Would you all stop being my friend if I bought one of those wide-brimmed felt hats and actually wore it?
I’m ashamed that I want one.
We were hungry. We went into a bakery on Grand Avenue and bought bread. Filled the backseat. The whole car smelled of bread. Big sourdough loaves shaped like a fat ass. Fat-ass bread, I said in Spanish, Nalgona bread. Fat – ass bread, he said in Italian, but I forget how he said it.
We ripped big chunks with our hands and ate. The car a pearl blue like my heart that afternoon. Smell of warm bread, bread in both fists, a tango on the tape player loud, loud, loud, because me and him, we’re the only ones who could stand it like that, like if the bandoneón, violin, piano and, guitar, bass, were inside us, like when he wasn’t married, like before his kids, like if all the pain hadn’t passed between us.
Driving down streets with buildings that remind him, he says, how charming the city is. And me remembering when I was little, a cousin’s baby who died from swallowing rat poison in a building like these.
That’s just how it is. And that’s how we drove. With all his new city memories and all my old. Him kissing me between big bites of bread.”
On the subway ride to work yesterday I was sharing a pole with a tall man. We weren’t especially close, especially not for 8:30 AM on the D train, but he seemed annoyed that I was sharing the space he had decided was his. I peered over the pages of my book at the tattoo on his wrist, waiting for his sleeve to shift so I could read what was written in swirly script there. It said:
Get out of my way.
No joke! Unbelievable. More people piled on at Grand Street, and I shifted to let them pass, and I suppose that was the last straw for him. Perhaps I wrapped my hand around the particular part of pole he had wanted because he sighed loudly and finally moved further back to a pole he could have all to himself. And I smiled delightedly into my book that he had been forced to get out of my way because I’ll be damned if I’m making room for any men who think they’re entitled to more space than I am.
It’s mid-October, but warm enough to walk to work in just a cardigan. I don’t even freeze with mostly wet hair, my eyeliner hastily applied, as I try to make it past Brownstone Bagel and its heavy cloud of warm oniony bread without stopping.
I’m working on this theory that the more you tell people about your life, the more likely they are to be kind to you, because they begin to see you as a whole person. To test it, I’ve been slipping facts about myself into conversation and watching the way other people’s eyes change. I think I surprise them.
I suppose I’m looking for ways to make the world react a bit more gently to me because I still haven’t grown the thick skin of a business woman. I work diligently to cultivate a sense of apathy, but it doesn’t come. I am still so easily stung, so desperate to do well and to be liked, so quick to scold myself for any misstep.
On the way home, at Jay St.-Metrotech, I notice the “p” has been partially scraped away from a “Help Point,” so that it reads “Hell Point,” the second “l” drooping slightly. I enjoy the unoriginal, defeatist graffiti, especially at this station where the platform is so narrow that every approaching train feels like it might barrel right off the tracks. The evening commuters are tired, my blouse has come untucked, rats scurry in the garbage along the track. Hell point, indeed, but it’s only 3 stops from home, and even when it feels like I won’t make it, I still do.