By Brielle Diskin,


It looked like the entirety of the past year swept through Midtown Manhattan at once, and I was tiptoeing through the wreckage. Standing on the corner of 5th Ave and 34th St, it was a miracle that I was even awake at eight in the morning on New Years Day. But I had to get out.


I awakened for the first time in 2018 just minutes before, on a friend’s couch in her 39th-floor apartment, staring out at the kind of view that gives you fear over the mere thought of her rent. It was her stepfather’s place.


Him being an architect, all of the furnishings in the apartment were the kind of pieces one finds in the home of a minimalist. You know — the contemporary, highly aesthetically oriented type of layout, rather than the kind that is chosen on the principle of comfort or practicality. Not the style of couch one would want to rest one’s head on for a long winter’s nap, perhaps. After a couple of hours of sleep, I wanted out, I wanted home, and, to my surprise, I wanted Jersey.


The walk to Penn Station was swift, and it was also smelly. It was a passage of intense contemplation.


All along the streets and sidewalks were shattered fifths of vodka, champagne corks, broken confetti poppers, lone gloves that had lost their partner, burnt out cigarettes, lost IDs and fallen credit cards.


On my walk, I tried to picture these streets the night before, their entirety usurped by Dick Clark’s annual extravaganza. A giant, spherical, blinking orb drops us into an entirely new year. Within a matter of seconds, an ambiguous slate is theoretically swiped clean and we all couldn’t be happier. Every year I try to figure out if I am happier that one year has passed, or more excited that a new one is here. Deciphering the distinctions between relief and gladness, I decided — this year it was the former.


I pictured the peacoat couples, as I like to call them, out in full force They are the kind of couples who go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The kind of couples who look like they could be on a Thanksgiving Float or in a Tommy Hilfiger ad. They wear winter proof pea coats off the rack at Bloomingdales, paired with their matching scarf, hat, and gloves.


They probably spent Christmas at his parents and Thanksgiving at her grandmother’s. He’s finishing up business school and she just got her degree in Nursing or PR. She’s Irish-Italian and he’s White Anglo Saxon Protestant. She has a Pinterest board of their wedding and he knows what they’re naming their firstborn. I think almost everyone has, at one point or another, desired to be in a peacoat couple.


On Broadway and 33rd now with only a block until Penn, I could smell the fresh ink of today’s paper coming from The New York Times building, and the crisp warmth of Dean and Deluca’s freshest batch of croissants.


I was approaching a man on my left, who, by the judge of the blankets he had on top of him and the cardboard he had underneath him, appeared homeless. I then struggled with the daily debate over whether or not to give spare change, but the New Year was playing ”Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” in my head and I was motivated to throw my last couple singles into his cup.  


It may sound like an odd observation, but in the four blocks I had just walked, that was the first homeless person I had seen. That surprised me. I would make a remark here about the Giuliani administration, but I feel I am not old enough to be in on that joke.


My whole life, I was raised on the outskirts of the city in Jersey suburbs, but I had never seen New York quite like this: so quiet, so empty, so demolished.  Considering the past year and I did not get along very well, I felt as if the trash-filled streets could be an embodiment of my past, but the serene peace and quiet of the new year gave me hope for my future.


This struck a chord with me. I was so in awe of the state of the city, and how pillaged and wrecked it had been. I then thought about what this year did to me. I thought about how it would all be swept away soon, and New Yorkers would eventually awaken for the day and take to the streets, making the city a wholly functioning body again. I thought about the radical idea that this new New York could let this past year be swept up behind me and, starting here and now, I would soon be a wholly functioning body again, too.


I had finally arrived at Penn Station now and my track was listed on the board. I found a seat next to the window on the train. The seats were far more comfortable than the architect’s couch, so I rested my head for a brief winter’s nap.