POV: Surprise.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories

Several mornings a week, Jamie wakes up at 3. “When your alarm goes off that early,” she said to me recently, “it feels like there can only be some sort of disaster happening.” In the dark, she takes a near-empty train to midtown Manhattan where she spends the next three hours erecting towering floral installations of grevillea and quince and Japanese Lindera at The Modern, a Michelin-starred restaurant at MoMA. By the time she leaves at 7:30, New Yorkers are crowding train platforms in bleary-eyed droves, and Jamie, already awake for hours, has forged a complete indoor wilderness with her hands.

“It’s surprising where we end up sometimes,” she said to me as we walked through thick fog to a corner bodega. We’ve talked about this before: over the course of our still-young friendship, we’ve worked what feels like a decade’s worth of jobs, found new homes (including one together), and settled deeper into a city that wears a new face every day — and yet feels as familiar and intimate as the hallways of our own apartment. Jamie moved to the city to work in food but years later, has landed in a thicket of blossoms and trees; I started as a nanny and now write stories about golden eggs and hand-knit blackbirds

“I’m surprised every day,” I said. I’d borrowed a coat from her that night, before we’d ventured out into the cold. When I put my hands in the pockets, I found flower petals, dried and half dust, clinging to my fingers.

My first apartment, on 122nd and Amsterdam, was tiny and too expensive, and I spent my days working as an intern in a fashion studio, musing over the minutiae of sweater buttons. I remember sitting on a bench bordering Central Park one weekend, knees tucked to my chest, crying because everything seemed wrong.

That was before I was me, I thought when I happened to pass through the neighborhood a few weeks ago. It’s strange to still be here, in the same city but in another world. I couldn’t have imagined it then, with its many new faces and figures, its bewildering new landscapes. It is — all of it — a happy surprise.

Yesterday, hugging a friend goodbye after a run-in on the street, I tried to remember when I’d seen her last. It felt like months, but we were startled to discover it had only been six weeks. “So much has happened,” she said, “it may as well have been a year.“ She turned to resume her walk. “Let’s get a drink in the next few days. We’ll probably be different people by then.”

Later, I sat on the train with my head pressed to the window as we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge. The cars rattled over the water and into Brooklyn, and as we screeched to a halt at my stop, I found myself distracted by a tree standing in a patch of dirt outside my local grocery store. From where I was sitting — on the far end of the train, slightly slouched, eyes clouded over in a haze of 5pm —  the tree’s branches appeared covered in snow, and for a moment I lost track of the season.

“Thank goodness for spring,” someone said, reading my mind, and when I looked closer I saw not snow, but flowers — hundreds of them in tiny white clusters. Then, she continued, with a shake of her head and to no one at all: “It happened overnight.”


You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much for reading, as always. Photo by Emily Johnston.

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