I can imagine living in the city, right in the heart of the city, waking early to seek out breakfast from street vendors or little hole-in-the-wall dives that open early so they can capture every possible customer in their efforts to pay staggering rents.
The variety in the city is mind-numbing and beautiful, the stench of the trash stored beneath buildings horrid, the beauty of architecture stunning on one side of the street, crushingly ugly on the other. The city attacks the senses with unrelenting zeal, testing the body’s ability to differentiate between smell and taste and feel and sight.
Though living in the city would strain my circumstances and slice deeply into my limited cash reserves, I am one of the fortunate ones who could survive without working; I would just have to be extremely frugal. If I spoke broken English and my only skills involved my ability to lift heavy objects or serve as a helper to a semi-skilled tradesman, survival would be hard, back-breaking, soul-crushing work.
The city tests humanity and civility. It does its damnedest to shred compassion into ribbons of skeptical steel that afford protection against scams and thieves who steal empathy alongside money and jewels. But it fails. It’s a patchwork quilt of Mumbai, Karachi, Monterrey, Kathmandu, Taipei, Santiago, Dallas, Ottawa, Darwin, Christchurch, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, and a thousand other places where empathy thrives amidst the squalor and beauty and raw inhumanity.
I long to live in this place for awhile, if only in my imagination. But I think my imagination would deeply appreciate a months-long physical experience, allowing me to soak up the reality that a quick jaunt in and out simply cannot accomplish.