I was visiting NYC looking for a full time graphic design job. I was 24-years-young. I was invited to stay on the floor of a one bedroom apartment in midtown for one week. It was through a friend of a friend and that apartment couldn’t have been more than 500 square feet but to me it was perfect.
A few days after I arrived, I decided to go shopping for a new outfit, something special. Something hip. I had a suit I wore to interviews and portfolio drops-offs, but I was going to meet up with friends later in the week and I wanted something other than the jeans and T-shirt I rode in on.
So I picked out this cool black pair of pants, a bright green and black striped shirt—I think it may have even been a little shiny—and a long black sleeveless cloak. I purchased it in SoHo. Of course it was cool.
Thursday evening shows up and I’m off to meet my friends at a bar on the Lower East Side, three guys I’d known forever. We talk about the latest season of Felicity and our time spent together at Penn State and they tell me that living in NYC is awesome but difficult too. There was much laughter. It was an awesome night. I left feeling like I could conquer that damn city.
Heading to the subway to catch an uptown train to an apartment owned by a couple I would never see again, a car pulls up alongside me, beautiful people inside, New York plates, none of that Jersey bullshit.
“Hey! Hey you!”
I turn and look.
“Yeah! Yeah, you! You work that shirt, girrrl! You work that bright green shirt real good!”
They laugh and pull away.
I was, of course, mortified and could NOT have gotten back to that tiny apartment fast enough. I felt like every single person on every single street and in every subway car was looking at my green shirt. My stupid bright green shirt.
When I got back to Pennsylvania that green shirt and a chunk of my ego were discarded. (The cloak survived for a few years.)
Years later, age 33. Living in Brooklyn. I am having the “good kind of cancer” removed from my upper lip. They need to stitch me up and I’m alone and I need to take the subway home. I’m a little uneasy about this, having a massive wound on my face, black stitches running from my lip to my nostril. I ask the doctor if she can give me a bandaid or something.
“Oh, honey. This is New York. No one cares about your bloody face stitches. Not a soul here will even notice.”
I took two subways home that day, my many bloody stitches in full view, and no one noticed or cared or maybe I didn’t and I guess that’s all that really matters.
There’s something youthful and necessary about falsely believing everyone around you is paying attention and there’s something comforting and momentous about realizing it’s all bullshit and letting it go.