Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
"You should come upstate," Marie said over the phone. "It's nice to get out of the city. It can get claustrophobic there. It feels good up here. It'd do you some good."
She'd left a couple of days earlier. We'd been living in psychic triage, wounded strangers in the same apartment, sleeping in different rooms, casualties of more blowouts. The night before I didn't sleep at all wondering what in the fuck to do. I couldn't think straight. My problems with her and work and New York had become one convoluted mess that I couldn't seem to separate.
Her voice sounded clear on the other end of the phone, void of contempt, hopeful. Maybe she was right? Maybe I should go?
The next day she called as I was packing in the dull heat of the apartment. The sky was gray outside. She wanted to know if I could take the train instead of the bus. Sure. I checked the schedules. She called back. It wouldn't work. Take the bus. I was running late. I called the car service. "Two minutes," the dispatcher said with a heavy Spanish accent.
I stood near an overflowing garbage can in front of the bodega on the corner of Havemeyer, outside our place, waiting for the car service as groups of Puerto Ricans old and young congregated on the sidewalks. Young white kids rode by on bikes. The car service was taking too long. The dispatcher called. The driver had heard the address wrong. I wasn't going to make it.
Finally the car showed.
Anxiety started to course through me in the backseat of the car as we crossed the Williamsburg bridge, New York passing by in blur.
The driver haggled with me over a couple of dollars when we stopped. I wasn't in the mood. I made him call the dispatcher to straighten it out. When I got out I realized that I'd gone to Penn Station instead of Port Authority, as the driver cussed me in Spanish as he pulled away. I thought about kicking his door as I cursed the ugliness of the city around me, the ugliness growing inside of me. I looked at the time. I'd missed the bus. I could still catch the last train out in an hour and a half.
I sat on the floor of Penn Station, tucked in a corner, hidden from the crowds of people and the searching eyes of the desperate who scanned faces looking for signs of weakness and confusion. I shooed them away with my stares as I tried to call Marie to see if I should catch the train. The train station is an hour in the opposite direction from where she was, where the bus drops off upstate. No one answered at the house where Marie was. Cell phones didn't work up there. I called again and again, each time my stomach twisting with anxiety. The house upstate began to feel like an emotional mine field filled with exes of hers, friends who sabotage, guys, imagined and real, who want to be with her. Any of those things could set me off. I didn't have the patience for it anymore. I put down the phone. Fuck that place and fuck her.
I dragged my bags to the overheated subway, where sweat, agitation and dirty looks poured out of people in the dingy fluorescent tunnels. The familiar pressure behind my ears that I'd begun to associate with New York built as I sat on my bags on the dirty floor waiting for the train to come, the life inside of me seeming to wilt against the unforgiving stares of the sullen crowds on the platforms. I waited and waited, a discomforting echo sounding incessantly in the din of my mind, a subconscious alarm of warning. I felt trapped. I wanted to leave. I wanted to get the hell out of there, out of New York.
I was worn out when I stepped out of the stale heat of the subway into the dusk of Brooklyn. Marie called. Trash blew slowly in the gutter. Life seemed to stand still. I threw my bags on the sidewalk near the green jail like elementary school near our place, and tried to explain to her why I wasn't coming at all, why we weren't working out. She got it, she said. I didn't feel safe with her.
The next day after fitful, tortured sleep and 101 failed plans to get the fuck out, out of the relationship, out of New York, I went to see my therapist. "It seems that the two of you deal with things fundamentally different. She buries her head. You confront. It causes conflict. You don't seem to trust her. But you don't trust anyone. You want stability, but choose women who are chaotic. You like structure. She doesn't seem to. People don't usually change. They modify, but don't change. The two of you can accept and modify, or split. And you, do you need medication?" she said. I laughed at this and the ridiculousness of my life as I lay on the leather chaise lounge in the brownstone in Brooklyn, and could almost feel my therapist's smile behind me where she sat in her brown leather chair as she said, "What? You feel like that will be as ineffective as you find our sessions?" It was the most she'd said in all the months that I'd gone to see her combined. She'd reached the end of her rope too. I laughed, "I fell like I've tried it all before," I said, "Nothing seems to work. Maybe I just need to leave all this?"
"That's what you've been doing your whole life. Running. It hasn't worked. Try something different this time. Stay. What if it's not the place and the circumstances, it's you?"
"Then that's sad," I said, "I'll take the fucking medication."