If you go, wear black fashion boots with no traction and no support. Forget to print a map. Steal a brochure from the Greyhound station, hang your camera around your wrist, laugh and make dumb Midwestern comments about how big the city is.
If you go, be a stranger to Starbucks. Buy coffee from the corner cafe with the finger-smudged windows, the silver barstools, and the whiteboard written the day’s specials in dry erase marker. As you mix sugar into your dark roast, listen to the mix of dialects swirl around you, from faces dark and light.
If you go, take a picture of the ball in Times Square that drops every New Year’s Eve (it’s small! It’s high!). Imagine guys and girls everywhere clasping hands while the seconds countdown. Notice the men in yellow jackets who want to sell you tickets for bus tours, the men in black jackets who want to drive you in carriages, the Disney characters on the corner. If you watch long enough, Hello Kitty might take off her head.
If you go, cross in the crosswalks and follow the smell of roasted nuts. But if you cut off a police car and cut off a cart being pushed loaded with construction materials and cut off a horse-drawn carriage, don’t worry. You’re a foreigner in this city. There is grace for you.
If you go, spend all day in Central Park. Sit on the bridge and promise you’ll never forget the leaves and the skyscrapers, reflected together in the water. Breathe deep. Take a picture of Manhattan while it’s arms-length away from you, while you and it are separated by trees for awhile.
If you go, walk down 5th Avenue and tiptoe into Tiffany’s. Whisper admiration. Pick a ring; click a picture with your phone. Pretend that you are richer than you look, that you have thousands of dollars in your purse, that this diamond under the glass is for you. Let’s say the man behind you looking at the colored diamonds, with the dark tie and sport jacket, is your fiancé. Pretend that you are Tiffany, and this is your store, for awhile. Then quietly leave and buy a chili dog on the corner for three dollars.
If you go, call to buy tickets to Rent and believe the woman who tells you student rush is at 6. Show up at 5:15 only to learn there’s a lottery for $25 tickets. Find your happy face, find your friends, go to the next theater. Buy tickets to see Mamma Mia! for $31 with a partial view. Let your feet rest at a Brazilian restaurant, at a table in the corner with five friends and a basket of bread.
If you go, love Broadway. Your seat isn’t half bad. Watch the audience’s faces when Donna sings “The Winner Takes it All.” Watch the conductor at the keyboard, waving her hands and weaving the music together. Watch how still your friends sit. Watch the lights turn from pink to green.
If you go, tell the full moon above the Waldorf-Astoria that you’ll be back. No questions asked.