Dear Manhattan,


I’ve been in Berkeley for a month now, and between you and me, I think about you a lot.

Please don’t get me wrong: I stand by my decision to get some space. I know it was hard for both of us to say goodbye, but last summer in your sweaty, sprawling jungle of subway lines was exhausting and marked by growing pains. Newly twenty-one and younger than I knew, I struggled to keep up with the gush of Midtown foot traffic toward Grand Central at six o’clock every day. Too often I would bounce into my publishing internship in the morning dragging my relationship woes behind me, simultaneously entertaining and annoying my co-worker’s with the latest catastrophe in my sitcom. I couldn’t tell if I was in love with the men I was with or with how the skyline glittered from the rooftops of their apartment buildings. I didn’t know if I preferred the city simply because it wasn’t my Vineyard Vine’s suburb. I never made it to Brooklyn—navigating the subway down to Canal Street was confusing enough.

I thought I knew what was best for us both when I moved away, and I stand by my decision. The Bay Area has more to offer me career-wise, practically the mecca of sexuality. There is no better place to learn about women’s erotica than the publishing house where I currently am an intern. There is no better role model to work alongside than the feminist pornographer for whom I am also an intern. Regardless of whether or not I choose to stay here after the summer, I will have learned so much in such a short period of time about social media, about publishing, about feminism, about how the real goddamn world works. I will be so qualified, bruh. That is hella important.

And look, I did need this break. I needed to spend some time somewhere else in order to see you clearly, in order to see myself clearly. I needed to get stuck behind meandering middle-aged couples on Shattuck to understand how much the brutal stomp of NYC is caught in my heels. I miss the Manhattanites who walk so fast that their shoulders pop up and down as they strut across the street, daring taxicabs to challenge their authority. No one here j-walks. Do you know how frustrating that is? Don’t you have somewhere to be right now? Don’t you have somewhere to go?

I miss messy, cheap ice cream cones slithering tendrils of chocolate down my fingers in Union Square Park. I miss dive bars hunched almost unnoticeable underground with exposed brick and not enough lighting. I miss running down 42nd street at 2am to catch the last train out of Grand Central back to Connecticut, a paper bag full of McDonalds fries clutched in my fist. I miss writing in battered Moleskines on my commute, letting the train rock me back and forth. I miss how the public library glows brilliant white in the summer sun, the marble absorbing heat and exploding it back like a beacon.

San Francisco is hilly but my neighborhood in Berkeley is pretty flat. I miss the thrill of height. I miss how much it scares me to wobble at the edge of some skyscraper balcony, to hear the muffled roar of traffic below, to feel the wind weaving through my fingers. When I was younger I used to imagine I was in a music video, or a CW teen drama, or an indie romantic comedy. Rooftops made me glamorous in my Forever 21 miniskirt and cheap eyeliner. Now I understand it, that immortality born of open air and elevation: it’s possibility. I miss your often misleading, always enchanting promise of possibility.

So I… I miss you, New York. I hope you understand, and that you’ll forgive me when the time is right. I promise I won’t buy a bike while I’m here.



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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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