Leaving New York a second time isn’t going to be much easier than leaving it the first time. I think I understood this, at least subconsciously, before I left Singapore; it was part of my reluctance to come back. I knew once I grew re-accustomed to the particulars of living in this city again, I’d renew an attachment to it that I’d begun to suppress at the end of July. Now it’s two and a half weeks since I’ve returned, and I’ve spent that time working among my old colleagues and hanging out with my old friends. Generally, I’ve been having a blast in all of my old haunts while, in the back of my mind, also dreading another impending departure.
It wasn’t a completely seamless reintroduction though. The first few days back were disorienting, filled with resurgences of barely forgotten city details. On my way to meet a friend uptown on the second night I was back, I ran quickly to the subway and reached into my wallet for my Metrocard. At first I went into a minor panic when I found that it wasn’t safely tucked in my wallet. It took me a few moments to realize that I’d discarded the last one I had over a month ago (and possibly with a few dollars’ worth of fares still on it), thinking it would be a long, long time before I’d ever need one again.
“So when am I leaving New York again, exactly? Good question.”
In fact, that was the recurring theme of the first week I was here; sudden revisitations of things I honestly thought I wouldn’t have to deal with again for years. Whether it was the subway, American coins, the infamous New York attitude, or the after-hours pass code to my company’s office suites… I’d already begun shelving these things in my mind back in late July, storing them away like high school memorabilia as I headed off for college. I hadn’t been away that long, so they were still relatively fresh, but it was just surprising to be confronted with them again so soon.
That sensation left me quickly enough, and by the beginning of week two, it was almost as if I’d never left. Conversations that I’d have with friends had ceased to be about what it was like in Singapore and whether I was happy to be back or not. Where my friends and colleagues had initially greeted my return with great warmth and fascination, after a while I became simply here again, and the novelty of my presence wasn’t so novel anymore. That’s an observation and not a complaint; at some point, everything adjusts to its surroundings and vice versa.
So when am I leaving, exactly? Good question. The task that my boss gave to me is nontrivial; I could spend the next four months working at it nonstop, and it would barely get finished in time. But it’s September now, and I just can’t imagine still living in New York when New Year’s Day, 2001 rolls by. Come to think of it, all of my Asia plans may as well be on indefinite hiatus if I find myself still here, handing out mini-sized candy bars to costumed trick-or-treaters at Halloween.