As I go down the stairs to the dirty train station, I look back up at the concrete jungle and its tall skyscrapers. Once I smell the urine and see rats fighting over a pizza slice, I know that the double-named city is not what movies so often tend to romanticize. Halfway through my journey, the rickety train emerges from underground. Upon the Manhattan Bridge, I see the famous skyline once again. I stay on the train long enough until the tall buildings are far out of sight. I slowly watch commuters fade until it is the last stop where only Russian Babushkas, who you can’t tell apart from one another, and that one sleeping guy who forgot to get off at Church Avenue are left.
After the train makes its final stop, I walk down the stairs into the neighborhood I call home. Little Odessa greets me with the bright lights of all the different stores with Russian names. As I read “АПТЕКА” on half of them, always in all caps, I realize how much of a foreigner others are to a place of my despised smell of borscht. From the train to home, I pass the traditional blonde Russian mom in her fur coat, fake designer belt, rocking a classic, blindingly red lip. I already know she is convinced her style is different from the rest of the identical women there because my mom is too. I soon pass a Russian man with a beer belly, who creepily stares me up and down. He reeks of pelmeni and more than enough vodka, even though it is 6:30PM on a Tuesday.
When I finally get home with an aching back from my school backpack and an almost solid face from the winter air, my grandma will force Russian food I despise down my mouth, while simultaneously body-shaming me for the millionth time that day. As I sit and study, I reminisce about the summertime. I miss the beach and the view of the amusement park, as my best friend and I bike into the horizon while passing by strange naked men cat-calling us. None of it phases me though — I will always love the grumpy neighborhood we call Brighton Beach more than the false cliche that is New York City.