It’s Thursday night somewhere in Brooklyn. I’m clutching an over-priced local beer. Behind me is a cash-only bar manned by a less than enthusiastic bartender. In front of me are six rows of folding chairs crowded with New Yorkers caught somewhere in their twenties or thirties. Minimalist tattoos, plaid shirts, partially-shaven heads, and colorful hair abound. Every hipster stereotype is crammed into this little room. The lightbulbs in the brass sconces that line the walls flicker with artificial candlelight. The small stage in front of us glows pink. We spend a few hours listening to indie songs about broken hearts, and astronauts caught on the dark side of the moon.
It’s an intimate setting. The band cracks jokes and do sound checks in the middle of the concert. At one point, a volunteer holds up the lyrics for a song so new, they don’t even know the words. A girl whispers in my ear if I have a tampon she could borrow. Yet, I know none of them, and we disband into the night, likely not fated to meet again.
I have written of a silent New York. A New York rarely experienced. A New York that shouldn’t exist, yet exists all the same. That night, I found another; a small New York.
In a city of over 8 million people, minus the tourists, it would be absurd to characterize New York as small. Every day, thousands of faces file before my eyes, only to be lost in the crowd, and in my memory, once again. We brush shoulders, wait next to, and press up against each other on the subway, but we don’t know each other.
Yet, repetitiveness and confinement have the curious ability to dramatically shrink our horizons. I know the man in the wheelchair outside the 7-11 on 3rd avenue. I know the security guard in the building where I attend most of my classes. I know the students I stand next to as we wait for the elevator.
How do they know me? The girl with the pink hi-tops? The girl who struggles to wrestle her ID out of her wallet. The girl who watches the floors tick by on the ride down to the lobby? Maybe they don’t know me at all.
That night, in a room choked with stereotypes and songs of loneliness, my world got a little smaller. Here we were, nodding our heads to the beat, sipping our over-priced drinks, trying to ignore the sirens outside, and all wondering what it would be like to be somewhere else. All of New York, trapped in a single room.
But the night ended, as nights often do, and my confined horizon scrambled for the exit. My world stretched once again into the light-bleached sky, and I was left with the question of if this happens anywhere else. I wonder if I’ll travel far enough to know.
“I live in New York,” said Mirah before her last song. “I live in the world.”