It's a day of waiting for trains. Hours waste away in the depths of the City, as I stare down into the darkness of the tunnel, hoping for light. Stare long enough at the rails and you will see it; you will imagine it grows with approaching transit. I am tired, so tired now, and I just want to arrive. I entertain the idea of walking in there to meet it but freeze just at the entrance.
Instead I take unsatisfying breaths that do not fill my lungs like I wish.
They text to say they're just up Hudson Street. It's been a day of words and undress; I scramble to make the appropriate adjustments to society. We order another round, and another, even though it's a school night, and the bartender gives us a round on the house because it's Tuesday, and somebody should be getting drunk.
He says You have to know if you are here temporarily or if this is your permanent home, because it will dictate how you live, and I can't begin to decide what kind of life I am leading. I don't have a home at all, I say, but the arguments don't make sense out of context. The bar is another than it used to be, but you fall instantly in love with it and the walk home is so short, even in your stupor.
She is still up when you get home. We sit for hours, poring over her paintings and trying to decipher meaning. I thought I was painting happy childhood memories, she implores, but all you see are abandoned animals despondently slumped in dark corners. Here I thought I wasn't making art, and I wasn't revealing anything. You tell her the same goes for your writing.
You wish it wasn't as transparent
as it always is.
Do you have the time? he says innocently, but I see in his fidgeting fingers that he is asking something else completely. I'm only riding the J for one stop, but it's the long one across the bridge, so we chat about the holidays, about family and who we are. He stares at me with deep eyes and long lashes, as a brilliant afternoon sun reflects off the Brooklyn navy yard. Are you from New York? I ask, and all he says is I am now.
The Thanksgiving feast is immense, of course, beautiful and overwhelmingly filling. The child holds every one of our hearts in her chubby hands and is delighted. She runs across the rooftop at sunset, Manhattan spreading out at her feet and I fear she won't remember this was all hers once. They leave early, we continue to get drunk and make light of our gratitudes. I sing until my knees tremble and must spend the whole next day writhing in shame. I only barely made it out of the cab without passing out. But I do not forget the day, what it means.
to my very core,
I am grateful for New York.
For being back here,
when I thought perhaps
I never would be.
For being able to take
for granted, again,
and for the fact that I never forget
what a treasure that is.
I am grateful for the beautiful people
who remained here
and welcomed me back,
and for those across the lands
who will remain still
when I turn to them
with my broken bones again.
I am grateful for the words
that have not yet given up on me,
even when I already have, myself.
I don't know what I would do without you.
And this year,
I am grateful I don't have to.
Sometimes it's hard to keep that promise: to stay off the ledge, she says, and I know she means it. Is this what life is, day after day?
The weather warms up again, a monster of a rain storm drags slowly across the state and makes the dog nervous. I go to the store in preparation for the Great Holiday of food, and let myself indulge in mini pointsettias and glitter, as well. It is almost here. The first night I plug the Christmas window lights in, I leave them as I fall asleep. I get up in the middle of the night to turn them off, open the radiator valve.
Perhaps this city can keep me off that bridge, at least for a while.
At least until I figure out if there's anything else that life can be.
The temperatures plummet. We sit in the apartment with all the radiators open to no avail: the steam doesn't come on. I shiver down to my wool socks and hooded sweaters. There is still a great space where the window doesn't fully close around the A/C unit. She writes to say the door blew off the restaurant. It is winter.
It occurs to me some days that this life is more questions than answers. That I can look into the eyes of these people I call home, and be more lost than ever. That in the safe arms of their warm laughter I can shiver worse than in the November winds. It was so cold walking home last night I thought I might not make it at all. These things happen.
Today was just as cold. But I had only myself to talk to about it, and I wasn't much paying attention.
A half moon hangs over the city tonight, crystal clear in the black sky and the winds chill you to the bone. The first morsels of snow washed across the island but were gone in the blink of an eye; the dog was not pleased. We sat at a football game at the unknown ends of Manhattan and felt America wash over us in the time outs. Fourteen years ago the Friday night lights meant everything, and you shiver in rememberance. America. Six years ago in Texas everyone knew you did not belong, but oh, how warm the night, how thick the sky with crickets. They crowded around the floodlights; two dollars at the window, and the home team won.
I woke this morning with the viciousness of a dream lingering on my brow. How blurry the vision, until I saw what had been written across your face for ages. The betrayal stung all day. I thought it might go away, eventually. We spent the evening playing games, warming our freezing skin with silly competition, and the dog scowled when I only came home for a minute, to walk him. The company much sweeter than the night was cold. I walked home from the subway station shivering. It is winter now, it just happened.
I'm sorry I made you angry; I didn't mean that. I just woke this morning with such a tragic reminder, and I want you all to feel as wretched as I do. Passing every local stop and itching to get out. Or in, but how unlikely. I picked up a ginkgo leaf on the stoop in my drunken stumble. Bright yellow, as though the greatest beauty appears right as we accept defeat. Right as we give in to death.