All capital letters. Often said with dramatic emphasis especially on the word “moment,” which she would roll slowly off her tongue like she was savoring it anew every time she said it. She was always going out for afternoon walks and stumbling into such moments, her penchant for spontaneity inclining her to welcome anything out of the ordinary.
And that’s really what a New York moment was, to her anyway. Something entirely out of the ordinary that required real human connection in the middle of a city that can feel entirely too disconnected. I would often counter that I had plenty of New York Moments, and just because they were contingent on plans that I had created didn’t mean that they were less significant than hers. She maintained that by its very nature a New York Moment sought you out; it was your job to surrender yourself to it.
“But Mariiiiiia,” she would say, as if divulging a secret only I could know, “A New York Moment is something you have to feel.”
This was apparently the most crucial thing.
I had an entire post planned in my head about how my Saturday evening finally fulfilled her definition of a New York moment. My date (let’s call him D) and I were at a bar on Stone Street on Saturday night, a warmly-lit space nestled into a corner which the holiday exodus of New Yorkers to their respective families had left mostly deserted. The conversation was diverting; the drinks were full-bodied and had left me pleasantly distracted from the exhaustion of the week. By ten, the bar had completely cleared, and by virtue of a conversation struck with the bartender about D’s interest in following this particular career path himself, we found ourselves the students of a free bartending lesson.
The spontaneity of the evening thrilled me. Here we were, learning tricks of the trade at the expense of nothing but our time. This was how you muddled an Old-Fashioned properly. That was the correct way to craft a Manhattan. The lesson propelled us into the early hours of the morning, and I couldn’t help but smugly reflect that I had proved Keila wrong. I was capable of a New York Moment in the very same way as she. I had landed upon a completely unplanned twist in my evening all because of a simple conversation and impeccable timing.
Several mixed drinks later, D and I made our way out into the street, tripping slightly, giddy with the prospect of a walk home that would almost certainly end in a kiss.
Not that he waited until the end of our walk to kiss me. In fact, we hadn’t made it around the block before he gently nudged me against the brick facade of a building and tilted my face toward his.
And I felt…nothing. I remember stumbling back a bit, slightly confused, then kissing him again in a way that he probably accepted as encouraging. Often people speak of feeling a spark when they kiss someone, and while I accept that this is by now something of a trite cliche, there is a truth to it. A kiss should crackle with the promise of something beyond the kiss itself; the best kisses pull you under like high tide, beg you to come up for air if only to remind yourself that this thundering corner of heaven where you have suddenly found yourself is in fact real.
This kiss…This was something differently entirely. This kiss simply existed as itself and nothing more. It felt altogether too much like lips on lips, cheeks pressed against cheeks, faces close, and air. A hollow imitation of something that could have been more.
It is this kiss which has nagged me over the past few days, and I have returned to it in my mind more than I would like to admit.
Because it wasn’t really a New York Moment if its finale was encapsulated by a dearth of feeling, was it?
I keep hearing Keila’s voice in my head.
“You have to feeel the moment, Maria. It doesn’t count if you don’t feel it.”
And I have to wonder if she was onto something really.
Saturday was of course a night I won’t soon forget. But a New York Moment?
I’m still holding out for one of those.