I’d been kind of nervous about visiting Mexico City so soon after moving to New York.
Five weeks in a new place is not long enough to put down roots, and a glimpse of my former life — a two-week glimpse amid gorgeous weather — might unravel the fragile routine I’d built for myself. I had already come to grips with the icy Queens wind (the secret is a warm coat with a hood), and the long hike up the subway steps (burns calories), and the fact that we can’t go out as much because everything costs too much money.
When the plane was about to land in Mexico City, I already felt like I was home. I snapped a picture of the lumpy, jeweled blanket of the city and posted it on Facebook. At Puerta 9 inside the airport, that first whiff of sewer air hit me just like it always does in that spot. (Good ol’ aguas negras.) That night at Ruth’s house, my nose promptly stuffed up from the dust and particles in the air like it used to, too. (I hadn’t missed that.)
Before I went to bed, the tamales oaxaqueños guy sang his little jingle outside the window. I really wanted to exchange a knowing glance with Crayton, but he hadn’t come on this trip because he had to work.
The next morning was eerie. I wore the same flowered shirt I’d worn in my old life, and rubbed the same moisturizer on my face. I looked in the mirror and the same tired face stared back at me. What had changed?
I walked to my cooking class just like I had a million times before, and everything was the same but different somehow. The morning sun shone harsher, more flourescent. The food stands looked too quiet, and the drivers weren’t zany enough. Then I realized the biggest thing missing was Crayton. He wouldn’t be there that night when I got home.
After class I walked for about 20 minutes, trying to find a medical supply shop that would sell me a wrist splint. On the way there, I remembered how many times I’d tripped on the cracked sidewalks, and how slowly people walked, and how they took up the entire width of the sidewalk even if they were only three people. Other details I hadn’t noticed much when I lived there jumped out at me: kids maybe five years old sitting on the sidewalk and begging for change. An old woman carrying a bulging rebozo on her back who asked me for “una caridad.” The hordes of young office workers lining up outside Banamex, waiting to use the ATM.
It took me less than 24 hours to realize that I didn’t miss Mexico City as much as I thought I would. Not because New York was necessarily better, but because I’d been so comfortable in DF for so long. Maybe for that reason alone, it had been time to move on, and the universe knew before I did. (When we originally found out we were moving, I cried for three days.)
Arriving to New York in the dead of winter required a level of patience — mostly with myself — that I didn’t think I possessed. One afternoon I found myself blinking back tears on the subway platform just because I was so overwhelmed with living out of a suitcase, being constantly cold, and not knowing anything about the trains or how long it took to get anywhere. I’d gotten through that okay. Once I peeled back those layers, I actually liked New York and my new life.
I spent the rest of the week feeling blissful about Mexico City, seeing friends, eating tacos and tlacoyos, riding my bike, drinking mezcal. The happiest part was knowing that I had a home and a husband to return to, and a city where I’m still finding my way.
Some more pictures: