Monday, July 23, 2012
A little less alone
And my friends and family who are absent in this big city, fuck (sorry there's no other word to describe the gaping abyss that is my longing for them) it's hard. So I woke up yesterday decimated by my loneliness. I got up out of bed, got a drink of water and crawled right back under the covers with no interest in my city or the day. I didn't want adventure, if it meant adventuring alone. I wouldn't and I couldn't.
But after only about ten minutes of lying in my bubble gum pink bed staring at my baby pink walls, I knew I couldn't stay sad. I had to fight it. Because as much as I wanted to throw myself a pity parade and wallow all day, well the thing about wallowing is it's a slow road to nowhere. And it's pretty rare you feel better for having wallowed.
I forced myself up and out of my bedroom. I braided my hair, put on a dress, packed my camera and caught the next train to Coney Island.
My sadness didn't disappear with my decision to not remain in the fetal position all day, but I felt a light hopefulness and buoyancy at the thought of experiencing the Iconic Coney Island, even if alone.
And sure enough, upon disembarking the train and seeing the signs reading: Coney Island, Mermaid Avenue, Boardwalk my heart begrudgingly began to stir with delight.
I slowly made my way up past the fried food vendors and throngs of people carrying beach umbrellas flip-flopping to and from the train.
I wove my way through the crowd and stopped to take a few pictures. A fountain sprayed into the air on the beach and the salty wind caught the mist sending it spritzing onto my face. I couldn't help a smile. I caught sight of white caps on the ocean and heard music coming from a Gazebo despite still having my headphones in listening to Modest Mouse.
I spotted Nathan's Famous hot dog stand. I didn't really care to eat but wasn't really sure what to do but walk up and down the boardwalk and I felt a little curious about these infamous hot dogs that seemed promising if the lines of people were any indication.
I got in line, still listening to my music when I felt a little someone staring at me. It was a young girl with long brown curls and a tan to be envious of. I made eye contact then looked away. I still felt her staring and knew why, so I felt compelled to be polite and pull out my headphones so she could speak to me. I smiled down at her and she took the invitation. She reached up and tugged on one of my braids, not hard.
"Your hair is pink," she stated. Oh yeah, by the by, I dyed my hair pink. Cotton Candy to be precise.
"Yes it is." I smiled.
"And you have pink in your dress."
"And on your phone."
"You sure like pink."
I love children and in my current state of lonesome adventure, conversation about nothing in particular with a talkative 8-year-old seemed promising and much more worthy of my attention than my current playlist.
So we began a rather lengthy chat in a line that sincerely did not move for upwards of an hour. It was all well and delightful until the child turned a bit sassy after showing me that she had a live crab in her beach bag and wasn't that exciting? I made a point of looking properly interested, but much like dogs, I think children can sense fear, even if you try and hide it. I saw those crab legs poking out from beneath the shell and had to control a shudder.
I do not do crustaceans of any variety. And little Nora, (we had done introductions at this point while her mom, clearly used to her daughter being incredibly loquacious, patiently faced the hot dog stand with her back to us) pounced on my fear in a matter of moments and started shaking her little bag o crab near my dress in a taunting manner while I stiffened. If that bag dropped or she dumped it on me, I knew I would become a total pansy and scream/flee and I had been waiting in line far too long to turn back now on account of a mischievous little child who'd decided to test my patience.
I tried to act indifferent about the shaking crab bag, but when she reached her hand down into the bag with an evil glint in her eyes, I knew the jig was up and she was onto me.
"No, no, Nora. I do not like crabs, they scare me."
"They just do. I don't like them," and to try and appeal to her childish sensibilities I referenced Disney, "the only crab I like is Sebastian and that's because he can sing and dance." And then I smiled a great big come on, kid, work with me here smile.
"And because he's red?"
"Yes! Exactly! Because he's red too. And that crab in your bag isn't red." I shrugged, like what a conundrum, unless your little creature busts out into sh-la-la's he isn't coming near me or my pink dress. But this wasn't an ordinary easily swayed 8-year-old apparently. She might have been working with Lucifer.
"He's red on the inside," she said and stuck her hand back in the bag quickly and yanked it out and whipped it onto my dress. I realized as I drew back quickly, while firmly saying, "No, no!" that the crab actually wasn't in her hand but that she was tricking me and being a little deviant. Her mother still had not turned around amidst my mini crab crisis and at this point I was getting a lot frustrated because she was singing a little taunting tune about how she was going to put the crab on my head.
"I really wouldn't like that," I said as I evaluated how worth it a hot dog really was.
Then she got really nasty.
"You are a scared girl!" she proclaimed.
"Well, yes, of crabs," I clarified.
"You are not brave at all!"
Okay now I was not only offended but getting a little angry. I was very brave! I had been nothing but brave this entire year, I thought while mentally tallying all my brave acts. And New York too. I don't know why I felt compelled to convince this child of my bravery, but feeling prickly, I began to explain. If she only knew that I was brave and I just didn't like little creepy creatures maybe she would leave me alone.
"I am brave!" I said probably a little too loudly. "I bought a one-way ticket to New York City and that was very scary and..." she started talking over me, loudly, mocking me and my move to New York City. She had a Spanish lilt to her voice and when she put her hand on her little hip, she seemed even more threatening as she rattled off all the places she had lived and how I wasn't brave at all. She finished her tangent and harumphed like she had gotten me and all I needed to do now was admit my non-bravery. Or handle her crab.
Neither was happening.
I knew this was bloody ridiculous and I was letting an 8-year old with a penchant for teasing unnerve me and question my bravery simply because I would not hold her captive crab. At this point I was over being polite and turned my head toward the hot dog board to pretend study what I wanted while she still yammered on trying to get my attention, but thankfully not with the crab but with talk of hot dogs.
I was over it. And was just praying this was the best hot dog in existence for having stood in line for this long while being badgered by an unruly little girl.
Yeah the hot dog was not worth it.
And when Nora was finally pulled away, cheesy hot dog in tow still maintaining her malicious smile, I sighed with relief. At this point I had spotted a young man walking up and down the boardwalk with a large white sign that said, Free Hugs. I don't know if it was Nora and her exhaustive insistence that I was a scaredy cat, my sheer and aching loneliness, the long hot dog wait that absolutely was not worth it, but right at that moment I felt desperate for a free hug.
I walked up to him and said,
"I'll take one."
He seemed quiet and soft spoken, but put down his sign and pulled me to him. And held me a long time. Maybe he knew I needed it. Or maybe he simply knew what humanity needs and sometimes that is a hug.
I pulled away and thanked him profusely. He nodded, picked up his sign and asked if I wanted to try, pulling out another sign with the exact same message from behind. I got a little nervous and quickly questioned internally whether I could walk up and down the Coney Island Boardwalk enticing people to hug me.
I could. Because of course I was a brave girl.
I took a sign and slowly began to walk around, but did indeed feel very nervous so at first didn't make much eye contact, but then I mustered up my wits and began to feel bolder. I caught a woman's eye who was walking hand in hand with her boyfriend. She smiled a tremendous smile, walked right up to me and pulled me to her. I wanted to weep.
It was perfect and beautiful and the exact remedy for my bluesy day. As we let go of each other I saw that her boyfriend opted to hug the young lad. This made me even happier. I walked back over to him and handed him back his sign. He opened his arms up for one more.
I took it. Turns out you can never have too many hugs.
I walked away from him and down to the ocean where I stuck my feet in, watched the waves and the seagulls and felt for the first time all day a little less alone.