I tried to find myself today, but it was much, much more difficult than I ever expected it to be. The fellow was an elusive young punk, not easily caught. But I stole a glimpse of him. Or at least, I was pretty sure it was him.
He was stepping onto the train, headed into New York City. I pushed a couple of unsuspecting pedestrians out of the way and ran after him. I dove between the doors as they snapped shut, and looked around, gasping for breath.
The train crossed the bridge into the colossal metropolis, and I peered out the window as I stepped from car to car. The immovable skyline wafted a shudder of trepidation through the deepest part of my chest, but I kept moving — I was going to find myself, and the monolithic cityscape would not deny me of this chance.
My eyes scanned the rows of seated passengers, who returned my confused look with confused looks of their own.
“Have any of you seen me?” I asked, loudly. “I’m trying to find myself.”
An awkward silence billowed and grew, until a slightly unstable-looking man grunted and nodded:
“He went thatta way.”
He pointed to the next car.
“Thanks,” I said, and bolted through the train.
I pushed through the passengers to the next car, and the next, and the next, and the next, until I reached the end. As I made it to to the final car, I caught a glimpse of myself, jumping off the subway, onto the Manhattan Bridge, right before the train submerged into the tunnels beneath the city.
So I got off at Canal and ran to the Manhattan Bridge, but I was long gone by the time I got there. I turned back to the city.
I wandered through Manhattan, into Chinatown, then the Financial District. When I saw myself nowhere among the expensive suits and Wall Street Bankers, I kept going. Into TriBeCa and Greenwich Village, but I couldn’t find myself there, either, in the crowded coffee houses, filled with bohemian artists, poets and earthy musicians.
I meandered through NoHo and Little Italy, but I knew I wouldn’t find myself in either the fashionable neighborhood, or one steeped in Italian history . I wandered up Broadway, near NYU, but I was no student, and there was no way I could hide from myself in crowded auditoriums.
I walked further up Broadway, through the crowds of tourists, but I couldn’t see myself in them, either. I wandered past Columbus Circle, Lincoln Center, the Upper West Side, Central Park, and the Upper East Side, but I was nowhere to be found. I started to doubt that I would ever find myself on this godforsaken island, and wondered: If I couldn’t find myself here, would I be able to find myself anywhere?
I left the city, uncertain, with that same feeling of trepidation gnawing at the spine of my soul. I trudged from the train station back to my home through the cold December evening.
My wife felt the emptiness in my eyes upon my return, but said nothing. She wrapped her arms around me and attempted to melt my uncertainty with her warm smile, but she couldn’t erase my scraping ache to find myself.
Before she released me from her embrace, my eyes wandered to a chair in the living room, where I sat by the fire. I had been waiting there for me, all along.