This is the story of the trip I took this past April to NYC and the time I spent with Zach:
I was in between jobs and also what would become in between undergraduate and graduate school. I call it an unintentional year off. I had some money saved up, and wanted to spend it on a trip to somewhere I had never been. I realized it would be more fun (and vastly cheaper) if I also picked a place in which family or friends lived. New York City was the first thing that came to mind, and Zach was the person I decided to visit, almost immediately.
I texted him about it and he was immediately on board, and I could tell he was excited to share the awesome city in which he lived. I realized I would be staying in a dorm room which had limited visitor hours that might be a pain to work around, but I didn’t care. I was going to spend time with my cousin and friend in a new city. This was especially great because he and I never really got much in-person one-on-one time, as we lived states apart growing up, and in the chaos of family reunions it was hard to talk about much else beyond the topic at hand in whatever small subcommittee of cousins we found ourselves in. Over the years we definitely bonded and we were able to pick right up where we left off each time we were together, but I knew this would be different and truly, uniquely special. And it was.
My first day in New York, Zach took the train into the city from Queens and we planned to meet in Times Square. We were on the phone laughing trying to find each other with confusing (to me) street names and numbers and landmarks he knew of where he tried to wait for me. When we finally found each other, we practically bumped into each other on accident, and we gave each other a hug with our phones in our hands and our call still connected, and laughed even harder.
We quickly decided to walk down to Central Park, as the beauty and remarkability of advertising was lost on both of us. Walking those blocks we talked about politics, music, social justice, New York, how school was going for him, how whatever I was doing was going for me, and much more. When we got to what I soon found out was one of the many entrances, I mentioned that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was nearby. He started laughing thinking that was the funniest thing, because, even though the Met is in Central Park, it was blocks and blocks away from where we were. We both laughed at my tourist’s ignorance and proceeded into the park.
We walked down a main path, with artists selling their art and people hurrying past us, and he was explaining everything he knew about the park and was smiling from ear to ear telling me about all the cool things that happened there. I just listened and took it all in. It was great. We sat and talked and listened to the sounds of the park while eating falafel sandwiches from a sketchy food vendor. He suddenly said, “I have to take you to the coolest spot in the park!” I forget what it was called, but after walking a while we went up to the roof of this building with an amazing 360 degree view of the city surrounding the park, complete with a view of ponds and trees throughout the park. It truly was a beautiful view and we stood and looked for a while. I’ll always remember that view.
Later that evening, after Zach was done with class, I successfully maneuvered the train and was able to make it back to his dorm at St. Johns in Queens. He met me at the bus stop and said, “So do you mind hanging out with my friends and crashing at their place instead of my dorm?” I said I didn’t, so after we grabbed sandwiches from a local shop, we walked a few blocks to his friends’ house off campus. We hung out, ate our sandwiches, and ended up watching some Netflix, Louis C.K. stand-up comedy to be exact, and I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone laugh harder than I saw Zach laugh that night, and seeing him so happy made me laugh with even greater joy than normal. It was a great night that I will never forget.
Zach graciously offered to keep my luggage at his dorm while I caught the train to explore more of the city on the last day of my trip. When I wanted to come back and get my luggage to go to the airport, it turned out that I had not told him the time I needed to grab my things and go ahead of time, and he was in Manhattan doing a school project while I was stuck in Queens. He dropped everything and called his friend, and the company he kept ended up being as kind as helpful as he was. She got me into his room and I was able to get my stuff and make my flight.
That morning, before I caught the train, Zach had taken me to his favorite bagel place. It was fantastic - easily the best bagel I had ever had - and I hope to go back someday, and not just because of a bagel. Even though neither of us knew it at the time, that morning ended up being the last time I ever saw Zach. I said goodbye and gave him a big hug, but I thought I would also see him later that day to pick up my things, and thought I would see him for years and years to come. Now, I know that I won’t, but I know he will, in a sense, always be with me. I also know that from now on New York City, Queens, Central Park, falafel, bagels, and many more things will always be associated with Zach and his memory - and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I love you, Zach.