Friday night, walking home from my friend’s birthday gathering, with less than seven hours before I was due on a transcontinental flight, it struck me: I can’t remember leaving New York.
I remember arriving, eleven years ago next month. The red-eye flight on JetBlue, landing at JFK in pouring rain, the remnant of some hurricane dousing the city on its way out to sea once more. But leaving, I can’t remember.
Defeated, I left the city five months later. My Gmail tells me I flew Alaska Air out of Newark, while my memories tell me I was relieved to return to Seattle. But the details of my departure have been scrubbed from my brain. The trip to the airport, the flight, the final farewell to the city I’d dreamed of, all elusive, all gone.
Earlier Friday night, but still part of the birthday festivities, we drank in a bar in my neighborhood, and as I talked with friends, speculating which songs douches sang at house parties before “Wonderwall”, a melody floated from the bar’s speakers, familiar yet distant.
Jimmy Eat World’s Futures was released in October of 2004, and, the day it was, I purchased the deluxe edition at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square. Before that, even, I’d been listening to a leaked copy on my Napster-branded mp3 player, floating around the city and taking in the hopeful tones. At 21, interning at my dream job, living in the only true city, the future seemed bright and achievable.
In that bar, I had to Shazam the song to confirm its identity: “23,” the final track on Futures, an ode to uncertainty. At the time I fell in love with the song, all those years ago, its lyrics resonated with me because of my inability to connect with women.
You’ll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I’m here I’m now I’m ready
Holding on tight
Don’t give away the end
The one thing that stays mine
Now, though, it’s the last part that strikes, the idea of elusive endings. How did I leave this city?
Last night, with an hour to kill in the area, I stopped into the West Village bar where I’d had my first legal drink. Inside, it looked the same. With eleven years of experience, I knew better than to drink Stella this time around. With a Leffe Blond in my hand and the Mariners game on my phone, I felt wiser, better, happier than all those times I’d drank there before, a third of a lifetime ago.
As I drank, I remembered the stories we SPINterns shared, the jokes we told. And, as I so often do when contemplating eras gone by, I started thinking about endings, and why they’re so often the least memorable part.