Empire State of Mind, Part I

This is the story of how I got to New York.


Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

There’s nothing you can’t do,

Now you’re in New York!!!

These streets will make you feel brand new,

The lights will inspire you

Let’s hear it for New York

New York, New York

— Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys


Back in April, I was lying in bed one morning reading New York Magazine, as is my reigning weekend ritual. The cover story was “Why People Still Want to Move to New York in Tough Times.”  It was about exactly what you’re thinking: all those random people from East Neverwhere who pile into the city annually hoping to make something of themselves and compete with the best of the best.

It was a random story, it could have been written at anytime. But this one was anchored by a new statistic that showed half of all young people in the US wanted to move to New York—-even in the recession and the subsequent collapse of the city’s leading industries: media, finance, tourism, and by proxy service/nightlife.

I wasn’t surprised by the stat. I’d rather struggle here than anywhere else too.


Winter 2001

The towers fell three months earlier. I’m in the last semester of grad school. The air outside the luxury downtown one bedroom apartment that I call my “dorm room” and share with a roommate still smells like crisp metal and something else I’ve never been able to put my finger on. I see Mr. Ex every weekend. Saturday night is for showing me some new part of the city I’ve never seen— Harlem, Tribeca, West Village, wherever. Sunday is for watching The Sopranos, or whatever’s on the HBO lineup. I don’t really look forward to the show as much as look forward to lying on the couch up under him.

It’s December. I graduate in about three weeks. I’m still interning at Oneworld with no prospect of a job in sight, but the ENC  and Executive Editor keep throwing me freelance work. My Managing Editor has an extra room, a large closet, really, that she says I can live in until I find a job. It’s $400 for a large hole. The LIRR traim runs right by the window and the room shakes when it does.  It’ll be tough living— a long way from PG County, a long way even from the luxury building where I’ve lived in my whole time in New York. But it’s worth it.


Three weeks later

My boxes are packed. My Dad is driving up to NYC in the morning to pick up the stuff that won’t move into the hole with me.

The phone rings. It’s the ME.

She’s so sorry. The room? One of her three roommates promised it to someone else a long time ago, and he needs it earlier than expected. There’s nothing she can do. She’s so, so, so sorry.


I don’t call home. I call Mr. Ex.

He’ll hop in the car, be at my place in 45.

I run to the store for a pack of Newports. And chain smoke in the window and cry until he gets there.

I’m a puffy-faced mess by the time he arrives. And the apartment’s got to smell like hell, especially to him; he hates smoke. We sit on the couch and I sit in between his legs and cry into him the whole night. He’s one of maybe three people in the world that can talk me off a ledge (Tariq and Ace are the other two), but I am inconsolable.

I’m not just leaving New York, I’m leaving him too.

This is the worst night of my life.


Around 8 AM, my father calls to say he’s outside the building. I kiss Mr. Ex goodbye a million times, then ring my Dad up. I tell my Dad then that I’ll now be apart of the precious cargo headed back to DC.

He and a friend pack up the truck. I ride in the back with my stereo system on my lap and cry the entire way home.

My father is… hurt, I think, that I’m treating moving back to Maryland, back with him and my Mom, as the worst thing that could happen to me. I can’t even muster up the ability to fake like it’s okay. I cry until I fall asleep.

I wake up on two hours later on 495 and realize this is not a nightmare. My eyes sting. I’m probably dehydrated from all this sobbing. I start sobbing all over again.  My Dad and his friend pretend not to hear me.

This, I imagine now, must have been what Randy felt like going back to the halfway house at the end of Season 4 (The Wire reference.)

This is my worst fear come true.



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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Micha B. says:

    Hi Demetria,

    My name is Micha B. I am a celebrity hair stylist in los angeles. I have worked in the feild of hair for over 10 years. Even though I have always worked in this feild I have wanted to be a writer since I could remember. I am not able to really go to a mentor because i just can’t right now..lol I would love to get your honest view and opinion on my thoughts as a non active writer. Right now I am working on building my salon in the downtown area of LA, thats where I live. But two years ago I moved to NYC and had a plan to excel as a hair stylist and a writer starting at Essence magaine. I was sourrounded by writers and editors and still I allowed fear to set in and I moved back home. I find myself daily desiring to run a innovative, boutique hair salon with a writing office so that I can write. I currently have an amazing idea for a book. My goal is to come to NYC starting in the summer 2014 to work on my interviews for my book. I have anxiety right now writing this and tears are filling my eyes. I really want to be a successful writer and inspire people to be their best in this one chance we get at life it self. I did not go to college, I havent read a book in over 10 years and my number one issue is doing to many things with no consistency at one time. I know your probably like; hunny you need Dr. Phil, but no, I need someone like you too tell me the real. Don’t get me wrong, I am know to be independent and succefful amonst my peers but I feel and know I have more inside. PLease help me!

    Thank you,
    Micha B.

    • misscee says:

      You should read the Empire State of Mind series beginning to end (I believe it’s 6/7 parts). It’s a great story for anyone with a dream. I’ve come back to read it many times I felt fear creep in the way of accomplishing my goals. Two things that I’ve taken away from Demetria is that to be a good writer you 1) Have to read. Good writers are good readers. (try reading a different genre than what you are use to). 2) Write everyday. You have to perfect your craft. Good luck on your endeavors.

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