Bungee jumping or skydiving: seriously, I just don’t get it. And there is NO reason for me to get it, so just leave me to it.
2.Have twins: this was on my to do list, and there is a history of twins in my family, but given I already have 2 kids it’s off the table.
3.Watch old black and white classic films: I know they are great and deep and classics, I don’t care. There is plenty new stuff for me to watch which feels a lot less over-acted and more relevant.
4.Go back packing for a year. I’ve lived in 5 continents and done about 13 international moves, yet I just never saw the attraction to the whole back-pack for a year thing. I like to be home, I like to wash my clothes regularly and sleep in my bed. So unless the sofa is moving with me, one month is about as much as I can be expected to stay away, if.
5.Homeschool my children: seriously, there are people much more qualified than me to do this, plus, I think socialization and learning how to interact in society is a key learning element of school plus, the obvious one, it school gets my kids out of the house, provides them with new friends and exposes them to different points of view and, yeah, out of the house.
6.Run a marathon, participate in a tri, or cycle 100 miles in support of disease research, and more importantly, I will not send guilt ridden emails to my friends to sponsor me while doing it. I support my own causes, thank you very much.
7.Become a yoga teacher, which seems to be the alternative, burned-out hippie’s solution to mid-life crises.
8.Climb mount Everest, eat live spiders or any other of those extreme physical challenges, don’t feel the need to prove myself to anyone, and that includes me. Plus, both me and my body know we can’t handle it, and we are fine with that
9.Do a PhD: I had this romantic idea that I would do one when I had my kids so that I could stop working but keep growing. I would actually love to go back to take some courses, I love learning, but the idea of staying up late after work to finish papers and the like just does not appeal anymore.
10.Have a baby after 40. Each to their own. I’m not saying other people should not do it, that is between them, their partner and their doctor. But I feel that is where my personal limit lies. Which leaves me about a year and a half to not-have twins.
11.Stop eating sweets. I know there is a obesity pandemic. I know they are not good for you, and yes, I will try to manage my addiction, but I speak from experience here, I’ve spent the last two months eating super healthy for medical reasons, and it is just plain BORING. Plus, there is no way you can engage on a foreign culture, really, unless you try their food. It says so much about them.
12.Stop being a feminist. I don’t care how much people try to tarnish the “F” word, or argue that it is outdated and empty of meaning. I’ve made a commitment for a better humanity, to human rights, equality and inclusion. A commitment to look out for the most vulnerable, mainly children, and none of those things can happen while 50% of the world’s population continues to be treated as a second class citizen. I mean, why is it acceptable that in some countries women can’t vote, drive, inherit or make decisions? Exchange the word “women” with “African American” or “jew” and you’d have an international row in your hands. It would be seen completely unacceptable. Mainly, because it is.
13.Join a religion which discriminates women. Which as far as I'm aware essentially translates into not joining any religion. Sorry mom.
14.Become PC. I get a lot of slack for this, and I can be trusted to be reasonable and appropriate, but c’mon, aren’t we all bored of hearing “blah blah blah” when we really know people mean something else? Just look at the elections going on in the US. Can we just talk about the REAL issues please? My experience in a rather delicate area of diplomacy such as development is that –given that respect and tolerance is in place- people are quite grateful to be told things as they are.
15.Become an astronaut. When I was a kid I wanted to die floating in space among the stars. Of course, back then I thought that a) you could just do that and b) you knew when you were going to die. Given that I get dizzy just riding swings I think I am going to skip this one. I will also not become a veterinarian as I’m dead allergic to most animals, nor a ballerina, actress or princess. Gave up on that last one when I saw what options were on offer.
what's on your reversed bucket list?
P.S. thanks tomidlife mixtape for giving me this idea, and
apologies if some are repeated... we just happen to strongly agree.
The sound of small finger nails tapping softly on the car
window hunt me at night.
Shadows I ignore or try to, using the very veil that I
reject to hide my shame. I cannot look at them in the eye and say no. I cannot
look at them at all because I have nothing to say. I feel empty of words and
excuses. Their misery is so vast that just looking at it gives me vertigo. A
nine year old without a hand “tap, tap, tap” I pray she does not make it to my
window, all the glass in the world is not enough to keep her out. I look the
other way and find some hands, which have no legs and therefore cannot reach
high enough to look right at me. And yet I feel naked under their gaze.
I cannot give them something because nothing will ever feel
enough. How much? to whom? I cannot make a difference so I look away, away from
the masses of ripped old clothes , from
hardened skin and black teeth, and beyond them probably a harder and blacker
soul, because for the one that has
nothing, for the one that has no power, he at least has her. He can at least be her master. He can at least take it out on her.
she……she can’t do anything. She can raise his children and then
from her son demand a bride price, so that a new she can end up destitute and forgotten.
“Tap, tap, tap” drips the water from the walls in a shelter.
The children watch TV in a bare room next door. “Tap, tap, tap” drip the tears
I thought I did not have. I thought I was immune. And here I am in a dirty
bathroom wondering “why not me?”
but also: why was I spared only to be made a witness to that
which I cannot change
the “Tap, tap, tap” continues
I give one old lady a bill. Her eyes become watery , she
touches me while raising her tired eyes to the sky thanking it for answering her
prayer. It’s but a dollar, and I feel my heart is worth about the same
Another woman asks us to pray for her and I say yes, I
will. I lie. I lie because I cannot believe that if there was a god that could answer
a prayer he would not have already
answered hers. But I do not have the heart to tell her there is not even
“Tap, tap, tap” this time it’s my subconscious knocking,
telling me to look away, to close the door, to let them go on dying without me.