Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hardcore in NYC

I'd always heard from Manhattan defectors that New York "hardens you." Yeah, right, I thought. It hardens you the way life does, the way life should. So you glance down at your purse more often to make sure it's zipped, so you ignore strangers on the streets to protect yourself: all good life skills that pretty much everyone should have. I don't think I'm alone in that viewpoint.

But today, one of my best college friends, P, came to town. I took him to d.b.a., one of the best bars in Manhattan, for some good beer drinkin' coupled with some good, buzzy discussions about life. The Boyf came, too. I fiercely wanted him to meet my friend P. P is great. He's smart and funny and completely honest -- all of those qualities you're supposed to want in a friend in theory. (You know, the opposite of the friends who make you spend way too much on clothes or encourage you to stay out until 5 a.m. on a weekday while they try to hook it with the bar's resident near-supermodel -- you know who you are.) P is the real deal, and having him here with me, in a cool bar in my Manhattan, made me smile more than I had in a long time, as we discussed our college lives and where we are now and the fact that it's okay that we haven't won the Pulitzer yet. No one our age has.

But then after riding the subway with him, I left P at his stop, at 14th Street. We hugged, and he left, and I settled down into the subway car, warm with smiles, between two gangsta-looking guys. I heard loud knocks on the car's window, and one of the gangstas said to me while gesturing at the window, "He's callin' for you." Of course, being the savvy New York chick that I am, I figured I was the target of a ploy for the gangstas to either woo me or take my purse. So I didn't look at the window. I shook my head and said, "No..." half-smiling as to direct their attention elsewhere, on another unsuspecting passenger.

I realized about one full minute later that the gangstas weren't trying to con me. P was trying to talk to me one last time, in his Midwestern way, by banging on the subway window. Because of my biases, because of my "hardness," I missed the last time we could have seen each other in what will probably be years.

I felt bad. I felt "hard." And most of all, I just missed my down-to-earth friend P. The one who knows me, and the one who can always make me laugh late in the night on a weekday in a downtown Manhattan bar where everyone else is working harder on being cool than on being a good friend.


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