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I Get by with a Little Help…
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

I Get by with a Little Help…

How do you make friends in a big city? Things move fast in New York. Everyone knows someone. No one has the time to stop and get to know you also. Living alone in a strange, new city… I have often pondered this issue. How do you make friends in a big city?

I go to work, come back, clean my house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, buy groceries. As Radiohead would put it, I truly am Fitter, Happier, More Productive. But how long can I go shopping or watch shows by myself? The tragedy (and perhaps the saving grace) of human existence is that we all need each other, irrespective of whether it’s to rankle or rave. Solitude and silence are beautiful. But too much of either is sometimes depressing and almost always sad.

And then there are the friends who say, “Oh my God! Summer in New York! You’re so lucky! You must be partying every night!” Sure, I’d love to, but with whom?

Helter Skelter: A New York Summer Sonata
How do you make friends in a big city? Photograph by Jonathan Daniel Luther.

I racked my brains to figure out ways to fix this.

Let’s see: I could meet friends of friends, hang out with colleagues after work, go to bars. Then there’s the new age method—going through Facebook, trying to find old out-of-touch friends that are in the same city. Or lastly, contacting people I know are in the city but I don’t like a whole lot (though I firmly believe that bad company is worse than no company at all). I quite like myself and therefore was unwilling to subject myself to the torture of meeting people I did not like. I could not find old friends in the same city because it is not easy (Facebook, please make this easier). I have never been a fan of going to bars alone since that is weird and reeks of shadiness at best and desperation at worst. As a new employee, I was still figuring out my place at the organisation and so was not ready to meet anyone from work in a social setting.

So how did I break the ice with New York City?

One night, stressed and exhausted, I came home from work. I was ready to flick on a light, crash on my couch, and watch endless hours of a Bones marathon on T.V. before falling asleep.

Flick! My apartment remained in darkness. I frantically turned the light switch on and off but nothing changed. Ignoring the million anxieties in my head, I dialled the superintendent. Voice mail! He wasn’t answering his phone. I stood there stupidly, phone in one hand, not sure what to do. Just then, my neighbour walked in and seeing me stressed, asked me if I was okay. Upset, tired, and stressed, I started rambling about my electricity woes.

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A random act of kindness in a tough, mean city like New York, she invited me to come over till I got through to the superintendent. I sat there while she cooked. Soon, we started talking, hit it off, and I ended up staying for dinner.

Since then I have gone out with my colleagues, mingled with my friends’s friends, and even found an old buddy living in my neighbourhood (going alone to bars is still weird). As for my neighbour, we regularly hang out and get drunk silly over red wine and talk of boys. So to answer the question…

How do you make friends in a big city?

Life happens. All you have to do is trust the process.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous because she watched ‘X-Men’ earlier today and is waiting by her microwave, cellphone in one hand, for the mutation to kick in. And, you know, she doesn’t want to choose sides. She recently fell in love with orange juice and is desperately hoping that this doesn’t have any negative side-effects. There’s no such thing as too much Vitamin C, right?
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