If New York was a lover, I was his for the taking. If New York was a teacher, I craved its infinite wisdom. If New York was a friend, I could reminiscence with it forever. If New York was my soul mate, what was I doing in Karachi?

To say New York changed me would be a lie. No, no…New York spun me around a few times until I lost my perfect balance. It slapped me, angry saas style until I forgot my name. It kicked me in the nether regions till I couldn’t breathe and then dared to end the ordeal with a long obsessive kiss, tongue and everything. Every day back home, I’ve felt dazed and confused, wailing and waiting for a chance to go back again, morosely mourning for more.

There are few times in life, you’ll feel like you belong with someone, something, somewhere. New York is that someone, something, somewhere for me. It took in my broken dreams and my shattered heart and gave me bucket loads of inspiration and courage instead. It made me believe again. From fate and karma, to the power of goodbyes. But most of all, it made me believe in ‘me’ again. It may sound clichéd but I hadn’t really done that in a long while.

I went straight from my protected and sheltered life in suburban Karachi to standing alone, hungry and cashless in a scary subway station begging money from strangers to make my way back home. And in all this spinning around in New York, I kept wondering, how can this strange land with its array of eccentric people from practically everywhere around the world, feel more home to me, than home itself? Was it New York’s cushy lap of acceptance? For once in my life, I could be shia or sunni, homosexual or straight, single or married, fat or skinny, ugly or beautiful, a man or even a woman, without any judgement, without any ridicule, without being killed.

Or was it New York’s ability to move on from the wreckage of its past? It really does take an enormously strong will and an even stronger heart to forgive and carry on with life after everything falls apart.

Maybe, it was the random people I met in New York and the secrets they shared with me, a total stranger? I feel like I’m still carrying their unfulfilled yearnings, their passions and their dreams. And the only way to do any justice to them is to write this tribute, pen this memoir.

So here’s to Carl who loaned me $2.50 for a subway ticket when I lost my wallet, here’s to Patricia who took me to the best Chinese place in China Town, here’s to the mother who held my hand when I missed my own so much, here’s to the boy who followed me around meatpacking district taking pictures of me. For all I know you could be an FBI agent but I’d like to believe you were smitten by my beauty and were desperately trying to capture me candidly.

And finally here’s to you New York. I take thee with all your flaws and everything with an open heart and very open arms. Your humongous rats, your high crime rate or your excessive commercialism, means absolutely nothing to me. And in all your greatness, the only thing I have to offer you is this very small, insignificant token of appreciation. Farewell, my lover, parent and friend. Until we meet again!

You can read more from Saba Khalid on her blog.