First trip up was in the U-Haul. She drove. I rode shotgun. Had a few breakdowns along the way, not mechanical. I said the wrong thing, her pupils shrank, she went shields up, pulled onto the shoulder, unbuckled her seatbelt, ran back into the cargo space with her furniture and boxes. I sighed and rolled my eyes, unbuckled and found her curled up on the futon. I hovered over her and went into soothe and stroke mode, thinking goddamn it’ll be nice to be free again.
I had the video-camera out when Manhattan surfaced, started filming out the passenger window as we saw it rise through the bridge wires, started singing Frank Sinatra, spreadin’ da news. I thought it would make for good video; made me laugh, anyway.
I was alone in that.
We found Hoboken, pulled up to the apartment she’d signed for online never having seen it. It was nice. Hardwood floors, her own room, not a railroad like I later learned the friends she’d made had to deal with, my god. We moved her in and met her roommates. I wanted the roommates to go away, and they did, they had plans. We found the balcony and I filmed her against the skyline, asked her how it felt in the big city. She seemed put off by that, that pupils thing again. I said I wanted to see some of the city. Had only 24 hours before my flight but lots of battery left. Not what she wanted at that moment.
In the morning, walking Manhattan, she scowled at me, said I looked like a tourist as I narrated with my camera pointed straight up towards the tops of things, or straight at Radio City. We stopped for pizza and she coached me through quickly moving to the side and stuffing my change in a pocket. Said we couldn’t be slow or we’d upset the locals.
At the airport she waited with me as I checked in. Held my hand, squeezed, thanked me, told me how wonderful I was for helping her, didn’t say love. I told her be brave, be strong, you can do it, see you soon. She said she couldn’t have done it without me, hinted she didn’t want me to go, didn’t say don’t go. I didn’t see the big deal. I’d be back. Could use the break.
Second trip up, I flew. Got the whim, missed her, missed the city that had been so cool. She met me at the airport, came running and threw her arms around me and I think her feet left the ground. Lots of sex that weekend, and a carriage ride through Central Park. She took time off from work and I swear I took a great picture of us at the Statue of Liberty at the same angle as that one with John Lennon, except without John Lennon, but when I got the pictures back, it wasn’t in the package, not sure what happened.
The goodbye at the airport was a good goodbye, and I think we talked about me coming up to stay but now that I think about it she said more than once that I should think about it, make sure it was a good next step, whatever that meant.
Third trip up, she emailed bus routes from the airport to the city. I had to get help from some locals. The most helpful locals, I found, were the relocated ones, the ones who’d made a brand new start of it, having come up from somewhere else, just like her. I flagged a cab after getting off the bus, found her new building, got there early and waited on a couch in the lobby for, like, a long time. She came down smiling, and greeted me with hands on my forearms, then on second thought decided I was worth a hug.
There was some lackluster I guess we have to do this sex, but now I think about it, that might have been towards the end of the second trip.
I paid too much for a bad Mel Gibson movie while she was working, then walked back to meet her in a howling wind and rain. The street ran straight forever, skyscrapers lining each side, magnificent, and the wind and rain made me slide back and float. That was the moment I fell in love with the city and with her. One or the other. Maybe just with being young and free in the biggest place. Maybe that’s what happened to her, too.
We broke up waiting for the subway to Little Italy. I was the one who got damp in the eyes. I wasn’t going for impact, but I noticed it had no impact. She smiled, and she was so fucking beautiful, her hair blowing forward from the train rolling up behind, so loud.
At the restaurant, the Italian restaurant in Little Italy, maybe run by mobsters, she joked, I mean look at these guys, she went on, and how I had my back to the corner and could see the front door, and how that was a good move by me, a wise guy move. I smiled, wishing we had something more to say. Thought about my lack of impact.
The rain came off the awning out front like a waterfall. I opened the umbrella, she started to say something lighthearted, a smile on her face, and I grabbed her, pulled her close. Our shoes filled with rain. We held each other for what felt like hours, or maybe I held her, on the sidewalk outside a restaurant in Little Italy, in New York City, young and broken up, me about to leave and her about to stay. Again.
I feel her head on my shoulder as I type, feel the rain, hear it patter on that umbrella. What a sound. Her hair soft, skin so smooth, she smelled like… her. She fit on my shoulder. Her shape fit me.
Next day at the airport, small talk and coffee. When the boarding call came, I said goodbye but didn’t feel it. Not for years. She didn’t need to, already had.
That rain on the umbrella. The patter. Wet shoes. Not caring how long, her head on my shoulder. That hurt pretty good. I could hurt like that again. I could…