By Thursday, Manhattan was eerily empty, cleared of its constant noise and the hubbub of busy, busy people leading their busy, busy lives. Even the oddly comforting white noise that comes from traffic horns and exhaust pipes and the occasional popping of a tire were absent. I felt like I was starring in my own version of I Am Legend, which, oddly enough, was shot partly in my neighborhood last year. Early Friday morning, a bar fight woke me up. The unintelligible shouts were being traded in the unmistakable tone of threats and promised violence. As I listened intently, I was soothed instead of annoyed, relieved for a moment that New York still had enough breath and life left in it to yell.
By Friday night, I was home in Ohio, and found my hometown just as eerily empty as the city I had left –save for the noise from the bars. It’s amazing how you can travel 700 miles, to some place that “ain’t the big fancy city,” and find the same silence. The streets were dark grey, slick with drops of rain, the trees bare except for twinkle lights, and the corner of Main and High may as well have been the corner of Lex and 42nd.
That’s a thought that’s especially amusing since my friends and I were gathered in my favorite townie dive bar, tossing dice, tossing back drinks, and watching Cash Cab on The Discovery Channel. As the yellow SUV carried its contestants through the streets of the city I just left, the guys asked me if I recognized the bright lights and the bustle of each path it took. Not that night, no.
Everyone has cleared out for the winter, gone away to hibernate, vanished from the streets. They’ve reappeared underground, where it is warm and artificial light takes the place of the daylight everyone hopes will soon return to the surface.
It’s like living in a post-apocalyptic movie. An alternate universe. A place where “home” and “away” are suddenly the same thing. Until the sun rises, and Ohio becomes, once more, distinctly Ohio, and I become distinctly a New Yorker.