Traveling from my family’s home in Jersey to my apartment in Brooklyn is an ordeal, one so extra that I refuse to even consider it until the very last moment. My other option causes my brain and my ambition to choke – moving back to the town I’m from, continuing and the cycle of tribal duties. “NO!” I bellow at my possible future, “No, I will not be a rerun. Or a remake or a reboot.”
I’m going back to my apartment. It is found and furnished by me. It is a space I work, bleed, stress, and sweat for. I will catch a well-timed ride from my parent’s house to the train in New Brunswick, home of Rutgers University. God forbid an 18-year-old college student driver slows down in front of me on these frat-boy choked streets. Seconds matter when dealing with New Jersey Transit, a fickle mistress whose whims change as a traffic light. Sometimes you go, sometimes you’re slow, and sometimes you’re full on stopped.
I ride the train into NYC at an exorbitant cost, typically sober. There are no bar cars and no liquor store in the station – just the crushing awareness that I should have a fucking car. The ticket taker is curt without having met me or hearing my hot takes. The other customers are all on their phones. The arrival in Penn Station is marked by stale air and the sense that I’m somehow in danger, but the rest of the people on the train are still excited to come to this money pit of a city.
The subway comes and I get on at Herald Square, grab a seat, and write for as long as it takes me to get to Brooklyn, ignoring the conversations between people less aware, less requiring of a slow leak into a notebook. “Last summer I was crushing coconut waters.” Sick dude. “Never watched the Sopranos.” Love it.
But, in the quiet of my judgment and word flow, what began as a complaining diatribe of sys white male entitlement can allow a moment of clarity: The slow leak, pooling on the floor, takes shape. And I can clean it up. I can focus on the reliability of infrastructure, on the stalwart ticket taker, on the possibility of the better driver that college student will become.
I’m grateful for a possible future I don’t want, there forever as a picture of Dorian Gray, growing more and more ghastly as I get older and more assured in my ambition. I’m grateful for my family being in my life, making me who I am, and loving me despite all I’m not.
Be grateful because the train might not run. Be grateful because you have so much you didn’t earn.