I forgive you, New York. I forgive you your snarl, your aggression, your hustle and hassle. I forgive you LaGuardia and your summer stench of uncollected garbage. I forgive you no cabs in the rain. I forgive you the crusty, deceptive puddles of slush at curbside. I even forgive you the Mets and no place to park and delivery trucks in the bike lane. All is forgiven if you will only return: the subway soliloquies of the homeless, the trains that never come, the trains that stop in the middle of the tunnel, the traffic, the garbage trucks blocking cross streets, the jackhammering of construction, the hiss of smoke from a manhole cover, the idling stretch-limo S.U.V.s, the drone of a million air-conditioning units, the drivers leaning on horns, the city hum that never ceases, until it did.
I forgive you. I forgive you now and forever. How could I ever begrudge you your restlessness, your relentlessness, your lip, your effrontery, your appraising glance, your pushiness, your impatience, your disregard for social niceties, when I knew all along that your great secret was that an extreme degree of ambition coexists in your streets with the empathy every New Yorker feels for a fellow New Yorker?
Only come back and all is pardoned: the tourists meandering in the theater district, your roads pitted with potholes, your crazy prices, your dinner parties ending at 9:30 because tomorrow is another New York day and theres money to be made, your awful basketball, your restaurants that have a table maybe in a couple of months, your overcrowded sidewalks, your iPhone addicts gathered at the exit of a subway station, your way of never ever relenting until you turn every one of your workers into a zombie by nightfall.
I forgive you the rats yes, even the rats and Ill throw in the roaches. The swelter of August, forgiven. The icy winter winds off the Hudson and the East River, forgiven. The impossibility of getting across town, forgiven. I forgive you the crowds, the craziness, the cruelty, the cursing, the complaining customers, the impatient merchants and the most uncomfortable cabs in the world.
I forgive you your kale salads, your restaurants that sell only oatmeal, your trends. I forgive you your street preachers, your sanctimonious parents who drone on about their childrens schools. I forgive you Macys during the Christmas season and Times Square always. I forgive you your ticket-holder lines, your throngs blocking out the paintings at MoMA, your rush-hour subways crammed with humanity.
I forgive you the holding of subway doors, your drunks peeing and puking on the street.
I forgive you Penn Station. I forgive you the Port Authority, yes, even that! I forgive you the brutal division of haves and have-nots. I forgive you the bus to the cabs at LaGuardia-in-construction and the recording that tries to persuade you that the bus is really great news.
Look, I’ll pardon the madness of having AirTrain JFK start in Queens rather than Manhattan. I forgive you the whiff of urine on a Sunday morning, the broken glass in Central Park and the way you persuade people that saying I may have a window next month is OK behavior.
I forgive you for driving me crazy at times, for making me want to scream, Get me out of here! I forgive you everything without exception if you will only promise to reappear.
Please, do not be proud. I know, we cursed you with irresponsible abandon. Forgive us, as I forgive you. We did not imagine the silence that could fall, the sirens that would fill the night, the sick and the dying, the doctors laboring on the 10th circle of the inferno, the ghostliness of shuttered stores, the empty skies, the canceled events, the post-apocalypse latex gloves scattered here and there. We took you too much for granted. Yes, forgive us for not giving daily praise for the miracle of New York.
I know I did not thank you enough for those clear winter mornings, for that dive I love on West 26th, for your tolerance, for your open arms, for the sun glinting on the Empire State Building, for your ampleness, for New York Noodletown, for your secrets slowly revealed, for your endlessness, for your boldness, for your churn, for the Met Cloisters, for your humanity, for your wit, for Coney Island, for the water towers, for the Staten Island Ferry being free, for banking over the city into LaGuardia or J.F.K. and seeing you and thinking this is home, for taking me in as no other city ever could.
Being a New Yorker, I was in a hurry. I was forgetful. You get that. Please forgive me. Please forgive us all. Ill throw in the pigeons. Forgive you for every one of those awful birds. Just come back, just return, please. I know we can make a deal.
—Roger Cohen, I Forgive You, New York