Make sure to keep your belongings with you at all times, but keep your heart closer. Stand clear of the closing doors, but don’t keep that heart too open. If you see something, say something, but don’t say too little or too much, too soon or too late. Step away from the platform edge, but don’t be afraid to take a chance on that handsome stranger. A train is now approaching the station, but you’re not going to catch it. Not this one or the next one.
New York is a dangerous place to fall in love.
I used to think the image of his loafers next to my stilettos was quintessentially cute. It seemed so New York, I thought while avoiding eye contact with Mr. P this morning. “Now it just seems commonplace. I’ve watched our feet walk or stand in sync for almost a year now.“
“Can you believe it has almost been a year since we met? Since I started the blog?” I asked him over cheap sushi last night, celebrating the beginning of my 401k. His eyes were glistening in the faux-candlelight, his new haircut reminding me of freshly-cut grass – I yearned to reach across the table and brush away the sad little strands, but that was his length now. I hate his hair short but it irritates him when it’s long. His face burns when his facial hair gets too thick- so he trims and shaves, leaving me with scratches on my cheeks from his addiction to nuzzling. I know so much about him, now.
“Look how much you’ve changed in a year. Look how different you are from when I met you…” he started to say. I cut my glance down to my Passion Roll – one of my favorites with avocado and spicy tuna. It was true, I have changed – a new apartment, a new group of friends, a great new job, a new sense of self, a new everything. I have grown leaps-and-bounds in the nearly 12 months we’ve known each other. But while he was once Mr. Unavailable and he painfully, slowly transformed into Mr. Possibility – he hadn’t changed that much. I pushed a piece around in the low-fat soy sauce thinking, should I lie and say he’s changed too?
“…you’ve come so far and I haven’t changed hardly at all,” he finished, taking a swift sip of Saki and slamming down the porcelain container. My mother’s China cabinet all the way in North Carolina shuddered at the thud when it hit the table. I gave him my happy grin, the one that says: “My darling, I understand. I’m here for you. You’re going to be fine. Don’t worry.” It’s the one I pull out when I don’t know what to say, when the situation can’t be fixed with kisses or quickies, when the hard work isn’t up to me, but up to him. I reached across the table and rolled my thumb along the top of his knuckles, remembering the first time I noticed our hands looked alike. They still do but are we alike anymore? I took a sip of boxed white wine and I moved the conversation in a different direction: politics. That’ll keep him occupied for a while.
Why do I always go back to that place? Sure, it’s cheap – $20 worth of sushi and you get unlimited wine, but it always gives me a headache. Always, I thought, still staring at Mr. P’s shoes, finding my mind wonder back to that moment in that downtown joint. I had come far, I was different but he wasn’t. He was still beautiful and wonderful in all the ways I first fell in love with him, but he is also now human. He is a man who has hurt me, who has disappointed me. He’s a man who still surprises me, who recalls things I do not. He’s delicate in a way he’d never admit and more vulnerable than most of this world will ever see. He is loving by nature, defensive because he thinks that’s how dudes should be, and stubborn to a point of exhaustion. He is my mate, my partner, my boyfriend.
He is a man who loves me. But he’s a man with a past to overcome, isn’t he?
A grumpy business man who has been taking the 1 train to Wall Street for 20 years from his Upper West Side apartment, which is probably rent controlled near a cafe where he orders the same dish and the Bodega he buys his wife petite pink roses (her favorite) – crashes into me, pushing me into the arms of Mr. Possibility. I sure do make a habit of falling on him, don’t I?
He rubs my back and takes a deep breath in, his chest rising to another melancholy occasion. He’s lost in his thoughts again. Lost in what was, what he’s missing, what he thinks he can’t get, what upsets him. He’s lost in worries and he’s wallowing in self-pity – a trait that absolutely frustrates me, no matter who it is.
My friends warned me of this. So did my mom, though I’d prefer not to admit her astrological advances were accurate. Hell, even Mr. P said once I found my footing, I’d question my stance next to him. They all said: The girl with a future avoids the man with a past. Thank you Evan Escar, whoever you are. Here I am though, listening to the MTA give warnings of safety while I hear different precautions in my head. The girl with the future avoids the man with a past. The girl -me – avoids the man – Mr. P – with a past.
She avoids him? Why can’t she let him work through the past so they can have a future? Or does he need to be alone to do that? Is he right? I hate when he’s right. Now that I feel set and comfortable, do I suddenly want to leave? I’m different, I’ve changed, he’s simply stayed the same – can that still work?
Now that I’m starting to feel suffocated both on this grimy, hot train and in this moment, I look around the cart, desperately waiting for someone to rescue me. Someone tell me what to do! Anyone? You over there, you’re falling asleep reading The Times. I can assure you that I would interest you enough to stay awake. Tell me – does the girl with a future really avoid the man with a past? Can we move forward if only one of us…is moving?
This is what New York is like though – right? Love dims when the sun rises over the East river, when corner stores open for business, when everyone orders the everything bagel, when everyone realizes that everything that felt so right last night, doesn’t this morning. Those who come to the city looking for love quickly find it is a glorified Hollywood myth. Love only come to those who withstand the decade of dating disasters in their 20s, only to find a nice, shorter, balding man in their 30s who can provide. They marry him in a rush, have a baby within a year, and then they become part of the stroller brigades of Park Slope and the UWS, causing a whole new generation of 20-somethings to see their happy little family and big bling and think, Sigh, I want that, too.
But can the girl with a future have that with the man who has a past? New York is such a dangerous place to fall in love – one day you believe in it, the next day you condemn it and on Friday, you’ve decided you’ll try for it again.
I follow Mr. P’s example and exhale, a little too loudly. He notices, and in between 50th and Times Square, he tightens his grip around my waist, pulls me into him, grazes my forehead with his lips nearly a dozen times. Quietly, sweetly. It feels like we’re alone: I can feel his breath in my hair, his thumb pressing into my hip bone. He takes his hand to lift my chin up to him and meets my eyes before giving me our normal morning goodbye kiss. I love you Tigar. I’m so proud of you. I’m so happy to have you. Have a great day at work, he whispers as we reach the station, the doors fling open and he gets out, smiling at me through the subway windows as the cart hobbles away. The girl sitting in front of me rolls her eyes in envy and I read her mind instantly. She’s the girl I was a year ago, wishing for what she just witnessed.
The next station is Penn Station transfer is available to the 2, 3, A,C,E trains and the Long Island Railroad…
…and you can also, in just a stop, transfer your heart from thinking that New York’s a dangerous place to fall in love to believing it is a beautiful one. And that maybe, the girl with a future can love the man with a past. That is, as long as there are no delays that block her way.