That’s the thing about this city. It gets inside your head, makes you think that for once in your life, you’re gonna do something great. It makes you think that every time you walk by a stranger on the street, that they could mean something to you, so every time you leave the house you dress up and you look nice and you run those streets as though you own them, and they don’t own you. In the city, you don’t think anything owns you till it’s too late, and you’re lying in your room and looking up at a ceiling that doubles as the floor for the people in the apartment above you. Those people, you think, were they once like you? Did they once think that moving to the city- this city in particular- would make them into something they were not?
You know better now. You know better than to wake up and throw open the windows. The birds aren’t singing for you, they’re singing for food. They’re hungry for things people don’t want to give them, just like you are. They want what they can’t have and so they, like you, stay up too late and when the morning comes they do everything they can to stay in bed just a minute longer. That’s the thing about this city. It sells you dreams and then expects you to pay it back penny by painful penny. Those coins you give up don’t taste like blood because they’re made of copper, no, those coins taste like blood because they are evidence enough that the city will choke you out if you don’t move fast.
You’ve gotta move fast. Faster than the people on the streets, who don’t care about you. Faster than all the buses and trains and cars, because they’ll drive right through you if it means getting to where they’re going. Yeah, see, that’s the thing about this city. If you don’t keep up with it, it’s gonna leave you where you belong. There’s all these signs, no matter where you look, and it’s all the same. People, pets, things… They’re all missing because one way or another, they disappeared. You can’t help but wonder if it’s the city’s fault you’re failing, or your own, or someone else’s entirely.
Your friends blame the government for the economy and your other problems but the truth is, you know the city would still be rife with heartbreak even if the president was the best person alive. This city broke your heart, and it’s all the more sad because you came here thinking these sky kissing buildings would patch you back up inside, make up for a lifetime of never thinking you’d be an adequate member of the human race. That’s one thing you were right about, though. You belong in this city with all the roaches, the ones that skitter across the sidewalk with their janky legs trespassing in the mortal realm.
Yeah, you think, I may be a cockroach and I may belong with the rest of the rats in this city but at least nothing gets to me anymore. How much further can you fall if you’re already eating ramen noodles from the same tub you washed your hair in, sitting on the carpet of a place you don’t recognize even though you spent so much time finding it. Your parents have been telling you to come back home, but you can’t go back to a place that was never yours. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To find your space on a map, to make a thick black Sharpie slash across the universe, to stand at the top of your apartment complex and look down at the itty bitty ant people and scream that you are here? Isn’t that what you moved here for? Isn’t that why the city called you?
You’ve gotta make up your mind. Maybe it’s not what you wanted but it’s what you asked for and you worked to get here, work to find the color in this sea of gray/red/blue/gray/red/blue lights. Wake up and smell the coffee, splash your hands in the cool waters of reality, stop being such a cliche and start getting back to the reasons you left all you knew behind. You may die and you may worse than die, but there’s a chance you’ll be okay and if it was up to me I’d shake you till your shoulders bruised if it got the point across. No, I don’t mean I’d hurt you in order to get your head back on track but at the same time, I don’t want the city to be the reason that script never leaves your desk. It’s not an excuse anymore.
That’s the thing about this city, right? People come here with big dreams only to find those dreams getting absolutely smashed.
So. What do you do? You remember what you are. You put on your cockroach armor, and you crawl the heck out of the gutter. You, like the pigeons squealing in the parks outside your window, learn to fly through the smog and the jeering people. You, like the boys who sell bagels from their grandfather’s hot dog cart, make yourself heard even if you know for a fact it doesn’t matter who remembers you when you’re gone.
Don’t let the city break your heart. Do not let the city tear you in two. You know what you’re doing. Stop staring at the ceiling and go do it already. Get up, get out. There’s a clock, it’s moving fast, and it’s no different than the buses and cars and trains. It will drive through you, imbed its pointy hands in the spaces between your ribs and claw out your beating, bleeding vital organs, stomp on them and eat them whole, with a bit of pepper and even more salt. That’s the thing about this city. You moved here, but don’t let it move you.