New York is the Statue of Liberty. The Circle Line. Washington Square. Greenwich. The West Village. Chinatown. The Empire State Building. MOMA. The Guggenheim. The Upper West Side. Central Park.
We did none of that.
Our plans were fluid. We knew where we would stay, knew what day we would arrive. There was a reservation for dinner, a date at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tickets to a show.
A loose itinerary for the rest of the weekend. We had ideas, certainly. We had hope. We made it there on our 10th anniversary. We could make it anywhere.
It rained. Did we care?
We had an umbrella, which I left under a table at a bar called Peacock Alley. We drank chocolatinis and ate truffled fries.
A decade of life together. At the beginning, 10 years ago, this is what we knew: We knew where we would wed, knew what day we would be married. There was a Las Vegas honeymoon, a date in a helicopter for a champagne brunch at the Grand Canyon, tickets to a show. After that …
A loose itinerary for the rest of our lives. We had ideas. We had hope. We made it to our 10th anniversary.
New York. Why New York?
Because the city was mine, and it was hers, but it had never been ours.
It is ours now.
The loose itinerary allowed our imaginations to play. The boys were home and well-attended. This was our time. Time to discover and rediscover.
Time. That was one thing I had forgotten about New York. It is an island floating loose on the stream of time. This place, this metropolis of memory, took us back a decade. We were at the beginning, back in 2004 on our wedding night.
The loose itinerary of our life together still hovered out there, unformed, unknown, unknowable, inconceivable to us.
Had we known …
We did not know, though, and when we were caught in the rain without an umbrella we improvised. The walk from the Gershwin Theater to the Waldorf-Astoria is seven blocks, farther in heels. Farther still in the pouring rain at midnight, but New York is New York. There is always a gift shop nearby offering to sell you a $2 umbrella for $17.50.
It rained. At Grand Central Terminal, we ate hot soup and watched the stars. At the Met, I lost the docent, the tour group, my wife and myself. Through the Italian masters I wandered, past the Degas, the Seurat, the Van Gogh, the Rembrandts, the Monets, the Tiffany glass windows. I found her among the mounted knights in their armor.
The sun came out and we walked the streets of New York together.
It is ours now.
New York is the Upper East Side. The Met. Times Square. Wicked. Rockefeller Center. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, masked by scaffolding, inside and out. Bryant Park in the rain and in the Sunday morning sunshine. The Public Library. O’Casey’s Irish bar. Chelsea Market. The High Line. St. Paul’s Chapel. The Freedom Tower. Zuccotti Park. The Stock Exchange. Federal Hall. Stone Street. The Brooklyn Bridge from the South Street Sea Port. Little Italy. The 6 train. The 35th floor of the Waldorf Towers, where presidents and monarchs spend their nights in New York.
Our loose itinerary revealed to us the pew where George Washington prayed on the day he was inaugurated. It threw into our path the original stuffed animals that A.A. Milne gifted to his son, Christopher, and later immortalized as Winnie the Pooh and friends. With no tyrannical to-do list holding us hostage, we lingered at the Ground Zero memorial pools, tracing the engraved names of the dead in reverence. It was sublime.
We did all of that, unfettered by an agenda, free to actually see it, to let it wash over us and to appreciate the city and each other. We gave ourselves the gift of room to breathe in New York, and the city helped us remember who we were.
And as we remembered, we floated on the island in its stream back to a time before our hopeful itinerary of our life together hardened into the immovable facts of shared history.
For a time, it all fell away. There was just us, and just New York, and it was ours.