After brunch at 40 Carrots, M, A and I browsed the racks at Bloommies full of clothes we can’t afford (but like to pretend we can), and chatted vigorously despite our hangovers. Deciding it was about time to get snow boots, we took a load off to try on Hunters, that unfortunately only came in one size and one color — neither of which suited any of our needs.
As M tried on a boot, I received a text message from Mr. P that felt like it made my heart stop.
Unable to really comprehend or to make sense of anything, I started gathering my things and wrapped my scarf loosely around my neck, when A looked up and noticed my panic. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I showed her the text message and said, “I have to get out of here.” M quickly stepped out of the temporary footwear and I pushed through Bloommies like I was someone important, completely careless to who I ran into. I felt like I was losing my breath and I needed to get to fresh air and out of a store that while I love it, doesn’t exactly give a warm and fuzzy feeling.
When we reached the cool outside, I exhaled for the first time and felt the tears splash down my cheeks, uncontrollably. I didn’t care who on Lexington Avenue gawked at me, the pain hurt so deeply that I knew trying to conceal it would only sting worse. A gave me her D&G sunglasses to hide the mascara residue and M quickly filled our conversation with laughter and always-insightful perspective. Walking to the subway on the way home, where we would all veg on pumpkin cheesecake and movies that have nothing to do with romance, I tried my best to not look around at everything we passed.
The Plaza, Central Park after the first snow of the season. Barney’s, Columbus Circle, the horse-and-buggies that are so old-fashioned and cliché that they’re beautiful. Tiffany’s. The last surviving multi-colored leaves and the feeling in the air that the holidays are near — all of these things make New York what it is at this time of the year. And for me, they remind me of all of the hope I used to feel toward Mr. P. Of when it seemed like he would actually change from Mr. Unavailable to a true possibility. I’m taken back to strolling while holding hands, to admiring his rosy cheeks that I could feel myself falling for, to how I thought New York was magical because it was New York, but also because I thought I was falling in love.
And you know, I did. I did have that first New York romance that’s every single bit complicated as it is dysfunctional. I stayed longer than I should have, I wore those rose-colored glasses when I would have been smarter to invest in a good pair of D&G’s that apparently, can conceal most anything from passerbys. I was loyal and true, and I let myself believe that someone who can’t love himself could ever love me in the way I deserve. I gave more than I had and when it wasn’t enough, I convinced myself that leaving would surely invoke passion in someone who is quite passionless.
There is no harm in believing, but there is harm in deceiving yourself. And I became the master of tricking myself to see a vision of Mr. P that doesn’t exist — so much that I allowed myself to go back to the scene of the crime, only to be disappointed, again. I played the part of a fool as brilliantly as a fool can be played, and in the end, I only found myself with swollen eyes, bundled up in a winter jacket next to the two best girls in Manhattan, feeling disposable, degraded and wondering how in the world I will be able to love someone with all of my heart ever again.
But then I reminded myself — sometimes you put those big girl panties on and deal, and sometimes you stupidly take them off to make more mistakes. Sometimes you make the wrong decision despite knowing that eventually you’ll just cry about it later. Sometimes you see the goodness in people to the point of self-destruction. Sometimes you love someone blindly, hoping that with love will come change, forgetting that it’s really only changing your outlook and standards that will bring you love. Sometimes you can do all of the right things, say the right words, be the right kind of person, love the rightful, selfless way — and still, the person you give so much to, will not give you the same in return. Being a compassionate and kind-hearted person will get you very far, but only if you’re surrounded by people who are the same.
Looking at me as I stared off into the anonymity of the MTA, M said, “You can’t let him ruin Bloommies for you, though!” A excitedly nodded in agreement and I smiled. She’s right — he can’t ruin Bloommies for me. Or Barney’s or Rockfeller Center. Not even Bryant Park where we had our first date, or Williamsburg where he lived in a tiny little room. He can’t ruin the splendor of Christmastime in New York or the magic I feel in my heart on these streets. He can’t ruin Central Park or Tiffany’s or put a dent in that magnetic skyline that’s always been destined to be my backyard.
He can take a lot of things from me and he has. And I have let him. My patience, my give-a-damn, my dignity, my pride and the pieces of my heart that were too warm and sincere for him to ever deserve. He can make me cry outside of Bloommies, on my birthday, in a sushi restaurant I’ll never go to again, in my hometown with my parents in the next room, at a bar in meatpacking and one in the Lower East Side.
But he can’t have my New York or define my happiness here. As a native, he’ll never understand it’s shine, and as a self-centered careless 30-something bachelor, he’ll never be able to appreciate my shine for all that it is.