Val Balano

The Last First Day

Do you see that? Is that Manhattan over there? Terrific, isn’t it? How many skyscrapers are down there? How many people live down there? How many of them are kissing at the moment?

I wonder, what did my great-grandfather feel when he arrived here by ship a hundred years ago? Could we see this in our dreams a year ago? Did you sleep at least a little during these nine long hours? Do you know you’re beautiful even if you’re tired?

Where are we going through this cold endless corridor? Did you check our papers? Did you check our cat’s papers? Can you talk to our poor kitten in his cage, to comfort him? What can I do to comfort you?

This is it? Can we go? But where do we have to go? How to call the taxi driver we reserved in advance? Why is it so expensive? Where are you going again? Why are you screaming at me? Where’s the taxi? How on earth should we have found this bloody black Kia when it’s a grey Toyota?

Are there always traffic jams in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoons? May I let our cat out of the cage to sit on my lap while we’re going? Do you still love me?

Had my great-grandfather been to Manhattan, anyway? Did he feel the greatness which I’m feeling now? Did he breathe the air that I’m breathing now? Did you expect that Manhattan would smell of pizza?

Can you see the tops of skyscrapers from beneath? Why are all the drivers honking immediately when it’s a red light? Don’t you think that the sidewalks on the avenues look like runways? Do you believe in us?

How could I be so naive to consider that my English is ‘all right’? How many times did we forget to eat today? Why do I feel like a baby asking, asking, asking? How quickly should we grow in our new life? How to stay strong?

Why did my great-grandfather return back home after years in the US? Why are there bridges between Brooklyn and Manhattan and tunnels between Manhattan and Jersey? How deep are we?

How can a trip from JFK to Jersey City by taxi cost like a trip from Moscow to NY by plane? How can a week in a cheap motel in Jersey cost like two weeks in a three star hotel in Greece?

How could I thank my great-grandfather for his return, without which I wouldn’t have been born? What are we going to do tomorrow, on our second day in the USA? How many questions do we have to answer? How to not fall asleep before sunset? What’s next?

Do not wait 

Eat it while it’s hot. Drink it while it’s cold. Life isn’t short, it’s merely quick. 

Do not wait. Go on red. At everything. You don't need permission to do what you believe in. 

Do it the way nobody ever did. That's how this town has been built, and how it works. 

Fail. Fail again. Fail more. Fail better. Nobody became perfect at once. Furthermore, there should be something incredibly stupid in your memoir. 

Do not wait. Hurry up. Try, discover, share. The most exciting Instagram accounts belong to those who live exciting. 

Tell her or him or them both that they look awesome. Your English is terrible? Come on, terrible is only when your mouth’s shut. 

Do not wait. Think. Think small. Think big. Think different. Make believe. Be stupid. Go beyond. Keep walking. Challenge everything. Just do it. 

Learn English. Speak English. Listen to English. Read English. Think English. Even eat in English. 

Do not wait. Sort garbage. Get a free Library card. Download a Subway app. Make the worst purchase at Best Buy. Wear bright sneakers with a suit. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.  

Be inquisitive. Be interesting. Be awake for thirty hours. Volunteer. Buy an extremely expensive painting in SoHo. Then buy a used book for five bucks in SoHo.  

Meet Hugh Jackman on a street. Eat pizza lying on grass in the park. Adopt a dog. Act responsibly. Love New York but respect the city too. 

Create your own list. Do not wait.

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