"tell me more." And the way he says it, jokingly is infuriating.
"We live above a bar in an apartment with a door that doesn’t really lock. The screen was taken out of the door months ago and never replaced with glass. Our landlord is an ass and won’t fix anything. I can’t walk to my own door without stepping on glass. I can’t go to sleep at night without hearing gunshots or fighting."
"Sounds awful." But he doesn’t mean it. He’s talking to me in that annoying patronizing way. Like a teacher talking to a student making excuses for missing homework. He’s not my teacher any more. He shouldn’t be a bastard.
"I’m serious. I live in the ghetto. I’m afraid to go out alone at night."
"Well come home." And I know he’s saying it seriously now. He wants me to come home and grow up and start acting like an adult. Like the nice responsible woman I should be. He wants me to stop running away and stop ignoring people when I think I’m getting a little too uncomfortable with the situation.
"You know I’m not going too." I’m answering all his unasked questions. I wont come home. I wont grow up. I wont go back to him. It was never really him in the first place. And he knows that.
He says he misses me and I hate him just a little bit. I say I know and we hang up and he goes back to the class he should be teaching and I go back to sitting alone in my bed eating cold leftovers.
Perhaps I should explain that none of this is in anyway in order of occurrence. Sometimes life seems like it’s a consecutive series of events, one thing after the other after the other. And sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, today I woke up, took a (cold) shower, brushed my teeth and got dressed. That is a consecutive series of events. Last weekend I went home and spent time with a guy I’ve liked forever, but that feels like it could’ve been yesterday or even this morning. And I know I spent time with my family after seeing him, but that feels like it was weeks ago. And the drive from Somerville to Rochester, which happened just after I saw that guy again feels like it never happened at all. So yes, I know the actual order of events, and maybe my history is a little revisionist, but life doesn’t happen in an ordered series of events because one thing may leave a lasting impression on you while something else doesn’t.
And it’s also not in order because I queue everything.
Our water is fucking cold. Maybe the landlord turned our heater down because the rent is late. I don’t know, but shaving my legs is becoming a hassle and my hair feels like it just wont come clean. We don’t regulate our heat. The apartment is baking all the time. Just feels like a fucking sauna. And it’s so cold outside that the windows fog up at night. Everything smells like cigarettes. It would even if my roommate didn’t smoke. The walls may have been white at some point.
She talks about Texas or Tennessee. Anywhere is better than here.
I lie and tell him I can’t sleep because I’m not used to sharing a bed and maybe thats not all a lie but really I can’t sleep because I’ve waited almost two years to lay down next to him and it’s everything I really thought it would be and he’s not trying anything even though I know he wants too and he doesn’t understand how much more that makes me like him just as a person because what kind of boy doesn’t try to touch a pretty girl lying down next to him wearing his clothes to sleep in?
I told her from the start, “San Diego is my goal.” I wish I’d been able to tell her something straight out of Kerouac like “I’ve got a girl out there waiting for me.” Except it wouldn’t be a girl, it would be a boy. And no one wants a boy to wait for them. A girl would want a man to wait and no real man would sit back and waste time. But anyways, I didn’t know more than three people out there. A friend of my sister, a professional gambler and maybe a closet case. The older brother of a friend, a restauranteur whose standards are little to high for someone like me. And the older brother of another friend, a man I knew much better than the others, the almost 30 year old child. This last one, he was the one I would keep as my life line out there. The one I would depend on just a little bit in the beginning. until I was steady and ready and set up comfortably enough out there. Until I had my own friends and knew the right people to do the things I want to do.
I thought the club would be smaller and dirtier. In upstate, or maybe just this part of upstate, there’s not much to do except drink and look for tail. We were all about the drinking, but neither of us wanted to go home with any guys. But the club was big and fairly empty aside from a table near the stage and a few lonely boys posted up at the bar. The bartender was blonde and fit and knew my roommate from a few months ago. We talked about the girls and the manager and dancing. The stage was empty. We got our beers and headed over to the side to talk about the plans for the day and to play some pool. When we looked over there was a girl on stage in a short tight red dress. Nothing out of the ordinary. We played pool. Two attractive girls alone in a strip club always draws attention. We had acquired a small audience. A short, annoyingly persistent Indian man and a guy who may have worked there. A fat, sagging, black haired stripper sat alone at the bar. Had the Indian man stayed there, she would’ve flirtatiously laid her hand on his arm, laughed seductively at his too thick to understand accent, led him right past us to private back room. Instead she stared at us. The two young women unintentionally stealing money from her pocket. It got weird quick, so we left after our game. We went to a little diner not too far away and ate drunkenly fifty feet from a table of state troopers. We bought some food. She dropped me off at home and went to a boys house. I stumbled up the stairs deliriously tired and fell asleep fully clothed. I woke up with the taste of Genny light in my mouth and a strong desire to avoid that place.
I left as the c-shift workers trickled in. Carrying my half full xerox box. They held doors for me. Said goodnight. Smiled. I don’t know any of them. Our schedules never coincided before that night. It was late. Lawrence was cold. Above my head the trees met the starless sky. I looked up for one last time at the building I’d spent years in. Ninetofive. MondaythruFriday. I couldn’t help the heaviness that settled on me. The uncertainty of leaving. The loss of security that quitting had created.
I’m at that part of New York where everything smells like cow shit and the only radio stations that come in are country or sports radio and every single one of them are talking about the Pats loss last night so I drive listening to static.
Upstate there are towns called things like Selkirk, Mohawk and Ilion. You can look on one side of the highway and see run down farms and the other, run down mills. Some places are nice and developed but they’re so ugly and generic. It’s these run down places that are America. These are the places we need to fix and preserve. These unique, hand built, originally designed places that once employed whole towns of americans. That symbolized dreams and hopes and goals come to fruition. These are the first places we abandon. And the hard work, calloused hands, long hours… Isn’t that what made us all the way we are? The desire not to toil away like our parents The attitude of working smarter, not harder. Isn’t that why we’re all a little fucked up?
Maybe these run down places are what bred the greed in us. What made us want to move up in the world. Change our financial status. Maybe they’re what caused the laziness.
The apartment smells of coffee and cigarettes and when she stumbles out of her room in the morning asking why I didn’t wake her I don’t know how to respond other than I didn’t know the time. Which is a lie. I had been staring at the clock for nearly an hour watching it creep closer to the time when we’d both be late. She leaves fast and I stay behind for another hour doing absolutely nothing but thinking of cleaning or what to make for dinner and drinking stale cold coffee I made last night.