Arriving in to New York's Penn Station, the rush of people, noise and chaos washes over me, the bustle of this city whose attention I crave like a crack addict needing just one more fix. I am overjoyed at the familiarity with which I move from one station to the next, knowing my route without having to look at a map. I am not staying in the same place in Brooklyn where I lived last year, but I am staying with my former landlady turned friend Ai in her new apartment that is just five blocks from my old haunt.
Coming up out of my home station from the F train, I drag myself and my bags wearing across the street, stop into the deli on the corner, "my" deli, and am boisterously greeted by the family who remembers me and shows me the postcard I sent them at Christmas that has a permanent place on the wall. Their oldest son, Mo, proudly announces that he and a friend are coming to Alaska in July and planning a few days in Homer.
A twenty minute walk past the old brownstone renders every sentimental bone and fiber in my being weepy as I see my old light is on, now home to someone else. Trudging up and over familiar streets, waxing nostalgia out of all my pores, it feels like I am returning home from a vacation.
Ai greets me at her apartment door with a huge hug, as well as a welcome back feast of beer, wine and snacks. As the noise of the city settles down, we settle further and further into the couch and into delightful, easy conversation. Eventually, we make for our respective beds when we are cross-eyed and I am no longer able to hold back the physical exhaustion that has left me limp and completely spent.
I am grateful for Ai's friendship and hospitality. I am grateful for the friendships forged and nurtured, even while I am 5,000 miles away.