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new york

At 4:30 am, the alarm went off and we trudged through the security line and boarding gate, yawning and stressed.  My youngest son, flying from Denver, had overslept and missed his flight. In Atlanta, we made for the Delta lounge and threw back a fabulous Bloody Mary.  It helped a little, but I still worried. Would my son manage to arrive in time?  Hurried text messages flew back and forth as we researched options.  It didn’t look good.

After landing, cab ride, check in, quick shower, subway, people, noise, and floor so sticky we didn’t need to hold the rail as the train lurched underground, I tried to hide my disappointment.  My husband squeezed my hand, his eyes gentle with sympathy.

We met the rest of our group at the box office, made it through the ticket line and up the stairs to our mezzanine seats.  The curtains opened and the lead launched into a solo scene, but I couldn’t concentrate.  Then, my phone vibrated.  My son was a block away. I dashed outside to meet him as a long, black limo pulled up to the curb.  He emerged, grinning sheepishly. “What?  It was same price as a cab,” he said.  I shook my head at him, laughing.  My son has always had his own style. Red-eyed, wrinkled, and tousle haired, he opened his arms and I flew into them.  I hadn’t seen him in months, but there was no time to savor the sweetness of his scent.

In the theater, I watched him and the performance simultaneously.  My son, Mr. Drama, had never seen a Broadway show.  As he sat on the edge of his seat, eyes bright and hands gripped, tears streamed down my face.  The show was great, but his reaction to it was magic.

Later, we walked Times Square in search of dessert.  At midnight, there were more people on the streets than the entire population of Santa Fe.  Every shape, size, ethnicity, and style sashayed, staggered, clicked, and pointed under the daylight glare of giant screens.  Energized, I quickened to the pace, clamor, and juice of the city.  My legs hurt from walking in heels.  My eyes burned from exhaustion.  A million conversations assaulted my ears, drowning out cohesive thought.  The sensory explosion continued through the weekend.

Yesterday, after hugging family goodbye, my sensations and experiences melded.  An impressionist canvas in my mind, countless dots interacted in myriad colors to paint a picture vital and profound.  I love New York.  There, everyone is different. The bald and beautiful black guy in tight, black leather wore a shade of lipstick so bright it screamed. A white, retired college professor and his curly haired wife stood out like blooming tulips against gray concrete on the uptown train because they smiled, made eye contact, and held hands.  We saw a bit of everything, but seldom suffered the tedium of generic. The city, so different from everywhere else, sparkled with individuality and vitality.

Last year, in Miami, we drove through South Beach on a Saturday night.  My other sons had just turned 21 and were going clubbing.  On every block, scores of young women in tight, black dresses and high heeled sandals stood in line under flashing, neon signs. After awhile, they all looked the same. Canned sex, despite the freshness of youth, had no appeal.  Then, leaning against a light post, a young woman in tee shirt and torn jeans flashed a smile at her two companions, both dressed in identical, black dresses.  Unafraid to be comfortable, the girl glowed and the boys shouted in unison, “We’ll get out here.”

Over and over again, in a world filled with clutter, repetition, and noise, the authentic voices separate themselves.  In books, music, art, and social media I look for what is unique, passionate, and eloquent.  I also look for voices courageous enough to ignite my empathy.  When they ring out in a tweet, a post, a poem, or a painting, they make life rich and inspire me to be fearless.

Today in my brown Santa Fe scene, low clouds tarnish the bright sky and mountain peaks.  I’m tired writing this, and procrastinating.  Too many emails await and responsibilities clamor, but I am still savoring the trip and basking in permissions granted. If that black guy could pull off that shade of pink lipstick, what is it that I can’t do?