— Where you had planned on spending it schlepping to Ikea for some bathroom shelves or transcribing interviews, but instead, one of your best friends (who just so happens to live down the street now) calls you up and asks you if you’re free for a late lunch. You button up a flannel because the heat finally broke and you walk through Crown Heights before meeting them at the train, making note of how many blocks lie between your new house and theirs. You hop on the Subway, get off in the village and trip down the stairs of one of those noodle places on St. Mark’s where you spent plenty of time giving your fake ID a workout in college. Your best friend orders in Japanese, trying to keep up his vocabulary and accent from the year he spent in Tokyo working 14-hour days for Disney, and you inhale a plate of searing hot gyoza with your mouths open so as to avoid burning your tongues in between scorching bites. You pay the bill and bound upstairs and across the street to Trash and Vaudeville, because best friend has an audition for a work of “interactive theatre” that involves dancing like Grace Jones, and he needs a pair of heels to fit the part. You suggest that he try on a pair of spiked platform boots Gene Simmons would be proud of, but he scowls as soon as he takes a look at the $185 price tag. You shoulder past a crazy person having a heated argument with an imaginary friend in front of the entrance and set about lapping the neighborhood, popping into various places for coffee, birthday cake truffles and trying on huge cable-knit sweaters that you both admit to likely wearing once should you choose to move forward with the ill-fated purchase. You amble east to west above West 4th to avoid the new students barreling in and out of the buildings of Washington Square and sheepishly duck into the sex shops in the West Village in search of heels that’ll fit your buddy, as his size is a ladies’ 13 and you can’t find shoes that big at Urban Outfitters. (Heels, anyway.) You continue to pull cookies out of the bag you picked up at the Milk Bar, breaking them in half to share, as you mosey down through TriBeCa and back east towards the river. You raise eyebrows at each other when you realize how far you’ve walked, and how quickly you can get from one side of Manhattan to the other when you’re that far downtown. You file onto the Brooklyn Bridge, passing the card tables hawking Statue of Liberty headbands and 9/11 Memorial keychains and I <3 NY coffee mugs before arriving underneath the first great pillars of that behemoth mass of bricks and beams, and you both stop for a second and take pictures with your phones like everyone else. You continue to walk towards home and comment on how weird it is that people keep taking pictures of the buildings of the Financial District when the Statue of Liberty can be seen if you just shuffle a few more feet down, and you take in the skyline of Manhattan as the lights of the bridge turn on. You realize that you’ve been walking for the past four hours in flimsy moccasins but that it doesn’t matter because you had such an unexpectedly wonderful day that your swollen ankles and sore soles are worth it. You make it to the end of the bridge and turn around for one more look when you realize that those people were taking photos of the two bright beams of light cutting through the dusk and into the sky from Ground Zero, and you both stop for a minute, out of respect, or sadness, or gravity, or gratitude, or something. You land in Brooklyn, make your way to the Subway and hug your friend goodnight, as his train’s a few blocks down from yours. You hear the train you need coming, tumble down the steps and onto the platform just as the MTA is reminding you to Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors, Please, and you plop down onto an orange seat just as the train begins to bring you home.
That, more or less, is how to have the perfect afternoon if you’ve just returned to New York City.