On the subway, I look up from my book and see a black and white postcard that someone has tucked inside the frame of the advertisement directly opposite where I am sitting. “Spiritualist and Prognosticator” it reads. On one corner is an upraised palm that simultaneously beckons and halts. In the center is a large triangle with an eye at its heart. I stare at the eye. It stares back at me, unblinking, all the way to Midtown.
Over the door through which I exit at Herald Square, an advertisement seeks to offer assistance for holiday gift-giving. “Idea #3.” It says. “Give your boyfriend the gift of pork.” I am surprised, but it is not what you think. Because the ad is actually recommending that you give your boyfriend a gift certificate for a course in hog butchery. I wonder how long you have to date someone before it’s safe to teach them how to disembowel a pig with a knife. It seems like a risky investment to me.
Every day I sit down to write and instead of writing I think about not writing about New York. You can’t write about New York. And you can’t not write about New York. You can’t write about New York because you are never the hero. To live here is to resign yourself to a supporting role. It is too big and too small and too beautiful and too hideous. It is every superlative you can throw at it, good, bad or morally indeterminate. But small? You say. It can’t possibly be small.
Oh, but it can.
On the way out of the subway I run into an old boyfriend, one who many years ago would have given me serious pause had “class in hog butchery” turned up on his Christmas list. The city is as small as a head of a pin and as big as a universe. I know because it is big that I will almost certainly never see him again. There’s a certain comfort in superlatives.