Like my mother,
I once felt that New York missed me
more than I missed it.
That it thought about me when I wasn’t home,
and worried about where I was and whose car I would be getting into late at night—
whether Eric had learned his lesson after the last time,
when he got behind the wheel a bit too unsober and ran several red lights according to the police officer—
and when I would finally be coming home.
That was a few years ago,
when life felt as limitless as the sky
and as rich as the colors in an autumn sunset.
Now the trip back to D.C. from New York is shorter,
and the girls on the bus are all married
or seriously dating men that live in Brooklyn
and own condos and cufflinks and coffeemakers,
like the girl next to me
who smiles politely as I try to chat her up
while she texts “Andrew” that she misses him already.
Erin didn’t even see me this trip,
She was busy picking Aaron up from the airport
and having a life that resembled the one we imagined for ourselves,
even if I never quite believed it.
She’d be the best woman I’d ever date, said Eric years ago,
in one of his drunken moments of philosophy
as we marched on the proving grounds of the Lower East Side,
making our mini New York adventures under moonlight that the city,
like a mother,
knows is just a phase you’ll soon outgrow.
She’s seen young boys do this before,
puffing their chests out and
acting like they own the place.
And then they grow up.
Become grown, vulnerable men.
Like Eric, marry a stable woman who is not beautiful, or sexy, or a girl who lingers at the late night bars on Delancey St.,
but has a timeless dignity like the Upper West side early on a Sunday morning.
The wise sons learn to find
and cede the next city adventures to the sons that are coming after.
And so mothers, such as Eric’s, like the city,
turn their attentions to other things,
and go to sleep at night
a little less worried about their sons.
While mine still wonders
when I’ll outgrow my desire
to conquer every thing.
Jason Steinhauer is a historian and musician living in Washington, D.C. and working at the Library of Congress. He is originally from New York.