"Where are you going?" Stephanie asked, pushing her long dreadlocks to one side as she lifted her head from the pillow. "Sorry, I was trying not to wake you," I apologized. "I'm going to get some breakfast for the boys. I was thinking about chocolate croissants. Do you want something?" "Chocolate?" She thought for a moment, fluffed the pillow, and lay her head back down. "Too sweet for me . . . make mine plain." "I won't be gone long," I assured her, as I eased out of the apartment. And she simply answered, "We're fine. Take your time."
I stepped out into a bright day that felt more like the anticipation of spring than the dead of winter. Not knowing quite where I was headed, I walked. Alone for a rare moment, enjoying the silence, able to hear my own thoughts -- I kept walking. I took deep breaths along the way, refreshed by the crispness of the cool air. I replayed every moment of this holiday in my mind as I walked across Fifty-fourth Street and headed north. I passed Petrossian's where, on Christmas Eve, Mom and Stephanie had surprised me with a belated birthday celebration. "Rob, can we take a break now?" Stephanie had asked, pretending to be tired of shopping for toys. They indulged me with champagne and caviar, and we laughed for what seemed like hours. It was like old times.
I walked up Seventh Avenue, where only the night before the ball had dropped into a new year. It appeared the city had already moved on. The streets were swept clean. Only bits of confetti that had resisted the brooms remained, and I spotted a black top hat made of paper, with a bold fuchsia feather and silvery, sparkling numbers that reminded me of the year I had just entered, anticipating it with love, hope, and forgiveness -- 2006. Forgiveness, in particular, had been a long time coming. I reached Columbus Circle. "Hey, Robin. How's it goin'?" yelled a policeman standing with two other cops. I was delighted to answer him: "Great!" "Happy New Year," they all said. I closed my eyes for a moment and repeated to myself, "It is going great." I was as excited to be in New York as the tourists who were out first thing this New Year's morning. I hadn't lived in New York for quite some time. I had called several places home in an attempt to find one that would be truly home -- a place where I'd find warmth on the coldest days, light on the darkest nights, and solace in times of suffering. But with my family and so many friends here, the fact is that New York has always been my home.
Yet there had been a time when this home did not provide the comfort that it should, when being in New York meant living with a bit of anxiety and fear. A memory from that time surfaced, a young woman telling me, "He should have kicked your ass . . . he should have killed you." I looked away from my friend -- we had been engaged in a conversation.