city, which you never appreciated when you lived here, is how the city requires you to develop muscle memory: your elbows know to circle around the lady who is taking too long to reach the corner, and your big toes stop a second before the jogger dashes in front of you, and so you never need red lights here since muscle memory tells you the distance between your hands and the speeding messenger bike and also the distance between your throat and the very thin person with a flat chest dressed as spiderman, who suddenly appears on the sidewalk next to you as if they had fallen from the skyscraper so that later, away from new york

city, you crawl into a science article to learn that at least three areas of the brain generate muscle memory, and when you narrowly missed bumping into spiderman, the white matter in your brain probably twitched so that the parts of your brain directing your eyeballs spoke with the parts directing your forearms, which means that your body truly is one enormous stage production like the ones in new york

city that you never made a point to see when you lived here, because you preferred the small theaters, where you could see the actor’s fingernails on stage, and now here you are, in the early hours of a weekday, your ankles telling you to keep walking when a young couple decides that the subway stop near columbus circle is the best place to talk about their feelings, which clearly he does not want to do and which makes her more certain that they must speak right now, and so you move to the right, coffee in hand, and remember when you were in your twenties and you wanted to talk about the relationship with a woman who was all wrong for you but who had astonishingly beautiful eyes, and you had to talk right now because your love was new and urgent and might be lost if you were not careful like housekeys or a glove, and now, of course, you know that these conversations are never actually urgent, and you will never again be in your twenties and feel about love the way you did then, which is why you can now stroll into central park and sit on a bench with your coffee and notice the sparrow at your feet and appreciate the short man with sad eyes who sits on a bench nearby, the two of you in silence, strangers in winter coats and masks streaming past, a toddler in a stroller waving at you and mr. sad eyes, and you will never be in your twenties again, and the city will never feel new again and somehow there you are still in love with this life, this city—the sparrow’s luminous black eyes set upon you.

Daisy Hernández is the author of The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease, which won the 2022 PEN /Jean Stein Book Award and was selected as an inaugural title for the National Book Foundation’s Science + Literature Program. She is also the author of the award-winning memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed and coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism

Photo by Amy Selwyn