All Photographs By Juliette Yu-ming Lizeray
This is part of our special Coronavirus Dispatches series, featuring personal essays and local reporting from WONDERLUST editors and writers about our individual communities around the world.
When I moved to New York in 2017, I hated it. I didn’t understand its grid. Its scale was inhuman. I hated everyone’s rushed pace. Paris makes sense. Singapore makes sense.
New York was hyperbolic, a place of extremes, sensorial overload. Stepping onto the streets of NYC felt like dipping a toe into whitewater rapids and then being sucked in, battling the currents and paddling, pushing yourself in the direction you want to go, gasping for breath and hoping you won’t drown.
I was always grasping for a rock, a safety, some place still.
The city is brick and mortar and steel, but I’ve learned it’s made of flows. Ephemeral, fast-paced and never-ending flows. Capital, people, things and means to ferry all around. Everything is syncopated, rhythmic, frenzied. Chop chop. Bang bang. Ka-ching. Opportunity bristles – you can make it, be trodden on, eaten up, spewed out. It’s showtime, ladies and gentlemen.
Over dinners and drinks and parties and loves and jobs and friendships, I grew to love this city, and this city has given me love in return. The Greeks have eight words for love; the love I have for New York and the love New York has for me is surely a ninth. (I live in a Greek neighborhood; I should ask.)
I’ve come to love the rapids. I’m no longer grasping for my rock. I’ve found safety in myself, in knowing I can brave the currents of the city. I see myself in others now. Passionate, individual, original. People glowing with the knowledge that they burn brighter than the world around them. People are what make a place. Winston Churchill once said we shape our buildings and they shape us, thereafter. The opposite is true in New York. New York is a place of sheer and unending human will, to be rebuilt and torn down and rebuilt again, a testament to everything that came before and will come after. This place is humanity.
The city is barren today. A gutted carcass, its blood drained out. Things move imperceptibly, as time continues its endless march. Shadows grow longer. Flowers bloom because that’s what they do at this time of year.
It’s Tuesday in Manhattan.
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