Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's A Wonderful Town

I wake up at 4:46 a.m. to catch my plane to New York. My parents are out of town at my brother’s graduate school commencement (the second graduation of his I’m missing in a row) so I have to beg my best friend to drive me to the airport. I get there at 6:00, and am startled by the amount of people who have joined me in traveling at this painfully early hour. The lines are endless. They feel even longer due to the two Lion-sized bags I am carrying. I rack up $75 in overweight luggage fees and rip a nail off helping the ticket counter attendant throw my 83-pound suitcase onto the conveyor belt.

I make it to New York. My cab gets held up by the Puerto Rico Day parade. Drunk people are everywhere, laughing and singing and having a grand time. I’m almost six months sober. It’s physically painful to watch their revelry. I make it to the apartment, where I find one of my roommates. Three of my roommates are friends from school, but this one is a total stranger. I’m glad this is the first time we’ve met, because I got to enjoy 21 good years without her. I spend two hours running errands and grocery shopping with her, and by the end have come up with six fairly creative plans for inducing an accidental death.

Two more roommates arrive. One of their parents brought a bottle of wine to christen our new place with. I’m still sober. It’s still painful. We explore the apartment, and find the previous tenants were not familiar with brooms, dust rags or garbage cans. We clean, and then pick rooms. After unpacking, I open the nightstand to put away a few last things. I find it filled with the landlord’s parents’ old prescription medications. I’m still sober. I’m also an addict and a former pill-popper. Painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety meds. All my best- and strictly forbidden- friends are sitting right in front of me. I politely ask the landlady to move the drugs. I tell her I sleepwalk sometimes, and am never sure what I will ingest during slumber. English is her second language. I think she buys it.

We cook dinner. I’m not allowed to touch hot things or sharp knives anymore (coordination issues, not mental stability issues), so I set the table. Or, I try to. There is no silverware. It’s hard to eat the pasta. It’s harder to eat the soup. One of my roommates and I try on our first day of work outfits for each other. She tells me I have to look professional. She makes me tuck in my shirt. I don’t want to tuck in my shirt. That’s what old wrinkly teachers do. It makes me look fat. I think I see my mother in the mirror.

My old landlord calls me and tells me the check I wrote her bounced. This is the second such phone call I’ve received in the last three days, and I’m baffled. My account is very full. I know there must be some mistake, but I still mentally age a few more years. I bounced a check. Those words sound ugly. I call the bank, and they can’t help me, because no checks have been deposited in my account for the last three weeks. I’m stumped. I look at my checkbook, and notice that it is for a LaSalle bank account. I closed my LaSalle account three years ago. Since running out of my old checks three weeks ago, I’ve written seven from this new checkbook. I don’t even recall owning LaSalle checks. I call everyone I’ve written bad checks to, and warn them that the check they just deposited will bounce, and I am sending them a new check in the mail. Plus the $15 returned check fee.

I go to an AA meeting. First day in a strange city, and I need to feel at home. But I don’t. Their meeting is different than the ones I’ve been attending for the last five months. I am confused, and forget to raise my hand when they ask for new attendees. I get scared and shy, and don’t introduce myself to anyone. My elbow is bleeding from where I scratched it on the luggage earlier, and the back of my knee itches in that spot which is impossible to satisfyingly scratch through denim. I’m lonely and I’m tired and my chin is trembling and I want to go home. But I don’t even know where home is because home home Minneapolis doesn’t really feel like home anymore and I spent the majority of the last three years in Chicago but I don’t even like that city and I thought New York felt like home last time I was here but I think maybe that was just a passing fancy and I think I may never ever feel at home again. And now I think maybe I’m going to cry.

I walk to another meeting because maybe that will make me feel better. I stub my toe on the way in. I blink hard and look at the ceiling untill the meeting is over. A little because my toe hurts, and a lot because my insides hurt. Someone grabs me on the way out. It’s a friend. A very good friend from the last time I was here. I haven’t spoken to her in months, and she didn’t know I was coming. She screams excitedly, smiles at me, hugs me, loves me. She’s happy to see me. I’m happy to see her. I hug her back. "Look at you," she says. "You're all grown up! You look like... like a Woman!" I am not lying, that is exactly what she said. Unprovoked. My friend is warm and fuzzy and it’s making me melt just a little. My mind slows down. I smile.

I get back on the subway to go home. I think about the rose garden in my new backyard. I think about what to wear on the second day of work when I can loosen up a little bit. I think about whether it’s appropriate to tell the guy in front of me that his fly is unzipped, and engage in an interesting internal debate. I decide yes. I walk to my apartment. It’s 9 p.m. but it’s bright and warm and people are still outside, running and shopping and talking. A little boy pees all over the outside of his car while his family laughs hysterically. I stop for a minute and laugh with them. My head is quiet. I go home and get in bed and close my eyes and close my brain and go to sleep and am glad that I have another day tomorrow.

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posted by Lion @ 6/15/2006 11:39:00 AM |

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