One evening, my friend and I sit side by side on the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
My friend is New Jersey born, New York raised. She’s biked, bused, trained, walked this Big Apple city for 30 years. I don’t think there’s a block of it she doesn’t know.
I went to a sculpture park in Queens, I’ll say. Yes! She’ll cheer. It’s great, isn’t it? It used to be an old dump. Or we’ll be ambling through Central Park and she’ll offer up a history of the parks department that you wish would never end.
Her love for this town is gigantic and generous, as though it’s an incredible feast and it’ll only be more incredible if we all partake.
She’s no blind lover, though. “This city’s not perfect,” she always says, pointing at inequity that’s wide and injustice that’s deep. “There’s work to do.” So she loves with her sleeves rolled up and her evenings at community meetings.
But this evening, we’re rumbling along under lower Manhattan. It’s a ride I’d guess she’s taken hundreds of times. We pass the South Ferry station. Then the train pulls out of the earth and up onto the Manhattan Bridge.
And my friend says in a quiet voice, the kind you hear people use in cathedrals or around great art, “I love this part.” And she’s looking at the flicker and the gleam of the city outside the window.
I watch her watch the city. Even after 30 years, I think, she keeps her heart close enough to the surface that this view still does it to her. I’m not sure I know what genius is, but this must be a part of it.
We finish the Manhattan Bridge and drop back into the earth. And for a moment, we are quiet. Two people sitting side by side at this imperfect, incredible feast.