Every now and again I turn to my camera roll and flick through moments captured in time, and every time I find something new. It’s often raw and unpolished and of nothing terribly, seemingly significant, except maybe to me. And in that one little reflective moment, it all comes back. The hum of the city. The footsteps beside me. The heat. The orange sunset ricocheting off the 9th Avenue buildings. If those streets could talk. The stories they would tell. If we only understood that all we have is moments, strung together, that we bundle up and call a life. Maybe we’d make the most of our moments. Maybe we’d live more, in every moment. Maybe we’d never take a single one for granted, ever again.
The thing I miss about travelling isn’t so much the places — it’s the people.
I miss the guy I met in Midtown after the Dees pumped the Hawks, the one I got on the Bloody Mary’s at 7am with, and ran around Manhattan alongside, chasing shots and pasta and pastrami sandwiches.
I miss that girl I met in line at the W. The one with the tips for an Aussie in Brooklyn.
I miss that mate I made from Moscow.
Those scriptwriters in The High Line Hotel lobby.
The Cambridge professor I met on the boat four hours off mainland Australia. The way our kids played together.
I miss the stoop hangs with strangers on sweltering nights in the Village. T
hat soldier on the train in Venice.
The bargirl at the Irish.
That muso at the Inn.
Those boys with the tugboats.
That woman in Italy with the big smile and bigger hugs.
I miss Mama Vi at the Harlem Choir.
Those chefs at the Adelaide Central Market.
That winemaker. And that winemaker. And that winemaker.
The guy with the jet, and the sprawling penthouse. The way the crease in his smile sparkled, like he knew he owned everything, including my stare.
I miss the jazz bar owner in New Orleans with the beret and cheeky wink.
Those girls at brunch in Switzerland.
I miss running through the underground tunnels during a layover at LAX to get forty-five more minutes with that gem I bar hopped Stone Street with.
That art dealer.
Her author friend.
Those college grads in San Francisco that I taught how to really dance.
The Wall Street bankers that I only just outdanced.
I like new places, old places, foreign places, familiar places — but what I really love is the people that make the places.
The chance encounters, the serendipitous meetings, the random run-ins, the way one thing connects you and then a million tiny moments fuse you together.
I miss the chase, being chased, the buzz, being the buzz, the turns around wrong corners, the stumbles into right arms, the bumping of shoulders in vestibules, the knocking of knees at barstools.
I miss the way he’d throw his head back when he laughed.
The way she sang.
The way he sauntered down West 10th.
Moment after moment.
Forever etched into my heart, my memory, my skin.
‘Nice view, huh?’ he asks, placing my drink on the cardboard coaster.
It’s so hot the flute starts dripping, condensation rolling down its curved base.
‘The best,’ I reply.
‘Where you from?’
I look at the coaster, then up at him.
‘Melbourne, Australia,’ I say, with a smile.
‘Wow, a long way from home. You like New York?’
The coaster is already soggy. This heat is some kind of hell.
‘I love New York,’ I answer, in the kind of tone usually reserved for a person, not a place.
‘I think New York loves you too,’ and he winks, quickly wiping the dew from the marble table, walking away.
I scull half of my drink. I don’t mean to, but this weather calls for more than a simple sip. I fall back into the lounge chair. Cross my legs. Close my eyes. And breathe out deeply. I squint and my eyes open.
I do love New York, I think to myself. I love the way everybody here wants to be somebody. The way they believe they can. I love the boldness of it, and the courage. The audacity, if you will.
I take another swig of my drink. I stare at the towering building across the river, the one that reclaimed the New York skyline after 9/11, the one I have grown to love, so much. I try and work out why it transfixes me. It’s just a building, I scoff to myself. But I can’t deny that every time I catch a glimpse of it, my heart flutters. There’s something about it. Something about the way the light dances off it. From a distance. Something about its boldness. From up close. Something about the way it catches my eye, from so many nooks across the city. I suppose it’s audacious, too.
I lift my glass to finish my drink. The coaster has risen with it, stuck to the base of the flute. It’s sweltering.
‘Another?’ he asks.
‘Absolutely,’ I reply.
He picks up the empty flute. Wipes the beads of water off the table, again.
And I smirk as he places a crisp, new coaster in front of me.