Nocturnal New York is breathtaking by air. The electricity of the city defies physics, the voltage surging through the streets, vibrating within buildings, currents buzzing along the bridges. You can’t tell if the light feeds the city or the city feeds the light. And then, as the airplane rights its path, turns its back, the metropolis emits a last pulse and just like that it’s gone. It’s like ripping apart fresh laundry in the dark; the way static can spill sparks into the dead kitchen air. It isn’t always a guarantee, but like all things these days, when conditions are ripe, it’s magic.
Leaving didn’t feel right just yet, but it would. It had to.
The glow from the phone lit up my face, skin flushed with a suffocating blue. I’d been numbed for weeks to the certainty of change by surrounding myself with the very people who had fashioned my stability. I read and re-read the texts and e-mails, milking them for last traces of comfort and encouragement as the miles from their sources increased. The liquid pooling on the trackpad of my computer was alien. Like the tears didn’t even belong to me. I was already changing, but I’d put off any preparation. It was sickening. I grabbed my knees and in the darkness pulled them close to my chest, fetal. I sat like this in the half-empty airplane for a while.
In the months before I left I didn’t think about it much. When I did it was irrational and incongruent and I couldn’t make any sense of it and everyone just looked at me funny and no one knew what to say anyway so I just didn’t. What I do remember, however, was actively participating in my own life. I was not a sad story. I was alive.
I had rolled over at 4 o’clock that morning, completely unable to sleep. It wasn’t nerves, not in the traditional way at least. My senses were buzzing. No anxiety, no sadness, just the feeling of being awake. I felt so present. Were it not for the insomnia it could have been any other day. I shifted to be closer to him. He clumsily wrapped his arms around me and kissed my forehead absently, still hovering in a dream. The morning was silent, but my mind was electric.
Everyone was laughing. Were it not for the multiple rounds of tequila shots it could have been any other night. There was no reminiscing, no looking back. Goodbyes may have lingered a moment or two longer than usual, but maybe they were drunk or I was happy or life was just going to work out and we decided that’s what we were going to celebrate. They said that whenever I came back, things would be the same. And they said it like they really believed it. I’m lucky that I can remember them all just like that, in those moments. Their rampant optimism and camaraderie. Right there, right then was all that we were living for. And I love them for that.
I opened my eyes and the calm had remained. No harsh snap into consciousness. He smiled. We didn’t talk much that morning, we didn’t have to. My reality felt complete and my dream was on the verge of coming true. Achieving it had been difficult enough. And they’d all helped me, endlessly. I didn’t know at the time that following through with it would be the hardest part, but I’m so glad I was in ignorance. I look back now on that last night and those few precious hours of morning with a fondness I couldn’t have appreciated at the time. It’s like everything was in technicolor. My past, present and future all tied together so sweetly, and I could let the moments soak before I had to triage and move on.
He interlaced his fingers with mine, and the time I had cupped carefully in my hands slipped quickly through the cracks.
I stood idly, in between two bags stuffed with everything I owned. They sat on my couch in silence. Well the couch wasn’t exactly mine. Looking around, I couldn’t really tell what was mine anymore. The whole place was a magnificent collage of what had accumulated over the last few years, culminating, finally, with the two people sitting before me. I sat, too. All around us was a spider’s web gripping ghosts and memories and rogue pieces of my heart splintered off over time. The peace from the morning broke in his face, and she just looked anxious. It broke my heart. I never thought I deserved to have people who made it so hard to follow my dreams. I felt a pang of regret, a swell of hesitation. I was abandoning our adventure. But then she smiled. We’d made it so far, we had tackled so much. She had pulled me up time and time again. I held her hands. We giggled, nervously. If we didn’t keep the mood light it would have crashed, fast. We could have crashed, fast. We should have by now anyway.
I let two cabs pass before letting one stop. I don’t recall the next few minutes very well at all. I remember pressing my forehead against his, his face in my hands. Eyes averted to the concrete I was fleeing. We stood like this for a few moments. He didn’t have to be here. He could have walked away from me a long time ago; he knew my expiration date. But he stayed. Not many people have done that for me.
As the cab pulled away I didn’t turn around to see my apartment steps, to see him, to see the closing credits to my former life. I really wish I had.
At the time I just feared that if I didn’t write this down I would forget it.
But I can still hear each of their laughs ring in my ears whenever I feel lonely.