The plane jolted, hitting some turbulence, and I jerked awake, grabbing the arm rest in a panic.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice said over the speaker. “The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. Please, secure your seatbelts and remain in your chair as we begin our descent into New York City.”
I blinked a few times and sat up in my seat, running a hand through my hair. My muscles screamed at me in protest, having not moved for almost the entire four hour flight. Thankfully, my bladder wasn’t calling for attention so badly that I couldn’t hold it until we landed at La Guardia Airport.
My headphones continued to play a show tunes list, tapping sounds clacking out of the tiny speakers. I turned them up, since I was actually listening now, singing along in my head.
Stretching the best I could, I peeked a look out of the window two seats to my left. I’d hoped I’d get a spot with a view, but was stuck with the aisle instead. It was in the back, thankfully. I hadn’t wanted to spend the first thirty minutes on board dodging every bag that passed me, especially the backpacks.
We were still up in the clouds, nothing remotely exciting to look at. I sighed and rested back against my chair again, twisting my hands together in nervous excitement.
I’d literally saved every penny I’d made since the fifth grade to move to the Big Apple. There was a musical I listened to one day when I was bored, the first I’d ever really paid attention to, and that was it for me. I knew I needed to get myself to the east coast and be on Broadway. Nothing had ever touched me the way those two CDs did. Even now, I dreamed of being in that same musical and realizing my goals fully.
I worked hard, more so through my high school years. I sang in the choir, played in the band, danced on the dance team, and did every show that came around. There were only so many opportunities in a small town lost in the middle of nowhere, though. I continually felt I was being passed over for parts because the director’s daughter, or second cousin once removed, auditioned as well. The other kids didn’t take it as seriously as I did either, which made it less fun for me.
Teasing can tear even the strongest of people down.
Once I graduated, I decided to study theatre at our community college. It was the cheapest school in the state, and I saved even more money by living with my parents. I had a wonderful experience there, getting to participate in several shows and feel like I was cast according to my abilities.
It still wasn’t enough for me, though. I dreamed of dropping everything and hopping on a plane, leaving all of the naysayers behind. There was always one person who acted snotty towards me.
“Oh, you’re still trying to do that?”
Yes. Yes, I am. I can’t do anything else—I was made to be a Broadway performer.
Finally, I’d had enough. I hadn’t finished a degree, even though I’d had more than ample time, and I was tired of waiting around for my dreams to magically come true. I ditched my last class, quit my job, went straight home to my laptop, and bought a one way ticket to the Land of Dreams.
My parents were supportive as always, but made sure to voice their concerns, checking to make sure I really wanted to go. Nothing was going to stop me at that point though.
A thorough apartment search online landed me with a furnished studio in Harlem. I managed to nail down a job at a chain restaurant with an Internet application and long distance phone call. Everything was falling into place, one block at a time. I couldn’t go anywhere without a dorky grin plastered on my face.
Finally, the day arrived for me to leave. I’d packed two suitcases of essentials during the week leading up to my departure, boxing up everything else I wanted to bring, so it could be mailed.
“Are you ready to go?” Dad asked, stopping in the doorway to my room.
“Yeah,” I said, a nervous twinge in my stomach. “I’m just grabbing a few last minute things.”
“We’ll mail it right over if you forget anything,” he said reassuringly.
“It’s what I do,” he laughed.
Mom called him from downstairs, saying something about the time and he left, giving me another smile.
I slung my guitar bag over my shoulder and hefted up one suitcase, rolling the other behind me. Before I left for good, I turned and looked at the one place that had really been mine my entire life. A small smile graced my lips and I walked over the threshold, closing the door behind me.
A tearful goodbye followed at the terminal after our long drive into the nearest city.
“You call me as often as you can,” Mom ordered, clutching me to her in a death grip.
“I will,” I laughed through my own tears. “I love you, Mom. I love you, too, Dad.”
“You’re going to knock ‘em dead,” he said, his own eyes misty.
“I’ll see you in a few months,” I said, breaking away from them.
“Come when you can afford it,” Dad said. “Take care of yourself, first. We can wait a little longer, if we need to.”
I hugged each of them again and kissed their cheeks before turning to face the security checkpoint.
“This is it,” I said, looking back and smiling at them.
“We love you!” Mom said, crying as she waved.
I took a deep breath, trying not to be overwhelmed by all that was happening. So many different emotions ran through me at once. I was scared to leave the familiar, but I couldn’t wait to step foot in the place I’d been dreaming of since I was ten. Leaving my family behind was as hard as I’d expected it to be, even with my dreams calling from a few feet away.
I straightened, readjusting the strap on my shoulder, and stepped forward confidently, my heart racing.
I reached the TSA’s stand and handed him my boarding pass and driver’s license, elation running though me.
“Marama Adams,” he said, marking my pass.
“I go by Mara,” I said with a smile.
“Where are you headed today, Mara?” he asked without looking up.
“New York City,” I said excitedly.
“Have a good flight,” he said with a smile, handing my things back.
I walked through the checkpoint and turned to wave to my parents one more time.
“I love you!” I called.
“We love you, too!” Mom said again.
“Call us when you get there,” Dad yelled.
I turned around and started through security, joining the crowd of people doing the same.
My first flight had gone well, the only rough part being the landing in Denver. I’d never flown before, but handled it very well according to the woman next to me, who almost threw up all over the place. As I pulled my carryon out of the cabinet above my head, the attendant informed us that my connecting flight had been delayed two hours.
I deflated some, let down that I’d have to wait that much longer to get to my new home. The airport turned out to be pretty awesome, though, and the time passed quickly.
Here I was now, flying over the one place I wanted to be more than anywhere in the world. I tried to look out the window again, catching a glimpse of green, open space through a break in the clouds.
“Excuse me,” I asked the attendant passing by just then. “How much longer do we have?”
“About twenty minutes,” she said with a smile.
I slunk in my seat again, drumming my fingers on my thigh impatiently.
“First time in the city?” The man next to me asked.
“Yeah,” I said, grinning again. “You?”
“Born and raised,” he laughed.
“Awesome! I bet you loved every second of it.”
“It’s a pretty cool place,” he said with a nod. “Do you want to switch seats?”
My heart leapt into my throat as I eyed him to see if he was serious. The seat between us was empty, so I didn’t have to feel bad about squeezing around someone.
“I really do,” I finally said, an apologetic tone to my voice.
“Hop on over,” he laughed, unbuckling.
“Sir,” the attendant said, coming up from behind us.
“I know,” he said. “I’ll sit right back down, I promise.”
I grimaced, feeling bad for getting him in trouble, but scooted into his seat all the same.
“Thank you,” I said as he sat down.
“No problem,” he said, waving me off. “It’s your first time. You should get to really experience it.”
I wasted no time in pressing my face into the window, like a moron, drinking in everything there was to see. I didn’t care if I looked like a dork, I was excited.
On the ground below I could see that we were coming into a more populated area and I looked forward the best I could, trying to make out the famous skyline. There was nothing to see though, so I settled with staring at the ground, so excited I thought I might burst.
Slowly, I began to make out buildings, my insides twisting together like a pit of snakes. It looked fake, like a miniature model down there. I couldn’t believe how tall the buildings were, especially the Empire State Building. The smile I couldn’t stop stretched from ear to ear, tears welling in my eyes as I spotted the Statue of Liberty, as unreal as everything else.
We began to turn away from the city, towards our landing spot, but I still couldn’t tear my face from my little piece of heaven. I was here! I finally did it!
We were only in the air for a few more minutes before our wheels touched ground and we rolled into our gate. Slowly, the plane started to empty, everyone grabbing their things. I turned my phone on, while I waited for things to clear out, preferring to not get caught in the rush.
No one answered the phone at home, so I left a message telling them I’d just landed. I couldn’t take it any more after that, crawling out to the aisle and grabbing my instrument.
“Thank you,” I said as my row partner walked away.
“No problem,” he said with a wave.
I hurried the best I could off of the plane and up the ramp to the terminal, making sure to thank everyone as I did. Finally, I stepped through the door and onto New York soil. I checked which carousel my other bags would be on, and went into the restroom, wanting to freshen up before I got on my way.
I used the bathroom quickly, trying not to hold up the line, and checked myself in the mirror. My makeup had lasted, so I only redid my lip gloss. A quick scrunch of my curled hair brought back its bounce.
My slacks had made the journey fine, leaving only my white shirt and dress jacket to be smoothed. As soon as I was satisfied with my appearance enough to not be embarrassed if I met anyone important, I exited the tiny room, ready to be done with airports for the next little while.
La Guardia wasn’t nearly as nice as the two other airports I’d been in today, but I didn’t care. I hurried through the tiny halls, already feeling the cramp I’d tried to prepare myself for. My bags were waiting for me when I arrived at their pickup area. Within seconds it seemed, I was helping load them into a taxi and asking the driver to take me to Times Square.
We rocketed out of the airport, my driver honking his horn at everything that moved—or didn’t. I was lost in the buildings, already noticing how different it looked from anything I’d seen out west.
Bubbles rolled in my stomach as the city came into better view, traffic rolling over the different bridges leading into the city. The driver swerved in and out of the traffic, fitting into the tiniest places possible. Before I knew it, we were driving through the actual city, buildings rising so high I couldn’t even see the tops of them.
I was in love. It was even better than I’d imagined, somehow. Everything looked just like the pictures and videos, something I’d discovered to not be true for other places. I wanted to get out and slowly walk through them all, just so I could take it in.
The sun set as we soared down the streets and lights began to sparkle everywhere, a true New York spectacle. As we neared the Square, traffic slowed considerably, stopping us dead in the street. After a few minutes, I told the man I’d get out here and paid him, thanking him for his time.
With all of my things in tow, I headed forward with purpose, seeing the lights flashing ahead. Famous billboards winked down at me, my excitement propelling me forward. Finally, I stood in front of the red steps, turning in a circle as I looked at everything. Broadway ran right next to me, paved with gold in my mind.
“I’m here, New York,” I said softly. “I made it.”
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