“I cried today.”
“Really? Are you Ok?” he asks.
“It’s ok. I’m a crier. It’s my thing.”
He continues to look at me. I crack a smile.
“So what happened, man?” he continues.
“I don’t know. I just cried,” I say. “I was in Harlem tonight, sitting on the platform waiting for the B train. It was just very New York to me. You know, like, I close my eyes, and that’s what I picture when I think of New York City. The dingy yellow green light in the subway station, the tiles on the wall. I always find myself staring at the tracks. Tonight was no different. I do this morbid thing where I see how deep the space is between the two rails in the track , like if I fell and a train was coming, if there would be enough space– enough of a rut–for me to lie down under the train as it rolled on top of me.” I laugh.
“That’s morbid,” he says.
“No it’s smart. I’m always prepared.”
“For if a subway train rolls over you?”
“So why did you cry?” he continues.
“I was waiting for the train, and I see this cute French boy. Or at least he was speaking French, him and his friends. The C Train comes and everyone on the platform gets on. I’m tempted to get on, just to follow this boy, I don’t of course. The train leaves, and I’m the only one left at the station.”
“And that made you cry?”
I laugh. “Yes. No. Maybe.” I stop for a second. “You know, being alone at a subway station doesn’t happen a lot. To be the only person. If you think about it. So to be in a very New York place during a very un-New York moment, I don’t know…”
He laughs, “Kevin, you’re not making any sense.”
“I cried because I’m sad to leave New York.”
“Really? Aren’t you excited about your trip? You’re about to spend a year travelling the world. I think a lot of people would kill for that opportunity.”
I think about it. “You know, when I moved to New York City, I had never been here. I didn’t know anyone. I came here with a suit case and a green duffle bag. And I remember, when the plane was landing, it was at night, and I could see the city lights out the plane window, and I said, ‘I’m not going to leave until I conquer you.’ I literally said it out loud.” I laugh.
“Well, Kev, I think you’ve done a lot here.”
I think about it.
“Don’t you think?” he asks, “You should be proud.”
I think about it some more. “You know there was a moment,” I start, “last year. You know that big fundraiser Pratt has every year? Well last year, they asked me to be the student speaker. It’s a big fucking deal, right? I mean, it was the 125th anniversary, so it was special. And I remember, I’m in a tux, at the Waldorf Astoria at this $1,000 a plate fundraiser, and I see Russell Simmons.”
“Ha, no way,” he laughs.
“Yeah,” I continue, “and you know, I’m a child of the eighties, and when I was a teenager in the nineties I was big into East coast hip hop. Lil Kim, Foxy, Nas, Biggie—all of them, I loved them. So you know, Def Jam is a big deal, and here is the co-founder. So I go up to him, and I say, ‘Hi, I just have to shake your hand.’”
“Ha, that’s all you said?”
“Literally, all I said.”
“He took my hand and shook it. Anyways, later I give my speech, and I’m not going to lie, I rocked it. I killed it.”
“No, I’m serious, I gave an amazing speech. I mean, sometimes, when you finish something, you just know, you did exactly what you needed to do. And when I finished that speech, I knew I had done exactly what I needed to do. I mean, there were like five hundred people in that room, and I got a standing ovation from the entire fucking room. People were shaking my hand, afterwards people were coming up to me and telling me I made them cry. I rocked it.”
“Well, good for you,” he smiles.
“But that’s not the point. Well not really. The point was that was hands down the most amazing moment in my life. It was MY moment, and New York City gave it to me. You know? Like, that could not happen in any other place in the world. It was magic. And I left that event that night, walking in the city, and you know, I just felt, ‘this is exactly where I need to be.’ How often in life do you get that? I mean really, when you have such clarity. I mean it was just a moment, like a fleeting feeling somewhere on 42nd street past Grand Central Station, it came, it left, but for a moment I had absolute clarity that I was where I needed to be.”
“And now you’re leaving.”
“And now I’m leaving.”
“So then why?” he asks. “You’ve conquered New York?”
I think about it. “Like I said, it was just a moment. I haven’t had that clarity for awhile. Clarity in where I’m at, or clarity in where I want to be.” I pause for a moment. “But I will say this. There have been two distinct moments where my life has spring boarded itself to an absolute next level, where the trajectory of where I started from and ended up was unparalleled.”
“And when was that?”
“The first was when I was too young to remember,” I start, “but when I was eight months and immigrated to America with my family, that was the first. I started in a refugee camp and a plane ride later ended in America. The upward trajectory there, was of course unparalleled.”
“And the second?” he asks.
“When I moved to New York City. The person I was before, and the person I’ve become after, it’s just a different level. I can’t explain it, and I don’t want to be one of those ‘New York City is the center of the world’ type people, but it’s absolutely the truth. For me.”
“So, again, I ask, why are you leaving it?”
“Because to me, I’m at a third spring board. This around the world trip, for the Gay Men Project, this is it. This is the one that’s going to take me to the next absolute highest level. I just know it. That kid who was born in a refugee camp, and that man that moved to New York City. That was all grand. But this trip, this is it. This is going to give me the purpose I’m meant to have.”
I look to him and he smiles. “So now that you’re leaving, can you confidently say you conquered New York City?” he asks.
I look to him. “I don’t think it was ever about conquering New York City. It was about conquering myself.”
“I cried today.”