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The West Side Spirit

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Girl and City Fall In Love, Girl Leaves City, Girl Gives City a Second Chance

By Tracy L. Ziemer

You can’t help who you fall in love with. Some are kind and funny, others are sweet and shy. Still others are fun, wild, hardworking, unpredictable, and don’t love me back nearly as much as I love them and therefore break my heart in crushing ways. New York, sweetie, I’m looking at you.

Two years ago I wrote an essay for this paper in which I announced I was breaking up with New York. After seven years together, I’d had it with how crazy he made me. All the trust funders and models hanging around, the increasingly lonely nights wondering where our relationship was going, why he wasn’t more supportive, and why he’d traded in his tattered concert T-shirt and the cigarette tucked behind his ear for a sensible haircut and a pair of chinos from the Gap. It’s like I didn’t know who he was anymore.

And don’t get me started on the money thing. Let’s just say that no one can spend money like someone who’s in love with New York. He’s up for anything at any time, that one. It’s all I could do to keep up. All those $14 cocktails and high-priced dinners on Fridays, followed by costly brunches and $5 herbs at Greenmarket on Saturday. Over time, I grew weary hearing from friends about how much fun they’d had with New York the night before, all while I stayed in and anxiously balanced my checkbook and worried about rent increases.

Who can keep up with a guy like that? And with all those hangers on – 8 million of them! – looking to spend time with him, too, it just got too crowded and expensive and noisy. Pretty soon I couldn’t remember what attracted me to him in the first place and felt only anger over how much energy he vacuumed from me while giving seemingly little in return.

And so, after many tears, we broke up, New York and me, and I left the Upper West Side and moved to Chicago. That city can be a real flirt sometimes, too, often scooping up New York’s jaded castoffs with promises of pretty buildings and a sparkly lake. I thought: why not give him a shot? He seems nice.

He was, too. Chicago’s more of a jeans and baseball cap guy, more into Big Ten football and boats than foreign films and falafel. He’s ridiculously friendly and far more reliable than New York. If he said he’d be there at midnight to pick me up downtown and transport me uptown, he’d be there – no labor strikes or painful service delays or random bag checks by the cops to muck up the commute. Even my mom loved him.

And yet, and yet. There was no thrill either. Chicago was tried and true but not very spontaneous. Every day I knew exactly how my day would unfold. There’d be no chance meeting of a book agent at a cocktail party, no random seating next to an Oscar winner at a sushi restaurant, no eavesdropping on public transit about an amazing little-known restaurant on the Left Bank. It hit me that I’d gone from living with a musician, a poet, an entrepreneur and artist, to being with a salesman, a lawyer, an accountant.

I’m no two-timer, but while I was with Chicago, I found myself thinking fondly again of New York. I missed his constant quest for a good time, all the fun people he attracted. And I started to remember vividly everything that made me love New York in the first place: how dining out was like traveling the world, the heaps of really smart and ambitious people there, and, especially, how he showed his sensitive side by laying right over his heart a magnificent greenspace called Central Park. That softie.

New York is the ultimate bad boy who shuns my affections, but who also dabbles in watercolors – chiefly pink sunsets over the Hudson River. He knows what I mean when I order coffee regular, how much I adore the uncomfortable seats and glorious movies at the Film Forum and all those endless books at The Strand. And New York, that hopeless romantic, has always brought me flowers, even in mid-January, on countless street corners.

Who can resist such a package of gruff greatness? Not me. I’m happy to say that I’m getting back together with New York and can’t wait to smell his smells and hear his stories again. I’m approaching this second attempt at our relationship cautiously, with open eyes. After all, I’m wise to New York’s ways – I know he’ll take money regularly without notice and will make me cry from time to time over how hard it can be to keep this relationship going.

But when it’s good, it’s soooooo good. And sometimes you just have to give one of the greatest loves of your life a second chance.

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