Runaway Parade



July 16, 2012

Last night, I sat alone in my Brooklyn apartment, dousing my insides with whiskey while I stared out the window for hours, listening for the farthest sound.

Apparently at some point I fell asleep, as I seem to be waking up again, replete with a nagging sense of melancholy. After sighing, grunting and flopping around, I jerk myself up, scoot my hips to the edge of the bed and fling my legs out in front of me. I heave a giant sigh, stand and catch the first sounds of rain. I walk to the window, push aside my pale green curtains and shift my focus from the raindrops streaking the glass to the ominous gray sky, and then to the heaps of dirty three-day old snow lining my street. I flip on Leonard Cohen and shove two frozen blueberry waffles into the toaster. When the waffles finally spring up, I get back into bed and chomp them while I resume my staring contest with the window.

Long after every crumb has been swallowed, I continue staring, without any desire to move or speak. After minutes or hours, I can’t really tell, I stand up again, put my coat and boots on over my sweatpants and hoodie, and glide down the two flights of stairs to the street. I don’t have a destination in mind, so I just head toward the subway station and board a Manhattan bound Q train.

A homeless man gets on the subway at the Atlantic/ Pacific stop and gives the familiar speech, “You’ve probably all seen me on this train before and know what I’m about to say. I’m sorry to disturb you. But I am homeless and hungry. Anything you could give would be much appreciated.” I don’t usually give money to people on the train. But today for some reason, I think I’ll see if I have any change. I open my wallet to check and the man stares at me, anticipating. I see that I don’t have anything and shove my wallet back into my pocket. The man turns to walk to the next car, then whips back around and spits at me. His saliva lands on the right sleeve of my coat. He turns and heads for the other car. A few people on the train look up. Most of them continue to stare vacantly ahead or at the books or newspapers in their laps. I pull a tissue out of my pocket and dab my coat before shoving it into an empty pouch in my purse.

I stare at the subway floor for a while, listening to countless “Stand clear of the closing doors please” and subsequent dings. At Canal Street another homeless man fights his way in. He smells like landfill. He sits across from me and I notice a long line of drool extending from his mouth to the floor. Then I’m at Union Square and decide to get out. I climb out of the tunnel and I’m standing at 14th Street and Union Square West. Uncertain why I am there, I start walking.

I walk until the sky fades to twilight. The weather is finally a bit warmer on this January evening, up twenty degrees from the frosty ten that has gripped the city for weeks. Wisps of pink and gold swirl around the downtown buildings. Eventually I head to the West Village to catch the sunset over Jersey.

The Hudson River is coated in a layer of ice. Thick snow sludge lines the pier. I stare at the Statue of Liberty across the water, torch all lit up in preparation for night. A sinking orange sun shoots neon halos over the steel buildings. The water glistens and ripples in the wind as the ink blots in the sky morph with every passing moment. There is stillness in the air, in my lungs. I rub my gloved hands together and shove them deep inside my coat pockets.

I kick a stone and notice a couple sitting on the bench to my right, huddled together for warmth. I think about the two men who hit on me this past weekend. I ended up having drunk sex with one of them, a friend of my roommate’s. Afterward, he walked me to the subway. We kissed.

“Bye,” I said, “Call me.”

“I will,” he said.

He text messaged me an hour later, “Did you get home alright? I had a really nice time hanging out with you today. The next vodka on ice is on you.”

I texted back, “Likewise. I will be sure to provide the next vodka on ice.”

But we both knew neither one us would contact the other. I was trying on casual sex, very atypical of me, seeing what it’s like to be with a stranger’s naked body, huddled together for warmth.

The pink drains out of the top clouds, leaving a trail of faded gray and orange as my thoughts shift to my father. He died of lung cancer eight years ago. This past Sunday was his birthday: January 18th. He would have been sixty-two years old. I wanted to tell everyone that it was his birthday, but I didn’t know what this would accomplish. “It’s my dad’s birthday,” I’d say, “He’s dead. He would have been sixty-two.” “Oh, uh... I’m sorry?”

I stare at the fading blue-gray river and wonder what I am doing with my life. How is my energy best served? How am I supposed to wade through all these decisions? I want to lie on the floor, sink into the earth. At the end of yoga class last night, the teacher said, “No matter how much you give over to it, the earth will be there to catch you and give you just as much in return.” I want to test that out, right here in this spot. But I don’t. Instead, I saunter past the bench couple; they look like they’re trying to swallow each other’s tongues. Well, it’s definitely helping them stay warm. I walk along the water as all color drains out of the sky. Blue gray leaks into dark blue, which sinks into black. I cross the West Side Highway at Leroy Street, the car headlights coagulating into a giant white blur. When I hit Hudson, a couple is holding hands and laughing across the street. She has blond hair and wears black high-heeled boots and a velvet purple coat. He has dark brown hair and wears black-rimmed glasses and white patent leather hipster loafers. I watch them go into a dark wine bar. Everyone is out tonight, couples, groups of friends... it is Saturday night after all.

I want a massage, someone to drag oiled palms along my naked body, to relieve my knots, to make me moan. I bite the glove off my right hand, fumble in my pocket for a piece of gum and shove it in my mouth. I walk back to Union Square realizing for the first time that chewing gum can sound like rain.

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