Pops called me daughter, dropping the grand. Sometimes he called me oh girl. “Oh girl, oh girl, oh girl,” he’d say when he entered the room, and I knew he was talking to me. He had voice, and I loved him for it. But, I liked it best when he said “Just like New York.” He said it about anything fancy, or modern, or strange. He said it about people. He said it just to say it. Both Nannie and Pops had lived in upstate New York, and for a short time when Pops was in the army, Nannie lived close to New York City. I never knew exactly which New York he was referencing. But I was obsessed with living in NYC, so I liked to assume that’s what Pops meant. Every time he called something just like New York, I wanted desperately to know why he said it, to understand the comparison, to gain some insider knowledge. Most of the time, I was looking for meaning where there wasn’t any.
This morning, while walking back to my apartment after my early lesson, I saw some graffiti on the gates of several closed shops. “Just like New York,” I said aloud, before I even realized what I was saying.
When I decided to move back to Morocco, I’d felt the need to justify my decision to everyone I knew, especially my friends and family in New York. How do you leave a city like that behind? Maybe you don’t. And maybe that’s what Pops was thinking to. Once New York City builds a miniature version of itself inside you, it’s hard to escape. So, I’ll keep looking for pieces of New York wherever I am. Because the similes bring me home.