It’s surreal how time folds back on itself and how the experiences we think we have left long behind wrap back around to enfold us once again.
As I type this, I am sitting on a park bench a few hundred feet from the White House, which is shimmering like a solid slab of marble in the mid-afternoon sun. The Washington monument points to the crisp, blue sky just behind it and the Old Executive Office Building — my favorite building in the city — lies monolithically just to my right.
Washington, D.C. has always has been one of my favorite cities. It is the sort of place where, if you kneel on the sidewalk and place your ear to the ground, you swear you can hear the palpable throbbing of the machines of government thundering in some subterranean lair. Above ground, the ants who power the machines scurry from one corridor of power to the next. I used to be one of those ants. I’ve been here before (click the picture below!). Once upon a time, 13 or so years ago, I interned for the 105th Congress. And now I have returned to this city of power, history and prestige once again.
But going to one place means leaving another. Mere days ago, our life in New York City was packed carefully into boxes, loaded onto a truck, and sent away from a place with which we had fallen instantly, ravenously, violently in love. My wife and I have lived across the United States and the world. But never before have we encountered a place like New York. Never before fallen for a city the way a budding adolescent falls for an achingly beautiful girl. Never before found ourselves coming close to abject, cinematic humiliation by running into the middle of Manhattan’s boulevards, arms outstretched, screaming out our infatuation for a jungle of steel and glass at the top of our lungs. Never before dwelled in such a perpetual state of profound, geographical grace.
I am already emotionally starved for a place that I had come to feel as home more than any place I have ever lived. I am going to miss my frequent walks through my backyard of Central Park. I am going to miss devouring Grimaldi’s coal-fire oven baked pizza after a brisk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or savoring something sweet at Café Lalo. I am going to miss sauntering through Zabar’s, brunch at Sarabeth’s or a pair of darks at McSorely’s Ale House. I am going to miss dining at ravishing restaurants, catching sight of the Chrysler Building burning like a torch in the sunlight, musicians serenading me to work each day as I rode the subway or the simple joys of memorizing the blueprint of the city through the unique osmosis of walking. I am going to miss the city’s extraordinary museums, its breathtaking music halls and its boisterous Broadway theaters.
But more than architecture and attractions, we leave behind beautiful souls.
We leave phenomenal loved ones, like Justin Moffatt, my priest, mentor and kindred friend and the entire congregation of Christ Church, New York City…
…my classmates (Lydia, Annosh and Liz seen here), and so many other stellar friends who made my graduate studies at NYU both a rich academic experience and a holistic life experience. That my studies evaporated so quickly is almost beyond reckoning. I cannot conceive of having already completed my master’s degree. It went faster than I ever could have imagined, faster than I ever hoped…
…and especially beloved family members with whom we have become hopelessly attached. The Avitsurs have been our lifeline to all things soft in a sometimes hard city, a beacon of familial warmth that vitally eradicated the isolation and loneliness that are an inevitable part of being strangers in a strange land. We are in love with our beloved cousins, their succulent children, their humbling hospitality and their beautiful Jewish faith that added so much to our experience in New York.
Now, seemingly overnight, our lives have been transplanted. Everywhere we look in our slowly unfolding apartment, there is the familiar in the midst of the alien. It is a time of excitement and promise, a temporary way station on what we promise ourselves is a trajectory back to New York.
But for now, we are here, in our nation’s capitol for such a time as this. Washington hardly can be considered the frozen hinterland. No one can deny that being in Washington during the next few years, with the impending election and the possibility of a truly historical executive transition, is not unenviable.
We plan on visiting our beloved Big Apple as often as possible. We’ve proven in the last year that commuting between the two cities is done easily. And whatever sacrifices we’ve made in leaving New York behind are nothing in comparison to the overwhelming joy and deeply abiding satisfaction that comes from living together once again. To wake up next to each other every morning is an extraordinary gift. The long famine is finally over. It was the right thing to do, but it was certainly not easy. It is as if we are newlyweds again after a long drought apart.
Everywhere we look, everything is fresh and new, dewed with the promise of a delicious new chapter in our lives and the intoxicating whiff of things yet to come.