As I stand in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear. Many of you have never experienced such fear. The kind of fear that penetrates you to the core; the kind that freezes your body and defeats your soul.
I am afraid. Scared down to my fucking bones. My hand and pen quiver as I write this, but this must be written; my legacy must live on even when my corporeal being does not. I share with you the tremendous difficulty I have experienced in accepting housing north of 125th Street this summer.
My mother tells me it is what had to happen. In accepting my editorial internship at the New Yorker, I realized that I would not be able to return home to the comfort of my parents’ estate in Bridgehampton for the summer, but would instead have to live in New York City. Even worse, Father and Mother refused to subsidize my stay in New York. They told me that I must learn what it means to work. Little do they know how much I exert myself during the semester laboring in Butler Library day after day!
Let me first make one thing absolutely clear: never had I gone, nor ever had I the intention to go to the filthy, crime-ridden neighborhoods north of Morningside Heights. I have heard stories from my peers of their experiences: foreign women selling questionable meat-filled pastries on the streets, music and exotic rhythms blasting, the scent of unhealthy fried foods (not a single fast-casual salad to be found), the sounds of suspicious Spanish phrases being thrown from one hoodlum to another. This is not a place that I, nor any other cultured Columbia student, belong.
How could such an unfathomable fate have befallen me? Well, nobody told me that I should have sought out an apartment in March or April. I assumed that if I began searching after my final exams, which required my full attention, I would easily find a comfortable apartment or suite on Park or, if need be, on West End Ave. Alas, few were available, and I couldn’t afford $8000 per month without the help of Father and Mother. It pains me to say it, but I had no other choice. Upstate, where the rent is a measly $1700 or less, I accepted a tenement apartment at 141st and Broadway.
I may lose my invitations to various summer galas in the Hamptons. I may be ridiculed by my colleagues in St. A’s when they find out where I am living. Most of all—as selfish as it may be—I fear for my life. I may get struck by a stray bullet, beaten by a gangster on the street, or die from E. coli poisoning at one of the many B-rated restaurants north of 125th street.
This is genuine fear. A gentleman like myself may be strong, polite, and confident, but these qualities will only take me so far in the jungle. I tremble with fear as I penetrate deep into the heart of darkness. I am fearful as I fight this battle, but I am hopeful that my story will remain after my downfall, so that you, my fellow Columbians, will not make the same mistakes that I have made.
Nathaniel A. Wadsworth, III