The Visit

The waitress walked towards us, no eye contact. She was having a rough day. Seated at the awkward table beside the serving counter, mum and I sat down and we were handed a thick bible of a menu. We both just looked at the specials, easier and less words. Quickly choosing some starchy dish we placed the menus down and sipped the water that had just splashed out of the iced jug from the distracted waitress.

Mum has a belief that she has nothing worth saying so conversation stops and starts with her. As her son, I have the gene that seems to have carried this trait. I fight it everyday. We all have something worth saying, especially to those who love us.

We sat in the diner on the Upper East Side, mother and son together on the other side of the world in NYC. She is visiting from her little island in the South Pacific. She never would have dreamed to come here to see me. But she was given the chance.

On Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend at the time surprised me by saying he would get flights for my mum and her partner so a little piece of Australia could come to me. I burst into tears when he told me in the street down in the East Village, it was incredibly sweet and generous. My mum could finally meet the man I loved and his kids. The reason I left my home in Australia for. And as a couple, slowly looking at forming a family unit.

Yet a few short months later he ended it suddenly. In my shock and grief the last thing I wanted was to have her come here, and see the huge hole that was now NYC to me. I couldn’t say no, of course they should come. That whole, “let’s make it an adventure that we originally didn’t foresee” but in the end she was coming for a funeral of the life I had. Though she was the sort of guest who didn’t know those who are no longer in my life. One who was attending the funeral, as a support.

So as we sit in this diner, our starch arrives, the weight of the plate thumped on the table . And she has seen me the last week and a half in a fog. She also sees me find the energy to look past the constant stab of a reminder, that instead of showing her Brooklyn Bridge, I should have been showing her how much of a cheeky and funny pair the kids are. How happy I was in the world beside the cheeky and warm man I stood beside. I look at my mum and know she she gets it. She is having a ball in NYC and sees her son being taken away in the sorrow.

“I’m sorry mum for not being so present, I want to be and I have so much guilt that I am not. I only have a few days to share with you here before you are leaving”

“Mate, don’t ever feel that way, it makes sense and I am glad to be here for you, even if no words make it better. Don’t ever feel that guilt. “

I write the above as to how I feel we both wanted to say to the other. It came out and stabs and starts, but that was the general vibe. And my eyes welled with tears. We have gone through a lot together.

I read her an email from one of my cousins who recently wanted to reach out for forgiveness. She said sorry for her part in the large pool of hurt that the religious world we came from held down on us, so many years ago. I can see that meant a lot to her too. And she was taken back to those years ago and went absent herself, as she repeats over and over her regret at the way things happened with her and my family. When it was her time for fog.

We eat our dinner, we talk about our worlds and sit up to focus more on our moment. We get less and less of them and I refused to be taken away by the fog.

The check comes, when mum is in the bathroom I do the sneaky pay the check. Getting mum dinner just always feels good.

We wave back at the waitress to say thanks as we leave, she didn’t look up.

We sit on a brick garden wall, on a street corner eating an ice cream. And take a photo. Enjoy the moment.

We bury us.

The cold clay was cut in the darkness, the steel spade lifting up the first clump. The sound of roots tearing, grass covered in the slumbering dirt. The pile began to grow, a small rough pyramid forming in the stillness. The weight on my heart grew. Each shovel cutting through the memories, each dig was making the hole inside me bigger. A bird chirped in the distance, dawn was approaching. The hole in the earth was shaped and deep enough, and I hear you arriving. I don’t look up, I don’t want to see your eyes. But I see your feet.

You let me dig the hole by myself.

You throw in the uncertainty, it drops straight down into the darkness. I then throw in never really feeling noticed, along with misunderstanding. I shake off the masks I wore.

More birds chirping and the first rays of the sun touch the trees above. I see out of the corner of my eye you release our dreams of the family we had. I then threw in some drawings the kids made for me, no longer will I ever get to be their father. More memories float down, they drip off my fingers. I choose to catch a few though, they can stay. Some thuds of hope are shed and the hole is now swimming with who us was. No longer moving, but limp layered us.

You pick up a spade, the one that I left for you. You didn’t even let us have a moment of silence. I picked up the other, and gently nudged the first crumbling clay and soil back in. You take a big chunk of dirt, and toss it in. The earth taking it back. I follow your lead. The light hits my face, my chest, my hands. It’s OK, the sun is still rising. I now look at the mound in front of me, covering the hole, the deep is unsettled but absorbing us. I feel you look at me, I do not look up. You wait, you want me to look at you. I do not look up. You sigh deeply, place the shovel down in the grass, then step away til I hear your footsteps no more.

Birds are chirping and I lightly touch the soil. My handprint appears and I stand up again. I turn away and look at the sunrise, hello my friend.

Fog

I wake up and its 5.30am and the cool light outside reminds me where I am. Brooklyn birds quietly tweet outside, the only noise in the stillness. My sleepy nook where I emerge everyday is a joy. I lift the eyelids inside my mind and immediately remember. He walked away from me. I was let go of, and sank deeper into my fog that met me a few weeks ago. The fog wasn’t so polite, but knew where my heart was more than I did. And made it harder to breathe without even introducing itself. I am not a lover of rudeness but it didn’t care. It carried in the sorrow and despair that I never let myself think about. What if me moving to another country and believing in love, didn’t work? The mist makes my heart condense, it feels harder and barely able to beat. Please be a morning fog, please warm up. I beg you fog, let him back in. Let me see him and feel his warm hand find me in the bed. What happened, fog why did you hide him? Why did he let go of my hand and not find our way out of the grey?

5.35am and my alarm jabs me back to my room and I dont see the fog, but it drifts inside.

NYC SUBWAY POLES CRY OUT AGAINST MEASLES VACCINATIONS

By Edwin Jones

Seventy four percent of subway poles across NYC are anti-vaxxers, based on a recent survey during the current measles crisis hitting the city. Subway poles, who typically ride the subway most days and therefore exposed to this ongoing crisis, were asked how they felt about the outbreak and what they were doing to stay protected.

Some of the questions asked of them included “Would you vaccinate due to the recent outbreak of measles?” and “Do you feel touch contributes to the spread of common illness?”

Belinda, a pole on the F train, felt like she was targeted and was simply another New Yorker going about her business, “Measles on me is just hysteria. Come on, we are not part of the problem. It’s a myth!” She felt like she was made to be part of the reason New Yorkers are in a panic, “I keep to myself and yet I am supposedly the threat! How would you like it, to be blamed or exposed as the problem? I refuse to accept vaccination as the answer!” Belinda, along with some of her friends were going to an anti-vaxxer rally this Friday in Williamsburg.  

The most interesting thing to come out of the survey was the majority (74%) did not believe in taking a trip to their doctor to get the measles vaccine. “Usually I cannot make the doctor, as the subway is my main commitment, so I would rather not.” says Bastien on the 1, sometimes 2, train. “Also, I have heard that vaccines are just a way for the rich to get richer and us poles gain nothing but more grime”.

Local communities are banding together to talk to anti-vaxxers such as poles and have even provided flyers with speaking points. How to approach a pole with the right body language and how to not offend a pole, seemingly unusual flyers to discover but communities are taking this very seriously. Chantal from the West Village has successfully had some great conversations with the ant-vaxxers. “I feel they remain calm and respectful just like me, we ride the subway as fellow New Yorkers and I hope what I say to them really makes them think on their journey home. We are one New York.”

New York City has recorded at least 423 cases of the outbreak since October 2018 and there is no sign of this reducing. Public Heath emergencies have been declared in both New York City and Rockland County.

A few subway seats who overheard the survey reportedly chimed in and expressed their views which were not available at the time of printing.

NYC Life Hacks #142

#142 – Your Commute (where are the other #141 hacks?)

If you are like me, I dislike touching strangers. But we are made to in the dreaded concept of commuting on public transport. It has taken a year to perfect my commute where my introverted self is happy with my journey and I can pretend I am in a meadow. A smelly small meadow with super sad cows that stand sort of close but hey.

So here is my hack/advice for working out a happy commute:

  • Consider leaving earlier for work. I go to gym in the city early so I avoid the crush. I avoid the sad stares of people going to do their soul destroying work. Or if you can, leave just after majority of the dead souls have already headed to their fate. Plenty of room.
  • Choose your subway car. Choose which subway car speaks to you, and what ones have less people than others. People are stupid and all cram onto the one closest to where they entered the station from, or then the others who all plan to go to the carriage that gets them closest to their exit on the other end. But you, you choose the carriage that is less busy the whole journey on average. And not empty because someone has pooed everywhere.
  • Position of where you stand on train. Aim for a wall. A wall you can lean against then zone out from the world. Don’t take a seat unless you have broken your leg or have pants that keep sliding down. That leaves you open to looking like a dick who doesn’t stand up for someone who needs it and you have zoned out. Even if you don’t get to a wall at first, make your way there as people get off. You will get there, don’t worry. Then you feel you have your own fort, protected from thoroughfare and only half the amount of armpits.
  • Choose your connection carefully. For many months I was changing subway lines at the WRONG station. It took a friend to comment that you should take it several stops earlier and then my world changed. I had been fighting for prime position and lining up where the door will appear with many others. A few of us regulars would eye each other, without actually eyeing each other. After this advice, changing earlier meant that the train had not stopped at some of the major stations meaning, as per suggestion above, I found an empty wall and zoned out to my meadow. Do it.

I will add more suggestions as I go (I wont) and feel free to share your own.

A Real New Yorker – Therapy.

I checked my phone for the address for the seventh time and it was still the same. I looked up and saw the number on the building, glanced at phone then back at number. Yes idiot, this is it. It says it right there.

Stood outside until it was 10 minutes before my appointment time, just in case there was some paperwork not in order or there was a delay. Always factoring in those things, “just in case” was very much my motto. I acted casual, leaning against an empty store window beside the entry where I knew people were not going to be walking constantly behind or beside me. I always find a space like that, just to feel like I still have privacy in this crazy city. I looked across and noticed the Empire State Building waving from on high, as people took selfies from down low. They will all look terrible… STOP being cynical, I tell myself. OK ten minutes til my appointment. A rare New Yorker holds the door for me as I enter the quite posh lobby. The person sitting behind the concierge looks expectantly at me, but I turn and see the elevators and press the UP arrow. I want to look like this is not my first time, even if to the stranger behind the desk who has a few bagel crumbs decorating his shoulder.

The elevator had no mirror. But why did I notice or care about this? I can just tousle my hair and know it sort of fell in the right way. Why am I tousling my hair? I feel that reading that word “tousle” doesn’t even sound how I want to describe what I am doing. But its a fact and we do like first impressions. Though my appearance wont show whats going on in my head. The doors ding-ed open and the email said to turn left then go to #2 suite. This suite had a buzzer, pushing it made it tell me an IP address out loud, by an automated voice. I was super confused, looking around. Was this a test? I pressed it again and this time, the door unlocked and I walked into a space for four chairs and a sign that said “please be seated, your therapist will be with you soon”. I was looking for reception, doesn’t this place have reception? I walked around corner in this empty space and was just closed doors and noise machines on the ground. Humming was everywhere. Turning another corner meant more sound machines and more doors. I felt like I was in a suspense/thriller film for no apparent reason. But no humans anywhere and no reception. So decided, like Alison in Wonderland, to do what the sign said. I sat down and waited.

Will this work? Will it help my mind and processes? Can I trust this? I am paying someone to listen to me, does this feel genuine?

A door opened, and a smiling face said hello and I followed him into the room. Therapy had begun.

Ochre and Blue

I went to Africa for the first time in my life. Though Morocco was beyond what I ever imagined. The colours, the people and the culture were so beautiful. I do not know where to begin and I feel like a third grader writing a report of my trip as only basic words come out. Good. Pretty. Fun. Maybe because I am still trying to understand what I just experienced.

We had a beautiful house outside of Marrkech and it was beyond surreal to be living there for 12 days. Sheep and shepherds beside us, the Atlas mountains in the distance. I can still feel the cool floor underneath me and the distant different birds talking to each other.

I get so mad as to why I cannot bring it to life on a page. Though maybe it doesnt want to be on a page but inside my head as memories. I dont write to show off or say, “look at me I travel” but to say “GO, do the things!” Whether that is to get in the car and drive south further than you ever have. Or do something you havent done. It is always rewarding.

Beautiful things are waiting to come into the world.

Cold Powder

I love the magic of opening my eyes, sitting up slightly and peaking out the window to see white. It is easy to forget it is a normal weather situation but becomes this miracle. The whole streets-cape is different. It is quiet and no footprints on the sidewalk yet.

A few hours later the concrete appears everywhere, feet sweeping it away. The distant sound of shovels scraping, the prettiest sound in the world. And a little bit of sadness fills my mind, like the day after christmas or when summer is fading. The excitement was short lived.

There is a man that lives above me that gets puffed by the time he reaches my floor. I can hear his breathing under the door. It happens everyday. Then onwards and upwards he goes, each heavy step stretching and creaking the wall beside my head.

299

I thought too much.

And I regret this, as part of the fun of the writing is just saying anything. Cause someone will understand, even if it is just one person. And that person may nod while reading or smile or close the page down and say “never again” or something to that nature.

I tried writing a comic strip today. It amused me. I feel that we are told we are bad drawers unless we have a standard. But maybe I just want to set a new standard that everyone sets themselves. It felt good to do and I shared it around the office. I doubt they enjoyed it as much as I did or even understood it. But that is not the point, I was creating and sharing like we all should.

Last night I sat beside an ice skating rink in Bryant Park, the Christmas stalls now closed and empty. Spending time with my good mate and just being in the space really made me happy. I feel home here and I imagined seven rats trying to walk across the ice and they were into it.