Memories Like Fireworks

66 Days.

My adventure in New York was 66 days long.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and the lows, the unforgettable experiences and the lonely days. Through it all, what did I take from it and where do I go from here?

I love the feeling of an expected train. The cool breeze swirls around me, whispering of its coming while blowing at my clothes and loose hair. It tells of miles traveled, souls carried, stories untold.

Millions of little food options are crammed into small corners and apartments; they aren’t an easy find, but a worthy one. Donuts and bagels worth standing in line for close to an hour (I’m looking at you National Donut Day), summer food festivals in the park, little hole in the wall mom-and-pop places serving food from other countries, and elaborate dessert restaurants that fill you to the brim and leave you wanting more.

The area of Brooklyn I lived in during my 66 days was just a 10-minute walk from Prospect Park, which is far larger than any park I’ve been to in Charlotte, yet is still not quite as big as Central Park. Summer time thrives in New York. Concerts in the park every week, food vendors trying to spread their love for food to the masses, baseball in Central Park, and Shakespeare In the Park. The parks of New York are a revolving door of friends and families who like to soak in the adventures and opportunities available to them. Just add the tourists into the mix and you’ll see why it’s so crowded.

The sights are extravagant, the plays magnificent, and the memorials elaborate. New York embodies the phrase, “Go big or go home.”

A tall building on 20th Street has an office on the 11th floor, which crams in two independent publishing houses and a book distribution company. This is where I spend most of my days, asking for project after project in order to teach me about the publishing industry. Some of my projects are simple, such as packing boxes with books, weighing them, and bringing them to FedEX. Sometimes I input data or create fliers and email blasts. Most of my days are spent helping one of the companies develop a new website, uploading content and formatting different aspects to make it more user friendly. My favorite days were those in which I spend working with manuscripts, copyediting, suggesting changes, and brainstorming how to rework scenes so as to make them more believable. I love being a part of helping people tell their stories. My experiences have given me an outlet to continue to do what I am passionate about, and now I work as a freelance copyeditor.

On Independence Day, the weather is gloomy. I take the subway to Coney Island with my brother. As we walk up and down the boardwalk, a chilly breeze tugs at our hair and clothes. A large flock of seagulls do a dance in the sky as they battle the wind. The rides are old and look rundown, though they appear to be working fine. My brother and I dip out of the crowds and into a building to buy tickets to the freak show. We walk into the dark room and find seats on the bleachers. A man is on the stage, explaining some of the history of the show and interacting with the audience. Eventually, he demonstrates the first act by hammering a long nail and a screwdriver into each nostril. I cringe in discomfort. A performer who lies down on a bed of nails and allows others to walk on top of her follows him. Other performers come one after another, displaying amazing contortions and feats. The spectacle is a memorable one, and I leave feeling content in being normal. As we walk back out into the salty breeze, I still can’t shake the eerie feeling of the place. It reminds me vividly of the first time I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – it was during a storm at the beach. Certain smells have a way of bringing back memories. Even the rundown rides and the freak show feel like they could’ve been from the book. I smile as I think about this.

I took some trips to Pennsylvania and Jersey City, since they were so much closer to me than usual. Jersey City is a boardwalk galore. Shops squeeze together along the wooden walkway, their owners hoping to sell souvenirs, spray-painted clothing, and deep fried food. Giant, elaborate buildings line either end of the walkway, housing thousands of slot machines, poker tables, and gamblers with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. All the way at one end, by the Trump Taj Mahal, a Ferris Wheel stands tall in the blue sky – for just five tickets, you can be on top of the world. Another ride sends you flying in the air in a circle. I watch as my swing moves further and further out, eventually bringing me soaring over the ocean. I watch as the sun dances on the water below me. To my right (and then my left), I can see all the small people laying on the beach, walking the boardwalk, reaching for their wallets. Yellow and blue umbrellas line the beach, looking like something out of a picture. I later join the crowds on the beach; drink in my hand, soaking up the sun with one of my best girls. A successful weekend.

In Pennsylvania, I went with my brother to his boss’s farm for his annual summer party. The farm is huge – one would need a golf cart or car to get from one end to the other. By the barn and by the house, tents litter the place, offering endless food and wine or beer. A platform holds a live band, playing for hours. Trucks come in waves to offer popsicles, cupcakes, and ice cream – of the best variety. Along the hill leading up to the barn, hired hands man a rock-climbing wall, blowup water slides and relay races, and a mechanical bull. At the bottom of the hill, people fish or paddle board in the large pond. A bus ride down the long winding road by the corn fields brings us to a rodeo, where we watch bull after bull kick their riders off before they can even qualify – I believe only two stayed on long enough. At the end of the night, when our bellies are full, we all gather around for the final event. I sit sideways on a hay barrel, one leg tucked under the other, turning behind me to face the fence. I rest my arms on the whitewashed wood and my chin on top. There is a crackling sound and a small stream of light soars upward through the air. BOOM. Colorful lights dance across the sky, holding their form for just a second, and then they slowly fade, falling back toward the earth. BOOM. Another burst of color. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. Several fireworks go off at the same time, lighting up the sky as if it were no longer evening. After each burst, the colors fade, leaving behind trails of smoke as if to say, “Remember me. I was the best one, gone too soon. Remember that elated feeling.” As more fireworks fill up the sky at once, the smoke trails mingle, fighting to stay the longest.

My memories from New York feel like those fireworks, each one bigger and more colorful than the next. Each moment gone, leaving behind a trail of smoke for me to remember it by. I hope that the smoke trails stay for a long time, fighting to be remembered as the biggest adventure I’ve had so far.

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