A Storyby Cai Emmons
Hoboken crouched against the Hudson River and glared at Manhattan with the wary insistence of a pugilist. This unfortunate geography of proximity conferred on the citizens of Hoboken an uneasy awareness of second-class status. They stepped from their buildings, walked a few blocks, and there loomed the great metropolis, irrefutable and central as the sun, her skyscrapers, her perennial lights, her wounded silhouette forlorn and beautiful. You could not live with the Manhattan skyline so close at hand, so omnipresent and unignorable, and not feel a need to justify yourself. Even the altered, cauterized skyline exerted its force.
Especially that skyline. It did not matter that you had chosen for all the best reasons not to live in Manhattan—you couldn’t afford it, you hated the crowds, you disdained the excesses, you reviled the city’s overinflated sense of itself—still, some small interior voice told you that you should be there, instead of across the river, in another state, even. You could not help wondering if you had made the wrong choice, if you were living erroneously, if you received a large enough slice of the proverbial pie. And this feeling was compounded by Hoboken being a way station for many people. For the New Jersey transit riders and the Erie Lackawanna riders, Hoboken was simply a stop along the way, a place where you sipped a Starbucks and perused a Times or a Journal, waiting for the main event. If you were a Hoboken resident these realities permeated your consciousness unwittingly, and if you lived there for long you eventually synchronized your sense of self with the town’s geography. You had your list of the city’s virtues, which you were proud to recite—Sinatra’s birthplace, the place where baseball and the zipper were invented, site of the fatal duel between Hamilton and Burr, and, you said, lifting your chin with aggressive pride, We have an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline—but in your heart of hearts you knew how poorly these things stacked up against the Gotham virtue list. And finally, you accepted that there might be something about you yourself that did not measure up.