Escape And The City
By Mark Moran
In a tiny shoebox dorm room, the classic and timeless story of a small town girl making it in the big city is being replayed by another wide-eyed youth. Thousands of young women have traveled to the “greatest city in the world” in hopes of living a Carrie Bradshaw life of designer labels and tumultuous big city love affairs. Before Sex and the City, these girls made their pilgrimage to be one of the Friends.
The televised motivator for small town gals wanting to become NYC dames goes as far back as That Girl. Jennifer Rozansky, 21, begins to resemble a real life “That Girl” as she sits on a standard issue bed in the Vanderbilt YMCA. However, unlike many who have made the same journey, Rozansky feels no need to emulate Carrie Bradshaw's glitzy, fast lane life. A dirty blonde with a relentless desire to escape Greencastel, Pennsylvania, Rozansky seems to have found refuge in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
According to Rozansky, growing up in Greencastel epitomized the small town, nothing-to-do stereotype. “There's absolutely nothing to do in that town. Wanna know what is considered a fun night in Greencastel? Hanging out in the parking lot of Mikey's ice cream while sitting on the back of people's pick-up trucks and talking.” Boredom seems to be an understatement when it comes to Greencastel's sorry nightlife. “It nearly drove me crazy!” she says through clenched teeth.
Nothing-to-do syndrome is why many young people escape to New York City. The city's bright lights, diverse people, and grandiose disposition are the perfect cure for this chronic boredom-based disease. Rozansky, like many, was running from her fear of Saturdays spent in parking lots; but New York meant a lot more to her than exciting weekend plans. For Rozansky, the Big Apple was a key: freeing her from gossipy, narrow, and oppressive small town thinking.
“I knew I had to get out after Aaron died.” Aaron Cristman, Rozansky's best friend, died before he reached 18. Carbon monoxide killed him friend and Greencastel nearly killed the dignity of Aaron's memory.
Aaron died February 2004 alone in the parking lot of a local diner. It had snowed the day before and the diner had shoveled the parking lot, leaving snow banks at the top of each parking spot. A fight with his parents drove Aaron to that fateful parking lot so he could collect his thoughts and have some time by himself. He backed into one of the lot's spaces, keeping the engine running so he could stay warm. Little did Aaron know that his extended tail pipe was clogged by a bank of know. The carbon monoxide went back into the vehicle and a little while later Aaron was dead. There was so much gas in his pick-up truck and he had been dead for so long that identifying his body was almost impossible.
“Losing Aaron was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. He was my best friend. I didn't know how I'd be able to go to school the next day knowing he wasn't going to be there.” Getting to 3:00 p.m. the following day at school was in fact too much for Rozansky. “Greencastel High School is a very small public school. There are probably 800 kids in the entire school, so by the next day everyone knew about Aaron's death. I had to leave early because I was still so upset.”
Small towns tend to foster busybodies ready for the next piece of juicy gossip. Rumors began to buzz throughout town regarding Aaron's death. “Someone told me that Aaron had committed suicide. I knew for a fact this wasn't true. He was a happy person, he had good friends, family, and a new girlfriend.” Suddenly, a tragic accident became a word of mouth suicide with an entire town picking apart the memory of the deceased. It became too much for Rozansky to handle. She found out who started the rumor and phoned them to inform the gossiper of the facts about Aaron's death. The next day at school the truth came out about Aaron, the rumor of suicide seemed to have been squashed.
However, the truth set no one free: the rumor had merely evolved. “They thought I was lying and telling everyone Aaron killed himself.” Rozansky doesn't seem to look back on these events not in anger. A deep sadness is the obvious emotional tone, as her pained eyes look downward. “The entire day at school everyone harassed me. It got to the point that I had to go home early again because I couldn't take it anymore. I had just lost my best friend and now I was being harassed for starting a rumor I didn't start.”
The cruel ridiculousness of the situation marked the moment when Rozansky knew college in New York City was a means to escape. “When I was 10 I visited New York and I knew I wanted to live here. My parents laughed when I told them, but I knew I could make it in the city. After senior year and everything that happened with Aaron, I knew it was now or never.” Rozansky left Greencastel and didn't look back. She enrolled at Marymount Manhattan College as a Communication Arts Major and got a job at the MTV store in Times Square.
The past is like gum on the bottom of your shoe: no matter how much you try to scrape it off you can never fully rid yourself of it. It's a part of you. Once you think you have a clean shoe, another chewed up wad is waiting inches away to be stepped in.
Rozansky can't seem to scrape Greencastel off her shoe. “After I got a job at the MTV store, one day this woman cuts the line and is just rude to me. She hands me her credit card when I'm checking her out and it's from Greencastel National Bank. I was courteous to her, but once she left I looked at the person on the register next to me and said, 'That's why I left!'”
Rozansky is no Carrie Bradshaw and she'll be the first to admit it. She didn't come to New York City to live a Sex and the City life. She came here to start new, try to scrape all the gum of her shoe so to speak. As she rests her head on her standard issue YMCA mattress in her shoebox dorm room, she doesn't complain about her meager refuge. The escape plan went off without a hitch and the city offers her the endless possibilities of a clean slate. “I started fresh when I came here.” Rozansky can't get the gum off her shoe, but she most certainly can buy a new pair.