Friday, March 4, 2016

If No One Has Told You: You Don't Have to Stay

The last vivid memory of my ex, that I have, was his hand clutching the leather handles of a duffle bag and walking out of our apartment. I think my mind has memorialized it this way, because he put a picture up of the bag, on the top of yellow subway platform lines, on his Instagram. The caption read, "Traveling."

The truth?

He was headed back to his mother's house. We'd decided that it was best for him to leave our place while we worked on our relationship.

I mean, I decided.

That day, I lived my life per usual: I went to work, wrote at a nearby cafe, visited Barnes & Noble, hit Midtown Comics. These visits are not out of the norm. Going to all of them, in one day, was out of the norm. It was 11 pm, on a Wednesday, when I realized that I was avoiding going home.

This is normal, considering I'd just suffered a separation via my long-term boyfriend that same morning. We'd moved into that place together, chosen the color for our walls, and created a Pinterest board to inspire the decorations.

We were corny as hell, but we were madly in love.
Why wouldn't I be afraid of the silence, of going home to nothing?
It made sense.
I'd been greeted by him, for 1,095 days in a row.
Hell yeah, I had the right to be nervous.

I opened the door, to our, I mean my,  two-bedroom apartment and dropped my things. It was midnight; technically the next day. I said this out loud, "You kind of survived a day. You can survive one-thousand more."

I sat on my sofa and took a long deep breath. I waited for the sadness to come. I timed the tears and braced myself for a full-out meltdown.

It did not come.

Instead, my eyes roamed the room taking in items that I hadn't used in years: my camera, my paintbrushes, my unfinished manuscripts.

I'd spent my days catering to the man that I loved. I made sure dinner was prepared, by the time he got home, I got his clothes together, I helped him with his aspirations. He was a cheerleader for my own, but he didn't do nearly as much for me. I did not notice this, until several months after our breakup. I did not fathom that I might've wasted my energy until it came back tenfold.

I was free. I realized I could use the rest of the week to paint, take pictures, write to my heart's content, to live. Instead of crying, I spent the entire evening in front of canvass with Thelonius playing in the background. It was bliss.

This wasn't the first time I had this realization. I had moments when I went away to writing conferences, for business meetings, to see family and friends. I felt free then too. I convinced myself that it was just from the pressures of everyday life and I loved my significant other.

I did love him.
I did.
I'd just fallen out of love with him, without realizing.
I was tolerating him.
& I'm sure, if he were still in love with me, he could feel this.
Thus, plummeting into the spiral of f-boy crap he had pulled before we decided to call it half-quits.

This is how I feel about Brooklyn, about New York City.

I did love it here.
I did.
I'd just fallen out of love with it, without realizing.
I'm tolerating it.
& I'm sure, if Brooklyn wanted my love, I would feel it.

I spent my summers on these blocks, particularly East Flatbush, soaking up the sun, block parties, and the smog of Jerk Chicken grills. Brooklyn was culture heavy, my Caribbean family nearby, hella beautiful boys, and girls with more flavor than a spice rack. I was going to own a home here, raise my babies in a brownstone, fall in love with a brown man who mirrored my drive.

& then I realized that living here was all about drive.
& the brown man I'd found needed to be restarted, every once in a while.
I had to ignite him, not in the way that I imagined through passion and adoration.
I was igniting his ability to think outside of the box, to tear everyone else's blueprint and make one of his own.

I worked twelve to fifteen hour days.
I blogged and freelanced, like crazy.
I saw less of my family and more of "those events," that the whos-who goes to.

I watched the culture heavy place I spent my summers in evolve. We curated those native to this area, showcased our nostalgia of the borough in blown up photographs in cafes, spit poems about how we wanted it back, to diverse crowds, most who could barely afford to live here anymore.

& I could not breathe.

I walked into spaces, that felt like home as a child.
& I felt like a stranger.

Fingers were clicking against keyboards, entrepreneur's hands shook those of trust fund babies, who sometimes were one and the same, everyone had a specialty coffee they whispered to the barista.

& no one ever wanted it:

& so I'd run.
I booked a ticket to Maryland, Virginia, or somewhere else every weekend.
I loved Brooklyn.
It was where everyone wanted to be.
I just...I just....needed a break.

Brooklyn had turned into my ex: a good looking, almost-got-it-together, f-boy. I caught glimpses of our love, as I turned corners and watched the children play before the streetlights went out, in the moldings of the buildings, in the stories of my students.

I'd lose sight of it; once I was reminded of the rat race it took to stay here and the amount of work it took to keep us together. Love isn't enough. Nostalgia cannot help me hold it together.

I'm not so sure if a break is all I need anymore.

& that vivid memory of a duffle bag, clutched by hand, runs through my mind often these days.

Except, the hand is my own.

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