Last time I was in NYC I was younger. I was not a mother, I was not who I am now. My New York was CBGB’s and Battery Park scores. Jazz clubs and Greenwich Village bars. My New York had my one and only Jewish boyfriend – as much of a freak as me, and only half as sensible. We were possibly made for each other at that point in time. He actually chased me across continents when I left New York and begged me to marry him. I was horrified at his earnestness, and the fact he rocked up declaring undying love, hauling his saxophone and his black curly hair. He neither overshadowed me – we were both pretty puny specimens, nor did he overwhelm me. He was not exactly a nice boy, though I suspect once back home, his habit hidden, he was the dutiful son. I told him I didn’t know him well enough. I told him I suspected it was just that I was a good nurse and he was a lazy bastard who needed the needle and couldn’t be fucked to do himself, and that was why he thought he felt that way. He looked hurt. I was not a fluffy kinda girl, not then, not now. I possibly should have made the effort to be nicer.
He promised he could change that. We went and ate pancakes together, drinking dark coffee and sharing drugs. I liked him, but it could never work. He was too much like me with his heroin habit, and his musical leanings, his strained relationships with coping with reality and responsibility and his insistence he didn’t have to be who he was and should be. I told him it could never work and instead left for Japan and ended up marrying Pig. I couldn’t make a good decision if my life depended on it. Maybe me and Jazz Boy would have cleaned up, or else Romeo and Juliet overdosed together, perhaps we would have had a whole bunch of babies if we had lived and currently would be contemplating middle age and laughing at how the kids didn’t know mom and papa were such rebels in their distant youth. One wrong turn, huh. I am glad now – I wouldn’t be without my son for anything. You just can’t think that way, but I sometimes wonder what would have been and admonish my younger self for being such a perfect fool.
Looking at photos of New York today all those days there came flooding back. I stayed in Chelsea, in a building next door to the Chelsea Hotel. It was rougher than the ‘real’ Hotel Chelsea, and not nearly as clean or as interesting, but I could afford to sleep there in a mixed dorm. That suited me fine, I barely was ‘home’, I just needed a crash pad. The first day I was out alone I headed down 23rd, unsure of what I wanted to do on a day I really didn’t have to do anything at all. A bum raged at me. This was before everything, so I raged back, flipped him the bird and went on my way. I found a coffee and croissant and sat in a café. I had a while before my friend was meeting me in the early evening. I roamed the shops buying cheap scarves and some mirrored shades. I schlepped around a couple of art galleries, bought more coffee, and stood in the nexus of where I belonged at precisely that time and space in the world. I was more me than I have ever been since.
My life was punctuated by my, at that point, smallish habit. It was my alarm clock. It becomes mundane, irritating. Worse, I wasn’t used to the NY smack, and it put me dangerously under. I was used to wraps and baggies where dope was golden and the terminology all different, not glassine envelopes and stamps and china white. I was a junkie cripple. I could barely look after myself. My straighter friends and their jobs in the East Village did their thing, as I soon enough fell into circles that were more me. Jazz players and punks. The Crystal gay boys who sat on rooftops and bitched with me about whatever we could find to pull apart. The musicians and the artists, the hustlers and the muscle queens from the Y. I should have stayed in New York.
Getting spooked in Central Park, drinking enough coffee to keep me wired, meeting my people and then deciding to fly away via some city or other. I can’t say it was the most fun, but it was free-est I have ever been and ever will be. I was young, I had dreams, I had hopes more than I had fears. I had youth.
I can’t help but feel it is all over. I feel like No Face from Spirited Away, a ghost that only clings onto existence in order to protect someone I love, someone smaller and fresher and with a life ahead. I don’t exist for myself in any way, shape or form. I am not even me anymore: I’m some avenging protective spirit that looks somewhat like a girl that used to be. I am cracked side to side like a mirror into a past that never ceased to take a wrong direction. That girl deserved so much better, so much more than she ever got. I have no hope left at all. I am scared of death: death is the absence of the hope I never dare to inhabit any longer. I am scared of nothing. Something, even pain, is better than nothing at all.
I watch myself in some internal movie, skipping along Times Square sharing a slice of pizza. I watch myself hopping up and down while some punk band made the universe creak in protest. I watch myself with a notebook and words as I have dreams of one day being someone. I watch myself pick out Dink’s Song and show some boy how to play it. I watch myself and feel nothing. That girl is dead. She probably never should have been alive.