The history: Working in NYC even with the hype of 'The City that Never Sleeps' has taken the ability to have a life away from me. The commute is something one would not understand unless they went through it, every day. After almost 5 years it wears me down consistently.
Friends: When you have absolutely no time you lose friends. NJ happy hour is early, I never make it, actually I used to try and just about catch people as they were leaving, the commute is that long. After a couple of years you have little in common or worse, lose touch. Can you smell the life disappearing?
Making friends in NY is like dodging a bullet, you get tired enough to want to get hit by one, but you're still healing from the previous wounds.
Hope: I write often of that frenemy called Hope. But we have finally broken up, it was a mutual break up. I lost faith in Hope and Hope lost faith in me.
Mixed blood: I was married to a Cuban. When I gave birth to my son I knew I would raise him alone, it did not start until he was a toddler, but, I knew from the time he was born. I am Puerto Rican, I wanted him to learn of both cultures. How lucky is he? He gets the blood of two great islands. Little did I know that I would lose touch with my own culture.
The rain is gone: I love that song, I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. A co-worker who turns out to be a good friend invited me to stay over. 'We'll have wine, talk and relax'. My initial instinct is to say no. If I give up one day of a weekend that means I have only one day for errands, then it feels as though I had no time off. Weekdays are shot as by the time I get home, places have closed, I am too tired and it's late. Weekends are to cram all the things others do after work, so they have the weekend free.
This time I said Yes. I meant no, but said Yes. You see, she will be leaving to the South. One way trip. I may not have hung out with her before, clearly my loss, but we understand one another quite well. I also wanted to be able to say, I spent some time with her before she left and keep in touch. Perhaps Hope, that frenemy is whispering in my ear.
The evening: I show up with a small luggage, jeans, jeans and pjs. Light makeup, some socks and hair clips.
SWEET CHEESE! The woman had plans, not just a plan....PLANS. Before I knew it we were in her closet. My usual conservative self was in a shirt that had little material, a choker, heels so high I felt the temperature change and the ear rings..... silver poles with a stripper on each. Hair out of my face and enough mascara to give Elvira a run for her Revlon. I thought to myself....... self, just drink the rum and coke and go with it. Ah, yes.... guzzling rum and coke is a definite relaxer, highly recommended.
We chatted for a bit and before long she was on the phone with someone. As my foggy mind cleared and I listened to her words, I realized she was selling someone......ME! Not for money per say...but apparently a single hotty on the other line was being propelled (good, I'm not alone on this woman's master mind plan).
Cuban missile: Marguerite! This woman is just a missile. Don't hide, don't run, when she aims, she will hit the target. If you ever have a friend like this one don't consider yourself lucky, consider yourself blessed. She doesn't swim in your misery, rather she shows you another place to swim. She will make sure the landscape is beautiful and that Island music is in the air. Oh, how I miss culture, I had not realized how much until that night.
Juan arrived (that would be the other missile target on the phone), she sent me to collect him. A stranger... I never met... don't know what he looks like... you get the picture. I walk down a hill in heels I never wore thinking....Lord, I know you think I should have a deep relationship with gravity, but if you could keep my face off the floor this one night, I won't complain another day when I land on my face or ass. I look ahead and see someone talking to the security guard. He looks and smiles, yells out 'Gracey?' (Now, a person in general smiling at a stranger in NY? UnFUCKINGheardof. I felt myself relax, that is until I had to get us back to Marguerite's apartment and I realized I had no idea. I managed it....woohoo. Another rum and coke (hey, don't judge, you find your inspiration, I find mine) and we are off.
House party: The first destination is a house party. Before arriving Juan announces that he will be getting bread. That's right, his party gift is several loaves of fresh out of the oven bread. I find myself holding them and thinking...'Shit, I haven't eaten, this smells good.' Before long Marguerite breaks into one of the loaves and we are on our way munching on bread. (I can't make this shit up). We get to the building and find that the loaves are the 'bouquet of flowers'. The gift for the hostess.
Issues: We all have issues and although many would like to state mine, I know me better than anyone. 1. I am claustrophobic. Not many know or remember. When I worked in Jersey it was not an issue, I drove to work and there were rare times when in a confined space. However, my case is bad enough to require being put down during an MRI like a horse with four bad legs. Being crammed into a crowded train daily would just increase that phobia. 2. I am an observer by nature. It takes me awhile to warm up to strangers as I find I like to watch and see how they are first. (I mean why risk attachment if they are bat shit crazy right?) 3. I don't like being barefoot. Seriously, I hate it, unless I am on a beach. It goes hand in hand with claustrophobia, you see, if you need to run because you are feeling too confined, you run. Might as well keep your feet protected....just in case....right?
House party: We get into an elevator the size of a ring box. I don't want Marguerite and Juan to think I am a freak (or know) so I keep the torture to myself. I don't know what floor the party was on, but it was the longest fucking elevator ride of my life (it would suck if it ended up being on the second floor). I was hoping that I would not start to hyperventilate (would hate for Juan to think I have orgasms in elevators, Marguerite would just chalk it up to a Rican thing) or worse yet, sweat like a hog during a heatwave.
We finally get there. The door opens and women from Brazil and Venezuela grab the loaves of bread as if it WERE flowers. Yep, that's Latin for you, keep the flowers that will die in a couple of days and just bring fresh bread (again, don't judge...breaking bread is as old as making wine....right?). I look ahead at a very tight hallway and think 'OH MY GOD, another tight place. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? But I immediately remembered that I needed to get a hold of this worsening fear. Now is the time. I held my head up in defiance......... when a hand touched my elbow and one of a set of identical twin sisters, (who lived in that apartment) said something I could not understand. Multilingual Marguerite translated, due to the hardwood floors everyone had to remove their shoes. I think to myself, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I thought of running right there and then, but I began to remove one of the murderous heels, but then it started... the hot flash... the heightened breathing and I stopped. (There is no fucking way I am taking off my shoes. There is no way I will survive this ring box apartment filled with foreigners, there is no way I will!!!...NO FUCKING WAY). I am not sure if the woman understood the fear or thought I was just going to faint, so she said to tippy toe into the living room.
I wish I could say how many people were there, but it felt like hundreds and it was probably less than 10. I found my way to the living room with little anxiety. I sat by the table even though most were by the couch. You see it was a couch that would fit most but not all, and they would be cramped together..... You get the picture. I found it more breathable to sit by the table. I even found it pleasurable, the watcher in me seeing fun and laughter unfold. It was someones birthday and she was young and anxious to get the party going - so she could begin the rest of the night. I was served some food, but the anxiety kept me from eating it. I did however enjoy to the fullest the happiness and varied cultures before me. Even the black dog that looked like a burnt hot dog seeking it's own bread. The person that stood out the most was a Venezuelan woman 36 sheets to the wind, professing her love to someone, who wasn't even there. She had no humility about it. She loves him, will bear his children and he'll like it. You gotta love the enthusiasm. Unfortunately I don't believe the feeling is mutual, unrequited love sucks, of this I know.
Destination - reroute: It was time to leave for our next destination, as we got outside I inhaled and the word FREEDOM screamed in my head. Juan and Marguerite were up ahead reaching the car and I was taking my time enjoying the cold air and expanded space that is NYC. I do believe it's the first time I appreciated it.
The more the merrier: Havana Central, if you have not been there, make it a point to go. The music (live) is Island worthy, I was surprised to hear my favorite song playing when we walked in... Pedro Navaja. Due to the fact that I was drinking some unknown concoction at the house party, I was now feeling no pain with the heels. WOOHOO! We were met with another co-worker and his wife, Jose and Rosa. A couple that just blows to the wind the concept that marriages don't work. Twenty six years and they look like they are dating. Compromise and respect....works wonders for them.
Some Margaritas later and I was feeling no anxiety, no pain and lots of glory. I found my groove and Juan, ever the willing victim danced along with both Marguerite and I. Did I mention it was her 7th wedding anniversary? Unfortunately her husband was out of state, but I am happy to have been one of the chosen to spend that evening with her. She must have missed him terribly but she trooped on to make it a night to remember.
Havana closed early (early by NYC standards) so we made our way to a bar, I believe it was called something like Amigo bar. WHAT A PLACE! I would love to go back. The people were somewhat friendly, well as long as you don't call the bartender Flaco. That would just throw a wrench, trust me on that one. Music, laughter and drinks..... Magnificent fun!
A note to the ladies: A gentleman with the ease of great driving skills (I mean in NYC that is just unheard of), patience and fun made sure Marguerite and I had a safe night. Ladies....chivalry does still exist!!!!
NOT ONE MINUTE OF bitching, complaining, work talk or disaster. A wonderful and fun night!!
I learned a few things:
A friend doesn't pity you your miseries, they distract you from them.
Single men with class, personality, style and vibrancy do exist.
Marriage is not only possible but successfully so, if only we saw more of it.
There are those that do not judge your issues or worse remind you of them.
You can conquer your fears with a smile and twinkle in your eye (massive amounts of booze might help).
My small dream of a slow dance under a full moon may not have been met, but my heart swelled no less from the thrill of the night.
Hope!, that wretched frenemy.....welcome home.
To the Cuban Missile, thank you for showing me the other side of the city!