What happens when you lose a neighborhood you love?

I’m asking because I’ve never lost one before, and I imagine there are folks out there who have. And if you have, I feel you. 

For me the maps of people and places I love cannot be separated, and my emotional map of a place and the physical map of a place are one in the same. 

When my 6 year relationship ended in the fall, my emotional map of Astoria changed, overnight, from a neighborhood bursting with places that brought me intense joy, to a place full of places holding too many memories. 

There were the places we discovered when we were first together, Vesta, Pita Hot, Gregory’s 26. There were the places that became our favorite go-to places, Pao de Quiejo, Duzan, King of Falafel, La Cabana. Then, at the end, there were the same three places we were getting delivery from every night. 

Maybe that progression over time is part of the problem, reflecting a settling that settles into apathy. Next time, next time, I’m going to try something new every night, I swear! Or maybe a food blogger just can’t resist using food to describe a relationship’s unraveling. 

Either way, I’m leaving June 1st, and there’s no way to not feel like this feels like a loss. And loss is hard: it’s grief, it’s grieving, it’s anger, it’s denial. Turns out there are no shortcuts around this stuff. Eight months after the break up, I still can’t bear to go into the vast majority of the places I loved in Astoria. 

The neighborhood is still here for me, I just can’t be here. A few months back I was walking up Steinway, my ball cap pulled down over my eyes, not wanting to talk. 

As I walked past Duzan, the owner, Hasan, called me out by name, knowing I hadn’t been in the restaurant yet since they renovated. He sat me down with another friend of his who was visiting and made us an epic lunch. Then he sent me home with dinner. All of this for free, all of this kindness. There are no words for how much that meal meant to me. 

The neighborhood is still here for me, I just can’t be here. 

But maybe if we can grieve places as we grieve people, there’s hope in that? Because then, just like with people, we might come to understand how much places can mean to us.  


2 thoughts on “What happens when you lose a neighborhood you love?

  1. Last summer, I moved out of Astoria after more than 10 years of living there and landed in Greenpoint. I could still see LIC out my window if I leaned out far enough! Then, my whole life turned upside down when I moved to California earlier this year. I haven’t been back to NYC since I got here in January, but I miss Astoria dearly because of the familiarity more than anything else. It may be painful now, but Astoria was there for you when you needed it and it will be there for you when you need it again. Right now, it sounds like it is time for you to move out to heal yourself. Hugs to you, friend.

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