I often write how there are millions of lights in New York City, and then go on to mention how they never seem to go out—and that if one does, another one just ends up shining. This past week was not the case. Last Monday, I found out news that made it seem as though every light had gone off—I thought I had stepped into Gotham City, as my mom broke the news to me via phone that a close family friend and neighbor had passed away .
It was not the first death I had learned of since I came to New York City, but it was the one most close to me—and probably the second closest person to me that I have ever had pass away.
As I walked back through the doors to the Apollo theatre, where I was volunteering to help check in guests for an event put on by my work, I struggled to fight back tears. My supervisor immediately knew that something wasn’t right, and I excused myself from the event. It was only moments after walking out the door that I broke into tears. I didn’t have an umbrella, and the rain seemed to now be coming down harder than it had earlier in the day. A man next to me asked, “Are you sure you want to walk in this without an umbrella?” The rain seemed to hide my tears and I responded by saying, “I’ll be okay.” It was a phrase that I got used to saying through the rest of the night and for the next couple of days.
I had off from my internship the following two days, so I took advantage of that time to get myself out of the apartment and out doing things in the city. The lights were still dim, but I could feel New York City brightening again as I took my mind off the news from Monday night.
During my first day off, I made my way to the shooting of Law and Order SVU where I was lucky enough to grab a shot with Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni. Later that night, I attended a Q and A with Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwin to flush my mind from everything. It was a nice break.
As I returned to my apartment, I was immediately reminded of why I had been so sad the night before—why I had gotten no sleep the night before—and then the thoughts started drowning me, until I finally dozed.
The week seemed to linger slowly before I was able to head home Friday for the viewing and funeral services. For the first time, I had looked forward to getting out of the city. The calmness of Bethlehem is always so welcoming, and seeing my family and neighbors was a relief—everyone coming together. The worst part about finding out the news, while in New York City, was the fact that I didn’t have a lot of close friends to go to with the news. Sure, my internship has allowed me to make friends and through them even more friends, but my best friends are all in other places—Bethlehem, Philly, Pittsburgh, East Stroudsburg, LA, Rhode Island…it wasn’t like they were a dorm room away.
The services were a nice reminder of how much my friend and neighbor meant to so many people—his wife, his children, his mom, his dad, his sister, and all our neighbors and friends. His six best friends even went up and paid tribute to him by telling their favorite stories and memories with him—ones that insured laughter and tears from all those attending.
My mom turned to me and asked me if I was going to go up and tell my stories…my memories. I told her I wasn’t going to, but the memories were circulating through my mind as I thought of the annual Christmas Eve party in which our friend would show us his yearly hunting pictures and tell us stories of his father’s and his trip. I thought of how, in the years leading up to my 21st birthday, he’d constantly say “YOU REALLY AREN’T 21 YET?” before trying to sneak me a drink behind my mom and dad’s back, and last I thought of my pre-teen and teen years in which he had always supported my sports endeavors, and made sure to ask me how my teams were doing and how my stats were. He always cared about others with a giant smile on his face.
As I traveled back to New York on Sunday afternoon, I thought about my weekend at home, and how nice it was as an escape from the city—even if it wasn’t for the best of reasons, but I was ready to return to the city, and go on with my life. I knew I would be okay—and that my friends and family all would be okay after having the closure that we had…sometimes that’s all it takes.
So when the bus pulled into Port Authority, and I stepped into midtown, I wasn’t surprised to see that the lights were almost completely shining again…that what had felt like Gotham City to me just one week prior, now felt more like the home of Broadway and opportunity again. But I knew that even though the lights were bright again—when the sun dropped and night rose—1 star would be shining brighter than any of the lights in New York—and will continue to…
Rest in Peace Ryan