CJ was really busy the entire time I stayed with him, which was unfortunate, but I understood. The freelancer life must be quite the hustle. After getting settled in to my new home away from home, he took me to the corner bodega and we got a cheap breakfast – egg and cheese on a roll. For some reason, every sandwich in New York City is automatically cheaper if served on a roll. Regular sliced bread or some other variation seems to almost always automatically incur additional fees and I kind of wonder what kind of bizarre deal the city as a whole gets on these rolls. Or worse, I wonder if anyone has the real ingredients list for these mystery carbs that sustained me for a good part of my NY adventure. Regardless, they taste fine and at $2 for a breakfast sandwich, there’s really no need to continue wondering.
After brunch, we walked down the street to get a key made for me, which was fortunate since it allowed me the freedom to come and go as I pleased, without getting locked out (which, unfortunately, was a scenario that I encountered twice later on in my trip – more on that later, in detail). I asked CJ where I might go about buying some second hand shoes since I only thought to bring one pair of shoes (and a pair of flip flops) for my adventuring. He showed me a few places and then he went home and I opted to go hunt down some new footwear. Two thrift shops in, I found a comfortable pair of sneakers and a cheap pair of shorts, since I had underestimated the heat when I was packing back in Miami. Living my whole life in a sub-tropical climate, I figured i’d prepared for 26 years for summer conditions anyplace. But I was wrong. There’s a definite difference between the heat in Miami, which we constantly avoid by never going outside unless we’re in bikinis jumping in large bodies of water, and heat in a New York City subway, basement, or basically anywhere in that city during the summertime.
New (old) shoes in tow, I decided to head in to Manhattan. I’d read about a bar that gave free bread and cheese during happy hour in the Village and I figured that’d make for an excellent lunch/dinner. When I got in to the area, I realized it was much too early and feeling famished, I decided to pop in to the pizza joint near the bar and had a delicious slice of NY’s finest. When I finally made it to the bar, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Excellent beer list, but chock full of yuppies who all seemed to be running in the same pack. Wearing my thrift finds and about a pint of sweat, I began feeling out of place and letting insecurities get the best of me. I stuck to my cellphone and began texting my friends in the city.
There was Mark, whom i’d stayed with last year for a brief stint, who had a girlfriend now. I was almost sure we wouldn’t end up hanging out. Not because we weren’t friends, but also because we weren’t really good friends. There had been a short-lived semi-intense meeting of the minds with us which wound up fizzling into nothingness when it became painfully apparent that we probably weren’t meant for each other. And there’s just always that unspoken rule that you almost always end up staying away from ex-flings once they have new, steady relationships, so I didn’t press too hard for the company.
Then there was Carlo, a good friend from high school, who was also living with a girlfriend. He was good people, but like most New Yorkers, severely busy. I would get to see him later on luckily.
And then of course, there was the DJ. Anyone who’s known me for a while knows about the DJ. If you’ve ever had a long-term, non-relationship with someone, maybe you know what I’m talking about. He’s that guy that for some reason you’ve never really been able to shake. Time passes, relationships come and go, and there he always is, kinda smug, always sharp, but only showing just enough interest in your friendship that it makes you almost wish you never met them. But then you see them again and you don’t know what to do with yourself because it always feels like regardless of all the other bullshit in the world, this was the person you should’ve been able to have something with, but you also realize that it would never actually happen in reality. Yeah, that guy. More on him later.
So I texted one and then the other and then the other and then texted friends and proceeded to empty my wallet into some really great tasting microbrews. An older gentleman sat next to me and began chatting me up about beer. His name was John and he had just retired a few days ago at the not-so-old age of 63. He would be the first of two recent retirees I would spend hours conversing with. He recommended beers and then bought me a few but he didn’t act like a creep so I was fine with the arrangement. We talked to people who came to the bar and left and made recommendations according to their tastes. After a while, I realized that I never even got my free bread and cheese, as it was never set out at the bar, but rather at a small table on the opposite end of the room that had so many guys exchanging business cards that I couldn’t even see it. It was okay though. I had beer and company and that was good enough.
After a few beers, I decided I should head back to Brooklyn and get some shut eye. It had been a long day, after all. On the way back, I got absurdly lost on the train and wandered around in circles a few times and then it began to rain. Rain would become a highly prevalent and not-too-amusing theme for the last month. When I was a little girl, my mother would tell me that people would catch colds if they got caught in the rain. I believed this wholeheartedly growing up to the point that I think I almost psyched myself into always getting sick, or at least developing symptoms, every time I got rained on. If I still believe this old wives tale, let’s just say I would probably be dead considering the amount of times I got soaked in various cities.
The walk back to CJ’s started off somewhat miserable, but after a while, realizing I was in New York and not in Miami, realizing that I was actually traveling, realizing I was working toward making my dreams come true, and realizing that I in fact would not be catching a cold, I said fuck it and slowed down and enjoyed the cold drops of water falling on my head, streaming down my face, making my clothes heavy but my heart light. It reminded me of how fun it was to play in the rain as a kid (right before the faux colds hit). I smiled to myself, hiding under the shelter of bodega awnings whenever I needed to wipe my glasses a bit. I made it back to the apartment and wished I had something to smoke. Everyone was either asleep or not home. I stumbled down into the basement, changed into some dry clothes, and passed out.
(Part 3 coming up soon!)
*Names have been changed more or less to protect the innocent and guilty alike. If you happen to guess real identities, keep it to yourself.