Growing up in a market neighbourhood, I wanted to escape. It was the only dream I had. I pictured myself living alone on some remote hill or a beach, a cottage with a small café for lost travellers, serving coffee and conversation for chump change. Like most things in life, this changed in a manner so uneventful I still can’t put a finger on when it happened.
To love a city demanded attention to detail. It was a love story unlike any other; to love a city, you had to be patient with it. You had to trace its streets and alleys like you’d trace the skin of your lover, slowly and with unparalleled softness. It was all about the time spent together. Like someone you adored, you had to understand you couldn’t own any part of it, and yet, all of it was here for you. You had to understand it changed without rhyme or reason, that old places shut down all the time, and new ones popped up continually.
To appreciate a city, you had to learn to zoom out. You had to learn it was not about you. You were but a part of a remarkable story being weaved for generations. When there have been people, there have been cities and towns. On every old building lingered a passive scent of what once stood in incredible glory, of an older generation trying their best to survive.
Cities were the testament of dreams dreamt year after year, of people working hard to exist together, of smiles exchanged in coffee shops, of letting someone go first, of keeping an elevator door open for a stranger, of the shop on the corner of the street you waved hello to, of so much more happening together, continually, over and over again.
The mess, the raucous traffic, the screaming, the fighting was all part of the deal, and it wasn’t easy to love it all but to love a city meant you loved people. The cacophony and chaos wasn’t a curse but a blessing; it said there are people here; there have always been people here; and where there are people, there was bound to be love. Tucked between an argument or a sour exchange, sometimes, but there it was, all you had to do was look.
It was a story like none other. It had never been about you, and yet, it could never exist without you.