Are You Free?

Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner

You have talked about moving to New York since you were a little kid. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the love affair started, but you clearly got it lodged in your brain that it was the place on the map where everything would start making more sense. Through some kind of osmosis, your entire being would be enhanced, and the things you wanted would be made infinitely more possible. There were never enough pictures you could cut out and paste on your wall of the city skyline at night. You wrote poems to New York as though it were a human being, as though it could love you back — even sitting in your bed in a totally different state — and felt like you were speaking to someone who could hear you.

Even though, at least geographically speaking, New York is not that far, you never went. You allowed the stretches of time between when you were going to take the plunge and when you realized you had to re-set the launch date to grow longer and more difficult to ignore. Eventually, it became painfully clear that leaving was simply not on the agenda — the agenda that you alone were creating.

Now you try not to talk about it, not even to think about it, because it brings up inside you this great feeling of disappointment and embarrassment. You had to get rid of all your cutouts of the Empire State Building. That poster of Audrey Hepburn had begun mocking you. It all had to go.

Why didn’t you go? What reason did you give everyone when they asked — and, more importantly, was it the same reason you gave yourself? Do you still think it was true for you at the time?


You remember the first time you saw them from across the room at a house party, smiling over the rim of their red plastic cup and looking at you just long enough to make you second-guess what they possibly could have meant. The music itself was egging you on, telling you to start something, making it easier for the planets to align and something good to happen that night. And even though the two of you orbited around the same crowded solar system over the course of several more parties, even though the glances you shared became more and more significant and less something you could debate with yourself over on the cold walk home, you did not kiss them. And they did not kiss you.

And, without even realizing what was happening, they stopped coming to parties. Or maybe you stopped going to the right ones. Either way, the chances to run into each other at random and be faced with yet another opportunity to squander started to run dry. And the pain of not saying something when you had the chance — of allowing things to linger in the shallow waters of small talk when all you wanted was to dive into them completely — became all the more acute. Suddenly, your lack of action has become the only thing that comes to mind when you think about the way they used to smile, or how intoxicating it was to be around them.

Why didn’t you talk to them? Specifically, what is it that you were afraid of? And do you think that your greatest fear coming true would have been worse than this nagging realization of “I guess I will never know?”

Those chains around you — can you see them? And do you know what they are made of? Or do you just pretend that you can’t hear their little jingle-jangle when you walk? You’ll say, “Oh, it just wasn’t the right time, I’ll be fine,” but we can see you frantically looking for the key out of the corner of your eyes. You know that it’s somewhere, but perhaps part of you doesn’t want to know what will happen if you find it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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