My two-year-old daughter began vomiting on the busiest corner of Canal Street. Passersby dodged half-eaten chunks of M&M’s and I stared helplessly, my hand on my daughter’s heaving back.
Our family had moved to New York City six weeks earlier. We signed a lease on a hopelessly tiny apartment, sold our car, and moved from our home of the past 8 years to start a new life with our newborn and aforementioned toddler.
My wife carried strollers down subway steps. I began work in a new field and in a new city leaving me out of balance. We both acknowledged the pits in our stomachs when our first grocery bill was for $178. We had four bags of groceries. How could that be? And sure there was the one time we saw semi-celebrity, Tim Gunn, drinking coffee while walking down Broadway, but more often than not we saw half naked men screaming obscenities, and in need of serious help, running down Broadway. An elderly woman with a walker scolded me. She told me to go back home. I still have no idea why.
One day while walking back from work I saw my wife in the distance, walking down 92nd street with our newborn strapped to her chest and our daughter asleep in a stroller. My wife was not crying. It was more like a loud sobbing that I could hear from my position on the other side of the street.
New York City was unyielding. She looked at our earnest attempts to make a home. She looked into our pleading hearts. She rolled her eyes and said, “F#@k off.”
Giving up was not an option. We decided that we would head down to SoHo to do some shopping. After all, we lived in New York! SoHo was a thing you did as a New Yorker and this made sense. This would make things better. This’ll show New York!
We loaded up the stroller with diapers and those weird applesauce packets we give our children nowadays. We wrestled our daughter into the stroller. She put up a fight for the ages. Apparently toddlers don’t like to follow directions, and once in the stroller our daughter wailed louder than men screaming obscenities, louder than my wife sobbing on 92nd street.
I decided to forgo the weird applesauce packets. I decided that the only thing that would allow us to travel to SoHo in peace was a bag of M&M’s. I quickly ran to the nearest bodega, bought a small bag of M&M’s for the low price of six dollars, and quickly handed them to my daughter. She stopped crying, started eating, and I was a genius. Our ride on the 2 Train down to Times Square was bliss. Our transfer to the N Train downtown was the most uneventful since our move.
Take that New York!
We arrived at Canal Street in the heart of SoHo and went to one of New York’s trendiest shops, The Gap. It was there at The Gap in Soho while looking at denim jackets and lounge sweaters that I realized something was wrong. The M&M’s were long gone but my daughter was still strangely quiet. There was no talking, no fussing … nothing. She had the look on her face. She had the intent gaze, the short breaths, and the odd body positioning of someone doing their very best not to vomit.
With my daughter in my arms, I ran as fast as I could out of The Gap. I made it to the entrance when my daughter unleashed a flurry of half-eaten, acid-soaked M&M’s.
I put her down on the corner of Canal Street, and she put her hands on her knees and heaved. The most seasoned of Frat Boys would’ve been proud. The normally careless contingency of New Yorkers now walked in wide arcs around my daughter. One woman looked at me covered in half-eaten chocolate and handed me a Kleenex. There was nothing said.
My wife ran outside and instinctually picked up our heaving daughter with no regard for her clothes already ruined by the unnamed color combos made by dispelled M&M’s. My daughter’s body shook as she let loose the last contents of her stomach onto my wife’s hair.
And then my two-year-old daughter was finished. She collapsed into my wife’s arms. I held our newborn who was nonplussed by the incident and we made our way back to the subway covered in M&M’s and stomach bile.
Our fellow subway riders were more than happy to give my wife and daughter a seat. I stood with our newborn a short distance away and looked on as my wife held tightly to our exhausted, sick, content daughter in her arms.
We walked back to our impossibly tiny apartment. There was no crying. There were no semi-celebrities. There weren’t obscenities or angry elderly women. It was just our family. We looked and smelled of shame and defeat. My two-year-old sound asleep in my wife’s arms and our newborn seemingly unaffected by the day’s events.
It was over. I waved the white flag. “You win New York.”
New York rolled her eyes and said, “Do I know you?”
We walked up the stairs, opened the door to our apartment and began stripping off our chocolate-stained clothes. We laid our two-year-old down on a blanket and began the delicate process of changing her clothes without waking her up. It was futile. She opened her eyes, fitfully stirred for a second, and looked around at her surroundings.
“I’m at home?” my daughter said. My wife responded, “Yes baby, you’re at home.”
Photo (Flickr CC) by Matias Garabedian