humansofny humansofny

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Humans of New York  New York City, one story at a time.

“I’m driving to pay off my student debts. I had to start college late because my father had a stroke shortly after I graduated high school. He couldn’t afford to stop working. So I worked in a fried chicken restaurant seven days a week while he recovered. When he first came home from the hospital, I carried him down the stairs. He had tears in his eyes. My father emigrated from Pakistan in the eighties. He worked hard so that I could have a better life. In that moment, I think he saw that I’d turned into the son that he’d always hoped for.”

“I’m turning thirty in July. And I’m still working out a lot of childish things in my dating life. I’m learning how to communicate. I’m learning to ask myself: ‘What do I want?’ instead of ‘What can I take?’ I’m learning that another person can never ‘complete me.’ And I’m learning that in certain moments it’s OK to not like somebody—even if you love them. It’s taken me longer to figure this stuff out because I had to hide my identity for so long. I know that nobody ever fully arrives, but heterosexuals definitely have a head start.”

“I’m practicing French right now. I want to move to Europe so I can force myself to start over. I have a nine-to-six job. It’s a good position. They pay me well. I love my team. But everything just feels so familiar. There’s no discomfort or uncertainty anymore. On weekends I go to the same neighborhood bar. I eat at the same restaurants that I know are good. I take interesting vacations, but even those tend to follow a regular pattern. As much as I tell myself that I'm being adventurous when I hike in Peru—it’s a very planned risk. I think a new city will be good for me. I’ll start out alone. I’ll be forced to reflect. I’ll have a sense of unexpectedness. I want to feel like a tourist in my own life again.”

“He’s an actor on Broadway. I broke up with him in December because he couldn’t manage his anger. He’d scream at me on subway platforms. Once he busted my lip while trying to grab something out of my hand. That was when I finally ended it. But he called me on New Year’s Eve and asked if he could go to a party with me. We’d bought our tickets months earlier. They were expensive so I agreed. My sister was coming with us so I wasn’t worried. Everyone had a great time. At the end of the night, we dropped off my sister and went back to his place. I was so drunk that I curled up in a pile of clothes. When I opened my eyes he was taking photos of me and laughing. I immediately decided to leave. It was literally the start of a new year and I wanted to begin on a good note. He yelled at me to come back but I kept walking. He followed me down the stairs and grabbed my arm. He told me to ‘stop acting stupid.’ Then he pinned me up against the side of his building. He was choking me and saying ‘calm down, calm down, calm down.’ A van drove by and started honking at us. But they didn’t stop. They didn’t help me. I broke free and ran into traffic but nobody was stopping. He caught me, and pushed me up against a van, and lifted me into the air by the neck. When I woke up on the ground he was gone. I asked the judge to sentence him to anger management courses. He's finished them. But I’m still dealing with the trauma of that night.”

“’I’m obsessive, but my obsessions are productive. I’m happy. I never get depressed. I find life very interesting. I paint for hours every day. I have 100,000 postcards at home organized geographically. And I’ve written a story about every day of my life between 1981 and 2011. I have 20,000 pages of notes. Right now I’m in the editing phase. I’ll be done with that in a couple years, and then I’m going to copy the entire thing by hand. There's no way I can trust computers with something this important. I think I can finish the job in ten years. I’m pretty sure I can live long enough.”

“I asked her out during a movie. I was really nervous, so I executed with about half the talent level that I could have. I accidentally swallowed some cologne in the bathroom because I tried to open the packet with my mouth. Then I never actually had the courage to ask the question. I waited until there was a scene in the movie with a boyfriend and girlfriend, and I said: ‘That could be us.’ It felt good coming out of my mouth. But then I looked over and saw confusion. But I rode out the awkward silence, and eventually she figured it out.”

“I just had to sit down because I got short of breath. I was at a restaurant earlier where the manager had to seat me at the counter because I couldn’t fit in the booth. I have pain in my knees and my joints. I sleep with a breathing apparatus at night. And I’m a great candidate for a heart attack. I hate it. I hate the way I feel. But I’ve been overweight for so long that people assume I don’t want to lose weight. Friends and family wonder why I don’t just stop eating. But it’s an addiction for me. When I walk past a bakery, I feel the same way that an alcoholic must feel when he walks past a bar. But people seem to think that the alcoholic is unable to quit. And they think I choose not to.”

“I grew up outside of Miami. It wasn’t easy to be young, black, and gay in my neighborhood. It was a very masculine space. All the guys played basketball or football. They wore oversize clothes. There was a clearly defined idea of what it meant to be a man. And I spent a lot of energy trying to meet that standard. I didn’t like sports but I played anyway. If I ever got bullied for acting feminine, or hanging out with girls, I’d take it to the extreme and insist on fighting. The black man is expected to be a rock. I think it comes from our history. We were abused for so long, I think there’s a resistance to ever being vulnerable again.”

“Having a child was the best thing that ever happened to us. But it is constant company with terrible conversation.”

“I feel like I’m just starting, but I think I’d be fine if it all went away. I get that from my mother. From the moment I started singing, she always reminded me that all of this was a privilege, and could be taken at any moment. So singing is not how I define myself. I try to keep my identity rooted in my friendships and my faith.” (Link to entire collection of Met Gala stories can be found in bio.)

“She has the biggest heart. Everyone sees her success as an athlete, but all of that is layered on the size of her heart. She gives 100% of herself to everything she does: as a friend, as a lover, and soon, as a mother.”

“He’s so sexy. And he taught me the importance of being silly.”
“Being silly is so important. Silly is the opposite of grief. It’s throwing yourself into a moment without care. You can’t always maintain your status as a dignified person-- it gives you blinders. When you always expect the world to fulfill your expectations, it wears you down. It closes you off.”
“So sexy.”

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