I’m standing near the edge of the subway platform. I’m behind the bold yellow swatch separating me from doom, and I’m thinking as I stare at my iPhone screen. Reception reaches me at this station, and I’ve just left the office, and the white iPhone earbuds—“earpods”—dangles to and fro as the approaching train across the platform, opposite direction, huffs stale air into the station. My father is coming to town, to NYC, to see a Broadway show. He is coming on a Saturday, along with my stepmother, along with three of my cousins, and this role is new to me: the family member who absconded himself to Brooklyn, who exiled himself, buried himself, within the boroughs, who now must exhume himself to say all is A-OK and I suppose it is.
It is. I am. I am okay. I am, of course, on high alert. The nights are longer. The light flickers out earlier each day. The summer highs in my blood slows, cools, hardens, crystalizes. The seasonal doldrums, my chemical proclivity for the blues. I am…in no mood for hopelessness; I have no time for the aches and pains, my spirit writhing beneath the sheets, my body bent into a lowercase “e”. I am okay. I am—staring at these text messages from my father, and my responses, the feigned excitement, the implied interest.
I am home. Before I sit down to write, or read submissions, or watch Netflix, I turn on Spotify because I have a 30 day trial for its “premium” service so I’m a Spotify fan for the next 28 days. In the meantime, I am home and I pick up where I left off on the train—Ultraviolence, the album by Lana Del Rey, whom i’ve never heard before today—and play the track “West Coast”.
I open my closet and pull down my favorite bag, a Coach messenger my ex-wife bought me prior to our wedding. I pull it down because I haven’t used it in months. I am not nostalgic. We exchanged texts earlier today, easy pleasantries. We broke up and I moved to Brooklyn after a brief fling with Chicago; my story is typical; Lana knows it too well now, now, that I’m listening to her as I pull down the bag from my closet.
“I get this feeling, like, it all could happen, that’s why I’m leaving you for the moment, you for the moment…”
I pack the bag with my daily essentials: pen, Moleskine, book to read on the train, iPhone charger, spare earbuds, sunglasses, eyeglasses, and MacBook Air.
I open some random zipper to some random compartment I always forget to unzip. My hand reaches in, touches something plastic. I remember. A passport cover. Red, in the shape of a enlarged cassette tape, like the tattoo on my forearm, both relics from my marriage. I open it. A British Airways baggage claim sticker. I can’t see the date, but I know it. I am not nostalgic.
Beneath the World Trade Tower, it occurs to me that I inch closer to my style, my fashion sense, my “thing” that says “no really I am an adult who knows how to put himself together watch!”
It is frustrating to see the image of yourself in your head—
name legally changed because you’ve abhorred your real name as far back as you can remember, and you’re sitting in a chair, legs crossed, a glass of Maker’s Mark in one hand, an iPhone in the other hand, each hand adorned by a couple of rings, the backdrop is decidedly Brooklyn or unAmerican in general, Amsterdam canals, perhaps, and the love of your life is sitting next to you, and she is smiling, and you’re smiling back at her as you note the heels on her feet, and the oxfords on your feet, twice the size of hers, and she does what she loves successfully, and you have gotten out of your own way and you know you’re writing the work you need to write, want to write, decidedly personal and fearless again, and people dig it, and you know it as you check emails on your iPhone and sip the bourbon
—and have no idea how to make the mental image reality, but the image is clear now. That’s a start.