Was the New York City I lived in the same one that was idolized for its acceptance of individuality on television and the media?
The ice seemed to sound louder than ever as it entered the coffee swirling with the white fluffy milk. The yellow cabs seemed to dart back and forth at an expedited rate, maybe even faster than my own heartbeat. The coffee cart was the entryway to the new path I would take in my life, the same coffee cart that possessed no meaning before that day.
After school was like clockwork, my best friend and I would get coffee then work our way up to Central Park to walk home. The trees, the pond, the buildings always were the same until that day. I knew that day would be different. Amsterdam. Broadway. Columbus. Central Park West. We were finally there, it was the moment I was yearning for yet so heavily resisted for all my life. The monotonous mist of that March day seemed to be ubiquitous, almost urging me to pour out what I have always held in.
“What is it?” my best friend asked me, concerned, as we passed the rock I climbed on as a child, the lawn where I would meet my friends, and the spot where I would always have picnics. Would those moments, those people in those moments fade away when I told her? We settled down on the engraved concrete curve that overlooked the boat bond and the fountain.
The green in the leaves disappeared almost as if the photosynthesis I learned about, in science class earlier that day, was a hoax. Was New York City a hoax? The concept that everyone feels themselves here seemed almost laughable, as I had never felt more vulnerable. The rifts of waves in the pond were never-ending as I stared in the deep hunter green muck hoping to find an answer to the unanswerable. I didn’t want to look my best friend in the eyes.
There was silence. She urged me to talk but I sat there for more than 5 minutes, minutes that felt like years, struggling to find the words that would dictate the rest of my life. I did what any teenager in the 21st century would do. I pulled out my phone, tapped a few buttons on the glowing pixelated screen, and typed away.
Everyone around me went about their day like normal, the birds chirped, the fountain splashed, yet everything felt like it stopped. I told my best friend I was gay. I tried to read her face as she read the words I typed on my phone.
We cried as the mist turned into drizzle, and hugged as the wind grew stronger. Because I had her and the city, I knew that somehow, one day I would be okay. We resumed our walk along the same trees that once had no meaning, but now were the backdrop to arguably the most integral day of my teenage life.
Exiting the park, exiting the path to my new life, leaving the safe haven, we sought comfort another way. We went to our favorite diner to gossip about cute boys over coffee and fries.
New York City may have not given me the tools be assertive of my identity, as proclaimed as a guarantee in the media, but it gave me the space to earn my individuality in the pool of eight million inhabitants. New York City akin to life, can be a like a movie, but like any movie production, it takes hard work. It took hard work to finally want celebrate my own identity; it took more work to then post about it on my social media profiles, talking to tens of thousands of people about my experiences.
Obviously, in some ways New York is not the utopian entity portrayed on television shows; the streets are dirty, the weather is unpredictable, and you get verbally abused for not fitting the heteronormative societal standards. The word “fag”, employed by school bullies, echoes louder than the pandemonium caused by honking cars in Times Square. However, as I comically fought over the last french fry with my best friend, the upbeat music typically used during the happy ending of a television show could have fit perfectly as background music, fading into the next chapter of my life.