…All the posts about how ghetto/much of a shithole Rochester is. It’s really not that bad. Except where I live…
He laughs and doesn’t believe me.
“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.
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.
thump thump thump thuuuump thumpuh
the inconsistent pulse of someone’s head hitting fiberglass.
skreee eeyawww skreeeeyaww yawskreee
the unpleasantly off-time shrieks of multiple car alarms.
crack crack crackcrackcrack
skreeeyaw skreeee eeyaww
thumpah thump thump
the muffled spark and bang of a handgun.
crack crack crackk
the fading grinding of something being dragged.
heyyyy boiii hollaahh come ova heeyaw
the desperate calls of broke lonely girls to men in fast cars
slap tap slap tap slap tap
the uneven poorly paced jog of someone wearing ill-fitting shoes
slamph slamph slamph
the rushed escape of slamming car doors.
That violent midnight ghetto music
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.
It’s freezing outside. He sits down with his hands full. Waits for me to stop writing and move the books I piled on his side of the little table. I don’t look up as I do it. Sliding paper and cardboard under my notebook. Making sure they are neat and lined up before pushing them a little carelessly to the side. The mug is placed in spot just vacated. Steaming, soothing and bitter. We’ve never spent more than thirty minutes together, but he knows how I take my coffee.
“No history books today?” He’s laughing a little. His face is tan and slightly hard. I think he spends a lot of time outside.
“No, I’m working on my budget.” I feel my tastebuds burning.
“For your move?” We haven’t spent more than thirty minutes together and he already knows I’m leaving.
“Yeah. I need to figure it out. I’m kind of a numbers person.”
“I thought you were a book person.”
“Well, I guess I’m that too.”
We sit quiet for only a minute. He asks me about what my plans are. Why I’m moving. Who I’m going to live with. Where I’m going to travel. All questions I’ve answered a hundred times before. My responses are rehearsed. He calls me out on it.
“What’s really going on here? That can’t be the only reason you’re leaving.” We’ve never spent more than thirty minutes together and he already knows when I’m lying.
“What else would there be? It’s pretty common for people to move for work.”
He leans back in his chair. Appraises me over the rims of his glasses and my stack of books.
“A girl like you would never move for love. And I don’t think there’s much for you to run from.” He trails off. Sits silently. Contemplates the reasons a girl like me would have to move away from the city she grew up in to upstate New York in the middle of winter.
If only he knew. If only he could feel the manic energy roiling my stomach. If he could feel the same desperate need to escape. If he could burn up like me he’d know that the only way to calm the flames is to get far away. Getting out of Boston is the only way to cool the fever.
“It’s nothing.” I say. And drag my notebook back. The encounter is brief and remains silent.