City love, p.1
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       City Love, p.1

           Susane Colasanti
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City Love


  For Matt,

  the love of my life



  One: Sadie

  Two: Darcy

  Three: Rosanna

  Four: Sadie

  Five: Darcy

  Six: Rosanna

  Seven: Sadie

  Eight: Darcy

  Nine: Rosanna

  Ten: Sadie

  Eleven: Darcy

  Twelve: Rosanna

  Thirteen: Sadie

  Fourteen: Darcy

  Fifteen: Rosanna

  Sixteen: Sadie

  Seventeen: Darcy

  Eighteen: Rosanna

  Nineteen: Sadie

  Twenty: Darcy

  Twenty-One: Rosanna

  Twenty-Two: Sadie

  Twenty-Three: Darcy

  Twenty-Four: Rosanna

  Twenty-Five: Sadie

  Twenty-Six: Darcy

  Twenty-Seven: Rosanna

  Twenty-Eight: Sadie

  Twenty-Nine: Darcy

  Thirty: Rosanna

  Thirty-One: Sadie

  Thirty-Two: Darcy

  Thirty-Three: Rosanna

  Thirty-Four: Sadie

  Thirty-Five: Darcy

  Thirty-Six: Rosanna


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  About the Author



  About the Publisher



  THE ENORMITY OF THE SITUATION hits me at the most random time. Setting up my teapot in my new room, I’m suddenly so excited I actually bust out a dorky happy dance. I am not above busting out a dorky happy dance, particularly at random times.

  I have officially left for college.

  This is my new apartment for the summer. I might even stay here freshman year with the same two roommates. I’m stoked to get to know them. Rosanna moved in today. Darcy moves in tomorrow. My older brother is cool, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Now I sort of get to find out . . . without the irritations of living at home.

  No parents constantly hovering with their relentless interrogations and antiquated opinions and when-I-was-your-age rants.

  No curfew. No boundaries.

  No rules except for the ones I want to make.

  How awesome is that?

  I cannot freaking wait for college to start. High school wasn’t that bad for me, but it made me sad to see how horrible it was for a lot of other kids. I did what I could to reach out to the kids who needed it the most. Random acts of kindness is my jam.

  Rosanna appears in my open doorway. Actually I hear her before I see her. The light snap-snap-snapping sound I heard when we met this morning is back. Now I see that her fingernails are snapping together as she flicks her thumb against her middle finger. She seemed nervous when we met. Maybe she’s still nervous? But she said she was okay when I asked before. I think she just needs some time to adjust.

  “Hey,” I say. “All unpacked?”

  “For now.”

  “Are you hungry?”

  She nods.

  “I’m not going to have the energy to unpack kitchen stuff after I tackle this suitcase. Do you want to go out for dinner? I know a place nearby that’s good and cheap.”

  “Perfect,” Rosanna says.

  I unzip my ginormous suitcase. How I’m going to figure out where everything goes in my new tiny closet is beyond me. And I thought our closets back home were small. How weird is it that I went away to college and I’m less than a mile from home? I even stayed in the same neighborhood. The thing is, I’ll probably never see my parents until I intentionally go back home to see them. That’s the thing about New York City. Each neighborhood is like its own town. The West Village isn’t that big, but you can pretty much avoid anyone else who lives here for as long as you want. Thank you, population density.

  I couldn’t wait to leave home. So when this housing opportunity came up with the University of New York, I jumped on it. They offer summer housing for students enrolled in the fall semester who are doing summer internships on campus or at companies affiliated with UNY. Rosanna has one of those summer jobs. The same opportunity is offered to students who are taking summer session classes, like Darcy. Darcy hooked us up with a video chat right after we got our housing assignments a few weeks ago. So the three of us have virtually met already. Darcy said she couldn’t wait to see our beautiful faces. I can already tell she’s going to be a lot of fun.

  Even more fun? My internship at the Department of City Planning. Urban design is something I became passionate about a few months ago. My best friend, Brooke, wants to be an urban planner. The ironic thing is that I helped her figure that out. The more Brooke realized urban planning was perfect for her, the more I realized urban design is a career that fits in perfectly with who I am. New York City is my boyfriend. I’m constantly geeking out over his architecture and parks. Spaces specifically designed for people to gather in positive ways that inspire relaxation, happiness, and connection have always intrigued me. New green spaces and repurposed streets (like Summer Streets, when major avenues are closed to cars for a few hours, or these little plazas in Times Square with lounge chairs) make me giddy. But I never really gave much thought to the planning behind these spaces until I took a guided tour of the High Line with this couple from Seattle who were visiting my parents. That’s when enlightenment struck in the form of a career goal. I was like, Dude. I could be one of the designers behind the coolest new structures in New York City. Designing the spaces in which people rejuvenate and connect with one another would be like the hugest warm fuzzy ever.

  Urban design wasn’t always my future career choice. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher before. Peer tutoring in high school was awesome. I loved challenging myself to explain things in the simplest ways I could without disrespecting the kids I was tutoring. The best days were when they laughed at my corny jokes. A lot of the kids I tutored were failing English. They just didn’t get what all those authors from back in the day were talking about. Schools should update their required reading lists with books that students from this century can relate to. Then maybe more kids would actually like to read. I loved tutoring and I loved the internship I had last semester at Hunter College. Their School of Education is launching an antibullying program this fall called Starting Now that was inspired by initiatives like It Gets Better and Born This Way. Everyone at my internship worked with elementary education majors to develop activities that focused on increasing awareness of the consequences of bullying. Kids who understand how strongly their words and actions can affect others are the ones who will be more likely to take action against bullying when they see it. Starting Now will be run in twenty-three schools. It makes me happy to imagine kids doing activities that I designed when they go back to school.

  My teaching goal was more of an expected track. I love kids and I love tutoring, so it made total sense. But I could spread the love on a much larger scale as an urban designer. I could reach thousands more people in countless positive ways, maybe even millions, than I could as a teacher. I’m excited to see what my new internship brings this summer.

  Rosanna watches me unpack my suitcase. I can’t believe she’s already unpacked. Her boxes arrived right after she did. We both moved in this morning, but she got here after me. I hope she’s not mad that I took the bigger room. My mom said that when an apartment is vacant and everyone’s moving in around the same time, the person who gets there first can pick which room they want. Rosanna didn’t have that much stuff: only the two bags she took on the plane and a few boxes. You would think the girl who moved from Chicago would have way more stuff than the girl who moved less than a mile from home.

Do you know which drugstore is the least expensive?” Rosanna asks.

  “Try CVS or Rite Aid. But you might have to go to a few different places to get everything you want.”

  “I almost died when I saw how much toothpaste cost at Duane Reade.”

  “Yeah, you’ll want to avoid Duane Reade. They’re outrageous.”

  “How does anyone afford to live here?”

  “It’s not easy.”

  “Sorry to bother you with all these questions. I feel so out of place.” Snap-snap-snap.

  I look up from my suitcase. Rosanna’s been emitting her unsettled vibe since the second we met this morning. She has that nervous/shaky/adrenaline thing going where you’re in a new place and you’re scrambling to get settled, but you don’t know where anything is. I want to do everything I can to make her feel more comfortable.

  “You’re not bothering me at all,” I reassure her. “I’m happy to be your tour guide. Oh, and I know where the best gelato is. One less thing for you to worry about. We can go there after dinner if you want.”

  “Cool. Um, do you want me to help you unpack some of those Target bags?”

  “That’s okay. It looks like more than it is.” My mom took me to Target to get a bunch of stuff for the apartment. I had no idea I’d need so much for a furnished apartment. Mom insisted on some new kitchen things. And I’ll need sheets and towels and other basic stuff for college anyway. Before I knew it, we were pushing an overflowing cart down the school supplies aisle, attempting to cram in a few packs of pens between a bright orange pasta pot with a built-in colander and my new comforter.

  After working a miracle by finding room in my closet for most of my clothes, I walk with Rosanna to Joy Burger Bar for dinner. They have the best veggie burger ever. This is important. Ever since I became a vegetarian last year, I’ve been on the prowl for the best veggie burger in New York. My prowl has turned out to be a more difficult search than you’d expect. Most veggie burgers fall apart when you take your first bite. It’s so disappointing when the satisfying meal you were anticipating quickly becomes reduced to crumbled bits of carrot and sprout all over your plate. But Joy Burger Bar knows what they’re doing. Their veggie burgers are not only delicious, they’re cohesive. And they have the most refreshing iced tea served with the perfect amount of sweetness, not too much ice, and sprigs of fresh mint. Rosanna will love JBB.

  Being outside after unpacking and rearranging furniture all day is a double shot of cheer. Summer is in the air. People on the street are smiling and laughing with groups of friends. I love it when the energy is really up like this.

  “Let’s cut through the park,” I say.

  “Which park?” Rosanna asks.

  “This one right here. Washington Square Park.”

  “That’s the one with the arch, right?”

  “Yeah. We’ll walk back this way so you can see the arch all lit up. The fountain lights up, too.” This is Rosanna’s first time in New York. It blows my mind that someone my age has never seen these cultural icons before. I’m happy for Rosanna that she gets to experience all of this glitz and glamour for the first time. “The park was renovated so that the fountain is perfectly framed by the arch. They spent some ridiculous amount of money to move the fountain like twenty feet.”


  “It’s entirely possible that I’m exaggerating. But the fountain is epic. See how everyone congregates around it? This is the kind of place you could come to if you’re having a bad day and immediately feel better, you know?”

  “Yeah.” Rosanna looks around with wide eyes, taking in all the action.

  A street performer is doing an elaborate magic trick near the fountain. Lots of colored scarves are involved. We stop behind the deep circle of people surrounding him to watch. Rosanna is a few inches taller than me and can see everything. I have to stand on my tiptoes to see what’s happening.

  The crowd is dazzled by how quickly the plethora of scarves is changing colors. They burst into enthusiastic applause. The magician bends down and smiles at a little boy at the front of the circle. He holds a blue scarf out to the boy. The boy is reluctant to take the scarf. He probably thinks it will be snatched away as part of another trick. But then he sticks a tentative hand into the space between them. The magician dangles the scarf. The boy grasps it. His laughter rings out, making other people in the circle smile at how adorable he is.

  “How cute is that little boy?” Rosanna says.

  “I know. I love how sweet this guy is with him.” Part of the reason the street performer has attracted such a huge crowd is his positive energy. He scanned the crowd while he was performing, taking the time to make eye contact with as many people as possible. He paid extra attention to an old lady up front wearing a denim jacket with about ten million buttons. The man radiates goodness. Even his collection bucket is yellow with a big smiley face. HAVE A MAGICAL DAY! is stenciled on with glossy red paint.

  “Thanks for swinging by, folks,” he tells the crowd. “You’re the reason I have the opportunity to do what I love every single day. Except when it’s raining. But even when I’m stuck at home instead of shooting Silly String at unsuspecting tourists, I’m still the luckiest man alive because of your support. Thanks so much.” He busts out a final trick where shiny Silly String goes flying above the crowd. More enthusiastic applause.

  Street performers fascinate me. I always wonder about the chain of events that led them to where they are now. Did they always want to be street performers? Are bigger dreams burning in their hearts? Or is it all about interacting with an audience for them? Whatever their dreams are, they know they’re in the right place to make those dreams reality.

  New York City is for dreamers. New York City will always be where I belong.



  IF I CAN MAKE IT here, I can make it anywhere.

  As long as I can avoid getting mangled by one of these crazy bikers.

  A bike messenger just zoomed past me so quickly a paper bag actually flew up from the sidewalk, sucked into the vortex he left behind. Another flashed by so close to me I had to check to make sure my nose was still attached. The flavor of crack they’re on has yet to be determined.

  Mental note: Beware of bike lanes.

  Making my way to the building I’ll be calling home this summer while hefting a gigantic backpack would be easier back in Santa Monica. The streets of New York City are fierce. New Yorkers walk like they have to be somewhere right now. Like every single person on the street has to be somewhere right this second. A family of German tourists was nearly taken out by an impatient businessman bursting through their group a few blocks ago. He was running to cross the street before the light changed. The guy had zero awareness that he had almost knocked over a little girl. Perhaps he’d like a side of social skills with his oblivion.

  Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the frenetic energy of cities. Especially this city, which I believe to be the greatest city in the world. I’m just having a cranky morning on top of hardly sleeping on the plane. Someone should really tell the guy who was sitting next to me that snoring so loudly you make your whole row of seats vibrate is not normal. Underneath my stank mood, I’m appreciating everything (including the bike messengers on crack and strung-out race walkers). These New York sensations are unparalleled: the rush of pounding the pavement in the summer heat, the sound of cabs honking and music blaring from an apartment window, the sight of vintage mopeds in colors like powder pink, and the smell of bacon wafting from a restaurant as I walk by. So much is happening. This is the place where dreams become reality. This is the place where anything is possible. This is the city that never sleeps and I intend to be wide awake for every breathtaking second. Operation Summer Fun Darcy is a go.

  I unload my backpack in front of my new building. This building is so New York. Crumbling brick, ancient fire escapes, and a stoop that has clearly seen its share of drama.

  I love it.

  My backpack
has somehow gained fifty pounds since I flew into JFK way too early this morning. Unpacking this monster will be a rigorous endeavor. I dig around in one of the outside pockets for my set of keys. Then I hoist the backpack back on, unlock the heavy front door, unlock the second door after the row of mailboxes, and begin the trek up to 4A. A fourth-floor walkup wasn’t my first choice for a summer share. I only enjoy walking in a mostly horizontal direction. People usually assume I’m athletic by the way I look. But sports (or any kind of working out) is not my thing. I just inherited some good genes. Anyway, this is what UNY’s housing office gave me. My dad refused to spring for a decent apartment. He wanted me to see how average people in the real world live. As if scoring any kind of apartment in downtown Manhattan is average. Dad says I need discipline. I say discipline is confinement in disguise.

  By the time I get to the apartment door, I’m sweating. I dump my backpack on the floor. Fortunately I like to layer. I start stripping off my oversize retro tank down to the fitted cami underneath as I turn the key to let myself in.

  Sadie and Rosanna are already here. I love that we’ve talked online so I can recognize who’s who. We only had a few minutes, but it was enough to get a general idea of their personalities. Sadie (midlength copper hair with gold highlights, brown eyes, petite, ready for her internship in a pretty floral top and black pencil skirt) is unpacking kitchen stuff with all the cabinets open. Rosanna (long wavy light brown hair, brown eyes, taller, ready for camp in a basic tee and shorts) is turning the kitchen table around. They stop what they’re doing when I burst into the apartment. I don’t mean to burst. It’s just kind of how I roll.

  “Hey, ladies,” I say, whipping the tank over my head and flinging it on the nearest chair. Then I lug my bag in and drop it near the couch. “This place is fantastic. Look at those windows!” We were graced with the good fortune of scoring a prewar apartment with huge French windows. Almost makes up for the Everestesque climb. “Don’t you want to open them?”

  “We have the AC on,” Rosanna says. “It’s so hot out.”

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