From Morgan Avenue with Love (New York City Stories – Take 8)

(…Continued from Part 7)

Disclaimer: This part of the travelogue doesn’t have much about the travel aspect. It’s about a moment during the trip that needs documenting. There’ll be more travel-related destination banter in the next one. So there you go.

The next day, I woke up in the Bronx with a pounding headache, lying next to a near comatose Italian* chef from Detroit. This man was NOT the DJ; this man was not who I was supposed to end up going home with. So what the hell happened?

I wish that I’d taken pictures that night, because my memory is not quite as sharp as I wish it were…

When Lisa and I got to the DJ’s gig, the first thing the DJ did was take us inside and make sure his bartender friend Neela took care of us. We sat at the bar and got comfortable with the plethora of shots that began making their way to the bar, into our hands, and down our throats. The DJ was in good form. He was always in good form. He’s one of those people who always maintain the perfect amount of positive energy. You know when people say “your smile could light up a room”? He’s one of those people you’d say that about. And boy did he like to keep those dark rooms bright.

Throughout the night, we saw the crowds come and go, mixed bags of yuppies and out-of-towners and aging hipsters and people just looking for a night cap. The DJ played on, and took cigarette breaks as often as possible, and then began taking dance breaks as often as possible; his tall, lanky self pulling Lisa and Neela and I out on to the dance floor, smiles aplenty. And the drinks, and the drinks, and the dancing and the drinks until my head was swimming and I wanted to grab him and kiss him and tell him that he still meant something to me, that he always had. The streets of Manhattan were quiet outside while the noise in my head was only muffled slightly by the alcohol.

The hours went on and the party did too. I would sneak over to the DJ while he worked sometimes, and I held his hand, and he squeezed his fingers in mine, and I would get sad because I knew that it might be years before I got to see him again, and how long would this go on? More drinks, more smokes. And then another man walked in, and this one knew the DJ well, so much so that he and the DJ began to dance. Then the DJ introduced us, flinging me into the strangers arms as he made his way back to the DJ booth. This is how I met Parker.

Parker hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s not the right way to say that. He didn’t hit me. But something about him hit me. He had another one of those smiles, though nowhere near as endearing as the DJ’s. But still, he had a good one, and I’ve always been a sucker for a nice smile. Parker was working overtime that night. The way he’d look at me. The way he’d do anything to force me to stare back into his eyes. And my god, did he lay it on thick. “Beautiful.” “Baby.” “Gorgeous.” I would tell him he really didn’t have to, but then he’d spew another “I’m not a player or anything, I’m being serious,” and i’d laugh it off because there really wasn’t anything else to say or do. Lisa began sitting out more dances, buying us more drinks. Parker kept on, and on and on. Until he’d invaded every inch of my personal space, and with his finger tips lifting my chin up, he kissed me. It hit me. Like a ton of confused, awkward bricks that have landed everywhere after an explosion. It was fantastic and awful and i’m pretty sure the only thing I said or thought for a good while afterward was, “Oh, fuck.”

The DJ saw everything. The DJ kept playing music. The DJ kept drinking and smoking. The DJ, the DJ. Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ…

I ran to him like some scared little girl, unsure of what to do next. The DJ was still my friend. I felt terrible about Parker, and worse about what I knew would happen next. I grabbed the DJ and asked him what he knew about Parker, what he thought.

“He’s a good guy.. I like him. You should go for it.”

 

…Alright, It’s been over 6 months since this incident. It’s taken 6 months for me to say all of these things and be (almost) okay with them. But I’ll tell you this: at that moment, it was one of the worst things I’d ever heard anyone say to me. Ever. It’s tough to admit when we’re wrong about something, and even tougher still to admit when things just don’t go your way. Because I know deep down I would’ve wanted there to be some kind of jealousy, or at least a sign to say “hey, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” Nothing. Go for it. So let’s just say this: It fucking hurt.

Why didn’t he care? This plagued me to no end. He didn’t seem thrilled about the situation, but I couldn’t tell if he cared at all. At that point in our lives, we hadn’t been talking very much. For all I know, he was seeing someone. Maybe having an affair with Neela the married bartender. Maybe he had a girlfriend that he didn’t like to talk about. Maybe he’d just finally stopped feeling that chemistry that had existed between us for so long. I couldn’t be sure. When you’re plastered at 3am in the city that never sleeps, it’s hard to be sure about anything.

What I did know was that Parker seemed to have taken a liking to me. He wasn’t the DJ. The DJ was lost to me now. Parker was real, and his arms would wrap around me, and his lips would kiss me deep, and my head would spin. So I said fuck it.

“Parker wants me to go home with him,” I said to the DJ on our final cigarette break alone.

Parker was back inside, maybe talking to Lisa or Neela, maybe drinking more, I can’t be sure. I couldn’t care less at the time. He was a man I didn’t know and the man I did know was doing everything possible to crush all the feelings I’d harbored for him for the better part of a decade. He smiled and hugged me tight. I wished with every fiber of my being that I could read his thoughts, that he would tell me something that would reassure me that I wasn’t insane. That whatever that thing was that existed between us still did indeed exist. That this would not be the last night. That he cared in some way but didn’t know how to say it, just like every other time had been, when he’d act like everything was fine only to tell me months down the line how much I’d actually been wanted and missed. For fuck’s sake, anything.

“He’s a good guy. Like I said, you should go for it.”

I’m surprised, given how drunk I was, that I didn’t cry or yell or even get angry. Maybe I knew it was coming. I could hear tires driving over the slick streets blocks away. It had rained again, just like it’d rained every day that I was in NYC. I met his gaze and gave him the saddest false smile I’ve probably ever given anyone, and I let him go.

Parker was eager to get out of Manhattan. Lisa thought I was crazy to go home with a near-stranger, but I trusted the DJ. He wouldn’t send me off with a total nut job. At least, that’s what I figured. Parker bummed a final cigg from the DJ and I said goodbye to Lisa, Neela, and the infamous Mr. DJ. Parker and I walked/stumbled down the street, searching for a cab to hail. I could see his Squee tattoo on the back of his calve and figured he couldn’t be so bad if he was a Squee fan. I grabbed his hand and decided to go with it.

In case you're not familiar with Jhonen Vasquez's Squee...

A cab ride to the Bronx. My first time in that most avoided of boroughs (aside from Staten Island, although I’m not sure which one is avoided more – any native New Yorkers wanna take a stab at it?) And then we were inside the apartment, which was by far one of the most spacious NYC apartments i’ve ever been in.

“Just one of the perks of living in the Bronx,” said Parker, who actually absolutely hated New York City, and who had plans to move back to Detroit to open up a fine dining establishment someday.

Sigh. From there, you can guess what happened next. The sex was alright, but not terribly memorable, probably for numerous reasons (we were both too drunk, I was still hurt about the DJ, we’d only just met a few hours before, etc). I spent the next morning hydrating and smoking (his very low grade) grass while he snored away, sleeping off the hangover. I felt terribly awkward about not coming back to Tyler’s for the night. Not that I owed him explanations, but all my things were there and he’d been nice enough to let me stay with him for the duration of the trip. I tried to come up with different excuses as to why I hadn’t made it back to Manhattan. I tried to forget all about the DJ.

Parker had to get to work that afternoon, so we took the train back to Manhattan that afternoon. He got off two stops before I did.

“It was nice to meet you,” we both said, with the knowledge that we’d likely never speak again. I thought about how ridiculous life could be sometimes. So many years feeling one way about someone, regardless of time and distance, and now it was over. 6 months later, I still don’t know how I feel about all of it. Except maybe a little grateful.

The DJ and I discussed the matter about 2 months or so later. I told him how awkward the whole thing was, how strangely I felt about it. He was candid, telling me he just wanted me to be happy and have a good time. That he didn’t feel like he had any claim over me, and that he genuinely felt that Parker was a good guy, that he also wanted him to be happy and have a good time.

“I may be perpetually unavailable, but I’m not a bastard; you’re still a good friend, and I do care.”

…And that’s it, really. That’s the anti-climactic conclusion to the longest non-relationship i’ve ever had, all wrapped up in one New York City night. It feels strange to write about it now, but I couldn’t have written it any sooner. So much has happened since then that I’m able to be somewhat disconnected about the situation. The DJ and I have spoken very briefly online since, but for the most part he’s rarely around and it’s for the best.

By the end of the next day, I wanted nothing to do with anyone. Sometimes people need a night away from the world, to walk silently with ones’ thoughts and memories in a city of eight million people. Lonesome as can be. And that’s just what I did.

But I’ll write about that later, because that night did take me to some unexpected places, including making my first friend from Amsterdam. For now though, it’s 5am and definitely quitting time. Quitting on the past, and quitting on tonight.

Here’s a song to keep you company that’s been helping me out while writing all this.

 

Part 9 in this series will be up soon!

 

*He was Italian and a chef, not a chef of strictly Italian cuisine. There’s a difference.

Rough Drafts of My Nicaraguan Stories

Earlier this year, I began putting together a series of short stories about sex and love and debauchery and travel that I essentially plan to publish. It’s an on-going process that I’m either too busy for or not motivated enough to work on. However, I promised myself I would have all the stories completed (at least a rough draft of each) by end of year. I’ve spent the whole day trying to think of what to blog about, trying to push myself to type anything out, when I remembered that promise and finally opened up the word document that contains more than 50 pages of memories and almost-memories and heavily-fictionalized life. I worked on Virgin Territory a little (a piece I posted about once on here before) and today I was working on another piece, with the working title of “Pochomil y no Poneloya” (I need to come up with something better). Since I’ve been trying to work more on my travel stories, I figured I’d share en excerpt from this one today. Advice is much appreciated!

Photo by Jaime Buitrago

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“The maldito mosquitoes are making a full feast of my body, I can’t stand it anymore! We need to get out of here!”

My cousin Gaby was lying on the bed with her head and arms dangling over one of the corners. I was sitting Indian style on the small cot next to her, scratching away at a million pink welts. It was my third time visiting Managua and I still wasn’t getting used to being lunchmeat for the swarm of flying parasites that followed me around incessantly. We could hear my Tia’s novellas loud and clear in our room, just like she could probably hear our conversation. The walls at my Tia’s house were incomplete; they prevented you from seeing into the next room but except for the outside walls, they didn’t connect directly with the tin roof, so privacy was exceptionally hard to find. I’d never seen anything like it. Nicaragua was full of homes with disconnected walls like this. I walked over to the white, electric fan in the corner of the room and let the artificial wind hit my face.

“What about Poneloya or Pochomil? They’re both about the same distance and I bet I could get Javier to take us!”

The prospect of a beach night got me to jump away from the fan and I began digging through my bags for a bathing suit while Gaby called her boyfriend. Javier worked the bar at a joint called Samantha’s, two blocks from Gaby’s place. I’d met him a few times and he seemed like a decent sort of guy, the kind that was always up for good times and rarely had a frown on his face. He was older than Gaby by almost a decade, which had alarmed her mother when they first began dating when she was 17, but he had stuck around for a few years and now that she was 20, her mother had begun to hope he’d end up making her his wife.

“Alright, we’re all set! It’s gonna be me, you, Javier, and Yader. You remember Yader, right?”

I nodded. Yader also worked at Samantha’s. He’d bought me drinks a few times over the past week in hopes of getting to know me better, and he already knew to bring extra lime for my vodka sodas, so I guess it was working. His shaved head made him look kind of gruff until you noticed he also had these really great dimples and then you realized he was just a big puppy dog. I liked him just fine.

Gaby tossed my blue triangle top and it landed at my feet. The night was looking up.

 

Chapter 2

Javier honked the horn of his 91 Corolla twice and we scurried out of the apartment, happy to be free from our skeeter-ridden prison. Gaby took the passenger seat, leaving Yader and me in the back.

“Hola, mi Chinita,” he greeted me as I closed the door behind me.

We picked up two 12-packs of Tona at the last gas station before leaving town. Javier had already brought a bottle of Flor de Cana he swiped from the bar for good measure. The car’s a/c was broken so we kept the windows down and the sounds and smells of Managua wafted through the car at 88 km/h. We drove past seedy bars full of under aged girls and hungry souls kneeling inside of destitute churches and dust-covered children asking for Cordobas; past all the old drunk men sitting in the middle of the road looking for a way out of town or just plain out. We passed the skeletons of mangy dogs, small bodega’s run from people’s living rooms, large women cooking Fritanga on the street corners, and occasionally, we had to stop for emaciated horses and mustachioed street vendors on their way home from a day of yelling out “TORTILLA!” “CAJETA!” “CUAJADA!”

Soon, we were going up the sides of mountains and into the clouds, quite literally. We stopped on the side of the road to take turns pissing and you could feel the dew sticking to your skin as the billows drifted past. It was much colder in the mountains than in the mugginess of the country’s capital and I was glad to finally feel the need for a jacket again. We jumped back in to the car and drove further into the night.

Our hands greedily reached into the cardboard box for cans of beer. Click, pick-shaw. Glug and more glug. The sky was black and the road was black and the clouds were grey and turning black. Click, pick-shaw. The stars so numerous, endless like the bubbles from my can of beer, tickling my nose, keeping me intrigued. They shone down bright, and then the sky was an endless piece of black construction paper punctured a million times over by a sharp No. 2 pencil. And the glow of the stars wasn’t so many tiny sparkles so much as they were all part of one gigantic light, a luminosity hidden behind the curtain that keeps the planet from falling apart. And the further into the night we went, the brighter that light seemed to want to shine. Like it wanted to burn up the sky and take over.

It wasn’t even half way into the drive and I was already drunk.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler (Living New Orleans – Part 1)

New Orleans. The Big Easy. The City that Care Forgot. Immediately upon arriving here, you pretty much begin to understand why this place has the nicknames that it does. New Orleans is quite literally unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. It’s been over 2.5 months into my travels, and it seems appropriate that this is where they would end (at least temporarily). People talk about New York being the city that never sleeps, but I can assure you that it is just as easy to never sleep in this town. 24 hour bars and a lack of open container laws, jazz music and hustling performers on the streets, obnoxious tourists attempting to re-enact Mardi Gras on a nightly basis, thousands of folks just trying to get by, and still not a day goes by that I haven’t heard someone bring up Katrina. I’m trying to find my place here, but I know it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. The people certainly don’t move as fast as NYC, but they certainly take care of their own in the same way. Since arriving, i’ve stayed with 3 different CouchSurfing hosts, all pretty fantastic people, each with their own stories about how they got here. The people, on the whole, are genuinely nice, which is, well, nice in itself. Strangers start up conversation, and not just because they’re drunk at the bar. This is certainly not Miami. On the whole, people are more than willing to point you in the right direction of whatever you might need. And there’s a small town feel because it is inherently a small town. The city proper, which is where i’m staying, only has a bit over 300k individuals. It’s no wonder i’ve already started running into people and recognizing people, and i’ve been just shy of a week! It’s bizarre, i’ll say that.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been to 7 different cities and slept on more beds and surfaces than I care to count. I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to sustain myself here in New Orleans, but I’ve begun to hunt for jobs and hope that something pops up. Money is of course an issue, but hopefully won’t be for much longer. This is definitely a hustling city. Jobs are hard as hell to come by, especially the kind that i’m used to, in cushy offices. Service industry seems the best route to go, or so they tell me, so i’m basically putting my eggs in as many different baskets as I can. Everyone says I should at least stay for Halloween, and fingers crossed i’ll at least achieve that. But honestly, I really wouldn’t mind sticking it out here for at least a few months, maybe through next year or even past that. There’s something so alluring about this place. It has a different energy than anywhere else I’ve been. I’m an agnostic on the whole, but it’s like there’s magic in the air. Maybe it’s all the voodoo shops and the random pagan folks I’ve met and the enchantment of the above ground cemeteries. The night air just feels different. And every day i’m here, even if it’s a bit rough hunting down employment, I fall in love with something new. The houses, the architecture. The street cars, especially at night. The music, which i’ve only yet begun to hear. The whole concept of the Second Line. Like I said, there’s just an energy here that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Some people say this is the most unique city in America, and while I haven’t seen all of America yet, I’d say they were right in my eyes. There are plenty of amazing places in this country. I’ve been surprised at the things I’ve found on my journey thus far, changing my own misconceptions about what places were “supposed” to be like, allowing myself to get lost in foreign towns and then found again. If I was in love with travel before, I am basically feeling obsessed with it now. This is definitely going to be a lifestyle to maintain for the rest of my life. But for now, I’m courting New Orleans, or she is courting me. We dance a little and flirt a lot and man, does she like to buy me drinks. And even if I end up having to go back home and reassess for just a little while until things pick up, I can definitely see myself coming back.

But for now, as the French say, laissez les bon temps rouler!

To Morgan Avenue with Love (New York City Stories Take 5)

(Continued from Part 4)

I met CJ’s boyfriend on the very last morning I stayed in his basement. I actually had no idea CJ even had a boyfriend, but I figured it out once I saw him walking out of the room in his underwear. He was a lanky fellow, handsome and friendly. I could see what CJ saw in him. We spoke briefly and CJ told me they were heading to the park and would I like to go with them? I originally had plans to head to the Brooklyn Museum* (a plan that sadly never came to fruition), so I declined and left for the L, but not before hitting the corner Mexican place for some breakfast. A quesadilla later, I headed for the train, but after realizing that all the construction currently hamstringing MTA would result in my arriving at the museum at most an hour ahead of closing time, I decided to head for Prospect Park.

I remembered Mark always singing Prospect’s praises but had never been there myself, so I figured it was a good a day as any to check it out. Now, personally I have to say that Central Park continues to reign high as my favorite NYC park. However, Prospect is definitely a great place to visit, especially with groups. It’s wide-spread and full of fields excellent for BBQs and playing sports/games and picnics galore, which is exactly what I encountered. They had a nice nature center, a carousel, a few gazebos and bridges, and even Asian brides being photographer for their weddings! Alright, so maybe that last thing was just a fluke… The other thing I encountered was a severe lack of food carts! For all of the park’s beauty, I was famished by the time I got out, driven to a point of near madness by the scent of burgers on the grill (I admit, this vegetarian does guiltily enjoy the smell of meat barbecuing). It basically caused me to rush quickly out of the park in order to nourish myself before fainting.

Wound up hunting down some tasty middle eastern food and before I knew it, it was time to head back to CJ’s to switch couches (CJ’s family was going to be crashing with him, so it was time for me to start staying at Tyler’s in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, which can only be described as “yuppie light”). After an unpleasant time of packing and lugging my bags all over NYC, I made it to Grand Central Station and then after that, Tyler’s apartment over the loud Irish pub down below.

Staying with Tyler was a good idea at the time, but for whatever reason, turned out to be stranger than originally anticipated. We’d been talking online for the good part of a year now, but sometimes online conversations just don’t translate clearly once in person. I can’t be sure if it was just him, just me, or a combination of both of us. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being around him, but something was off. Something I still can’t put my finger on. And that’s the trouble with staying at someone’s house when you’re in a different town. Sometimes it works out perfectly. Other times you’re wondering why on earth you’re in the place you’re at to begin with. This isn’t only with friends, but with strangers as well. I’ve slept on over 10 different surfaces (beds, couches, etc) since I left home and I am finally beginning to understand and accept that you can’t win em all. In face, i’ll be writing an article soon about my CouchSurfing experiences for a travel site i’ve recently begin contributing to, so more on that soon!

That night, we grabbed some food at the hummus place down the road (good hummus, good cocktails, unimpressive falafel), watched a few minutes of Entrapment, and because there’s no one quite like Catherine Zeta-Jones to get you in the mood, and had a ahem, moment, on the living room love seat right before his roommate came in. So maybe there wasn’t much need for words between us, after all…

(Part 6 coming up real soon! I’m in New Orleans and I have MAJOR writing catch-up to do in the next few days…)

* = If you are ever more successful than I am at visiting the Brooklyn Museum, make sure to check out the super rad Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which is what I was dying to see!)

State of the Traveler, State of the Girl

One of Tony’s (my ex’s) favorite sayings has always been, “All I know is that I know nothing.” Right now, I’m trying to collect all that I do know and make some sense of it.

So here’s what I do know:

This is my last day as a 26 year old woman. I still hesitate at using the word woman to refer to myself and am pretty sure I always will. I’m currently in Chicago. I’m terrified and my heart is beating incredibly fast in my chest. I’m scared of the future even though I know that I technically shouldn’t. I’m trying to make my dreams of traveling and writing come true even though I feel extreme guilt about leaving my family behind… In fact, I feel guilt about not looking for a “real job” and helping out around the house instead. Considering I was the only person with regular employment in my family for the past year, it feels extra selfish to do what I’m doing and I struggle with this every day, to the point that I oftentimes try to forget home all together because it hurts like hell to think about it. I have less than $50 to my name right now and am living on the kindness of friends and strangers. I feel guilt about this too, even though I fully intend to pay everyone back somehow. I’ve been irresponsible in a lot of ways, but I don’t actually regret it even though I feel like people look at me as though I should.

I’m trying to figure things out, but the further I go on this trip, the more I keep finding out that no one really has it figured out. This is both comforting and terrifying because it only means that I have no idea when I should actually end or pause the trip. I’m trying to decide whether or not to move to Chicago. I’ve applied for a few jobs and part of me thinks I should just leave it up to fate to decide. I’ve got a few more days until I get my big paycheck, after which i’ll have to formulate a better plan.

I constantly struggle with my emotions. I worry that I’ll never find someone to make me as happy as I was with my ex. I worry that if I return to Miami, I’ll throw myself back in to his life and undo all the things I’ve worked hard to finally destroy. I get concerned that I’ll always be fickle and that I’ll never be able to focus on one person, either for fear of boredom or fear of being hurt, or both. I like a boy that lives in Philadelphia and I catch myself daydreaming about taking the next flight out to go be with him, but I fear that it won’t be the same as it was when we were in Ohio. I fear that he won’t like me enough, that he’ll get bored of me, or that he lies about what he says he feels. I fear that my feelings will fade, whether I go see him or not. I fear that nothing will ever be enough for me. I think about other boys in other places that I’ve left behind and all the messes that have been caused as a result. I fear that I am not a good person and that maybe I’m incapable of ever falling in love the way I’d like to. Mostly, I miss the feelings that were rising on that last night I spent with him in Athens, and the way my heart pounded the entire time he held my hand on the car ride to Columbus while we listened to comedians; how I laughed to mask just how sad and scared I was. And I really miss the way he kissed me, because it felt real for the first time in a long time.

I tell myself that I shouldn’t say his name, but it won’t make a difference to say his name is Adam; it will only make it that much more real.

I worry that I will never be an adult. I think about the word “adult” as some insane foreign concept, something, a status, a way of being to be discussed at a distance but never attained. I see my friends involved with their significant others, getting married, having children, and I don’t envy them in the slightest. I don’t want their lives. But I really, really secretly wish that they would all just stop and remember that we used to be children, that we could still run across fields and jump and laugh and smile and feel things. I want to tell them that we don’t have to go with the status quo and do what’s expected of us, that we can obtain real joy in the simple things that brought us such joy once upon a time. I want to hug them all and tell them that regardless, as much as it hurts to see them grow up and leave everything we once held so sacred behind, that I still love them, that I hope that they’re happy. And most of all, I want to tell them really badly that I’m just really going to miss them, because regardless of the lies we like to tell ourselves and each other, nothing will ever be the same again.

I think about my own family again. And my nieces, growing so fast and getting so big. I think about how they were almost never born, how the doctors said they would never make it. I think about the miracles, their births, things that made me believe that maybe something was watching out for us in those long and painful months when we anxiously awaited their arrival. I think about what might have happened if… but then I remember that I shouldn’t always be as candid about the details of other people’s lives, and I stop myself here.

I think about that asshole cab driver that assaulted me last Fall. I think about that night a lot more than I realize, a lot more than I care to admit. I think about the guilt I feel for letting myself get so drunk, and then for letting myself get so drunk again multiple times after that because all I ever want to do is forget and forget and forget. I remember feeling so sad and useless before he put his hand on my knee, and how paralyzed I felt when his hand moved further up, and how confused I was when he tried to get on top of me, and how I knew I had to leave but I couldn’t help myself. And how shitty it felt when I finally got out and tried to find ways to quickly turn the situation so that I could justify the night. I think about how I yelled at him and how I ran to my car and how I watched him go. I think about how much I cried. I think about how I huddled myself down by my driver’s side door, and how I couldn’t stop crying, and how I called Monica over and over again and how she wouldn’t answer her phone. I think about how I wanted nothing to do with anything. I think about the shame I felt in everything, about going to Jenn’s house the next day and hiding out. I think about how I went to Tony’s and hid for days and days and how I never wanted to leave because it felt like he was the only person in the world that could ever protect me from anything, about how he was the only person who could ever care about me or would ever care about me. I think about these things, and I wonder how I’m okay. I remember that I’m not really okay yet. I tell myself that this is just another reason why I have to travel.

And I think about Tony again and how it makes me sad that we couldn’t work things out. I think about the ways I wronged him and the ways we wronged each other and the things that were said and the things that never need to be said. I think about moving on, and how it’s finally getting easier, over a year later. I remember my birthday last year, being ridiculous and going to a club and making out with a boy I barely knew, some art school kid that was much too young for me, and how silly it all was. And how I threw up afterwards and felt like hell as always.

I think about the boy in Pittsburgh I wrote a long letter to even though I didn’t really know him. I figured he might understand but at this point I’m pretty sure he didn’t, and now I don’t even really care. I think again about how fickle I am. In the wind, in the wind.

I’m 26 and tomorrow I’ll be 27 and nothing will be drastically different. I’ve already been telling people that I’m 27, so it won’t make much of a difference. I think about all the things i’ve seen and done in my life. The people i’ve met. The people that i’ve been fascinated with. The people i’ve loved, really loved, and almost loved, and wanted so desperately to love. I think about everyone I lost. I remember my grandfather, who would be turning 83 this year if he were still alive. I remember my grandmother, who is still alive, but whom I haven’t spoken to in over a year. I think about the family I have in Nicaragua and how they screwed over my mother. I think about how sad it must be to have your entire family turn against you. I miss my mother and I remember her warmth. I think that I should call her, but I know I won’t because it’s so hard to hear her voice sometimes when it’s so far away. I wonder if that’s how she felt when she first came to the states.

I think about all the steps I’ve taken to get here. To this point. Being irresponsible to the world and only responsible to myself. I wonder about all the people that do the same. I wonder about other travel writers and bloggers and whether they’ve shirked what they were supposed to do in order to follow their dreams, or if they took more logical steps. I think about all my literary heroes, and how they just wouldn’t give a shit, how they wouldn’t worry about convention because it doesn’t matter anyway. I wonder if I would ever make anyone proud.

I hate that I haven’t finished writing a book yet. Any book. Any real concrete idea. But I feel like I’m on my way to great things. I have this hope inside of me that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing, even if it gets rough and I get lonely every time the sun sets. I have this notion that good things are on the horizon even though there’s no real logical way to tell for sure, but I keep faith. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got to go by.

I think about what a different person I was 10 years ago, and how 16 year old me would have never guessed this was how I would turn out. It makes me smile to listen to this Modest Mouse song right now that 16 year old me would appreciate.

I know that this week I’ll be making some big decisions about a lot of things. I know that sometimes I get really tired and that I don’t want to keep going any further. I know that sometimes there’s absolutely no one around, and that the nights are darker, and that I’m further away than I’ve ever been from home, and that I’m only surrounded by strangers, and that this bed is too big for one person, and that this life is too hard. Because it really is too hard. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes wish for it to be easier, or at the very least, not as long lasting. But I’m tired and I don’t want to think about any of that. Thing will get better and easier. I will get a job. I will write. I will do my bidding. I will become incoherent as the nights get longer, as passages are drawn to a close.

And I will travel, because I want to see the world. I’ve always wanted to see the world. I always said that I would. So I’m on my way..

I am finally feeling comfortable in my life. I’ve stopped caring about the self-indulgent nature of this because this isn’t about anyone else but me. So screw it. Despite the difficulties, I’m having a ball.

Tomorrow I turn 27. I had no idea I would ever make it this far.

From Morgan Avenue with Love (New York City Stories, Take 1)

So I’m sitting in this quaint, little wooden house in Athens, Ohio, amongst a mess of dirty laundry and even filthier bed sheets that could tell you tales that I probably can’t even imagine myself and I’m thinking that I should write about my recent experience in New York City while it’s still relatively fresh in my mind before it escapes me as so many memories tend to do the older I get. The point of this whole trip was to not only travel, but more importantly, to write. To write about it, to write about the people, to write how I felt, to write what I knew, to write what I learned, to just fucking write. Now is just as good a time as any to begin chronicling my misadventures in hobo-land.

There needs to be an appropriate soundtrack, I tell myself as I sit down to write this, so I YouTube some Ratatat. “Loud Pipes” is playing and I can hear the fan in the corner blowing air across the room on the lowest setting possible, just good enough to keep it from getting stuffy but not so loud that I can’t hear myself think.

A splash of pavement from Williamsburg, a tiny sunset in the Financial District, steamed dumplings the size of a watermelon, and all those bridges connecting, keeping a city afloat and connected to the rest of the world – all random flashes in my mind of the places etched into my mind, forming one big picture of New York City to me, the visitor, the outsider from Miami.

There are all these songs and stories and movies written about the city that it makes you wonder why anyone would live anywhere else. But maybe it’s because of all the hype that so many people choose not to end up there (I know that was my experience when I was in Pittsburgh). I, myself, constantly struggle on the fence of desiring Native status and simply wanting to accept my place as the occasional drop-in guest. I went to New York this time around without any real expectation, which was probably for the best since there was really nothing to find. In the end, all I left with was a heavily depleted bank account and a sense of confusion about who exactly took my money in the first place, like a broke(n down) amnesiac.

My flight picked me up out of Ft. Lauderdale, about an hour north of Miami for the non-South Floridians, and flew me over to Queens – LaGuardia Airport, paid courtesy of JetBlue (my favorite airline, despite the fact that they turned down my application for a position as a flight attendant).

“I’m really doing it,” I thought to myself as the giant rubber tired crashed onto the pavement. I grabbed my heavy, Adidas backpack that I bought about a day or so before skipping town to live life on the road for a while, and made my way to the bus stop right outside. The bus was packed and I stood there waiting for a seat but ending up getting off the bus before one ever became available. One of many analogies for the city, I guess. I huffed it to a train, then another bus, and finally found Jefferson Street, where my buddy CJ lives. CJ was a kid I knew way back in high school, someone I didn’t entirely get along with because he seemed way too uptight for my teen taste (I was too busy being an asshole, yelling back at Mrs. Brown and getting in trouble for the fuck of it. Mrs. Brown taught English and in retrospect, she was pretty damn nice to me and I was just a stupid kid, but that’s young angst for you). All I could remember about CJ was that he was a good student, spoke with a unique sort of accent, and sold Argentinian alfajores (a type of sweet) at the end of class. I myself was also fairly entrepreneurial, and I had my mother bake brownies that I sold at about .50 a pop. It really pissed some of my teachers off.

It’s funny how life works out though, and after 10th grade, I never saw or heard from CJ again. That is, until the advent of Facebook, where he somehow found and friended me. After reading about his job at a local Broward newspaper and all his penguin-related joke statuses, I started thinking CJ had actually grown to be a pretty awesome guy. Then, last year, as I was visiting NYC after a failed relationship and a number of other unpleasant events, CJ asked if I wanted to meet up. And meet up we did, at a gay bar near Christopher Street. It was pretty fantastic because I always had my suspicions but seeing as CJ had been involved with the far-right clubs in high school (Republican and Christian groups), I was never 100% sure what was up with his orientation. These days, he’s much more open and relaxed and it was really grand to meet up with him and get to know him under new circumstances. That night, CJ told me to look him up the next time I was in town. And so, a few weeks before leaving Miami, I sent him a quick Facebook message asking if he’d let me stay with him a few nights and if he’d like to hang out some more, to which he very cordially replied: yes.

CJ lives on Jefferson Street near the L, in a multi-bedroom apartment he shares with about 3 other roommates (I can’t remember if I met them all or not?) Walking into the hallway of his complex, you’re greeted with the delicious, familiar scent of nice-quality herb, the kind I wasn’t fortunate enough to partake in as it was never offered and the only offer extended was that I buy $40 of more worth, which was way beyond my budget. Nostrils flared, I let the smell sink deep into my lungs as I entered the apartment. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of places i’ve crashed at since then have all had the same lived-in, dirty dishes, lack of feather duster, tell-tale art on the walls kind of feel that this joint had. These apartments all have this quality of desire to them, a combination of grunge and grit left behind by the over-booked lives of 20-somethings. They’d make great anthropological studies: notice the caked on cheese left on the plates, the gum and cigarette wrappers and beer bottle tops strewn about, hurried messages scribbled on napkins, half eaten sandwiches barely wrapped in the fridge, a compost heap or recycling bin because even though they’re busy, they still kinda care about the planet, an instrument that’s played on drunken nights by the musical talent of the house, well-worn shoes that have traipsed the city one hundred nights and then some, a fancy bike that cost more than everyone’s rent combined leaning against a wall with chipped paint, some books written by dead authors and dead poets about how to survive stacked tightly in a shelf to show that someone is well read, and maybe a refrigerator magnet from each of their home towns holding up a local chinese food menu. Beautiful.

The main thing I noticed, and what I hadn’t exactly prepared for, was that New York City would be hot. And not just hot, but really fucking sweltering hot. I’m from Miami, i’ve grown up under the sun. But i’ve always had air conditioning available. And when that wasn’t, due to some major natural disaster or power outage, there was always something else, like a battery operated fan. Never had I experienced the stagnant heat of a NYC basement in the summertime. I hate to sound ungrateful, and to be honest, I am not and would gladly sleep there again no question, but now I would go in with a much more prepared state of mind. CJ led me down the metal steps from his apartment’s kitchen to the shared basement space that divided his bedroom from his roommate’s room. Right in the middle was a big, grown, fuzzy couch with a wool blanket at one end and a pillow at the other.

“I hope you don’t mind, we don’t have a fan or anything. This is the couch though! Let me know if you’re not comfortable though!” CJ said to me, so kindly to the girl he really didn’t know much about at all except she was kind of a pain in the ass when she was 15 and probably was still somewhat of a pain over a decade later. I plopped my stuff down by the edge of the couch.

“This is perfect!” I smiled, and it was, because I wasn’t paying one red cent for it, and sleeping there meant I could be in New York City, the holy land of dreamers who imagine their own towns to be much too small for their big ideas. There were no expectations, only gratitude to have a small space to call my own, even if only temporarily, in a city of 8 million other confused individuals just trying to get by. It felt good. It felt really good. I sat down on the couch, opened my bag, and got acquainted with my first free home on the road.

(Check back for continuations throughout the week. For now, enjoy the music.)