Surviving love in Manhattan

Owen McGonigle, Events Manager/Social Media

It feels as though that a city as large as Manhattan would provide someone with an abundance of options for a prospective lover. A city with about eight and a half million people, yet seemingly none that could serve as your Prince Charming.   

With my romantic journey far from over, it felt as though there would be no finale to the romance novel that had become my life. Finales are odd, as I feel as though there are no true endings in the world. One season bleeds into the next, trends come and go and come again, and the man you had sworn off just months prior is blowing up your inbox. So it’s strange, in a sense, to try and put a close on something that, similar to life, knows no organic end. 

In the most anti-climatic event of all: I remained single. As soon as I had felt the sincerity of connection with Rory, that plug was pulled. The halo I had once crowned atop him fell to the earth, and the sun that had once shone over our romance had tucked itself deep into the gray clouds of winter. 

He was a lesson that yelled at me: words can have as much power as actions. If they tell you that they are not the relationship-type, no change in their actions or behavior will change their core. After months of dreaming of a life that could be lived together, I was left by myself, accompanied only by the light of my wedding Pinterest board. I found myself returning to old habits,  and, to no one’s surprise, receiving old results. 

In true “me” fashion, I put on a Mariah record, uncorked a bottle, and laid out the miseries that had plagued my life. Would I ever find the love that I craved? It felt as though the world around me continued to fall in and out of love, and I could only manage to fall out of love that never flourished. Would I ever fall in love? Better yet, would anyone ever fall in love with me?

Laid out over the puddles of my own misery, my elbows feebly propped myself back up.  The clouds of my romantic failures, gray with loneliness, rumbled atop myself, and I knew that raindrops were soon to fall. Sprawled out, I listened to the melody of thunder that sobbed above me. I cried with it. In a sense, we managed a harmony of sorrow; nature’s boom with the emptiness of my heart. 

Seated in the valley of my emptiness, I had no lover to use as an umbrella. 

The next chapter of my romantic endeavors had questions in the chapter title, and possessed answers that I assumed would be hidden within the words of tomorrow. The truth was that I knew nothing was what was coming next. Would post college me find a man in the social scene of New York City? Would I continue to cling to old habits? Would I finally let go of the pain I kept closest to my heart?

The one thing I was certain of, however, was that no matter the outcome: I would be okay.

The real journey that I had to take was the quest to become comfortable on my own. I had spent many years thinking that my worth was based on my relationship status. I watched as my friends jumped in and out of relationships, and thought that I was worth less because I had not been able to do the same. But in the end, I knew that I had managed something far better. 

I realized that, while men had come and gone and come again, there were constants in my life that radiated the purest sort of love I had ever felt. Throughout all these years, I had managed to maintain the best friendships I could have asked for.  

In a city as cold-hearted as New York, I managed to be thawed by the people who loved me always, and lifted me up when I couldn’t support myself. If I remained single for the rest of my life, I would be content knowing this.

I remembered when Charlotte, the traditional romantic of Sex and the City, questioned whether her and her girlfriends could be each others’ soulmates. As an avid romantic myself, I will admit that I laughed at this concept. I figured this was the writers’ way of forcing an emotional bonding moment between female characters.  

But years later, as an actual single in New York, I could not agree more with Charlotte.  Perhaps my friends were my forevers. The men we had were merely subplots that supplemented the overarching story that we told as friends.

A few months later, as the spring flowers bloomed and the air grew warmer, a few of us gathered for brunch. It was the typical scene: myself with a few girlfriends gathered for a late morning to catch up over the events of a week gone by.  

I wore yellow that day. For a while, I had been married to my own isolation, so it was nice to feel air on my skin, and to feel my body react to a warmer temperature. In a sense, I felt human. 

I glanced over at Veronica who, similar to myself, was not in the most ideal romantic scenario. Was she single, or was she taken? That was a question that even I could not answer. However, as a laugh escaped from her heart, and a mimosa sat tightly in her hand, her smile glittered in the sun.

As I glanced, I thought back to the decade-long friendship that Veronica and I possessed. Truly, her and I had seen the best and worst of one another, and the best again. We watched as men came and went, yet managed to stay together throughout it all. We were made of our heartbreak and failure combined with our happiness. In a flash of the light, I felt as though I could watch every moment of our friendship in cinema. 

Cassandra, who was still committed in her ideal romance, sat beside her.  Her skin, as smooth as could be, soaked in the spring sun. As her own smile stretched across her face, her eyes connected with Veronica’s.

Behind her winged-eyes, I could see the spark of our friendship. Two preteens gathered over a crowded laptop, their brains too excited to start writing together. We spent the day passing the laptop back-and-forth, as we worked with the art of one another to create a piece together. In a sense, the piece we unified not only our art, but us as people. Throughout the years, we kept writing together. Even when we didn’t, I knew I could trust her with all of my work, and all of my art. 

Beside her, Ariel sat. I hadn’t seen her in a while, but the smile behind her bright eyes remained as radiant as ever. It was as if we had never disconnected. There were many words I could have said, as I could have told her all the ways that New York City needed her, but we merely connected in a smile.

I thought specifically of her and I on the downtown 2 train. A night in Harlem had gone a bit past my bedtime, but I had felt as alive as ever. We had spent the entire 40 minute ride conversing over the day we had spent, and the days we planned to spend together. It was a future that I had longed for, and one that I found home in. 

Ally sat beside her, with the brightest smile that downtown could see. She wore a dress of sunflowers, yet somehow she managed to shine brighter than they had.

I was brought back to our instant connection, one that seemed to connect at the mind and never let go. It was one that, even in disagreement, could always observe and respect the other. It was familial, in a sense, like the family that you’ll always have love towards. 

Cam, who had just looked up from her phone, locked eyes with myself. As we always could, we spoke to each other without words. I glanced at her briefly, and noticed that she had continued to place her blush higher on her cheekbones like I had guided her. 

I thought of Cam and I sitting in the dark, our world merely light be a few strands of fairy lights. We spoke as though the world needed to hear our words. But the truth was that we needed to hear each other. Years had gone by, and we still needed to hear the perspective of the other, always. 

It was then, over a quaint brunch and conversations of romantic failures, that the sun rose over the skyline of New York City. As the clouds continued to part, and allowed more of the sun’s warmth to dance atop our skin, the reality of it all finally came upon me. 

New York was the memories created with the ones you truly loved. The towers marked the years of kinship and unity that have been cherished, and the parks blossomed for those moments of true intimacy that romantic relationships could never replicate. 

Maybe I would never find the answers to romance. One could argue that this was the true beauty of romance: its mystery and inability to fall under a strict definition. Even still, would I continue to question it at every turn? Yes. 

So perhaps, with all this in mind, surviving love in Manhattan was not about the people you fell in and out of love with, but with the people you fled to after. Perhaps, in the most ironic twist of it all, the key to surviving love on this island had nothing to do with the men, but had everything to do with the love you felt towards yourself, and with the friendships you created along the way.