By Benjamin Rosenbaum and Ethan Ham – Photo by Matt Meyer

When they arrived, they fell in love. They fell in love with cities.

They saw faces – their kind of faces – in the sprawl: framed by dark roads, articulated by roof and tower, adorned by tree and flag.

They, too, had motile elements, scurrying. They, too, had narrow places and broad places. They too had cycles of erection and destruction, centers of component production, mechanisms for the movement of energy and matter.

They admired the sweep of our cities. They were enthralled by the nuances of our cities.

Of course, they were not fools. They knew our cities were not organisms in the strict sense – that for all the “Yorks” and “New Yorks”, a city did not replicate itself, did not have generations. They understood that our cities were sterile idiots. They understood that replication, generalization, learning, agency, all occurred, for us, at the wrong scale. They knew a city could not understand – at least at first – their mating dance.

They forgave all that.

You could not really say, ever, that they communicated with sub-elements. They paid attention when the mayor spoke; they paid attention when pigeons flocked. They paid attention when fires raged, when snow fell. It was all the same song. They spoke only to cities, in the language of cities.

It was very different from what we had imagined. It was very different from what we were expecting.

For us – at our scale – the mating dance was awful.

But we accept the changes.

And it was remarkable, really, how quickly our hearts turned to them. As if we had been waiting, all along, to give up regarding ourselves as individuals. As if, when we were yelling at our parents or our children, cutting someone off in the HOV lane, eating ice cream because we liked the sugar, having sex because we liked how it felt, being offended at a joke, calling a temp agency because we were angry at our current boss, wanting a mansion with a pool, buying a lottery ticket with dreams of a mansion with a pool, falling in love, spray-painting a stencil on a concrete wall, taking a photo of a new lover in a bar and posting it to Flickr, picking our noses and secretly wiping the snot on the chair leg in a restaurant, lingering over the breasts of the motorist we were frisking, bursting with pride at our daughters’ report cards, planning an act of terrorism, planning an act of counterterrorism… as if, all the while, we were really just waiting for them.

Waiting to give up all that, and become citizens.