Im floating down the beautiful Jersey City waterfront towards the PATH train surrounded by a sea of gold✨The golden sunlight, amplified, bouncing off the Hudson River and reflecting right onto the concrete Jungle. Dressed in my finest and ready…ready for the adventure that my beloved NYC always is. I reach the train station, swipe my unlimited Metro card, (you know, my key to the city), and head down the stairs….past the tile mosaics and rush right onto the oncoming 33rd street train. Pinned against a crowd of commuters returning home, a man to my left turning the pages of the NY times, a group of girls to my right heading out to what I am assuming is a girls night. Another woman applying mascara, perhaps heading to a first date. Thinking of early NYC love makes me smile - the butterflies, the romantic encounters, that first kiss — that rush of love that you can only experience in MY city. It takes me back to when I first started dating Push — As the train speeds through the tunnel, I stand in the crowd reminiscing and smiling - smiling at all the possibilities on the other end of this tunnel - This must’ve been what they meant when they said “light at the end of the tunnel” - it had to be - feeling grateful to be living in the greatest city in the world — The city of lights — the city of dreams — feeling grateful to be a part of its legacy. Feeling grateful to appreciate every bit of its grit - I revel in my bliss when I hear the familiar “ding” — I’m here, Ive arrived but before I can step off the train my eyes open - I wake up to find myself in my bed — it takes a few seconds to come to terms with my post-covid reality — The world as I knew it, that world of my dreams no longer exists. The truth hits like a ton of bricks. I am in my bed and further than ever from my love. The uncertainty of the “if “and “when” takes over completely. My nerves running a marathon - I storm out of bed — Today is the day. The day I finally return - Today is the day.
Like a faithful lover, lusting for her other half I decide to drive through my city. I grab my post-Covid accessories — no longer a handbag or trendy shoes but rather my Nitrile gloves and my N99 mask that I was lucky to get my hands on during my last trip to Bali — I decide to throw on a dress and some heels – all black everything except for my Yankee hat — as a homage to my beloved city — like dressing for a date — I do my best to look pretty for her!
As I head to my car and begin a familiar journey into the city, I realize that the new “NYC” is not familiar at all…I approach the Holland Tunnel, and for the first time in 3 decades see “ALL TOLLS BY MAIL” pasted across the usually “CASH” lanes - my stomach turns into a million knots. Storming through an empty Holland Tunnel feels even more surreal. If you’re from NY/NJ area you know that no matter the time, you can never get through the tunnel without sitting in some kind of traffic and I do mean NEVER.
It takes a total of 6 minutes from when I got in the car until I cross over to the other side. I drive by a deserted Christopher Street Subway station, an empty Flat Iron building, bare streets, a “vote for Trump” sign that makes me roll my eyes — a closed Gray’s Papaya, a social distancing line outside of Eately. I think about all the homeless people; the thousands that call these streets home - my heart goes out to each of them. I see flocks of police officers, I want to jump out and hug them for their service but I honk, wave and give them my most gratitude filled nod and smile. Pedestrians have been replaced by Food delivery bikes.
I stick my head out of the sunroof, standing up and feeling the breeze while the hubby drives through the streets — taking mental photos and digital ones — after all this may be the most significant event that’s happened in our lives. My need to document everything fueled into overdrive BUT nothing could prepare me for what came next. An empty Times Square — I’d heard all about it, seen it on TV but seeing it in person was something I’ll never forget. I had to get out of the car, walk this moment in time for myself — surely this is something to tell my children and my grandchildren — I take a moment to take it all in. An ocean of memories flooding my thoughts. I hold onto each one, open the notes on my iPhone and I start writing:
Like a faithful lover,
I long for you.
I will wait for you.
And when you’re ready,
Ill be here,
for you to once again
light up my heart.
A love letter to NYC written by Sana Ali Khan