About a month ago, I received a priceless gift. My book won a prize, and this prize seemed to actually mean something, as its worth was validated by a ceremony, a gala, an event where I’d actually receive a medal. Only problem, it was in New York City, a place I had already visited a month earlier. I have a four-year-old, a husband who works enough to not be able to be a stay-at-home dad whenever I feel wanderlust is taking over my life, which happens quite often. A beloved babysitter who despite being a Greek grandma to my son, works hard for her living, and is no place to make his care-taking a personal pastime.
Yet here I am, on a patio in Midtown Manhattan, a loud generator truck parked below me, the noise enhanced by the cliché echoes of sirens and honking yellow taxis, busy New Yorkers racing by on the street below me, and hints of a more-than-welcome warm, humid spring day approaching, as a sliver of a moon appears behind the skyrise above my head.
I arrive here, six days ago, nursing the cold I picked up at the worst time from nursery school. I begin popping American flu drugs, stoned I power through the streets, trying to verify my existence in the city. Sweaty and tired, I return to my rented bed, and watch senseless shows on Netflix, determined to head out again.
A friend flies in from across the country, more determined, I find new medicine, refusing to waste a moment of my time in the place that makes me feel alive, invincible, creative, real. Award night comes along, I chug close to two bottles of Pedialyte, miraculously feeling strong and human, for enough time to make it there.
Another 200-odd writers have won awards, many of them are there, just like I am, to hang a heavy medal around their neck, as if we all didn’t know we are good enough after being singled out from over five thousand entrants. The organizers have hired, what in Greece, we would call “flower pots,” two young and hot people, a boy and a girl, in their 20s, they slide the medals over our heads, they pose with us for a photo, the girl with the male winners, the boy with the female. “Sexist!” my friend and I whisper loudly to eachother , Women’s March, nasty women, and all. Yet, when it’s my turn to go up there, I gladly pose with the flower pot, I even put my arm around his bony torso, because for that single moment, for those two shots, I am nothing but a winner and I can do whatever I want.
We flee the minute my moment is over, not because we’re bored, not because I need to leave, but because I feel the chapter slamming shut, the magic potion mixed with wine and the medal weighing down my clutch makes me hungry and fearless. We jump on stools at a bar next door, a man is singing songs that we know, the sound is bad, his voice is great, we yell along to the lyrics, someone is celebrating their 18th birthday.
Today, alone, roaming the insane streets of post-Memorial Day New York, spastic cough and sinus nightmare galore, I realize that I may be the luckiest person in the world.
Shit happens, and I embrace it. Always with a little help from all those that embrace me. I wrote a book. It won an award. Nursery viruses, come, show me what else you’ve got, my next book is out there, and if I have it my way, I will find myself in this city over and over again, until book after book, post after post, fight after fight, I will need no drugs or magic potions to consider myself alive, and real.