New York City wounded my senses. Had I been sensationally impoverished by Melbourne? I thought I knew what busy was. What loud was. What a building on fire smelled like and how the smoke burnt my eyes. But I never knew what it was to breathe liquid air, vile, odorous, who knows how many stories below street level I am. Subaqueous. Subterrane. Subway. I felt subatomic.
a n x i e t y
Tentative, every move I made— tentative, hesitant, nervous. I stepped into an AT&T store with every false confidence and my best telephone voice: “I need a SIM, please. Just naked. The SIM, I mean” and I probably sounded like a moron despite once working in the telecom industry. It cost more than I expected but to text you, it was worth it. I sent you a stupid SMS thinking it’d be cute and fun but instead I was just the same as every other vacant person. I’m choosing to chalk that up to overexcitement and the throng of New York City ’cause, as dumb as it sounds, I’m not a vacant, vapid, volatile girl. It’s just that I have enlarged pupils and I’m prone to headaches.
You still felt a world away from me. Every night for a week I sweat in an apartment in Harlem while you sweat at home in the Springs, I was perpetually sticky in the thick city heat. Clad in the skimpiest sleepwear I could find. At three am I’d wake and sit in the bay window. I had a sixth floor view over Manhattan Avenue. The all hours delicatessen across the street had a red, white and blue light up sign in the window inviting all the witching hour weirdos inside for a bite and I’d watch them. Typically at four or five I’d go back to sleep on the sofa for an hour or so then wake to bid the day farewell as quickly as it cared to pass.
My mother and uncle drove me to La Guardia early one Monday so I could catch a flight to you. My mother cried when I said goodbye, it had been the first time all week I’d really smiled and meant it. It had been one of the only times I’d ever seen my mother cry, perhaps she knew she was losing me. I spent hours in airports that day but it didn’t even matter because every moment that ticked by was a moment closer to you.
Denver was the worst. My terminal was the last in a long line of terminals, I walked fifteen minutes through the building to sit myself on the floor and wait three hours to catch a twenty minute flight. Everything mesmerised me. This woman with her young daughter, she must have been six or seven, they laughed and played with her stuffed toys for what seemed like forever while this hopelessly obese guy mouth breathed so loudly I had to migrate seats. Outside was an alien landscape. Almost lunar to my untraveled eyes and I knew it was hot but inside the terminal I wrapped myself in layers in an attempt to ward off the airconditioning.
The tin can I caught was turbulent. Terrifying. Yet I felt no fear, it was just another challenge to get to you. Another thing supposed to frighten me off. But I believe in ghosts and what should induce fear sometimes doesn’t.
My friends had warned and worried like I were a child and I couldn’t wait to send them that first picture of you and I. Actually standing side by side. Actually touching. Actually in the same room.
Couldn’t wait to tell them it actually worked out. That maybe all my bad luck in life was just getting out of the way for this.
For seven days you gave me all the energy you barely had. You were more a gentleman than any man I had known. Neo-traditionalist. Handsome. You looked at me with eyes like hunger but you were ever hands tenderly cradling antique lace and words spoken with hard, soft truth. Intrigued.
You kissed me as though I may break behind the sweetness of you. Marzipan, you told me.
With every anecdote I fell in love with you
With every joke I fell in love with you
With every kind word
and every stare
I fell in love
And I am hurt to write this from across the globe now. Where once I moved mountains, I am now beneath them. Crushed and I can barely breathe. The weight of the sorrow is plentiful. The tears are leaden and silver slicking my jaw, joining raindrops on well quenched soil. A Melbourne winter greeted me upon my disdainful return. Wearing your sweatpants, no makeup and teardrop stained cheeks.