What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan: Extract three

Dirty Blondes

What happens to men when they move to Manhattan“You’re a damn idiot,” Cassie rolled her eyes as she tried to flag down the bartender at Oliver’s Tavern.

Except her nasty comment wasn’t directly at the cute, hipster bartender, it was directed at me.

“You’ve been in love with Michael since the first day you met him, I remember you going on and on about how he made you shake his hand,” she said, annoyed at both me and now the hipster.

Cassandra was not used to not getting her way, or in this case, her order taken. She was growing increasingly annoyed at the bartender for not paying attention to her besides, her best efforts.

I looked around the bar, I couldn’t help but notice the place was overly crowded for a Thursday evening, containing mostly an older scene. I checked my watch; it wasn’t even nine, way too early for this kind of crowd. Even through all of the yuppie noise, I could hear Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” playing over the speakers and had a brief flashback to summer camp. In the left corner of the room I noticed a group of four good-looking men in suits, probably bankers, laughing too loudly. Finally, the exasperated bartender appeared in front of us.

Before he could even ask what we wanted, Cassandra said, “It’s about time! Gin and tonic, and not any of that cheap well shit. Make sure you put Tanqueray in there.” she commanded without even looking up, “I can tell the difference.”

.A little embarrassed by her tenacity I said sheepishly, “Jack and Coke. Please.” Adding the please as an attempt to soften the experience and minimize the chances of spit being in her drink in addition to her high class gin.

He made the drinks in record time and slammed them down in front of us, spilling a good amount of mine onto the bar, but thankfully missing any of my clothes.

“I mean,” she started in again as she plucked the lime out of her drink and dropped it onto the bar, “I can’t believe you haven’t done anything about this sooner.”

She sipped her drink and then finally met my gaze. I suddenly felt very alert.

“Woah, wait a minute, I’m not doing anything. What are you talking about?” I said, a little confused by her vigilant attitude.

She looked at me, straw in mouth, and cocked her head to the side as if to say “You know what I mean.”

“Cass, Michael and I are just friends.” I said calmly, hoping to disarm the attack that I knew was coming. Clearly not buying it, Cassandra let out a laugh, but it sounded more like a snort. “Sure, he’s a good looking guy, but I’m not doing anything! For starters, I have a boyfriend who I love.” I pressed my hands to my chest, watching as she shook her head at me.

Even though Cassandra was my best friend, she had only met Nicholas a hand full of times and for some reason unbeknownst to me, she wasn’t his biggest fan. I believed her disdain for him had something to do with the first time they met. He had made a joke about her name; I couldn’t recall the details since I was already three or four drinks in when the misunderstanding happened, but the whole ordeal had left a bad taste in Cassie’s mouth.

“Secondly,” I said and then paused to take a sip of my drink. I suddenly felt a strong relief for the alcohol that was in front of me, “Michael has a girlfriend, in case you had forgotten.”

“Hello! Who lives in Phoenix!” she practically shouted, at the same time as the bartender walked by. He shot us a look, and then smiled politely.

“That bartender’s pretty cute, you shouldn’t be such a bitch to him,” I muttered.

“Don’t try to change the subject, Amy!” she said, now grinning. She held up one finger and shook her head. Her blonde hair bounced from side to side.

She was the only person on earth who could get away with calling me Amy. After all, Amy is in no way short for Amalia, but in 8th grade gym class she decided my actual name was too much of a mouthful and has been calling me Amy ever since. She could obviously tell I was not amused by this conversation so she finally pulled back.

“Fine,” she said, softening. “I am sorry I even so much as implied that you could do better than Nicholas Anderson.” She crossed her legs and started looking around the bar, as if this conversation was suddenly boring her.

I shook my head and clapped in front of her face to re-gain her attention. “It’s not a question of doing better, Cass. I love Nick, he’s my boyfriend, Michael is in a relationship and regardless of geography he and Marge seem to be doing fine, so moving on!” I said in a self-declaring rant, and then downed the rest of my drink.

Cassandra, not knowing when to leave well enough alone concluded with, “Marge, ugh! I even hate her name.”

“We’re moving on!”

Now I was the one practically yelling.

We both looked at each other and burst out laughing. We’ve been friends for ten years and had never gotten into a real fight. Sure there were moments when we would get short with each other, but it always ended with a laugh, knowing how ridiculous we sounded. She flipped her short, golden hair back, and gave me a light punch on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” someone said from behind us.

I turned around to a very well dressed man in what I assumed was an expensive, and well-tailored, suit. It was one of the laughing bankers from the corner. I noticed he had grayish eyes, and recalled earlier that day in class, when I had learned how rare that physical trait was. All in all, a good looking man.

“Are you sisters?” he asked as he leaned in a little closer to us.

When he came closer I could tell he was older than Cassie and I, definitely late twenties or possibly even thirty. I turned to Cassandra, expecting her to answer with some quick retort, but she just sat there, staring at the guy. I felt the need to jump in.

“No, sorry. We’re not sisters,” I offered, not really sure why I felt the need to apologize, but he seemed completely disinterested in what I had to say and continued looking at Cassandra.

She finally recovered from her swoon and said, “That’s right, we’re not sisters. People always ask us it we’re related though because we have to same hair color.”

I loosely grabbed a hand full of Cassandra’s, barely shoulder length, hair and held it up to my own in an attempt to justify this comment. My hair was about five inches longer than her hair, hanging down the middle of my back. Despite this difference, the coloring was virtually the same.

“Dirty blondes?” he smirked.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at him, anyone over the age of 18 should never make a joke that pedestrian. He barely noticed my dismay.

“Bryce Peterson,” he said. I work for Ernst and Young, in accounting”.

Bryce took a sip of his beer and then continued, “I just started working there this week so a few of my buddies and I are out celebrating. What are your names? What do you do?”

I thought it was odd that he offered up his credentials without us even asking. Also, his questions were directed at both of us, but it seemed clear he was only interested in Cassandra’s answer. I felt relieved; I had enough problems with men right now. For example, I couldn’t get the thought of Michael’s soft graze against my arm out of my mind. Something so insignificant was suddenly the main focus of most of my thoughts. I couldn’t tell Cassandra, she’d never let me hear the end of it. Besides, I felt guilty for ever feeling this way.

“Hello there, Bryce. My name is Cassandra de Luca and I work for Prestige magazine,” she said proudly, although it was clear he had never heard of the publication.

Cassandra had just been promoted from intern to publications assistant. I still wasn’t entirely sure what her job entailed. “Um hi, I’m Amalia Hastings,” I uttered, giving a little wave to Cassandra and Bryce who appeared to be in a staring contest at this point.

“I’m studying Biology and Behavioral Sciences at NYU; decided to go for my Master’s,” I continued, but it was no use, the attention was clearly not on me.

I checked my watch again, nine-thirty. If I left now, I might actually be able to get a good night’s sleep. I decided to let Cassandra and Bryce talk and call it a night.

“Ok Cassie, have a good night,” I called to her and grabbed my purse. “Nice meeting you, Bryce.”

“Yeah, sure. Goodnight,” she mumbled, seemingly mesmerized by her new crush.

I laughed to myself and then made my way to the door. The cool, crisp fall air felt great when I got outside. It was refreshing after coming out of the stuffy, crowded bar. I smiled and thought about how lucky I was to be living in this city. I started to make my way down Barrow Street when I heard something. It sounded like a twig snapping. The type of sound you hear in a horror movie just before the damsel in distress gets stabbed.

“Amalia?” a voice called. My heart started pounding faster, and this time I couldn’t blame it on illness.

“Yes?” I called out. The figure came closer to me and was now in focus. He stood there, smiling and I felt a little dizzy. I took a deep breath and finally spoke, “Hi, Michael.”

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What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan: Second extract

Tell me you love me

What happens to men when they move to ManhattanThe next day my apartment buzzer went off at exactly 8p.m.  Without asking who wanted in, I buzzed back, opening the downstairs entrance, unlocked my door, and plopped back onto my couch. My best friend Cassandra had made me re-tell every moment of yesterday’s class with Michael ad nauseum over the phone that afternoon. By the end of it, I chalked up my new-found love for him as nothing more than fever-induced delirium. Even if I had found Michael momentarily attractive, I was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening on the couch with Nicholas. I finished the conversation with Cassandra by telling her that Nicholas was coming over that evening because he wanted to “nurse me back to health”.

Cassandra let out a long sigh into the receiver, and almost threateningly said, “We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

Two minutes after the buzzer had rung, my door opened and Nicholas Anderson had materialized. He was just standing there, smiling warmly at me. He was wearing his traditional torn jeans, plain white sneakers, and a dark blue T-shirt with a hoodie over it. He topped the look off with a worn-out gray baseball-style hat that I remember him buying four years ago at Abercrombie. Nicholas was always a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, he never dressed to impress anyone, always appearing completely comfortable, and he effectively pulled it off. It was one of the things that had drawn me to him in the first place.

We had met four years ago, freshman year of college at Rutgers when my roommate Dasha had introduced us. We clicked instantly and became fast friends, bonding over our mutual hatred of our economics professor and our love for Dashboard Confessional’s music.  Even though the economics class would be the only class we would take together, me being a combined Biological Sciences/Psychology major, and him being a Communications major, we still made it a point to spend nearly every day together. At this time, four years ago, I was still involved with my high school sweetheart and didn’t think of Nicholas as more than just a good buddy. By the time we finished undergrad, I came to think of him as one of my best friends. It wasn’t until one rainy Friday night two years ago when Nicholas insisted on coming over to talk and said that it was extremely important. He refused to tell me any details over the phone which only made me imagine the worst.  I was so nervous from his evasiveness, figuring something horrible had happened, that I immediately grabbed and hugged him when he arrived that evening. I nervously looked him up and down for some sort of clue as to what was going on. He quickly realized my frantic state, and let out a chuckle.

“It’s nothing bad, Amalia,” he said, leading me to the couch. “I’m sorry I scared you. I just had to talk to you in person, and it had to be now.”

Dying of anticipation, I put my hands on his shoulders and commanded, “Tell me now.”

He took my hands off his shoulders and held on to them tightly, all while keeping strong eye contact. Taken back by this gesture, I was beginning to feel nervous. He let go of my left hand and stroked my out-grown bangs away from my face.

Without breaking eye contact, he said “I know we’ve been friends for a long time.” Nicholas paused and finally broke eye contact. He sheepishly looked down at the floor, almost too embarrassed or afraid to continue with his obviously well prepared speech.

I opened my mouth to break the silence when he said, “But I’m crazy about you, and I have been since the first time I saw you.”

My initial reaction was to bypass this type of emotionally charged contact with a joke, but I was too stunned to deflect with my usual sarcasm. Nicholas then proceeded to proverbially pour his heart out to me, recapping every moment of the first day we met, from the smell of the perfume I had on, right down to the green laces in my sneakers, and everything inbetween. He ended his pontification perfectly, declaring the words that every girl longs to hear from a man.

He cupped my face in his hands and softly said “Amalia, you’re the one”.

I was petrified. No one had ever told me I was “the one”, and certainly never with such conviction and confidence that Nicholas had presented. He spoke as if the alternative, me not being “the one”, was impossible. After taking a few days to think about this proposal, of him and I taking a huge leap into a full blown relationship which could end badly, ultimately causing us to never speak again, I decided it was worth the risk if it meant I got to be with someone who loved me so intensely. It was now two years later, and I had never felt happier.

Remembering that night only made me feel more relieved and comforted by his familiar presence when he walked over to me tonight.

“I come bearing gifts!” he said as he excitedly reached into a plastic Duane Reade bag.

I wrapped the blanket around me and sank a little lower in the couch, fully preparing myself to be taken care of. Even with his cap on, I could see that Nicholas’s dark hair had grown out well past the point of needing a haircut, but somehow it only made him look sexier.

“Nyquil, tissues, organic green tea, and Vitamin C,” he proudly presented as he systematically placed the contents of the bag in a line on my coffee table.

After empting the contents of the bag, he took off his hat and threw it on the table, revealing his perfectly straight, gorgeous jet black hair. He then leaned over me and put his hand on my forehead; his hands were always warm and comforting. I immediately closed my eyes in reaction to the warm rush of what I could only recognize as love. True love that formed when you knew someone perfectly for years before you even began dating them, not the kind of quick lust that was elicited when a near stranger offers you a lozenge. Having been raised by an atheist mother, the notion of faith to me was as well received as believing in the tooth fairy. However, when it came to Nicholas, the cynical, black and white realist that had been ingrained in me from an early age seemed to disappear. I firmly believed that we were meant to be. Soul-mates. I opened my eyes and stared into his.  His eyes were by far his best feature. They were perfectly round and impossibly wide and youthful, a light chestnut color with flakes of deep brown which masculinized an otherwise feminine trait.

“Hi baby,” I purred dreamily, slipping further into bliss. His strong arms were exactly what I needed to fall into after a day of feeling awful.

“Hello darling,” he answered sweetly, stroking my hair and pulling me closer to him.

I could smell his Acqua di Gio cologne, and I was convinced it was the greatest scent in nature. I could feel him breathing as he gently put my heavy head on his chest.  All of the chaos and stress of the previous day had vanished. This was exactly what I needed. I felt the warm envelopment of sleep coming.

“Tell me you love me,” he whispered as he pushed my hair off of my face.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. Before I could even take a swig of Nyquil, I was out.

 Keep reading What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan

What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan? First extract

Today we’re bringing you the first of four extracts of What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan, Jill Knapp’s wonderful first book for HarperImpulse! 

What happens to men when they move to ManhattanGood morning, New York

There I was, in the heart of it all. I had finally made it to my dream city.

Living on my own, in my first apartment, had accelerated my formerly conventional social life. Sure, going away to college and living in a dorm had its advantages; first time living away from my overly strict parents, no curfew with the car, and of course the ability to invite a guy over without a twenty minute long inquisition from my family.

My father had even composed a “test” to give to all of my dates upon first meeting them. The assessment consisted of around fifty questions, ranging from small queries like name and date of birth, to more invasive interrogation like yearly income, to topical polling such as political and religious ideologies. There was even a separate form to fill out your driver’s license, and social security numbers. I’ll never forget how he handed a freshly printed version to my boyfriend Nicholas the first time he came over my house. Nick had turned to me and said, “Is this for real?” I just shook my head and walked out of the room.

Needless to say, I needed my independence.

Even with all of the freedom college provided, I still lived within the strict and unforgiving guidelines I had always compressed myself into. For as long as I could remember, I believed if you didn’t cheat, lie, or steal, and if you ate all of your veggies and took your vitamins, the world somehow owed you something.

After only three months of living in New York City, to pursue a Master’s Degree at NYU, I learned that was in fact, not the case.

I considered myself lucky, being able to live in an apartment this nice. The deep mahogany floors, paired with the brand new appliances in the kitchen were the envy of every young New Yorker south of 23rd Street. This is not how a newcomer is supposed to live. A newly appointed Manhattan-ite should live in a dingy studio apartment up on East 105th street, or share a confined two-bedroom place with four or five roommates down in Chinatown. No, a new to the town, twenty-two year old girl, would not normally have the privilege of a washer and dryer in the building, and perish the thought – enough closet space to fit nearly all of her clothing.

Nick’s apartment on the other hand was anything but pristine. His apartment was located further downtown on the lower east side. Sandwiched in between a bodega and beat-up old park, Nick’s apartment building was old, bleak, and proverbially falling apart. I felt a pang of guilt over how difficult it must be to live somewhere like that, and how he hadn’t had the option of taking out extra students loans to put toward rent like I did. He never seemed to mind though; said it built “character”.

My new life however, in this very spacious and immaculate West Village apartment had made me into a caricature of myself. Being that I was twenty-two, and living in the greatest city on earth, I took every chance I could get to go out and improve my social life, which unfortunately included improving my alcohol tolerance.

Today, on this blurry autumn morning, I awoke with not only the usual Monday morning hangover, but also an intense burning feeling in my throat. It got worse every time I swallowed, and finished itself off with a dry and uncontrollable cough.

“Damn,” I said aloud, to no one in particular. I let out a yawn and then allowed myself a wide stretch in my tiny, twin-sized bed. I squinted at the clock on my bedside table, and uttered out a low groan.

I considered going back to sleep, but after hitting the snooze twice already, I knew I had to get out of bed. Even though my time window for showering today had passed, I still had to make myself look presentable, and walk to class.

I slowly walked out of my bedroom, passed my roommates’ room (the two of them shared the larger, master bedroom), and stumbled feverishly into my kitchen. Exhausted from my journey, I put my head in my hands and leaned over the counter top. The flawless sparkle in the grain of the brand new, deep green granite made a mockery of me. The stone was so shiny, that if I stared hard enough, I could make out a blurred reflected version of my face. I knew I couldn’t afford this apartment. I had justified this relocation from my parent’s suburban home by telling myself that when I was finished with school, I would be making so much money that my student loans would be a thing of the past in no time. I pushed myself off of the granite and figured it was about time to make good on that promise.

My self-loathing was interrupted by the unmistakable clanking of my roommate’s heels.

“Good morning,” Christina beamed, as she reached right over me and grabbed the last apple.

Christina was one of those girls who were naturally gorgeous, even when she’d just woken up. In my hung-over, and quickly accelerating sick state I was extra aware, and disgusted, by how bright-eyed and effortless she looked. Not to mention she had already showered and was heading out the door while I was running twenty minutes late. We usually woke up around the same time to get ready to go to class and I couldn’t find the energy to fight her for the first shower today.

“Is there coffee?” was all I could muster up, as I fumbled around the fridge for bottled water. I yawned again and rubbed my eyes, leaning on the counter for support.

Before she could answer me, I noticed the time and frantically ran into my bedroom to get dressed for class, nearly taking Christina out in the process. I had realized early in the semester that this was not the class to be late to. The professor was a notorious hard ass and had actually called out my friend Olivia for checking the time on her cell phone last week, embarrassing her in front of the entire cohort. Scarred by the memory, I quickly ran a brush through my hair while simultaneously applying my foundation. A few minutes later, I was good to go (well, good enough).

I grabbed my purse and yelled “Bye!” to no one in particular, slamming the door behind me. As soon as I got into the elevator, my phone vibrated. I grabbed it from my purse, desperately hoping it was one of my friends telling me class was cancelled, but instead it was a text message from my boyfriend Nicholas.

It read, “Can’t wait 2 C U tomorrow honey, I’m counting down hrs!”

I dropped the phone back into my bag and exited the elevator on the ground floor. I started feeling a quick pang of guilt for ignoring the text, but Nicholas would understand how busy I was and I would re-cap my day with him, in full detail tonight on the phone. It was comforting to know I could go about my day without having to check in with anyone twenty times, and that he had his own life too. Not to mention we had an undeniably chemistry between us that seemed to have stood the test of time. Or at least the past couple of years. I smiled to myself as I pictured his wide, soulful eyes, his ever-present second day stubble (which I always referred to as, Oops! I didn’t realize I’m so sexy, stubble) and his strong, well-toned arms that just always managed to keep their firmness, no matter how many times he missed the gym. Combine all of that with my favorite thing he did, the way he traced my lips with his finger right before he was about to kiss me, and I was convinced I was in a perfect relationship. I let out a breathy sigh and let the warmth wash over me as I thought about how was lucky I was to have such a great guy in my life. Sexy, caring, and smart. What more could you ask for?

Thunder cracking above my head interrupted this solitary pleasant thought. When I got outside I was greeted by a blanket of humid rain and I had, of course, left my umbrella upstairs. I glanced back at the elevator doors that were not quickly closing. Since I lived on 18th floor of my apartment building, I rationalized that I had already gone too far to turn around and made my way to 6th Avenue in the pouring rain.

My sneakers did nothing to protect me against the river-sized potholes littering the streets of New York. Each passing minute was more disgusting as the next as I told myself I was going to be sitting with wet socks for the next two hours.

By the time I got to the school, I was drenched and feeling even more morose than when I had woken up. I darted into the ladies’ room to use the hand dryer to dry off at least to a comfortable level. When I opened the door, I sighed. There was a line of two girls in front of me, ignoring my soaked state, and gabbing on about having drinks at Crocodile Lounge later tonight. I started to shiver and one of them gave me an uncomfortable side-look. They finally decided to leave and I bent down to fit under the small, inefficient dryer. Feeling a little homeless, I flipped my head over, figuring my hair was the most important thing to get try. Then I reached down, pulled off my sneakers, and let the hot air run over my argyle socks. It was pointless, those babies were done for. I tossed them in the trash, deciding I’d be more comfortable without them.

Two more girls walked into the bathroom, heading straight to the mirrors. I recognized them, but not enough to say hi and start small talk. Definitely not while I was looking like a drowned rat. After a few more minutes under the hand dryer, I ran my fingers through my puffed up curls to help smooth them down. Reaching into my purse, I opted for a quick refreshing of clear lip-gloss, and a smudge of black eye liner for good measure, I thought I looked normal enough to start my day.

While I was in the process of giving myself a mini make-over, I overheard the two girls talking about how difficult they were finding this classes’ semester. They were conversing in a loud whisper, but with rapid speech. The brunette with the secretary glasses looked as if she was going to burst into tears at any moment, the red-head with the expensive shoes sympathetically rubbing her back. They both let out a sigh, and then made each other swear they wouldn’t tell anyone else, out of fear of seeming weak. I shrugged and collecting my belongings off the sink basin. The girls seemed normal enough, but maybe that was the problem. Maybe you had to be cold and overly-determined to survive here. I shivered both at the thought, and from my clinging wet clothes.

They exited the bathroom, and finally I was alone. I grimaced while silently sympathizing with their pain, making a mental note that I wasn’t the only one suffering this year. Turning to the mirror, I allowed myself to stare a few seconds longer, then shook my head and made my way out into the hall.

As I walked down the long, tiled hallway toward my classroom, I felt a memory hit me out of nowhere. I remembered Nick and I, hands intertwined, walking across campus at Rutgers. The sun was shining as we lightly strolled across the pavement. He was anxious for me to meet his friends for the first time; he kept apologizing for how they would inevitably embarrass him. I could still hear the birds chirping on that unusually warm April day. I had stopped walking for a moment, waiting for a gaggle of sorority girls to pass us, and then brushed a strand of brown hair from his face.

“Stop being so nervous,” I said, rubbing his hand in mine. “Everything’s going to go great. We’ll eat, we’ll bond, we’ll crack jokes at your expense. How bad could it be?”

Nick offered me a laugh and sheepishly looked at the floor. I thought it was sweet, how much he cared about his friends and me getting along. That was the moment I knew I was in love with him.

The sound of a guy cursing at his cellphone broke me out of my daydream, and I quickly remembered where I was. I took a deep breath and opened the large brown door to my lecture hall.

I gingerly walked into the classroom hoping no one would notice my disheveled appearance, and took a quick glance around the room. Not only was class already going on, thankfully my friend Michael had saved a seat for me. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to smooth a deep wrinkle out of my shirt. He turned around slightly and gave me a subtle nod. I nodded back, and then quickly ran my fingers through my hair, attempting to further tame the nest of rain-soaked curls. It was no use, I’d have to sport this Bette Midler from the 80’s look for the rest of this class.

I had met Michael only two or three months ago when school started; it was getting harder to keep track. He and I were in every single class together, which wasn’t unusual given that our program in Biology and Behavioral Science only had forty students in it. This meant quick bonding but also steep competition. It kind of reminded me of how you’d make close friendships in summer camp, but then completely forget to call the person come October.

Michael and I had become fast friends after he referenced an old B movie, which just so happened to be one of my favorite films, during the third day of classes. I felt an instant connection that moment, which was a little out of character for me. I usually had a hard time opening up to people. After a good laugh, he composed himself and formally stuck out his hand.

“Michael Rathbourne,” he said with a warm smile and perfectly straight teeth. “And you are?”

His confidence had left me a little intimidated. Apart from going on a job interview, I had never formally introduced myself with a handshake before. I studied Michael as he held his warm smile. I couldn’t help but notice his full lips and dark brown eyes, with tiny specs of gold if you looked closely enough.  He was dressed well, wearing what looked like an expensive button down and designer jeans.

“Amalia Hastings,” I said, trying my best to sound as confident as he had. I could feel my voice crack as I uttered the last syllable of my name. I squared my shoulders a bit and smiled.

“Well, Amalia Hastings,” he repeated my name, still holding my hand in his. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His hand was soft, but still masculine. When he pulled away, I remember feeling slightly confused by the experience.

Michael was the same age as me, but that first encounter, among others, made him seem much more refined than any guy in their early twenties. If we had met in a bar, I would have pegged him for at least twenty-seven. He carried himself in a way that suggested confidence and pride, but I still found him warm and approachable. He was clearly well known at NYU. Most of the girls in the cohort noticed him for more than his good grades; their eyes following his every move whenever he made his way into class.

As I made my way to my seat, I could have sworn I saw one girl actually slowly scan him with her eyes as he reached over to a retrieve a pen he had dropped on the floor. I caught eyes with her, and she quickly turned away, but not before giving me a nasty side-look first.

I laughed to myself and claimed the empty seat next to Michael.

“What’s so funny?” he raised an eyebrow.

“Nothing worth mentioning,” I smirked.

I pulled out a large notebook from my over-sized purse, and realized I didn’t have any pens on me. They must have fallen out while I was dashing through the rain like a crazy person. I rummaged through my bag for another minute until Michael presented me with a pen.

“Thanks,” I murmured.

He just nodded and returned his eye to the front of the room. I scanned the lecture hall, and quickly noticed our other friends weren’t in class today. As if to read my mind, Michael leaned over and said, “Olivia and Alex aren’t here. I’m assuming the rain kept them away.” He leaned over close enough for me to smell his cologne. He smelled like sandalwood, and something else. As his arm accidentally brushed against mine from leaning a little too close, I quickly pulled it back and smiled. I felt my heart rate pick up a little bit when he touched me, but I shook it off. I had obviously noticed he was a good looking guy, but I had never thought about him as anything more than just a friend.

Neither Olivia nor Alex lived in Manhattan, so it made sense that they would use the bad weather as an excuse to ditch. I looked around noticing a lot more empty seats than usual. As I scanned the room, I watched one girl stare at Michael while simultaneously chewing her bottom lip. I raised an eyebrow at her, but she was too busy drooling to notice. Apart from the drooler, most of the class had definitely opted out of today’s lecture.

I turned to Michael and whispered, “I’m guessing that’s a common theme today.”

He smiled and said in a near whisper, “I’m glad you made it.” I felt a small shudder go through me as his voice dropped into a smooth, lower octave.

I smiled back at Michael and caught his eyes. I felt my stomach drop, the way it does when you’re on the top of a really high roller coaster. I could feel heat rise from my chest, into my cheeks, undoubtedly making them flush, and wondered if this cold was turning into fever. As I took a deep breath to get my ever rapidly climbing heart rate until control, I immediately felt a tickle in my throat. Before I knew it, I began uncontrollably coughing again. Perfect, I thought. I put my hand over my mouth to muffle the sound as much as possible. I was petrified Dr. Van der Stein would kick me out for interrupting his lecture on the myth of phrenology. Just as I was about to get up and run into the hallway, Michael tapped my shoulder and without saying a word reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of cough drops, and placed them on the desk in front of me. We made eye contact but I couldn’t speak to thank him, fearing any use of my voice would trigger another coughing fit. He turned back to face the front of the class but I continued to stare at him. I then stared at the cough drops.

Why was this affecting me so much? I felt a strong sense of panic come over me, followed by a moment of clarity.

I was in love with Michael.

What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan is published on Thursday!

Jill Knapp: I Heart New York

What happens to men when they move to Manhattan

I recently went home to New York to visit my family and a few friends, and was hit with the overwhelming love that I have always held for the city that enthralled me for the better part of my life.

There’s this quote from Dawson’s Creek (one of my all-time favorite shows) that perfectly describes the feeling I get whenever I am there. One of the main characters, Joey Potter, has never been to Manhattan before. After finally getting to go with her friend Jen, she asks Jen’s father how New York surprises him every day and he says this;

“Good question. A city like New York where everything’s moving all the time at this constant driving pace, right? It’s like a living organism breathing and changing, and over time your relationship to it becomes like this incredible romance, you know? At first, it’s intoxicating, irresistible, and then slowly it becomes comfortable and safe. You have this cellular connection to it, as if you’ve known each other forever, like your oldest happiness, and sometimes you’re on the outs, and sometimes you’re making up, and every now and then you catch yourself in this transcendent moment where you think to yourself, “oh, my god, I’m madly in love with you, and I always will be.” And I think that’s when it surprises me.”

Now as a writer myself, I wish I had something better for you than that quote right there, but sadly I don’t!
I had a very similar experience to this while living in Staten Island, technically part of New York City proper, but still far away from the heart of it all to feel the ache of longing. Of wanting to be in the center of it and fully immerse myself in all that New York had to offer. As I got older, I was given that opportunity. I went to graduate school in Manhattan and was fortunate enough to live there at the time. I was, without reluctance, intoxicated with New York City. Now, I say I was intoxicated with it, not by it because when you are living there, you become part of everything. Just as I had always hoped to be, I was part of it all.

When I went back this past weekend, I still felt like it was my home. While I was there, I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. It didn’t feel as if I had been gone for nearly 10 months either. Sure, I’ll admit to having to ask for directions once or twice (something I never had to do when I lived there), but I still felt that enthralling pull that New York had on me for so many years. The lights, and sounds holding a monopoly on my heart, and desperately trying to proselytize me back to being a being a full-time New Yorker. I felt the passion inside everyone I spoke to while I was there. From the meeting I had, to spending time with my family and friends. Everyone, around me was so certain that this was their home. And for a moment, I let myself feel the sadness that it was no longer mine.

I didn’t get to go to my favorite area in Manhattan, Battery Park, which for those of you in England who haven’t been to NY is a beautiful waterfront park down in lower Manhattan. I did however get to spend a day in Central Park, and I had one of the best days I have had in at least 6 months. It was a perfect summer day, which happens maybe 3 or 4 times all season in NY. I laid on a blanket on a patch of grass, and felt the warm buzz of the city rush over me.

So after all of that, I can still say that I am, in fact, irrevocably in love with New York. But sometimes, as well all know, love is not enough. I don’t regret moving to North Carolina, I find a sense of peace here that I could probably never have in New York. But at the end of the day, it will always be my home.

Jill’s first book with HarperImpulse, What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan, is out on Thursday!

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