Note: The Rules & Guidelines for the Yes Quest can be found here.
There's a distinct feeling when you drive away from Manhattan. Even with its hundreds of skyscrapers, the island looks solitary, like a single play piece on a board game. All the stress and intensity stays trapped within its rivers, and is instantly forgotten as soon as you emerge from the tunnel and breathe a little easier. Suddenly, there's a sense of wonder and pride when you watch the skyline fade away, because it's almost impossible to believe that so much life exists in such a small, dense place, and that you, of all people, get to call it home.
It's been nearly a year since slid into the back of a taxi, bagel and lox sitting heavy in my belly, and said goodbye to New York City. For the first time in all my years of going to and from JFK, I didn't turn back to watch the skyline shrink into the distance. Over eight years, the buildings that once stood as monuments of potential had transformed into gravestones of my past — the business born on 9 Clinton Street, the friendship grown in Brooklyn, the life lived in the high rise on 3rd Avenue. The relationship that ended there. Another one that began here. Yet another over there. I wanted no part of it any longer.
And while Manhattan is still littered with markers of a past I tried to forget and people I once tried to erase, the intrigue of international travel, played out on Instagram, has brought a few of my ghosts back into form. Who knows why they're choosing now to reach out? Perhaps it's perspective, or time, or simply the continents and oceans between us. Mending old wounds is easier with space. And in Valparaiso, with the Andes and the sea spread before me, all I have is space.
He asked me when I was going to be back in the States, and if, perhaps, we could grab a drink?
And in short messages, we caught each other up on the past five years. Started a business. Sold a business. Went to law school, became a lawyer. Finishing up the last few months of ongoing travel. Moving West for a new job next year — one of those silly little opportunities.
Those silly little opportunities tend to be the ones that change everything. You're a real adult now.
Can you even picture that?
To me, you'll always be the kid with the guitar. And maybe a few other things.
What other things?
I remember your mop of hair, and the noodle restaurant on the corner of your apartment. I remember all the guitar strings coiled up in your bedroom. How your hands hurt when you played, and how you always seemed to be bound by a sense of melancholy that I couldn't quite get a handle on, because it never felt grounded.
Tell me more. Please.
We sat out on your little fire escape drinking Bud Heavy one summer night. At least, I think it was summer. I don't remember the timeline. But I remember that the street was quiet, so quiet that while I don't remember anything else we talked about, I know we commented on the singular experience of a Manhattan night spent chatting over beers on the fire escape. And you hadn't ever tried mustard, which admittedly, is still non sequitur I occasionally bring up to people. And I was so mad at you. I'm not anymore, but I was for a long time.
We were young, then. And I'm really so sorry. Maybe we can talk going forward? If you like.
Yes, of course.
And outside a noodle shack, a single daisy fell from a loose bouquet and came to rest on the streets of Second Avenue, where it finally was able to breathe.