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New Girl

Each morning I drive past the Washington monument. When I decide to go for a jog, I take myself three blocks down from my apartment and all of the sudden the Capitol emerges from behind the white buildings. On my very first Monday of work, I couldn’t stop myself from staring out the window in awe as I drove by the Lincoln memorial and spotted the Jefferson poking out from behind a forest of green trees.

At night, I lay in my bed and I hear sirens and people laughing just outside my apartment walls. Sometimes, I jump to my window and peer down at the street as the incomprehensible yells of an intoxicated soul permeate the quiet night sky. I watch, heart hammering, as they scream, wondering if I am going to witness something I don’t want to. I wonder if I should call the police. But I remind myself that the police are everywhere, and the FBI headquarters is two doors down. So I just watch, with an equal amount of fear and excitement.

It takes me 35 minutes, on a good day, to get to work. On a bad day, it takes me over an hour to get home. It’s not because I’m driving a far distance, in fact I’m only going about 7 miles, but the streets are so congested, filled with people who have also come from a long day at the office, and who also feel like they need to get home as quickly as humanly possible.

I wake up early, and I come home after what feels like an eternity. I take off my professional clothing — my slacks, my blouse, my shoes, my bra — and I sit with my roommate on our couch, eating dinner and watching our weekly shows. Then I wake up and I do it all again.

After my first week of work, I thought to myself: “I don’t know how people do this.”

My weekends are equally full. But that’s because I don’t want that time to rest. I want to explore every inch of the city. I don’t want to sit in the apartment. Some part of me feels like I’m already running out of time. Because the city is so big, so full of energy. How in the world could you see it all? Every face I pass is one I’ve never seen before; each person new and intriguing.

I go to a rooftop and I drink wine by a pool that’s flashing colors, slow and seductively. I walk through museums and edge around the throngs of people walking quickly through the exhibits, trying to take it all in, but at the same time trying to make it to as many as they can, because there are countless exhibits, and there are a million historic places, and they only have the weekend. I linger in the mineral section and I spend ten minutes in front of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and I walk slowly. Because if I want to, I can come back every day.

I live in a place where people ask, ‘What do you do?’ before they ask, ‘How are you?’. It’s a place where people work so hard that you can see that work reflected in the lines on their faces. It’s a place where people drive past tents set up on the side of the highway in their Ferraris and avert their eyes as they pass the homeless people on the street corners. I’m no better, as I walk by the woman who sits in the same spot every day, right down the road, leaning close to her shopping cart, in order to protect every personal belonging she has — her lifeline. The woman that wasn’t there today. And wasn’t there yesterday. The woman I now find myself wondering about, as a lump forms in my throat, because I’m worried about her; worried about a woman I wouldn’t even look at.

And sometimes I feel lonely. Because everyone I love is so far away and it’s hard to be apart from people who are so special. And sometimes I am amazed by how many people I already have in my life. And excited about these relationships. And hopeful that I will form more, and that these new relationships will blossom into ones that are just as special as the ones I left behind, if not a little different.

These days, when I drive by the Washington monument, I sometimes don’t even look up; I don’t even really register that I’m passing it. Because I’m impatient to get home, and I’m mad at the car in front of me, and I’m irritated at the tourists who are slowing everything down. And for brief moments I forget, that just a few weeks ago, I was a tourist too.

I’m comfortably uncomfortable in my new life now. Each day I find that I get lost less often, and I don’t look at my GPS before I step outside my front door, and I have friends who I can text on a Saturday night.

But I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable in a room that’s completely dark again. Because my new bedroom is always semi-lit — by the government building next door, which never fully extinguishes the lights in their office, and the street lamps which line the roads, and the endless stream of cars that drive along, taking someone, somewhere, at God-knows-what-hour, for God-knows-what-reason. And I don’t see the stars anymore, but I think that’s okay. At least for now. Because, for now, there are so many other things lighting up my life.

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