Heavy Heart

I moved into this little apartment in my sweet Polish neighborhood on a balmy night on July 15th, flustered, excited and overwhelmed and then had an emotional, teary-eyed dinner with Jay at Calexico, scared and unsure of what lay ahead. It seems like it was so long ago but at the same time I don’t know how I am already down to my last week here in New York. Now these once foreign streets and this area I had no grasp of is so familiar to me now. I think it’s impossible to live in a place for almost six months and not feel attached to the people or the things there.

I moved here for an editorial internship for the food and drink section of Time Out New York—an incredibly fortunate opportunity that still manages to escape my mind when I ponder how exactly I got it. I am utterly grateful for it, learned a lot, got some great experience and a good taste for the realm of a fast-paced publication work environment. But my time here has been so much bigger than that internship. So much bigger. I’ve spent endless days and nights exploring this wondrous city, feeling inspired, energized and alive. And I can’t help but think back to a print I have framed back home in N.C that I bought on one of my first trips to NYC. It’s a red and white cityscape that reads “New York the Wonder City,” and that’s just what it is. A city that is truly filled with so much wonder. Every corner I turn, I uncover something fascinating. Whether it be a six-piece acapella soul band, churning out 50’s rock hits on a subway platform, or a man on a park bench in Washington Square Park (one of my favorite places), completely covered with 50 or so pigeons like it was completely natural and they were all extensions of him.

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When I walk around this incredible city and have moments where I just feel so full—overwhelmed and overcome with this wonder and happiness and humanity, I’m reminded of a line in the film New York I Love You, where Robin Wright Penn’s character says, “I like this, little moments on the sidewalk smoking, thinking about life. It makes you appreciate the city. You watch the buildings, feel the air, you can look at the people, sometimes meet somebody you feel like you can even talk to.” Of course I don’t smoke, but otherwise, I relate to this entirely.

I have a former acquaintance turned roommate, whom I can now call my friend. She’s been a wonderful dinner date and fellow explorer, humoring me in my restaurant conquests throughout our neighborhood over these past five months. She’s entertained me endlessly with her endearing nature…her impersonations of the loved ones in her life, her infectious laugh and tendency to display awkward dance moves when she’s either had too much sugar or just one glass of wine. She’s candidly shared such beautiful, intimate songs and stories she’s written and she’s been such a source of comfort and familiarity for me here. She’s a gorgeous human being—inside and out and ‘m going to miss her dearly.

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I have an acquaintance from my time in England, when I studied abroad outside of Manchester during my sophomore year, whom I can now also call a friend. She happened to be in New York doing an internship as well and was already over here when I moved. We had kept in touch mildly via facebook and were fans of each other’s blogs and upon my arrival, we decided to meet up at Smorgasburg. It’s funny because that day was the most we had ever talked and we enjoyed one another’s company so much we decided to hang out again…and again…and several more agains. As luck would have it, we became friends and she is beautiful and has such an endearing affectation for all things American and has the best sense of humor. She too has been a wonderful dinner date and we realized the other night (during our last dinner date for some time), that literally all of our encounters have revolved around food! (Surprise, surprise). One of the best nights I’ve had here was with her, having a late night dinner at Locanda Verde, on a patio outside by a cobblestone street in Tribeca. We laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. Luckily she’s coming to visit me in N.C in a few months and I can’t wait to show her around!

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One of the first jobs I got here (a regular weekend job that I’ve been doing since August), was one I found on Craigslist. A happenstance encounter—one I never realized would play such an integral, influential role in my life until now, when I am having to say goodbye to it. I’ve been working for an incredibly kind, talented, bread baker who is also a wonder woman that inspires me greatly.  She works at one of the best restaurants I’ve eaten—Commerce and I have been helping sell her baked goods at the Brooklyn Flea (in Fort Greene and Williamsburg). I had to get up early. I had to carry and move a lot of heavy things. I had to do it for not much money. But I loved it and in doing this, I’ve met so many wonderful souls—other vendors who became friends that I looked forward to seeing every weekend.

The one vendor who would come and see me every morning for a good roll, which she referred to as a “magic bun.” She’s so tiny and yet can eat like a horse. I’ve gotten to know her husband a little and their precious little boy.

Then there’s the handsome, eclectically well-dressed Cornelius who makes women’s clothes, has the biggest smile and most infectious, distinguished laugh and also shares a passion for good food (we’ve become pros at scouting out the best lunch and snack eats at the Flea). Two of my other favorite vendors are an adorable and beautiful American-Argentine couple that make exquisite handmade soaps, oils and creams…she calls me ‘kiddo,” and he gives me the Euro kiss every time he sees me. They’ve been so generous, giving me free soaps and other things. There are so many familiar faces—regular customers and loyal vendors who come see me every weekend and just adore Heather’s food. I adore them.

I’m also going to miss Peter—the kindest, most reliable, Hatian taxi driver that I became friends with and could call every weekend after every shift, for a ride back to the restaurant. He took such good care of me and one time, took me all the way to Astoria after the hurricane (when transportation was so hard to come by for awhile), so I could get to a walk-in clinic for an infected finger and waited for me for two hours so he could also take me back home after! When I called him the other day, to inform him I wasn’t going to need a ride after work and that it was my last day, he proclaimed, “Oh girl, I’m going to miss you!” My heart broke a little.

I’ve been wildly inspired by a renaissance wonder woman employer who’s an intelligent, driven, talented, generous spirit that can make pies, wedding dresses and counters, can run an entire successful bakery all on her own and she’s only 33. Working for her has provided such insight into the inner-workings of owning and running a bakery. Before I came here, the thought of entrepreneurial-ship and opening a bakery one day was such a far off, dismissible notion and now it is more of a realistic, possibly attainable goal and I owe that to her. I’m going to miss that job and the wonderfully sweet and funny girls I worked with there.

So last night it hit me and I may have had three cocktails on an empty stomach and been a little more emotionally fragile because of them but it was completely genuine nonetheless. I hate goodbyes. It hurts to be hugged so tightly, knowing you might not see a person again. It hurts to have farewell drinks with two women you’ve come to discover you have so much in common with, on the brink of a friendship. It hurts to have to give a hurried goodbye on a subway platform, each going a different way and not knowing when your paths will cross again. My heart ached and I felt like the Tinman when he and Dorothy had to say their goodbyes.

On my teary route home I finally purchased a big greasy slice of iconic New York pizza from the pizza shop on Norman that I pass every single day. I also always looked for the sweet old Italian man with such a stoic face, who surely has to be in his seventies and is there every single day, all day, hunched over the counter, making pizzas.  I always scrunched up my nose at the slices in there as they never appeared to be anything special but still vowed to try the pizza before I left. So last night, feeling tipsy and sad and hungry, I stopped in for a slice of pepperoni to go (the old man was not there). I took it home, took it out of the grease-coated paper bag and devoured it, sitting on the edge of my bed. It was perfect.

So as my time here rapidly comes to a close and I experience a rainbow of emotions, I will mostly feel ridiculously blessed for being lucky enough to have lived here and met the people I’ve met, befriended the people I’ve befriended and for having the opportunities I’ve been given. I could not have wished for a better experience and as sad as I am to leave New York, because New York is not an easy place to leave, I know I’ll be back…many more times and it will forever hold a very special place in my heart. I don’t know what’s next and I’m trying to remind myself that’s not such a bad thing. Such is the excitement and adventure of life, right? To the next chapter…

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Heavy Heart

  1. Erika

    ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL HAYLEY!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOW IS ALL I CAN SAY.. I REMEMBER US TALKING ABOUT YOU HAVING THIS OPPORTUNITY AND LOW AND BEHOLD YOU GOT THE CHANCE!!!!! IM SO PROUD OF YOU, AND IM SO GLAD YOU GOT THE CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THIS WONDERFUL BLESSING!!!!! KUDOS TO YOU, !!!!!!! GOD BLESS…. THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE NEW YORK CITY………. !!!!!!!! ITS MAGICAL LOOOOOL!!!!!!!!

  2. Daddy Waddy Papa Bear

    New York was a great chapter for you, Hayley, just as Manchester was. Now it’s time for your next adventure. Dream it, do it, and write about it!

  3. I’m teary eyed. You are such a great writer!!! The people of New York City are so inspiring. Each and every one of them contribute to it’s “wonder”. For the past six months, you have been one of those people. Even though you are coming home, you made an impression on those streets and to many people.

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