The City That Never Sleeps

In September of 2018, I found myself alone in the city that never sleeps. Ironic, considering the countless nights I had laid in bed, dreaming of one day calling the city my home.

I longed for the diversity, the trash-filled subways, the way you could wear an outrageous outfit while singing obnoxiously and people would simply walk by, minding their own business. Just another day in the city. I also needed to escape my pain. I love my hometown, Newburgh, New York, but I could no longer stand visiting the supermarket I had last seen my father alive in.  My heart ached every time I drive past the apartment where papi and I danced to Marc Anthony and would drunkenly slap me around in. I could hardly bear to look at my mother’s face while speaking with her. We were ignoring the fact that her boyfriend sexually abused me when I was sixteen and ignoring that she never believed me and that she was still dating him. I was being haunted by places and faces. Haunted by the ghost of my father and the essence of my mother. I yearned to be free.

The city offers this freedom I yearned for. I knew I would no longer be bound by the shackles of my closed-minded town. People would no longer ask why I dress the way I do or why I thought writing was a feasible career. I could wear my red velvet skirts and fishnets and write uncensored, get tattoos and piercings and feel more at home in my body.

I did most of these things once I arrived: converted to thrift shopping, got three tattoos and five piercings, wrote more in a year than I ever had in my whole life, but after just two weeks of the first semester I sat alone in my dorm, sobbing. I had everything I wanted: a full ride to my dream school, NYU, a dorm in the heart of Greenwich Village, and the most freedom I ever had. Yet for some reason, I still felt empty. There was a hole in my chest that no amount of the city could fill.

I had forged new bonds with friends. We would occasionally get lunch or go out at night, exploring and unearthing the mystifying gems the city had to hide. We found many. However, the second I walked back into my dorm after one of our rendezvouses, that empty feeling crept its way back in. I was surrounded by silence and four, cold white walls. My friends had family and significant others to return home to. What did I have?

I sat at my desk, staring at the polaroids and Photobooth pictures of me and my friends, cheesy grins plastered on our faces. How is it that I could I feel so at peace with them? How is it that I could I coin the nickname Smiley and take hundreds of silly Snapchats, but feel so hollow in my own company?

Humans experience a multitude of complex emotions. These emotions are difficult to comprehend and take much chipping away to reveal their origins. Sometimes it takes life-altering experiences to truly understand them. As I sat sobbing in my dorm, I realized that happiness is a fleeting feeling. The excitement I felt to hang out with my friend had quickly turned to despair as she cancelled on me for the third time that week. I was alone in this world, and I had not yet learned how to cope.



By Jaelynn Grace Ortiz

Jaelynn is a rising sophomore at NYU majoring in Journalism and Social and Cultural Analysis with a focus in Latino studies and is minoring in Creative Writing. The list of her hobbies is almost as drawn out as her majors are. She writes poetry, essays and stories, she dances, mentors high schoolers in the Bronx and often plans environmental events in NYU Residence Halls. She has a poem published in the introspective study Inside My World by the Live Poets Society. Despite vehemently condemning social media, she ironically has instagram which you could follow her on. 

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