Dear New York,
It has been many years since I have written you, and many more since I have visited. I have been around.
I bopped about Boston, and Atlanta, loved in Long Beach looting kisses, camped nimbly in North Carolina (Raleigh, really), chuckled in Chicago, the Second City. These days I live in Los Angeles.
We have never been close friends, so it is refreshing to write to you. There has never been any bad blood between us, nor lust, nor loose wonderings of what might have been. Growing up together, I think we both accepted our parallax in the life of the world, lazily joining forces when the occasion demanded, and enjoying our time together while it lasted. But when I sleep over I always take the floor, and we have breakfast, and I leave.
I have been around, my friend, in this big wide berth in the Earth that is America; I have come home to it from other countries, and dreamed about it, and driven across it and flown over it and sailed through it. But I don’t love you, and I’m not sure if I ever will. You know what I mean. It is too big and too wide to love somewhere, something, I have never been intimate with. If I thought we could make it, maybe I would have tried harder, back then.
I have been around, my friend, and around I see hundreds, thousands of cities where people live and make their home. I have been around, and Minneapolis, Austin, Hope, Skagway, Fort Worth, and all of them, each of them, is the story’s home for untold families, whose lives are better than pages, whose streets are invested with time and toil. And in yours you have such, too, more than most. But I, my friend, am not one of them.
I am glad to write to you, because I know you will understand, because that has been your job for longer than I can remember: to understand. I could almost love you for that. But my love is flawed like me, and needs yearning to temper it, and I have no yearning for you.
This is strange to my other friends, the ones who can move around. I have met many men and women who love you who have never met you, who have never seen you or smelled you, who have not slept on your floor or eaten your breakfast or come across the sea or over land. I know they watch you on TV, and listen to your songs, and they paint your name in big bold letters on their t-shirts. If anybody ever loved me like that, it wouldn’t hurt me; me, I’d be flattered, to tell the truth. But I don’t think anybody’s ever loved me who didn’t know me. You can bet I’d be wary if they did.
I know you can’t help it. I know there are at least a dozen places you’d like to go if you could move around yourself. But I need your help, and thankfully that entails you staying in the same place.
I will abrogate my right to sleep on your floor and eat your breakfast, I will render up my friendship if need be, if you will see a friend of mine to safety. She can move around, and she loves you, and she is coming to you now. I need you to take care of her tonight. Tomorrow, and in the weeks to come, no matter if it is a year or the rest of her life, if you keep her in a loft or upstate, ferry her to Staten Island, wherever she comes to rest, watch out for her. Watch her children grow. Tend them as you tend your trees. Keep her in your heart.
I offer up our friendship, tame as it was. Maybe you can turn its lead into gold with the magic in her smile. Do that for me and I will do for you what I can, though I call you no friend of mine, bear you no love myself. I was made for hotter places, and changing lanes; and lost causes. You understand.
I ask you for this thing, though you have no obligation to grant it, save the friendship we bear each other. Take this wish for me, grant it, and you may relegate me to a mere asterisk in your correspondence. This entails no further Christmas cards nor memory around New Years, Thanksgiving or indeed any bank holiday. I will disappear, and when we meet we shall meet as strangers who owe nothing to one another but civility.
Sleep beside her. For her great love for you burns, and will warm you of a night. Reach back to her when she reaches in her dreams, for all that you are, have yet to be, all that you were for the multitude hoping to cross your shore safely, and live. Be for her the great dream. Be for me a better friend than I could be. Not a fair thing, to ask, I know, but you have never been fair, my friend.
I understand that.
With highest regard,