from your "new" neighbour who didn't introduce herself yet, but it's been 6 months now.
Dear New York,
My heart is half full of either tears or empty void. No matter the way I look at it, I can't escape the fact that while my address reads NEW YORK CITY, my heart has signed its life-long lease in MONTREAL.
It has been a while, and truthfully: I do not believe I existed as myself since I left for you in April. (Well, partially false. I ran away from you 3.5 times in April. I curled in 8 overnight Greyhounds and logged 28 hours of excitement going home — and 28 return hours of dread). What I can say is I know your PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL quite well (with its static soft jazz over speakers of the 80s' tiled floors and the basement terminal with tilted vending machines praying over clattering coins and fluorescent lights half asleep with passengers awake). I much prefer your MONTREAL sister, GARE D'AUTOCARS, and those 5am walks from the station to 3463 RUE DE BULLION always found my giddy hops running even if she saw me just last weekend.
Now I find myself with you, NEW YORK, and I find that my heart is half full of either noise or these glitching memories. No matter the way I look at it, I can't stop my eyes from finding JACQUES CARTIER BRIDGE, RUE SHERBROOKE, SAINTE-CATHERINE all over your island. The main difference is these spots were places I'd pass in MONTREAL before running home to peace and quiet. NEW YORK, do you have peace (/piːs/) or quiet (/ˈkwaɪ.ɪt/)? Maybe just not MANHATTAN, and I can't blame you NEW YORK for my not realizing that MANHATTAN very much isn't MONTREAL.
It has been a while, and 6 months approximately, where I regard my keys and make-believe that ces clés sont juste pour la saison, and soon enough I will return home. Home home. Not $3495 home residing on the top floor with cockroaches as Maple's play dates. No, my $700 room is waiting for me in the most genuine city in the world, and I am only paying my dues here with you before I deserve to return to where I have left myself waiting earnestly.
Dear NEW YORK, here is a part of me that I need you to know. No matter where I lived before you, I packed this particular thing with me. And this is something that grew with me, never collecting holes or carrying too much of a weight. No matter where I have lived, I have carried myself along with me. This means 1-year-old Rasha in AMMAN, 7-year-old Rasha in ABU DHABI, 14-year-old Rasha in TORONTO, 17-year-old Rasha in ABU DHABI, 19-year-old Rasha in AMSTERDAM, 21-year-old Rasha in MONTREAL, and 22-turning-23-year-old Rasha in NEW YORK CITY, here with you. Here is your newest resident and I ask you for just one thing:
Dear NEW YORK, I ask you to permit my absence for the daily requirement of a writing ritual, to wherever from wherever with whoever, because I am not me if I do not write. I am static in noise and indiscernible feelings if I cannot put step-by-step my reasons for existing, step-by-step my feelings now arising, step-by-step my thoughts that keep speaking. Name me a better past-time that carries the ability to simultaneously safe-keep a heart's treasured tears and soothe the empty void of air above— there is none. It is only walking the thoughts that can soothe my heart, and has for all these years past.
Now, I find myself here with you, NEW YORK, you that carries that history of writing. And a history of movement. I find myself learning to live with you, and you force me to relearn my words and relearn my voice. And I've come to realize that I'd rather write like a complete fool or even a complete stranger, anything but keep quiet and write of no thing at all. So, I don't believe I can write of MONTREAL, at least publicly in this way, no. I especially cannot when you shout in my ears and ink my eyes with everything but peace and sense and intention and beauty. But I need to keep writing, and I am now here with you, existing, and maybe with more of a vocal voice, more of an uncompromising fate. I think (note: I still state with hesitation, “think”) that I am ready to unadorn my words with long tangents and cryptic tales. I simply want to write, and I want to write in any way that I want.
Dear NEW YORK, please welcome me with some care, any that you can spare. You might not like me, and truthfully I am not your biggest fan either. But I hope we can try to make amends, in some ways if not all, learn how to live with one another, and perhaps even smile at one another's strange ways of speaking, walking, writing, and sharing. Please be gentle with me, NEW YORK, and I will write to you of how it feels to be in your grand presence, should you ever care to know how it really feels to live by your side.