i n t r o
p h o t o g r a p h y
w r i t i n g
v e n u e s
b l o g
a r t i s t s
o u t r o
a f f i l i a t e s
by Allie Rowbottom | 2008
At eight o clock this morning I arrived home from what was quite possibly the most horrible New York City night I've experienced in the five plus years Manhattan and I have been involved. Alright, perhaps that's an over exaggeration. Perhaps Manhattan would say I am prone to make mountains out of urban molehills and perhaps Manhattan would be right. But having recently spent five hours on a stalled metro north train with no heat or electricity, I feel entitled to a bit of drama.
It all started with the snow. I saw the snow yesterday afternoon and sensed a distant, but distinct feeling of foreboding which I promptly tucked away, bound and determined to enjoy my New Years Eve for ONCE goddamnit. Last year I recall ringing in 08 surrounded by lovely friends but distracted by an unreturned text message from a lover who later turned out to be markedly cursed by an inability to return phone calls and texts on New Years or any other night, a tendency that grew over time until said lover decided never to text back...ever again. But such is not the point of this story and too much of the woe is me and I will lose you, my reader, so here we go, back to the series of unfortunate events that will forever mark New Years Eve 2009.
As I was saying, the snow should have been my first hint that the evening's energy was off. Still, I forged ahead, driving to the train station in New Haven with plans to leave my little car in the garage there and train it into Grand Central. Were I paying closer attention I would have noticed clue number two: No parking spots. Not at first anyways; I did find one eventually, but only after I drove in circles for twenty minutes, my road rage growing with the pressure of concentric movement the way tension builds with a wind up doll or jack in the box.
After leaving my car, "Blue", in the snowy outdoor lot, I trotted into the station, bought my ticket and headed to the train. For some reason, perhaps because of the snow or the scores of New Years revelers making their way into the city, the Metro North staff were taking tickets in the hallway that leads to the tracks, as opposed to on the train itself. A man was walking just ahead of me and when he handed in his ticket to be punched, the conductor asked, "are you two together?' motioning at me as if to ask, "should I punch this ticket twice?'
"Absolutely,' the man said, turning to look at me and revealing a thin, impish face that looked to belong to someone in their late forties. His words made plain an Australian accent. "No no,' I said, smiling at the confused ticket taker and brandishing my own overpriced piece of MTA currency. Regardless, this interaction served as a green light of sorts for my new Australian friend who promptly glommed onto me, peppering me with questions that I answered with single worded sentences while pretending to receive text messages on my phone.
As we climbed the steps towards the train, I serendipitously ran into a kid I went to high school with. Saying hello and remarking on how small a world it really is served to separate me from the Australian for an opportune moment in which I hung back, chit chatted with my high school comrade and watched which car the Australian entered, making sure to seat myself several cars away. But alas, as the train rolled into motion, the Australian reappeared, sitting down beside me. By this time he was calling me Heidi and informing me that my Dutch parents had abandoned me at birth. I faked a telephone call and removed myself from the seat, walking as quickly as I could between cars until I arrived at the opposite end of the train.
Things went peacefully for a while. At one point a group of high school seniors got on and proceeded to mix vodka and red bull in the seats in front of me. This was amusing and I enjoyed watching the strange sexual tension developing with each drink they imbibed. Such was shattered, however, when my Australian buddy returned yet again. I sighed and gave up, recalling the phrase, "grist for the mill' and reminding myself that we were, after all, only 20 minutes from Grand Central. Or so I thought. The train stalled somewhere near Fordham and we sat for a half an hour in the cold darkness before lurching into motion again. I will not attempt to relay the extent to which my conversation with the traveling Australian man was surreal, poignant and terrifying. Rather, I will sum it up in bullet-point form – see below:
• Him: "Look at that high school girl, she wants me, she wants an older man. Look at her, she keeps looking over here and licking her lips.'
• Him: "You have to follow your intuition. It's all about your heart. I mean look at me, if I were thinking logically I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you, I would be thinking boy she is obviously not interested, she won't look at me and will barely talk to me. But here I am, talking to you."
• Him: "I was one of three women's studies majors in all of Australia."
• Him (talking to a passenger who inadvertently walked into me upon leaving the train): "Oh don't mind my girlfriend...oh you see she doesn't like it when I call her my girlfriend, it's all an act really."
• Him: "You should come to Australia. Seriously, here you are just a plain Jane but over there, with your accent, you could pass for a model."
• Him: "So what do you say, Heidi, want to have a tryst? It'll be a night you will never forget. I am a tantric sex master. Here, let me take your number down."
Suffice it to say I didn't take him up on his offer. Instead, we parted ways in the Grand Central Terminal. He hugged me and I yelled very loudly "DON'T TOUCH ME."
From there I made my way downtown to my darling friend Alex's party at the Thompson hotel. I walked in and promptly took several shots after which I promptly answered my phone and promptly encountered a disappointing situation involving my New Years date who was supposed to meet me at the party but, instead, called to cancel. At this point it was around 11 pm. At this point I'd had several strong drinks. At this point I began to cry.
My date who is, in fact, a lovely person, offered to meet me to discuss the reasons behind his desire to avoid attending parties with me. And so, we met. We met at 11:30 on New Years Eve at the Ray's pizza on Astor Place. From there, the conversation developed into a familiar, repetition compulsion rife discussion summed up best by the following quotations: Him: "I'm not ending things, I just don't want to be in a relationship right now."
Me: "Ok, I understand, but what does that mean?"
Him: "I don't know, I just don't feel right, I can't stop thinking about my ex."
Me: makes despondent facial expression and slaps hand against forehead. Immediately begins picturing him and his beautiful ex-girlfriend locked in tight, forgiving embrace...
Him: "I don't miss her really, I just...I can't be tied down right now, I want to hook up with other people."
Me: "Great (again slaps forehead but considers considering his idea)...well do you have specific people in mind?"
Him: "I mean, one or two, I'm a guy..."
Me: comes to senses, "Yeah, no, there's just no way I could do that."
Him: takes a bit of pizza, "Can't we just pretend it's the sixties?"
Suffice it to say the conversation didn't go much further and I headed back to Grand Central, feeling dejected and missing in no particular order but with all my heart: my girlfriend Ariella, my old apartment, my car, Ham, my jammies, and Mr. Owl, my trusty stuffed animal. Nevertheless I forged ahead, missing by a minute the 1:33 am train and opting then for the 2:03 from track 25. With plenty of time to spare, I bought a Reeses and settled into my seat, willing the wheels into motion and the time to pass quickly by.
And it did....helped along by sympathetic, vodka soaked text messages, and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter...until the clock struck 3:00 am anyways. That was when the journey came to an abrupt halt, physically speaking. The train stopped – we were somewhere outside of Bridgeport, not 15 minutes from New Haven – the lights went out, and the heat shut off. This time, the situation lasted. Apparently the wires that power the train had entangled and ripped apart, crippling our train as well as the one that followed it.
So they sent a rescue train. But that one broke down too.
Then they sent a truck with repair equipment, blankets, and maybe hot chocolate, probably not, but blankets for sure. That truck hit a pole on 95 and caused a large traffic jam.
All this information we received over the course of several hours and via the conductor's radio, which was easily heard given that we'd all been gathered in two of the head cars so as to facilitate our hasty transfer to the rescue vehicle, when and if that vehicle ever arrived.
It was very cold. Very very cold. And dark. And because I was in a slinky party dress and stockings, and because I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I was reduced to an extreme state of sadness. On the bright side, I was comforted by several kind passengers with whom I'd entered into a commiseration and comradery with. One of them even shared his last cigarette with me, which was fabulous, given the circumstances...given that such was exactly what I wanted at the moment...aside from heat, food and hot chocolate of course.
When, after three hours in the cold darkness, the rescue train arrived, it took another hour or so to get moving and back to New Haven, at which point I literally ran to my car, frozen joints cracking and high heels clacking. It was on the entrance ramp to 95 that I started to scream, the volume of my own voice reverberating against the car walls, raking the walls of own throat satisfyingly. I'd left New York, which is an hour and a half from my house, at 2:03 am but did not walk through the front door until around 8.
Now that I've had some sleep, a shower, and a few hour's perspective, I'm still not exactly sure what to make of my most recent New Year's experience. Strangely, and quite frighteningly, it all circles round to the Australian. Something he said about intuition, about optimism in the face of disappointed hope, about life and our hearts. Something about trust and unity. About surrendering to what is.
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