One of my 2018 intentions was to write more -- every day, to be specific -- in an attempt to get back into writing, something I have always enjoyed. Sometimes I write fiction, sometimes it's more of a personal journal, other times it's somewhere in between (this was one of those in-between times.) Sometimes, I hope, I will write something worth sharing. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel comfortable enough to share feedback. I appreciate your opinions.
WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT NEW JERSEY TRANSIT HAS BEEN FORCED TO CANCEL THE 7:49 NORTHEAST CORRIDOR TRAIN TO TRENTON DUE TO SWITCH PROBLEMS AT SECAUCUS. WE WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
Don’t believe a word they tell you. None of it is true. They call us “customers” but for 132 minutes a day, we are prisoners. For $393 a month, the cost to finance a luxury sedan, we are beholden to their decomposing infrastructure and unhinged staff.
I’m leaning against what feels like a metal broom closet, though I find it hard to imagine someone sweeping this area. I’m eating a slice of pizza. Correction: I’m swallowing a slice of pizza that is inexplicably warm around the edges and still cold in the middle.
Eating here, when it occurs, can’t be done slowly. You never know when the gun will go off and the race to your vinyl seat will commence. Only few are naive enough to think operations can be predicted; "Like clockwork," they say. Nothing happens slowly here. Except, of course, for the trains. Foot traffic moves with a chaotic scurry. There is no order here, not like there is outside. There is no glamour, and you won't find any for blocks. This isn’t New York City. This is scum and dysfunction at its prime.
This is Penn Station.
I might have saved my slice for the train, but I couldn't wait. So I made this corner, shaded from the fluorescent lights, my dining nook. I used to feel sad for the people who ate their dinner on the train, one step above eating in a bathroom. I’ve watched middle-aged men consuming what is clearly a first dinner of greasy pizza and clandestine beer, before, I imagine, going home to the real meal their wives made for them; and completely unaware, I imagine, of the extreme dichotomy they have created for themselves.
This is my dinner. I used to think I was above this NJ Transit scum. The people who gave up on trying to be the best in the world, and now dedicate two hours of their day to widening their asses on the pleather seats of the Trenton Line.
I’m one of them now. Misery loves company and it was only a matter of time until the daily commute completely consumed me. Ate me whole, and spit me out a grey version of who I was before I activated my first monthly pass.
A young guy in a Rangers cap steps in front of the television screen, the one us train bitches stare at soullessly until a sign is cast. Clearly he doesn’t do this every single day of his life like the rest of us waiting behind him. He’s getting so close, I have to wonder if he thinks its a touch screen. That screen is dead inside, just like the rest of us. We’re momentarily brought back to life by the disruption.
“Down in the front, asshole!,” a voice. Mine. I’ve given up trying to be positive. When I first reluctantly left the city for the suburbs, I feared a part of me would disappear — the honky-dory girl who hopped off a bus in Times Square singing with the lights in her eyes and $80 in her pocket. That’s not exactly how I arrived in the city -- Verranzano bridge, Nissan Altima, about $300. She no longer has a right to call New York her home. She is rotting inside of me and the stench of her is drowned out by that of the urine soaked bathrooms conveniently located in the first and last cars.
I’m about to leave the suburbs and cut off all ties with New York. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even feel like anything. I should feel something more than I do right now as I get ready to say goodbye to the only thing I’ve ever wanted for myself. Stronger than my vision of a husband and career, I had vivid dreams and plans for a life of a New Yorker. I had it for nearly eight years. Surely, I’ve been faking it for the past two, but it’s enough for me to call it an even ten.
My decade in New York is coming to an end. It was more roaring than my Twenties. Twenty four to thirty four. 2007 to 2017. I watched so much change nestled safely within the walls of this empire.
I heard fireworks in the streets of Flatbush the night Barack Obama became president. I felt the somber hangover the morning after Donald Trump stole the country. I watched the ConEd transformer explode in green light the night Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. I bowled at the Gutter a month after the ebola guy (#ebowling.) I read Gothamist and DNAInfo until I couldn’t. I saw young men stopped and frisked, until I didn’t. I rode the W until it left, and rolled my eyes at the fresh faced Gen Zs confused when it reappeared, completely new to them.
I had two serious loves in those ten years, with a one year break I went on 36 first dates in the course of a year. I fell in love with my husband at a shuffleboard club off the Gowanus Canal -- date 36. I held four jobs, not including the babysitting gigs I picked up along the way. Some of those kids are in high school now. I dined next to countless actors and personalities, and paid the check in small bills. I partied until the sun came up. OK, only once but it was a good night.
There’s not much I can say about the life I’ve been living the past two years, in and out of Penn Station. Eating cold pizza and yelling at strangers is an accurate testimony.
But now I have to leave. I leave with the hopes that something, someone, will wake up inside of me and start living again. At least I can leave knowing I’ve finally earned this chip on my shoulder, and possible gained another, for balance.