I drive the country roads sometimes late at night in the summertime when all the fireflies are the last lights remaining, when the evening stretches itself across the sky like arms to their lovers. I want to fall in love with it: the sound of dirt and gravel beneath my wheels, the summer breeze rippling like ocean waves through the fields of barley, the emptiness of the night. I want to love it like a country song, but half my heart is missing, and I won’t find it on these country roads.
I want to go home to Manhattan. My mother laughs every time I say that, points to the cornfields and small towns I knew long before I knew Manhattan, and she reminds me, “This is your home.”
My hometown is unfamiliar to me now. I wander the streets at night looking for a place to belong, and I wake empty-handed. I am lost on streets I should know like the back of my hand, and my friends laugh at me, shake their heads at my chaos. I tell them I don’t live here anymore. “You have always lived here,” they correct me.
But Manhattan is my first love. I stare longingly at her transit map these days. Subway lines like arteries and veins weave through her body; her steel heart pumps a city alive. I run my hands along her concrete skin and memorize each inch. I breathe her in. She breathes me out. I am whole inside her steel heart. I am home. I have never wandered the streets of Manhattan at night looking for a place to belong. She is within me as much as I am within her.
I used to laugh at other poets and their love letters to Manhattan, tell myself that you’d have to be crazy to want to be there amidst the noise and the never-ending hum of her steel heart beating. But the more time I spend in my beloved city, the more I realize that the noise is where I belong, that I create chaos better than I create art and sometimes it is more beautiful.
So goodbye to the country roads and the county lines, the quiet nights where I don’t belong. I’m taking the 5:14 Amtrak into the city that never sleeps, the city that will leave her porch light on as she waits for me. I coming home, Manhattan. I’m coming home. How I’ve missed you.