On those days when I wake up and feel like I'm falling, I walk the city. I cross the Williamsburg bridge on foot, imagining each step makes the distance between us literal. I stop at a café to collect my thoughts, but I know I should have left them in Brooklyn. As if you were chasing me, I check to see if you are there while I drink, and of course you are.
I keep walking, trying to find the city I knew before you. Before I didn’t know you. When I watch my feet I am alone with you again, so I look at faces instead. But I am still too shy to be naked in front of so many strangers, so finally I look up.
I turn the skyscrapers into my canopy of trees and let the dappled light hit my face like a splash of cool water and redemption. By the time I see the Flatiron, my mind is like a fist finally becoming a hand again. My legs are tired and I’m no longer aware of the effort, only the feeling of motion. I understand that I’m walking but it feels like swimming, like I could reach up and pull myself out of this place by grabbing a windowsill as though it’s the side of a pool.
Do you feel guilty about something, you asked, and repeated, stunning me and leveling your gaze, lowering your head like a bull preparing his charge, no matter my answer.
No, I whispered, rising inside myself, taller and defiant but confused and falling, hearing things inside me already breaking, a pile of china I know I cannot catch in time.
When I wake up and feel like I’m falling, I walk the city. I look up. The question is still there, but I make a new answer. Do you?
There are so many cities here, nesting inside this one. Maybe a million, but probably more. Someday with my feet I will swim into another New York that has forgotten the black in your eyes that day. There must be at least one.
Robin Grearson is an essayist, teacher and curator who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been published in The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail, among other publications. This story originally appeared as part of the Notwork project, which installed a pirate Wi-Fi intranet on the L-Train. She is a member of Bushwick’s 1441 writers collective. www.robingrearson.com.