Great Expectations

I stood at the train station in Bristol, PA and reminisced about the night before. Remembering back to the bourbon, the cigar smoke, and the half blow job in the bathroom of the speakeasy. I came back to reality only to notice a suicide prevention sign glaring at me from across the tracks. I wondered solemnly how many people had to throw themselves in front of trains before someone decided the sign was necessary.

When the train finally came to take me back to New York, I was glad to see it. I watched the landscape roll by outside my window. Autumn is never as beautiful once the last leaves fall. Everything on the eastern side of the states becomes a shade of brown or grey. The sky and the dead grass seem to merge into one ongoing horizon. Homes which once stood tall and gallant were now crumbling in and bags of dirty diapers and recyclables lined the unkept yards. Suicide suddenly made sense against the un-charmed backdrop. I’m sure a town like Bristol sees their fair share of suicides.

I was only there for an evening, for a boy – of course. He was tall and large and his beard reminded me of a cartoon character’s. He was quiet, yet also not, in a way I can’t really understand. He moves slowly and eats like a horse. I gave him a hand job in the back of an uber and we had sex on a basement couch. It was messy and childish but I liked it, despite my best efforts not to.

Dating has gotten ever stranger since moving to the city. There are no rules, or expectations, and very little romance. The fantasy that prince charming will show up to sweep me off my feet met its sweet demise years ago. Hope sometimes lingers, but only when I’m in the mood to dream. There is something really great about breaking ones own expectation of what love is supposed to be. It’s opening me up to loving myself more and needing others less. Which actually isn’t as sad as I would have thought it to be. Where I come from, marriage and babies is the end-all-be-all. It’s what you do to prove to yourself you are an adult and worthy of praise and success. Here, love and children are optional and they mean so much less than I ever expected.

I finally buried the dream weeks ago. He stood in my doorway clutching his things, and I mine. I wished him a happy Thanksgiving and began to make my way up the stairs and into my apartment. “I thought you would want to talk about this.” He said, trying hard to hide his frustration. Everything had been said and we had gotten to the point where we were just speaking in circles. Fighting for nothing more than the sake of it. “I’m fine.” and I didn’t look back, not even to watch him walk away. For the first time I was the one to leave – and it felt good.

I took a bus to meet The Beard in Philadelphia. We ate oysters and drank too much whiskey. We talked about traveling and threesomes and our crazy families. When he danced his feet moved fast and his gigantic tree trunk like arms stayed still in place. I laughed loudly until small tears ran down my cheeks. It wasn’t romantic but it was fun. It was exactly what I needed.

I was never satisfied constantly comparing my life to some romantic comedy. Always forcing the people in my life to love me the way that I wanted to be loved. It was a shoddy plan that crashed and burned every time. I have learned to put down my arms and let go of control. It was easy once I finally gave myself permission to give up and walk away from my great expectations.

 

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245 Tompkins Avenue

I wouldn’t have called it my dream apartment. From the outside, it looked like it had survived 3 hurricanes and a zombie apocalypse. Each of the three apartments had two matching balconies located on the far side of the building which faced Tompkins park. At one time, it was probably a lovely place to sit and watch the kids walk to school or see the distant sun setting over the cityscape. But as the years flew by, the iron gates of these tiny terraces had become so rusted through it was a wonder they hadn’t fall right off the of building.

There was a stray cat living in our hallway named Tiger. I could tell by her cries for attention and food that she had probably belonged to someone. But people are cruel and they will do what they have to survive, leaving poor little Tigs on the street to fend for herself. My roommate has a bigger heart than she does a brain and would often let her into our apartment, to play with her cat, never considering the diseases that she could be carrying within her sticky, matted fur. The neighbors let Tiger in through a hole in the roof and most days she slept on the stairs. Occasionally there would be a perfect round turn waiting for us in the hallway. Although, we were never sure if it was Tiger’s as they usually looked big enough to be human.

The apartment on Tompkins was the only one Kelly and I could agree on. Our third roommate, was off on some cruise having the time of our life, and expected us to choose her a room and work out all the details amongst the two of us. She is violently irresponsible. Kelly and I hated each other from the get go. She, a right-wing Texan who loved processed food and Jesus, and I, a liberal feminist were bound to have problems. We agreed on the apartment solely because there were fewer stairs she had to climb than the previous options and I was tired of looking. After our first apartment had fallen through and I had been forced to live on my friend’s couch for a week, I would have slept in a box.

The closet doors hung lifeless from their hinges and there was a giant old mop sitting in still water in the middle of the living room. “It’s a real fixer upper, but the good thing about that is you can really make it your own.” Our realtor was young and vapid with sunken eyes and translucent skin. He paced rapidly and jumped from one foot to another as he showed us the apartment and I couldn’t tell if he was a heroin addict looking for a fix or if he was just unhealthy and needed to pee. Either way Kelly was smitten with him. She giggled as he accidentally pulled the handle off the “brand new” oven. I rolled my eyes and wanted to die. But we signed the lease anyway because I am inpatient and am great at making horrible decisions.

Kelly was gone when the blizzard hit. She had broken the living room window the night before in a high daze. She was one bong rip away from falling out of it completely as she attempted to smoke her last cigarette. She left for Texas in the morning without telling us anything had happened. So there we were, with in the middle of the worst snow storm New York City had seen in decades, with a broken window and a super named Tony who didn’t speak English or know how to use a power drill. We were fucked.

The window in my room was broken as well and there was a large hole in the wall where an air conditioning unit once sat. The only thing between my room and the outside world were two pieces of purple styrofoam and some reusable shopping bags I stuffed in between for insulation. When the city finally came to inspect our building they took the temperature of my bedroom and found that it was 45 degrees. It was St. Patrick’s Day and the warmest day we had, had in months.

Of course along with the broken window there was the lack of cold water. I know it may seem like you shouldn’t really need cold water in the winter but let me tell you, you absolutely fucking do. Without cold water to help regulate the temperature you are forced to bath in scalding hot hell fire. The landlord didn’t understand why this was a problem. “Who doesn’t want hot showers in the winter?! You crazy shikk…” He always stopped himself before he called me a Shiksa. As if being called a white whore was somehow worse than not being able to shower without burning my skin. For the record, words can’t hurt you like 300 degree water can.

The baby roaches, the black mold under the sink, and the rat poison in our drawers which made us all sick also contributed to our misery. Although nothing was worse than our landlord. He was a young, possibly inbred, shiesty Hasidic man who relentlessly harassed us for not paying rent on time (which we always did) and never shared with us so much as his first name. Each month the checks were made out to “Mr. Miller”. He did not have an email address or an office. We were to meet him out front of a small yiddish drug store and present our rent checks. If we had complaints, he always met us outside of our apartment building and brought his kids along. “You see, you see these children! I need to make a living, I have mouths to feed!” His children were some of the strangest looking kids I had ever seen. Looking into their classy eyes and porcelain skin deeply upset me. They never made a sound, they just stared at me with frozen faces as if holding their breath. I’m sure they actually were holding their breath. There is probably some strange rule that Hasidic children are banned from breathing the same air as gentile whores.

We broke the lease after a grueling 4 months. Between the unlivable conditions and my disgusting roommate leaving odd cups of milk to spoil in the fridge and leaving giant shit stains all up the back of our toilet seat, I had, had enough. After I had packed my things and moved them into my new apartment, I stood in the room and looked out onto the crumbling balcony. In that moment the room was actually beautiful. Bright light poured in through the windows and left it feeling sunny and warm. What a shame it was that it had been neglected for so many years. I said goodbye to first chapter of my New York City experience and I won’t go back, not even to check my mail.