This entry is being written from inside a coffee shop in Bushwick. I’m eating a gluten-free raspberry oat bar and drinking a 8 oz French Press. And it’s beautiful how happy those two things make me in tandem.
It’s incredible how, on our return home, these mundane experiences become alienating and comforting at the same time. Alienating, because we simply just don’t get to do any of this in China. The Chinese coffee is more stale and more bitter and while the coffee shops may appear antique, I know better, because I saw the construction workers carry in the furniture just a week ago. More often than not, the spaces are crowded to the point of becoming stifling (Sumerian on the weekends is impossibly mobbed). But here, I’m basking in the sawdust and the silence. I’ve been typing my thoughts here for the past half an hour or so, sitting at a large communal table with two others. Even the line of passersby picking up lattes seems somehow.. more quiet yet alive.
My first week back, I’ve been trying to figure out if – staying in New York – whether I’m a walking stereotype, or someone who still belongs in this place. During this time, I do feel that I’ve been forming an entirely new connection with the space around me (staying in Bushwick is a part of it, but that’ll come with a longer entry). At the same time I’m being constantly confronted by old memories flooding back – shooting back Sriracha picklebacks with A at the Belfry for the first time, being stuck in the Starbucks on 42nd and 9th, when I couldn’t return to New Haven due to a campus shooter, taking the ferry from Battery Park to Roosevelt Island, to lie on the grass on a sunny day.
Last night, I felt a true sense of something for the first time since my return, on my way from St. Mark’s. That short block is a space filled with my New York – where I can get Korean BBQ, $3 cans of PBR, a new belly button ring, and coconut milk ice cream all within steps of each other. At the same time, I still get that sense of being a little off. Simple things, like ordering coffee (no one says ‘medium’ anymore? I have to call it a 12oz? Also, when did a 12oz become a medium? Will 12 oz be enough coffee? I need more coffee.) feel unnatural. I’m also definitely out of place with my J.Crew sweaters in Bushwick. On the other hand, I was able to give directions to some lost Albany tourists in Williamsburg, just after three days, so maybe all hope’s not lost.
I can’t really quantify this. And in just under 4 days, I’m returning to Shanghai. But really, none of that matters. What matters is that for the first time in months, I feel healthy and happy.