the city that exposed me: d.c.

This past spring I visited Washington D.C. I was presented a variety of experiences that were very new to me (do not go to China Town on a Saturday night) and gave me insight to how strangers operate their lives on a daily basis (the monotonous subway system, the dazzling mosaic of flickering lights across the nighttime streets).

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In my family, I am usually pinned with the nickname “city girl,” which, while appropriate, seems slightly unwarranted. I do crave visits to the city (a splendid break from the predictable, small-town life I live), but this is usually on day- or weekend-trips. In D.C., I spent almost a week. Yes, some of this time was dedicated to touristy attractions and museum days, but it was the closest I’ve gotten to sampling city life with the tip of my tongue, at it was, initially, at least, not exactly what I expected.

Without really warning myself beforehand, I was secretly hoping to discover something about myself in the city. I approached it with a blithe fantasy that the streets would unravel before me like an exquisite velvet carpet. I wanted the city to grab my hand and force me into a long, ferocious affair. It’s no plot twist that this is not necessarily what happened.

“I always felt like once I got to the city, I would fall in love at once. I thought I would feel fearless and bold and independent, and learn to accept even the bad parts. So when I ascended the escalator from the underground streets, I kind of thought it would be an affirmation of what I’d hoped for so long. And my first sight was of fast food wrappers littering the concrete.”

(reflections made on my first night, from my journal)

After another day I recovered from this mild shock, most likely because it was spent in the (freezing) museums rather than on the unfortunate and sketchy streets of China Town. All the same, I couldn’t help but feel a bit left out, which was kind of ridiculous, because no one was actually excluding me from anything.

“Despite this, I feel slightly like a woman who has not found God, sitting in on mass.”

(reflections made on my second night, from my journal)

This melancholy mood did not prevent me from having a wonderful trip. These waves of consternation usually hit at night when I returned to my hotel, but during the days I was generally occupied by and fascinated with the city.

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This city that exposed me will undoubtedly be the source of future posts, but for now I will part with a particularly forlorn poem that I wrote on my second night.

Why do I feel

out of place –

pennies in a fountain –

wishes made in vain,

glimmering dully in an artificial  current.

Why does nothing

call my name

but a moment

when I don’t have a camera.

Will something come

and make me whole?

Beside the point,

I think I could

fall in love

with someone like you.

(all photos belong to and were taken by me)

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