Over The Bridge
Manhattan Bridge, 8:52 PM
This is the place where nothing happens. There is a gap between the clusters of anonymous buildings and it stretches on for years. And then there’s me, standing in the middle of the void. The organized chaos from the eastern and western ends merge together, only to be dissipated and muted by the flowing water beneath my feet. The image rarely changes. Specific lights flicker on and off, but it results in the same general aesthetic. If the city is truly alive like they say, it’s surely on life support. Nothing but small blips and beeps, emitting no feelings or conversation. Those signs of life come from the people. People like me. But I can’t muster either of those qualities. I came out here to reflect, but suddenly, I can’t find anything to reflect on. My mind is as blank as the city that engulfs me day after day. I need to stop and focus. Pick out a single object in my line of sight and conclude what it means to me. Take out my notebook and scribble down something true. Something to show that I’m still worthy of breathing. The wind is changing. I can hear the rails start to shift. A beacon of light lurches out of Manhattan, chugging along slowly. It’s the Brighton Local Q Train, making its rounds as it does every 8 minutes. This one looks the same as the last one and will surely be identical to the next. It’s led by car #8852, but I will not remember that. I need to remember that. I need to cling on to this. Just rip the paper and throw. Rip the paper and throw. Rip the paper.
This is the best song ever written. I mean, sure, that sounds about right. At the moment, yes, it’s the best song ever. Oh man, of course we’re going over the bridge now. Right at the best part of the song, BOOM, front row seat to the Manhattan skyline! Perfect. I need to crank this jam up louder. Nobody will care. They’ll just hear the faint sound of this immaculate drum beat. Nod my head a little bit harder. Let everyone know how amazing this is. Oh, hey girl. Sup. Have you heard this song before? Oh wait, she can’t hear me. I’m not even talking. But still, give her a smile. Oh snap, she smiled back! Maybe I should say something. She IS looking pretty damn cute. But then I’d have to turn this masterpiece off. Fuck it. She has a boyfriend. Girl like that? I’m sure of it.
Alright, we’re above ground now. Wait for it. Wait for it. Vibrate, you stupid phone! Give me that message! She said she would text me when she got out of work. That was like 43, 44 minutes ago? I’m already halfway there. If I show up at her doorstep and she’s surprised, it’s her own fault. She was supposed to text me. I should reset the network. Maybe it’s not catching the signal. It says 3G, but nothings happening. She would have texted me by now. I wish this train would stall. Give my phone more time to catch up with itself. I should send her another message. “I’m on my way”. But she was supposed to– whatever, hit send. Sending. Still sending. Come on, man. We’re going back underground. Hurry. Wait, I have a voice mail. Stop the train! I need to hear this! BAH! No signal. Fantastic.
The phone won’t stop ringing. I’m drifting in and out, but the calls keep coming in. “Boerkel & Boerkl, how may I help you?”. Stop it! The phone isn’t ringing. I’m not at work anymore. I won’t be there tomorrow or the day after. This is supposed to be my time. Kathy time. 48 hours of me getting my head screwed back in and stopping those goddamned phone calls. “Boerkel & Borkel, how may I–” AAGH! Stop! Focus on something else. Focus on the window. There’s a paper in the window. Wind must have caught it. Get a closer look. This is your new assignment, Kathy. Assignment. God damnit. “I used to love somebody. I still do, but I used to as well.” Is that supposed to be a joke? Clearly, whoever wrote it didn’t pull in a 52 hour work week. “Boerkel & Boerkel, how–” AAGH! Just stop it!
Maybe it is quicker to take the 4 train home. I mean, sure, there are a lot of extra stops in lower Manhattan, but this train crawls to Brooklyn. Oh well. I’m in no hurry. No siree, Bob. This is not a man in a hurry. I forgot something. What was it? Great, I left my iPod on my desk. I might need that to go jogging tomorrow. Why was it on my desk? What am I supposed to do, listen to the wind? Eh, maybe I won’t go jogging. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow anyway. I forgot to get dog food. Shit. I was supposed to get dog food. I clearly remember telling myself this morning, “Don’t forget the dog food”. Now Sparky is going to be hungry as hell. Whimpering to me the second I walk in. I wonder if Duane Reade’s still open. It probably is. Sweet.
I can’t tell if he’s impressed or not. He came all the way here, but he just seems so bored. He fell asleep during the movie. He was ready to leave The Met after 45 minutes. He kept looking at the ground as we walked The High Line. He was glued to the phone as we rode the tram. This is my last chance to show him something cool and look, he’s completely zoned out. Maybe we’re just growing apart. Maybe it’s me that’s bored. I never should have moved here. This city is filthy and ugly. It takes in your soul and eats it up. We used to share trees and open space and now I just have a concrete jungle. A playground that’s always closed. Look, there’s a piece of paper flying across the window. Disgusting. Of course he’s unimpressed. Who would be impressed with floating garbage?
It’s still a long way to Ditmas Park. It’s filling up. It’s overflowing. Just don’t think about it. Elevate one foot and force weight on the other. Reject all sense of balance. No, that’s not working. People are starting to notice. They can see my face distort and cringe. Why did I need the second cup of coffee? It’s not like I needed even more fluid in my body. These trains should come equipped with bathrooms. For how long this is taking, we might as well be riding a commuter train. Maybe if I put my hand in my pocket and grasp on for dear life. How does everyone else deal with this? In a city with such a public restroom shortage, this train should be filled with dancing legs. Just don’t think about it. Your body is a desert, deprived of water. Just think dry. Your urinal awaits you.
[Car #8846 is cleared out. The straphangers exited to cars #8847 and 8845 at Herald Square, shortly after a sleeping homeless man in the corner proceeded to urinate himself. Everybody who entered at Union Square and Canal Street immediately assessed the situation and scrambled to join an adjacent car. The stench of the lifeless body under the blanket was bad enough, but the puddle underneath was too much for anyone to handle. He shifts his weight and mutters to himself, but he is still sound asleep. He dreams of a circus clown trying to sell him a hot dog. But he wants hot mustard, which the clown cannot supply. He feels that the lack of hot mustard should warrant a discount of some sort. A hot dog is not complete without proper condiments. As the train descends into Brooklyn, he continues to negotiate the business transaction. “What about some relish?”]
He looks so peaceful, sitting there, tuckered away in his stroller, oblivious to the world around him. He was such a good boy today. I don’t know why I was so nervous to take him to the park. I guess I’m just new at this. I couldn’t imagine that he would have so much fun, running and tumbling in the grass. I’ve tried so hard to protect him that I didn’t even think open space would be good for him. Even I had fun, watching him chase groups of pigeons away, laughing like the little maniac that he is. Even when he tripped and fell on the sidewalk, he didn’t cry at all. He didn’t even seem to notice. We should do this every Friday. It’ll be our thing and he’ll never outgrow it. Just me and my little guy. What was I thinking? Being a mother isn’t so hard…
It’s funny how things turn around so quickly. Two weeks ago, I was ready to give up and move back home. Now look at me. Just look at me! I’m looking at me, through the window reflection, and it’s great! Look at that piece of paper! That is an amazing piece of paper. I don’t care what anybody says, that thing is great. I fucking nailed that interview! I nailed it so hard that it almost went through the block of wood. That’s because I’m awesome. I’m awesome and things are awesome and this city is awesome and oh my god I can’t believe I nailed it! Just wait till I tell the roommates. They’re going to be jealous. Crap, they might make me buy them drinks. I didn’t think about that. Is there an ATM near the bar? Do I even have any money? Whatever. Things are awesome.
Wait, what’s going on? Why are we on the bridge? Isn’t it supposed to go further downtown? Oh god, this is a Q train. Why did I think it was an R? It’s not even the same model of train! I was supposed to meet them at 9, now I have to turn around. Where can I turn around? Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center? Isn’t it supposed to be Atlantic-Pacific? When did they change the name? Why don’t I notice the things that matter? Oh yeah, I’ll just jump on the first train I see, that’ll take me to Whitehall. Idiot. That’s why nobody invites you to things. Because you’re stupid. Ugh, I might as well text them and tell them what happened. They’re gonna be so pissed. They’re always waiting on me. A Q train? The Q never goes downtown! Dumbass. Alright, just send the message and–no signal. Perfect. Just perfect.
Manhattan Bridge, 8:55 PM
And throw. It sticks to the window for a few seconds and flutters away. There, I did my part. Now that will forever be the train I threw paper at. That’s my story. As the Q screeches away, I can’t help but think of the people on it. They’re all like me, living their lives and trying to grasp onto anything that matters. We don’t stop to realize that everything matters. Every waking second shapes the character that we become. The image that I see right now is not as lifeless as it appears. It is life in motion. And the next time I stand in this same exact place, it will look the same to me. But in reality, it will be much, much different.