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The City of Leaves
By Starling Root
I remember New York in every season. I remember the way its wintry winds nibble on my bones. I remember how its spring conjures flowers in unexpected places. I remember how its summer woos sweat out of my every pore. But mostly I remember New York at its autumnal finest because those memories are the sweetest ones. Sometimes I think that I love New York in the fall so much that I place memories from other times of the year in September or October or November just to make them fit my romantic notions.
I have never lived in New York, but I have spent stretches of time there for all kinds of reasons. When I grow nostalgic for the city, I imagine all the deciduous leaves in Central Park suddenly on fire in the soft sunlight. Red and orange leaves litter the ground, with children trampling all over their messy piles. I'm leaning up against a tree, wearing a peacoat, sipping coffee or tea, maybe cider. At a moment's notice, I could hop up and walk over to a museum or a theatre or a bookstore. Yet languishing there, forgetting where I am and at once being acutely aware of my location, feels right, too.
Of course, a crisp afternoon dedicated to doing nothing in particular in Central Park is a predictable fantasy. But I like to picture less glamorous places, too. Harlem calls to me. Chinatown calls to me. Brooklyn calls to me. Astoria calls to me and even Flushing calls to me. I yearn for the grunts and groans of the Subway. I want to zip into tiny shops whose names are written in a language I do not know. I'd like to get lost, make New York my Tokyo and meet my Bill Murray just for the conversation. As long as there's that autumn breeze and a pumpkin spice latté with my name written on it, I'm game.
People talk about the people of New York luring them to this insomniatic hive. While I've always appreciated the city's buzz and diversity, it would not be the same without that fall tinge. Everything's always so alive in New York but fall casts the wisdom of impending death upon it—the wisdom that makes living that much more precious. Fall challenges me to live because winter—death—is so near. And there's no other place where you can live or die the way you can live and die in New York.