I grew older & did the things I was supposed to do - scrape past the big exams, get a job, be reckless with my heart etc. When I was 28, I willed my circumstances into buying me a ticket to New York. Incredible things had happened to me on the inside. No one knew on the outside.
For some reason, even as young as 10 years old, I had hitched my hopes on New York City. As if it were the promise land. What does a 10 year old Indian girl (pre-cable television, pre-Internet) want from New York City? I really don't know. All I had was a withered, worn out air-ticket with the letters JFK etched out next to my name. When I was one my mother had carted me along when she visited her sister in the States. The ticket, which she'd allowed me to keep, had grown into a myth that I could barely contain.
New York City was everything I'd imagined and I could hardly stand it. I went numb. I would walk the streets of Manhattan everyday. Penn Station was the imaginary pole to which I tethered myself, stretching the imaginary rope as far as I could, as I wandered around. There were the crazy Doomsday roadside fatalists, the pavement artists, the musicians, the flirtatious doormen, the snobbish salesgirls, the nice salesgirls, the Bangaldeshi umbrella vendors. My crazy would have fit right in there. But I told no one.
And then one day my friend took me to Central Park West. We stood outside the Dakota Building for what felt like eternity. Wasn't that long at all, actually. I didn't really want to stand where John Lennon was shot dead. We crossed the street and entered the park. It's funny now, looking back I have to remind myself that my friend was with me. It played out so differently in my head. I walked into the park, walked down the path and came upon this:
|Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon: Central Park, NYC|
There were a few benches around the Imagine mosaic. Not too many people - a backpacker with a tiny boombox playing Lennon's songs, a balloon vendor, a father explaining Lennon to his son, a vagrant and me. The numbness inside turned to something else and began to swell. Lennon's music had always been my permission to feel. Now I was here. He was all around. And no one knew.
I sat until sitting there lost all meaning. Until it became just another bench in just another park and it began to get dark. I guess my friend & I must've walked back to his car, we would've stopped by for dinner somewhere, then driven straight on through to his home in New Jersey. The heartswell would have settled into numbness again by the time we reached. We would've both sat on his balcony and puffed our cigarettes. Him inhaling smoke in his corner & I, exhaling, in mine.