Lower East Sorrows

Went to the NYC Graphic Design Meetup tonight. Nothing special to report. What had a greater effect on me than going to the Meetup today was the location it was held. Downtown on the lower east side, by the bowery.

I used to frequent that area quite a bit in two very different and very distinct times in my past. The first was when I was attending the MDSG (that’s Mood Disorders Support Group) at Beth Israel hospital. I was doing that for almost two years from ages fourteen to sixteen. The meetings were always held at night and for some reason I remember only the nights when it rained.

The second period was after I had turned eighteen and was frequenting fetish clubs and BDSM organizations in the area. (There are plenty.) Naturally, this was also done late at night. Similarly, for some reason, I can only remember the nights when it rained.

There were not many times when Danica and I made it all the way out to the far East of Manhattan. Nevertheless, the lower East side feels like a black hole to me, a black hole I am familiar with from the inside out. While walking towards the Meetup, passing Lafayette Street and peering up at Bond Street, it started raining lightly. I quickened my pace and found the Meetup location.

It was being held at a bar whose year-long theme was the Haiwaiin Islands. Somehow, the contrast of the environment in the bar and the dreary rain growing stronger outside made things seem even worse. Though one would guess that I had an awful time, I actually was very glad to be out at the Meetup socializing, even though I was underwhelmed by the resulting attendance. (I was one of four people who arrived, and I spent much of my time chatting nonsensically about this or that, until I started imparting some of my web accessibility knowledge to the others and inviting them to the meetups I organize.)

Afterwards, I did not want to go home. The rain was stronger now, and it seemed like either the black hole was sucking me in or I was trying to push it away. I can’t tell which.

I was carrying a letter in my bag from Con-Ed addressed to Danica (probably an old electric bill or notice) and had intended to put it in a mailbox (I had slipped it in a new envelope and supplied her new address). As I walked on West 4th, parallel to Bleeker, I kept seeing flashbacks to all the times in my life I had walked these same streets before. I saw ghosts of myself beside me and in front of me, laughing, walking, talking, joking, rushing from place to place as I knew I had in the past.

Now that I think about it I want nothing more than to leave this City and spend a significant portion of my life elsewhere. I can’t stand seeing the same places over and over again. I have a memory for every street corner on this island and tonight I feel trapped by my past.

I ended up walking up Greenwhich Avenue towards Danica’s apartment building. I figured I’d leave her the letter in the lobby on top of her mailbox rather than send it through the post. I called her but she didn’t answer at first, so I left her a message. Then, when I was a few blocks away from her apartment, she called me and tried to tell me something but her phone cut out and we got disconnected.

I left her the Con-Ed letter on her mailbox as I planned and then stood outside under the awning for a few moments, watching the rain. Somehow I had the presence of mind to snap this photo while I was there: West 12 Street on a rainy night.

You can’t see it in the photo because I’m a horrible photographer but I was looking at the small halo of light from the lampost. Streaks of rain were cutting through it and the whole scene made me feel rather heavy and depressed.

I looked down West 12th Street towards West 4th (yeah, the roads are screwy down there), then up the way I’d come at Greenwhich Avenue. I still didn’t really want to go home but I didn’t have anywhere else to go.

I think I didn’t want to go home because I still don’t feel like this place, this one bedroom apartment with a bare minimum of furniture and no personality, is my home. And you know…I don’t know if I even want it to be my home. I just don’t want to live here anymore.

So I pulled myself together, put away the camera, and started back towards Greenwhich Avenue to head for the A train to come back here. Near the corner, I realized I didn’t have much food at home, so I made a quick pit-stop into Benny’s Burritos To Go. I used to frequent this joint quite a bit back when Danica and I lived together on Horatio Street.

I knew before I entered what I was going to order: A pulled chicken burrito with black beans (not pinto beans). The same girl took my order as always.

When I left, dinner in hand (well, lunch), I passed the corner of West 13th and Horatio Streets. I looked down Horatio Street as I walked towards the subway and felt a strong urge to turn towards it and walk back to that tiny, rat-infested apartment the two of us used to live in as if when I got there all of our things would be in their place and I could sit down on the floor like I always had to do to eat my burrito.

But I didn’t. I made it to the subway and stood, waiting for the A train to arrive. I buried myself in my Information Architecture for the World Wide Web book (the book I started reading on the last day of jury duty) but found it difficult to concentrate. (I still did manage to finish the chapter I was on though, because it really is just that great of a book.)

I got home starving, ate my burrito, surfed online or a while, talked with online friends, and tried my best to shake these feelings. I did a good job of it, too. For most of the night I didn’t remember the heaviness I felt looking at the rain earlier.

Earlier today, I was surprisingly productive. I finished refactoring the CSS for the NYCwireless web site (that’s the volunteer web design work I talked about a while ago), and I set up a bunch more Meetups for myself to go to. I’m organizing the New York City Freelancer’s Meetup, which I’ve cleverly scheduled for the same place and time as the New York City Consultants Meetup. Both of these Meetups happen today (that is, the 28th of March) at eight in the evening.

I may also get to see an old friend tonight at nine, after the Meetups. I’m anxious about that because I’m looking forward to seeing him for the first time in many months and because I don’t know what impact certain other events may have had on the matter. (I should probably write about this but, eh, not now.)

As usual, hours are going by and I’m still not in bed. I hope sleep will come quickly and mercifully now. I really need to feel like time is moving forward and things are happening. I just don’t want to stay in this…place my whole life.

One reply on “Lower East Sorrows”

  1. Strangely, maybe, your accute observations and awareness offer more hope than you realize. I sympathize and recognize those feelings of “not wanting to be here anymore…” that is why I am here (and you, for that matter) and not at what I thought was home. However, while it took a long time, much too long, I realize now that these feelings have nothing to do where you geographically are. Whatever it is that’s overflowing with exhausting familiarity, is going to be carried to wherever you physically move, be it next door or the moon. So it is basically easier to control , costs no money and requires no packing. Shake your head if you must, doubt me, but remember what I said when you realize that is the truth. I did that too. Oh man, how I wish I had someone telling me that then.
    Yet, if these feelings will move you to BE and DO, then great. I always told you that we need to be on the move, that we have legs and we built vehicles to surf in time and space. I believe in “nomadity” (if this could be a word)… I would like to drop all and go to… Alaska…

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