She cut her hair. She got short bangs chopped her long hair. She lost her charm and grace and men noticed her less. She wanted change and no else understood, and it really didn’t matter to her. She wanted change. She got change. She chopped off her jet black hair and her friends said it would grow soon to comfort her, their voices filled with pity and their faces drenched with sorrowful smiles. And she laughed and said she didn’t care if her her hair ever grew back and they thought she was just saying it to make herself feel better. The fact was even with chopped her, the girls were jealous because she was still carrying herself really well. She never slouched and her hips moved gracefully even when she was tired and her legs cramped. She walked with sensuality and men watched her with lust pouring out of their eyes and mouths even without the long locks of hair. She had lost the special grace that comes with long hair, but she knew how to walk and smile and girls were jealous. She knew they were, but never put herself above anyone else. She worked hard and didn’t draw attention to herself by flaunting or wearing tight skirts. And one day, when it was hot and her bangs had curled up, she took out a mirror and fixed them, and then got up to get off at her stop.
I hang in the kitchen. The view is disappearing from outside, the view I created for myself when I first walked into the apartment, the view that belongs to a stranger. The sun is setting and I am crying on the couch. I am lying there, still, tired. My tears wet the red sheet on the couch. I’ve thrown the empty grocery bags off the couch. I’ve nestled in, so tired that I cry because of it. The view is gone as I look toward the window, the glass dirty with winter stains. I am lying on the couch, and it doesn’t belong to me, but I lie there because I am too tired to go back into my room. Moving makes your legs weak, even before the day. You feel it in the back of your neck, the pain of moving and locking doors, the pain of packing boxes of everything that made your stay memorable. Moving makes your heart sick. It makes you vomit with nervousness and joy, with longing and acceptance.
I would lie still anywhere that has stained my mind with memories of the city, all of which I long to keep within reach. Today, the day is hot and the night is hotter. My room mates and I talk of moving. We know we have little time. We make the best of it. Today, we don’t lie about our pain. Today, we are talking about moving and what it takes, all the energy, all the vigor, all the pain, all the longing to keep staying.
I hang in the kitchen and the view is not the same.
Leaving a place comes with a great tidal wave. It’s like standing on shore, getting hit by multiple angry waves, submerging underneath unwillingly, your lungs filled with polluted water and blood, your eyes gushing with pebbles and small sea shells. Nostalgia is a constant phase for people who always leave a place, who always long to return, and move on, and return. Nostalgia is a tidal wave of memories, sour, sweet, salty.
Above ground, standing still on shore, looking towards the waves is the initial feeling of longing. It is looking forward and not being able to capture the waves and the sky and the water. It is an inability so grand that is better to leave unmentioned.
In my head there is a tidal wave, strong, destructive, frightening, loud and angry. I am constantly submerged under water, my feet stuck in wet sand, my head exploding with particles of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and vulnerability. I cannot run away. I cannot yell for help. I cannot breathe because my lungs are wrapped in a coat of sea creatures. I cannot swim for I am tied down with nostalgia, with longing and the fear of letting go.
This is my state of being. It happens often, for I am often changing homes. And when I am home, wherever that is, I am longing for the tidal wave because I like the excitement and the change of waves. It is a longing, a sick, enticing longing that cannot be explained.
Today the waves are weak. I am above water, breathing spring air without difficulty. I made coffee and washed a pile of dirty dishes that were stained with pasta sauce and ketchup. I did not listen to the voices in my head. I did not long for anything. I walked away from the tidal waves, far out, until I could no longer hear the ocean.
I didn’t call Mom today. I called no one. No one called me either. I just went about my day, wondering if my mother would call me. Maybe she thinks I am busy and not thinking about calling.
I wasn’t busy.
I ride the subway a lot. Everyday. And it is soothing in a way. Your mind travels and goes beyond yourself. Sometimes we pass another train and we get really close, almost hitting it. And I wonder what it would be like if we did clash. If we collided and traded spots with the other passengers or flew through windows. The closeness is intense. I see their faces on the opposite side. Sometimes I will lock eyes with someone.
On lonely days, the subway is an escape. I am connected. It’s a distant connection, and maybe not entirely satisfying, but it is still a connection I appreciate and do not take for granted. There are a lot of lonely days in the city. But people are nice. They smile at me. They say hello with their eyes. And the loneliness is good for me. It forces me to reflect and think of how I can improve.
But then there are times that I don’t want to get off at my stop. I want to sit with the strangers and go until the end of the line…until there is no turning back.
In front of me is sitting a boy of about eight. He has soft, straight blond hair. He has his arms clasped together, his eyes intense and deep, seriously contemplating something. Sometimes our eyes meet. He keeps a stern look. I do too, though internally I am smiling at him. I wonder if he thinks I’m pretty. He has a navy North Face jacket on and a pair of sneakers. The two little boys next to him are loud, playing some video game. He looks at them sternly, annoyed. He fidgets and the two little boys jump up and down in their seats, laughing. The boy watches over their shoulder, curious to see what they’re playing, but he maintains his distance and serious posture. He is a good boy.
I stand to get off at 28th street. I look at him one last time. He is looking at someone else.
I call home.
Dad picks up. His voice, quiet at first, rises, a higher pitch, a happy pitch.
“How are you Daddy?”
“Better when I hear your voice.”
He says that every time I call. My mother answers differently. She is fine or tired.
“I’m, alright. It’s going…okay.”
He knows I’m not okay.
“Oh, my darling is tired. It will be better, I promise you. If I could, I’d come visit you.”
I sometimes forget how sweet he is. When I tell Mom I’m tired, she says oh no, not again, or nothing. Then I say Mom, that’s not why I called. I called you to tell me it’s going to be okay. Well, I don’t know what you want me to say, she says. Just say what I just said! She laughs and I laugh and the next time she is about to say oh no not again, she stops mid-sentence and says, oops, I’m not supposed to say that. We both laugh again.
But funny thing is Daddy knows exactly what to say on the phone. In person, he is real quiet, so much that you get angry because you think you don’t exist.
I hold my cell away so it doesn’t touch my wet cheeks. I look at myself in the mirror as Daddy says you are going to be fine, and I look ridiculous, all crying and silly. I keep crying and I say bye Daddy, I love you. He loves me back and I feel guilty for hurting him.
“I’m sorry if I made you sad Daddy.”
He is real sweet, of course he understands.
Of course he understands.
I stand before the mirror, naked, tired, shaken. I have bags underneath my eyes. My eyes have sunken into the back of my cheekbones. My eyes are hollow. My eyes are empty and lost and forgotten. My eyes are naked.
I dip my feet into cold water that has risen slightly high in the bath tub. I turn on the hot water frantically, cursing at it, my bruised toe screaming. I am frantic and tired and shaken. The water runs down on me, hot. My back burns and I scream with joy. I am so tired and scared. I hug myself, I wrap my arms around my belly, and my belly aches with suppressed pain and confusion. I hug it. I turn and twitch and my body is wrapped in a hot blanket of rain. My eyes are wet and screaming. My knees drop. I sit on the unwashed, dirty tub, and I wrap my arms around my knees and let my eyes fall into a hole. I am thinking of my mother. I want my mother to know I am here, under, and buried. But I don’t want my mother to suffer or to hear me singing. I don’t want her here. I want her somewhere, but not here, not under.
I like to rise above sometimes and see how I walk, how I wander, how I behave in front of strangers. I like to rise above my mind and my soul and hold my head in a different position.
I like to rise above,
until I am not thinking about myself.