A Manhattan Moment
As temperatures rise to an uncomfortable pitch in the height of summer here in LA, I often find myself slipping backwards through the humidity to the first months of our American adventure and the electric heat of that Manhattan summer.
Eight years ago we were transported from a gentle Central West London midsummer to a ferocious concrete inferno. Living on Times Square for a few weeks ran the gamut of the crazy and yet genuine chaos that is Midtown. My constant refrain those dog days of August was why didn’t I think to investigate the weather? In retrospect I really should have thought about what the previous winter had portended.
We had been caught up in a whirlwind of excitement as we moved through the process of international relocation. Sometime in a frosty London December I left my four year old son with his grandparents for a few days and joined my husband in Manhattan for the first time as we investigated schools and neighborhoods. The mesmerizing glamour of my first night time taxi ride from JFK airport, seeing the explosive twinkling skyline on the near horizon and then the overwhelming impact of the vision of Park Avenue is a memory whose power is hauntingly difficult to put into words. We can never, as an old favorite of mine Heraclitus said, step into the same river twice. My constant affection for JFK is inexplicable to anyone who has not been stranded there during a blizzard and seen it bare and bereft of the usual constant traffic of travelers. It is as though we share a secret camaraderie born out of those silent moments.
That summer we settled down to the business that is the work of any family transported to another country and arriving in unfamiliar territory with no relatives or close friends. My husband went straight into work, thus finding a level of normality that I would, in later days, come to crave. My five year old son and I began to explore Manhattan and to realize that we were very, very alone.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty on a ferry so hot we could hardly breathe, moving into a 46th floor corner apartment in Murray Hill with incredible views of the East River and downtown Manhattan, watching the Dead Weather on a balmy summer’s eve in Prospect Park, continually gazing upwards as we pounded the streets and my son finally sitting down on the sidewalk and simply refusing to walk another step. My memories of those early days jostle one another, like impatient New Yorkers on the subway, with each image coming briefly into clear view and I am struck by a sense of loss whenever I dwell upon them. Is it the experiences themselves or the people we once were that I long for? My Manhattan romance echoes through every moment of my days in Los Angeles.
The landscape of our life in Manhattan is like seeing through a glass darkly, accompanied by a swell of emotion. It is a place to which I still cannot return and depart with my heart intact. The irony is not lost upon me as I blithely travel to London each year and leave her with a loving but unfractured heart; Manhattan is a far crueler mistress.