It was noon. I took a pill that had its carved number-letter identification scratched out, either intentionally or because it had spent too long hanging around loose in someone’s pocket or wallet. I thought: if this is a pill, a relatively small pill, with a single line carved down half of it with a number and/or letter having been at some point etched on the other side, it can’t possibly kill me. I didn’t care what it was but figured it was probably Percocet or Klonopin. And then I decided to only take half, because I am a wimp.
What was I hoping this pill would do? I was hoping it would provide me with either the physical materials or the wisdom to make a clean escape from my life, and not temporarily. I am not interested in using pills or alcohol to temporarily depart reality. I want to permanently escape: I want to start over. I want to be freed from the shackles of my small home, my exhausting relationship, my disappointment-filled relationship with myself, and this city that is nearly impossible to afford to live in without the help of a lucrative job or someone else’s money.
An hour later I felt just as tired and defeated as I had before I took the pill, which more or less proves that it was an anti-anxiety pill. The person who it technically belonged to is not going to be happy when he finds the scratched pill missing from the desk drawer. This is just to say…, I consider writing on the post-it pad stuck on the fridge, replacing William Carlos Williams’ “plums” with “Klonopin.” Forgive me. But I am not in the business of writing him notes anymore, nor of asking him his forgiveness.
And it — the pill — has been neither relaxing nor numbing. I was already numb. I was already relaxed to the point of inertia. I spent two hours writing in my diary like a spoiled kid home from college for the summer, under no obligation to work. It is just a random Wednesday in June, I am completely, undeniably a grownup, and yet I seem to feel no urgency about turning my inertia into forward motion, about taking off the teenage mask and outing myself as an adult.
I think he worries that if — when, let’s be honest here — I leave, I will leave the cat and just never come back for it (her). This is possible. But I like to imagine that they’d make each other happy — happier than they were when they also shared their home with me, like two people stranded on a desert island, or two prison inmates who share a favorite author or love of chess. They will come to appreciate each other in a way they never did before. He has reported this happening before, during the brief times when I’ve gone away and left them together. The kitty was so different, he will say when I return, visibly wistful for the time when the kitty was “different.” He will look at the kitty, lying on the bed, her face inscrutable, all four paws tucked under her to make her look like a loaf of banana bread, and his face will seem to ask her, Did it mean nothing to you? And she will just stare at him, the tops of her eyelids perfectly flat, which my mother says is a good indicator that she’s in a bad mood. The eyes should be round, she says. It’s like when a goldfish’s fin isn’t pointing straight up, I suppose.
When I free myself of these shackles, I will inevitably end up sleeping in the hallway of my mother’s studio apartment, or perhaps in the middle of the living room in an artist’s loft near the Morgan Avenue stop on the L train, per an ad I saw on Airbnb. Either scenario will no doubt feel like an even tighter pair of shackles, but perhaps the proverbial giant metal ball attached to them won’t feel so heavy.
“Across from Roberta’s!,” exclaims the amenities section of the Airbnb listing of this artist loft bed in the middle of a living room. One of the pictures is just of the doorway of Roberta’s. Another is of one of the entrances to the Morgan Avenue L train station. A friend of mine lives in this neighborhood, this alien wasteland, or so the pictures suggest. It probably feels like nothing of the kind to him, although he once mourned to me the days he used to live at “the first” L train stop. I imagine that people in this neighborhood are very creatively productive. If I lived there, I would be too lazy to venture into civilization, with the exception of maybe Roberta’s, and maybe my laziness would result in a bestselling fantasy novel or something. But too many of the reviews on the bed-in-the-living-room say that this listing is “not as advertised” and, well, “dirty.” I wouldn’t recommend even staying here for free, reads one. Well, it is the Cheapest Room in All of Brooklyn, or so I determined after sifting through the Airbnb website for an hour. Realistically, the Cheapest Room in All of Brooklyn is probably the only room in all of Brooklyn that I can afford.
This bar, to which I have come to help along whatever mystery half-pill I took two hours ago, is playing a playlist filled with songs that were popular during the beginning of my relationship. I was too young, maybe. Young enough to be very familiar with each of the artists on the playlist. I was unaware of how serious and frightening it would be to share my life with someone else. I was very good at pretending for five years, or so I cynically think now. Either that, or I was very good at it, and then suddenly I stopped being good at it. The muscles went slack. Why did they go slack? Is there any point to trying to answer this question? Given how drawn I was to the half-pill, my answer to this is mostly, unsurprisingly, “No.”
This is not my world. Not really. It is our world, and I only earned a place in it because I loved him, and now I don’t, so I have to go. It only makes sense. But it feels like some sort of natural disaster: most of my possessions will be carried off into the wind, because they’re not actually mine, they’re some weird “ours,” and I’d rather not bother with sorting through the items one by one to determine just how “mine” or “his” they are. If I wanted so much to lighten my load maybe it’s best to depart with almost nothing. Who cares about things? I now have the ability to go anywhere and make memories.
I wanted stability so much. But stability has to be earned and continually fought for, or else it buckles and warps and perhaps caves in altogether. I don’t have much fight in me anymore, or at least, right now. New York is like the third person in the relationship, he said, speaking of relationships generally and of ours. And I loved him for saying that, because I needed someone else besides me to make a case for why this was ending. Thank god I’m not the only one, I thought, assuaged of some of my guilt, maybe, or just relieved to hear a man, this man, finally speak his mind, finally say what he thought without having to be provoked to do so by my sadness or anger.
I’ve had this creeping fear that the world is turning into a more individualistic place and that we should all try harder to fight this shift. This fear has propelled me for quite awhile. It’s seemed noble, worthwhile. But still the doubt kept crushing me. I am fueled by a belief that true love does exist, combined with a complete inability to find or keep true love. I think it’s more accurate to say that good matches exist. It takes practice for relationships to be good. But I don’t think it should take practice for them to be great. In the lasting ones, there is a foundation of greatness powerful enough to keep both people forever practicing the good. We didn’t have it.