I’ve been feeling challenged by our new neighborhood. In New York you can move a couple of miles and be in a different world. And I am.
Our part of Crown Heights is mainly Caribbean and the corner stores carry unfamiliar foods: stacks of dried fish, pickled meats in open buckets, eight kinds of yam, as well as roots I don’t recognize. Things smell strange to me, and I don’t feel at home.
Last Saturday we were plopped on the couch, watching TV, when we heard gun shots. I turned to M and said “There’s nothing else that sounds like that, right?” When we looked out the window there were people hanging out on the street corner, chatting. Some cops ran by. Street life continued. End of story.
When I traveled in Italy, I kept trying to figure out whether the people yelling in the street were fighting. I’m doing the same thing here, struggling to understand what the street life dynamics are. I don’t so much feel unsafe as unskilled. I don’t understand what’s going on around me, I can’t read the signs, it’s as if I don’t know the language, and I can’t quite relax.
A friend told me that in every place she’s moved to – “EVERY place”, she repeated – she has felt like she’s made a terrible mistake and simply won’t be able to tolerate living there.
I don’t feel that way. I love the apartment, and there’s no question that it was the right choice to move here. But I can’t stop vigilantly attempting to understand what is going on around me. I want to make the pieces of this new world fit so that I can file them away and stop paying attention. I think it’s going to take me a while, like learning a new language.