The morning looks hot outside of my window. It’s one of those New York days where the sky is a vibrant periwinkle and the light reflects off the sidewalks like it does off of snow. Overexposed. Hyper bright. When you live here you quickly learn that sun does not equate warmth. Despite the fact that sun bounces off of windows and glares in through my curtains, it’s probably below 50 degrees, depending on the month. Usually the days that look like these are the coldest ones – probably because you go out into it unprepared and underdressed.
I put on a pair of brown jeans and a gray tank top. I put black high heels in my black canvas bag and I grab a pair of lavender socks to hide in the lace up boots I’ll be wearing until I have to put on the heels for a casting. Look taller, look thinner. That type of thing. I button one button on my cardigan, pull on my leather jacket, wrap a giant knit scarf around my neck, and walk outside.
It’s seventy degrees out.
Within steps from my building, I’m already stripping off layers. I was specifically instructed to wear pants for this casting otherwise I would turn right back around and give this day the shorts it deserves. In addition to avoiding the beads of sweat that will inevitably accumulate, I would like to tone down the piercing shade of alabaster my skin has become. But I’m late for my casting so I continue on, making my way through the depths of southern Chinatown.
I am surprised by how little I know my neighborhood. I can attribute this largely to the weather hindering my sense of adventure. Moving during the dead of winter doesn’t necessarily inspire one to take in all of the sights all at one time. There are more parks than I knew about. They are putting in new blue and red play sets for children in one of them. It’s fenced off for now.
The trees are starting to grow leaves and the city looks calmer, greener. You forget that these trees have leaves at all until spring comes around.
I keep walking east and I pass Forsyth Street and remember that just weeks ago there was a terrible fire here that destroyed two buildings and killed an old man. I scan the skyline, looking for some indication as to where those buildings might be. My eyes rest on a closed off street filled with giant metal dumpsters and a crane coming in and out of view, dumping mouthfuls of rubble and then disappearing to bring back more. I turn to walk away, debating as to whether my curiosity has been satiated or not. I can do see it later, I think to myself, but then I realize that there’s a very real possibility that there won’t be a later. They’re already tearing down the building; it might be gone entirely by the time I walk home.
There is a crowd of predominately Asian people watching the demolition from the sidewalk of the baracaded street. Where there once was a building is now a giant gaping hole in between the rectangular brick walls of the surrounding structures. A man from the top of the adjacent burned out building – a building that is going to be torn down after this one – uses a firehose to spray down the ash and dirt being kicked up on the site below.
The giant yellow crane comes back with more debris, its contents burned and crumbled beyond recognition. Everyone’s things turned into ash and disintegrating particles.
I stand and watch a few minutes, saddened by the sight of such an old building being forced to come down. It’s so strange how we perceive New York to be this nearly static infrastructure. The buildings and streets give the false appearance of infallibility and permanence. Everything has been here so long that you can’t imagine it any other way. The brick and concrete and bodies and mess turn into this organic thing, even though this dense city was once just a small patch of land, covered in trees and surrounded by water.
I watch and I am overcome with the same feeling I get when someone dies. There is confusion and shock. Your brain argues with rationality and irrationality. You know that everything must come and go but when it happens it seems so…so impossible. The finality is almost too much to comprehend and no matter how much you try, you never fully do. Your brain eventually tires of thinking about it, and so you stop thinking about it and time passes and the person’s lack of presence just becomes part of the norm, allowing your life to regain an adjusted sense of homeostasis. But you never, ever understand the end. Because that would just be too much.
The water sprays down and the people watch and I stand squinting for a few second longer and I leave to continue my day until the details become fuzzy and irrelevant.