“Come out with us,” she smiled.
She was pulling playfully at my wrists and I nodded while I stepped forward. The darkness was not as scary with all of the bright white snow around us. The corner was filled with a crowd of friendly faces.
“Take it easy with this, okay?” she said. She pulled out a bag. I knew what it was. I didn’t know what it did.
“I don’t smoke,” I said.
She turned to herself and used the cold concrete wall to roll herself a joint.
“I think I’m going to go home,” I said.
“Are you sure? We’re just about to head over…”
“I’m a bit tired.”
“Okay. See you.”
I pulled my scarf over my head. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I pretended to be. I walked to my bus stop. It was just me and talk of a greener more efficient city that was written on the panel that sheltered me from the wind chill. The ad glowed so bright that I felt it must have once been a laptop screen that grew and matured into a bus stop advertisement. The glow reminded me of the glow I hated so much that lit up the bed when I was pretending to be asleep a year ago.
The bus came. My metro card got jammed into the machine. The driver reached over and yanked the something I had been struggling with for the last twenty seconds out of the machine. He looked at me, handed me my metro card, and grunted. I said thank you and then sat next to Talks-to-Herself Lady. I don’t mind the talking out loud. I don’t mind the swearing either. In fact, sometimes the word “fuck” can be used at precisely the right time and help a moment (whether it’s a witty one or funny one or a ecstatic one) reach its fullest potential. However, it was the way she talked through her teeth that scared me. Her eyes were sunk deep into her sockets, and she threw words out aggressively. In fact, I thought once I heard her say, “Shit-faced mother-fucking bitch, bitch, bitch!” and the window trembled. If she would have gone on, the window would have surely shattered. I tried not to look at her, but sometimes I wanted to look into her eyes and see if she really meant the things she said or if her mind was lost…or both. You can be crazy and still mean what you say, I think.
In fact, perhaps it’s the crazy ones that tell all of the truths. Maybe that’s why they talk out loud to themselves, because they hold nothing back…They say what they are thinking at all times no matter if someone is listening or not… And maybe because it’s the truth, no one sticks around because no one seems to like the truth all of the time.
My stop was the next stop, so I reached up and yanked on the wire. I always felt like the wire was just there for decoration, to give us passengers a sense of control over where we were headed. But the “Stop Requested” sign always lit up when I pulled at the wire, so my feeling about it must be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time my feeling about something was wrong. Talks-to-Herself followed me out the door, calling me or herself or maybe the bus driver a “Whoring-Whore” which is a bit redundant if she asked me. But she didn’t ask me. In fact, she never asked any questions. Maybe she had tried asking questions once, but realized that’s not the best strategy to take when talking to herself. Or maybe she thought she knew everything—holy hell—maybe that’s why she was crazy. I feel like I don’t know anything, and that has made me nearly lose my mind more than once; I imagine it’s the same feeling on the other one extreme. Knowing or not knowing, it’s the commitment to one extreme that makes me nervous.
I had stopped paying attention to blinking red hands or white stick men glowing bright at intersections weeks ago. In New York, you just go when it’s clear. And apparently when you are Talks-to-Herself Lady, you go even when it’s not clear. How she made it across the icy road without getting flung into the air by a taxi, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s because she knows everything. Or maybe it’s because New York taxi drivers didn’t want to get hit by sharp curse words that just might have broken their windshields.
The subway platform was familiar and disgusting. I wondered now if, because I could differentiate subway urine from street urine, I was any closer to being a New Yorker. Still, even with the smell of fresh homeless pee and large fat rats, the subway was a magical place to me. The train offered me the miracle of being able to sit down, physically travel to another place, and yet still get a feel of the people from every area I passed through. It was like speed dating for neighborhoods. I started to sharpen my neighborhood guessing skills. Bedford Avenue was the easiest. The men with foggy, thick-rimmed glasses and rolled up beanies and mustaches, not to mention adorable little short-top pony tails that have been trending and the women with vintage-thrift shop coats, sassy lipstick, socks with French words on them around the ankles, and hats that lean to one side of the head all belonged to Bedford Avenue. If they’re a bit too weird or rugged for Bedford Avenue—trying too hard by hardly trying—then they’re deeper into Brooklyn and fall into the Morgan Stop or maybe Montrose. I, myself get off my stop with a couple of hispanic cowboys and an old Mexican sriracha band that make their living by guitar, squeeze box, and pleasant sounding spanish harmonies.
With only a few stops left before I hit Bushwick, I reminded myself that I could be high off a joint right now. I could be getting the full experience of New York. I don’t actually think weed is bad for you. I don’t think it’s wrong. I don’t really think anything about it. In fact, I don’t really know why I don’t do drugs. I think maybe there are some shadows attached to the weed, true or untrue, that keep me away. By shadows, I mean myths. For instance, none of my weed-smoking friends ever work out or go run. They’re very inactive, and honestly, the sedentary lifestyle terrifies me. Anything associated with it is enough to chase me away. Maybe that’s why I say no.
Or maybe it’s because if someone offered my little sister weed, I would want her to say no. And not because it’s wrong, not because of anything. I would just hope she says no, and then, well, if she said yes… Well, I would love her just the same anyway.
Or maybe it’s because … Well, I really don’t know why. Maybe the few years of blindly chanting “Say no to drugs!” in the three years I attended public school actually worked. A lot of blind lessons can be convincing without any reason behind them if they catch you when you’re young enough. If they have songs or catchy slogans, it helps the brain washing process along quite well.
Either way, I don’t like that I make a conscious decision to say “No,” without having a reason. I like reasons when it comes to acting in my day-to-day life. They’re not required, but I like them, especially when I am unsure if I should participate in the act or not. No reason? No act.
I get off of the subway. It’s time to walk home. I stuff my hands into my pockets. I didn’t have time for gloves...In the dark, in the cold, alone on my last stretch of the commute home at 3 in the morning, I suddenly wished a bunch of things that don’t matter and could never change. Naturally, this is probably very unhealthy, overdramatic, and to a degree, pathetic. But it was true. It was emotion. And it made me feel the ever rigid bump life was taking me on. It was painful to wish and wonder about things I couldn’t change, but pain was just another sign of life. And lately, I had felt dead, numb, and cold. I needed to know I was still alive, even if the feelings weren’t pleasant:
I wished I had had more time with Merrick before I let him go. For some reason, I feel like that would have made a difference. For some reason, I feel like if I could just tell him more thoughts, share more feelings, show him more adventures… I could convince him about love and pixie dust and let that be enough. But that doesn’t matter because we already decided I couldn’t give him what he needed, and no one should ever have to convince the other one that love is enough. It should just be enough. And that’s all.
I wished Jordan had told me the truth and gone about breaking up better so I could say yes when he asked if we could still be friends and so I could say yes when he asked to get a cup of coffee in New York City. I wished it had been more than two days before he had had another girlfriend to move in with. It made our nearly 3 years together seem unimportant and that hurt. But that doesn’t matter because whether he found a girl two days later or two years later, we still weren’t meant to be together.
I wished my dad had tried harder to make it work with my mom. Yes, I’m bringing my father into this. I wished he never stopped watching R-rated movies with my mother every Friday night behind locked doors in the master bedroom. But that doesn’t matter because they both are, I think, happier and have found people who make them happy.
And I wished I somehow could have been home when my parents separated. I wished I could have been there for my younger sisters when everything was falling down and crashing on top of them. I sometimes still don’t think my college education was worth letting the roof fall on top of them without me being there to take some of the debris. I’m quite sure I could have kept the house from caving in… at least for long enough to get those girls out. But that doesn’t matter. Because they got out on their own. And they’re finding their own way the way they are supposed to. The way I am supposed to. I’m very proud of them. I should tell them that more often.
When I got to my apartment, my roommates were at the table. I looked at them, an artist who was in love with rebirth, starting over and facing fears head on and a writer who accepted that heaven and hell were comforting myths and yet still found plenty of happiness in a cheap cup of coffee and a fragrant candle.
I closed the apartment door behind me. I had no home. But I at least knew I had two people who made space at the table for a lost little girl who’s in love with being brokenhearted and who’s not strong enough to just let it all be right just yet.