A Time without You

“Well, this is New York and if you’re not to the point you gotta move it or lose it.”

I am in my room, cleaning my windows as I overhear the girl I live with speak to her partner over the phone. Scrub, scrub, scrub, wiping dirt that has not been lifted from ages past, perhaps never touched by a tenants hands, I think. I am standing by my window while the radiator heats my groin and the breeze from the night air cools my midriff. I did not exactly choose to move here for any appeal to the eluding notion of New York City (even its bald name offends me, in all its tawdriness). I did not want to spend my time here because of any hustle or name-building. This was simply the city nearest to my family’s residence accessible through public transit and offering the prospect of a job.

I think about this and the interminable pressure while here to snatch up opportunities as quickly as humanly possible. In a way, it makes sense: a metropolis of millions of people where you’re bound not to see the same person twice. Most people my age move here because they want something: I am precisely the opposite, desiring little or nothing.

I didn’t want to make a giant name for myself. I did not want to play at hugeness. I wanted simply to be small, very small, and lost within someone. That is the nature I know so dear to me: lost, utterly lost in the matrix of my beloved.


The morning starts with hope, and I run around my block listening to 1970s French pop. It is a cool morning at 49 degrees and in my shorts I am a scarecrow in the car window reflections. I return home in enough time to prepare for an ESL lesson I have – through pretension – claimed I have the ability to teach.  On the train, I highlight phrases I think my client should know. I have lowballed my price, out of attractiveness and something like storgē: at $25 an hour, I am clearly not following this city’s culture. The client, a man I met a year and a half ago on the train, after we both made unusually long eye contact on one another, is from Colombia, is a merchandise designer and interested in having physical relations with men. He mistakes me for the latter at the end of the session, squeezing the back of my neck as we leave the cafe, and I have to break it to him dearly that I would so very much like to teach him English. My fee and a free breakfast pleases me, though I do not feel comfortable about the situation as whole.

I spend the rest of the day putting up flyers for learning Russian in Park Slope, a neighborhood that screams privilege, often through the children of the residents. Surely this neighborhood would liberally throw $40 an hour for a cad like myself to talk about Cyrillic; until I realize people in this neighborhood are too efficient to be taking fanciful classes in Slavic languages from advertisements in Thai restaurants. I return home to eat lunch and head out again, this time with the intention of sitting in a cafe to finally do what I have been intending to do for four months: deactivate my Facebook account. But I am pulled in three different directions: seriously look at jobs, pay a renewal fee for a set of yoga classes that are in suspension, or go to a language learning session where I can perhaps hawk my services in fake ESL. I decide on the yoga classes, though, not exactly one would say decide: I walk up to the building, and, seeing I am already there, wander in.

“Are you hear for the 4PM class?”

“Yes.”

I really wasn’t.

We set up the account. $28 for a late activation fee to access the ten classes that were suspended (I should have charged $30). I think, though: this was still a good investment. Upstairs, I change, and head downstairs in my skimpy gym clothing.

“You got a haircut!”

It is the young man behind the desk who remembered me from nearly half a year ago, the last time I was there. He is a cute guy of sorts; he is either very friendly or must have taken a liking to me. I am somewhat blind to either prospect.

Downstairs, a tall man in good shape emerges from the yoga room and retrieves water from the fountain; seeing I am waiting behind him he looks at me and smiles, and apologizes in a barely audible voice. He is a good-looking man in the face, and could range anywhere between 30-45, depending on his level of fitness. The natural impulse of chitchat long ago had be let from me: I think not even to look back at him warmly before entering the room to start the session.

It is a good session; it has been well over three months since a yoga class, and I fare well. In crow pose, the tall man falls twice but catches himself both times; he is behind me so that he can see me from the side. We end class lying on our backs in the dark, and I am wondering meaningful thoughts I now don’t remember. Returning our equipment, we are in the zen zone where surrounding people are of no importance for regard; that we could all be like this in public spaces is a blessing and a curse.

As head for the locker room, a rival yogi, a lithe young man with an unsavory bun of dreads atop his crown, appears from the locker area in front of me and catches the tall man’s gaze. I walk upstairs and contemplate my white fallowness.

I leave quietly, get on the train in the direction of Grand Central for the language event, and, upon reaching 42nd, sharply U-turn to the downtown bound platform. I am in no mood to speak any language, let alone English. The train ride home I think about visiting a cafe to finally work on that job prospect: then coming home to eat dinner: then about nothing, tired. I am spoiling as I sit; I wonder if I have ADD. I am noticeably calm, at the same time. Home I make myself a sandwich, my roommate helps me remove my air conditioner, and I am set to cleaning the window, contemplating my path.

I am lost, it seems, but not in the world of my beloved. They had let their breath go at some point, and the wind has no warmth as I wipe the panes left, right, and back again.

 

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