In South Carolina, Ester spent years wondering what big cities were like – Visiting her cousin Tessa in New York City, Ester initially found that they could be overwhelming with smells of fuel and perfume mixed with the sounds of cars honking and people speaking quickly as they searched for their loved ones.
As Ester waited for Tessa at Kennedy Airport, she thought of how lucky Tessa was to be able to make it in N.Y.C. Ester looked forward to the week ahead because Tessa had promised her that she’d show her the best parts of the city. From the moment Ester placed her suitcase in the trunk of Tessa’s car, her cousin did not disappoint her. Tessa took Ester right into the heart of the city. They boarded a train at one of the main transportation hubs in the city, Atlantic Terminal, and then caught the three train to thirty-fourth street.
Tessa gave Ester a crash course in train etiquette before they got on the train.
“Don’t stare at anyone. Don’t talk to anyone, even if they say something to you. And if you accidently touch anyone in anyway apologize immediately, even if it is not your fault.”
Tessa knew that Ester would stick out as a tourist – It was March, but Ester had brought her winter coat, hat, and gloves. N.Y.C in March was too chilly for Ester, who was used to sixty as a low temperature in South Carolina at that time of year. Also, Ester would stop without warning, take out her camera. and take pictures of the most ordinary things like buildings and streets that didn’t stand out to Tessa at all.
Tessa knew Ester would want to take a lot of pictures where they were going. Standing in line outside to get into the Empire State Building and looking up, Ester noticed that the top of the building disappeared into the clouds. But from the top of the building looking down, the view was clear but impossible to fully take in. Tessa had hoped there would be a restaurant at the top of the building, so they could eat while keeping their bird’s eye view of the city.
Tessa walked around the circle, pointing out landmarks when she could find them among the concrete clusters. After asking a stranger to take a picture of them together under the Empire State Building sign, they headed back down to the street to catch an Uber to The World Trade Center, which did have a restaurant at the top of the building.
Since Ester had never used Uber, she asked Tessa if she could put the app on her phone. Tessa knew that Ester would never use it in South Carolina, with her two cars, but she humored her cousin and added the app on her phone like she asked.
After arriving, they headed up to the restaurant at the top of the building. The elevator ride up to the restaurant was eventful and a voiceover automatically chronicled the history of the World Trade Center as the elevator moved. The World Trade Center was impressively strong and beautiful.
They arrived early for their reservation, so they took time to take in the landscape and beauty of the city again. From different angles at the top of The World Trade Center, they could see the city’s bridges as well as the Statue of Liberty. Ester zoomed in with her camera and took pictures of everything as if she were close enough to touch them. They sat on a bench beside one of the windows. Overwhelmed by the wonderous sights around her, Ester let out a deep exhale.
“Your mom would have liked this,” Tessa said, thinking of her aunt and how she hadn’t had a chance to see her before she died. It seemed right that the city brought Ester and Tessa back together. Their life experiences could be added to the city landscape within those buildings, already filled with the hopes and losses of others.
“I’m glad you came,” Tessa said.
She then looked at her phone and realized it was time for them to claim their table. They made their way to the restaurant and sat in a booth right next to a floor to ceiling window, and the way the booth was positioned they could both see the magnificent view. They ordered a bottle of wine to go with their burgers and fries because neither of them had ever had wine with burger and fries before. They had angus beef, double cheeseburgers with bacon, lettuce, tomato, a pickle, and shoestring fries with gourmet ketchup, and the red wine they ordered blended perfectly with the meal.
With a slight buzz they made their way to the train station to catch the four train back to Atlantic Terminal. Given the effect of the wine, Ester did end up making eye contact with strangers and accidentally brushing up against others, but she did remember to apologize. When they reached Tessa’s apartment without incident, Ester began to think that maybe Tessa worried too much.
Back at the apartment, Tessa slept on her couch, and Ester slept in the only bedroom. Ester checked in on Tessa, who’d fallen asleep. Ester went into the bedroom to watch When Harry Met Sally to see which of the same places she’d visited that day as the characters in the movie.
Ester’s visit helped her see the city in a new way, and her curiosity about the city continued to grow. To Ester, New York City was a big and daunting but friendly city. She found that it was just the place to go when she longed to be anywhere except South Carolina where she’d spent all her life with her mom, who’d then died a little over a year ago.
Natasha Cobb is pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Queens University of Charlotte. She is also a playwright who has had several plays go up in multiple festivals throughout New York City. Her most recent production, Foreign Born; New Home, will premiere at the New York Theater Festival this summer. Natasha also has a podcast, Black Bipolar Female, which is a fictionalized account of her experiences living with Type I Bipolar Disorder.