Thriving while progressive chronic illness does its thing.

E is for Embrace

Written June 30, 2012 in a Manhattan subway.

I’m taking the E train through my past life. I’m watching it pass by without exiting the subway but taking in stares at the mosaic tiles coming together to spell stations stops that overflow etched memories. The conductor is calling out their names; monotonic as a table of contents in which no chapter carries more or less weight.

Elmhurst Ave. Partial hospitalization program. Preceded by psych ER for first overdose.

Grand ave. Trader Joe’s.

Jackson Heights. Hours of waiting, transferring, going to school, work.

90th ave. Sexual assault.

Northern Blvd. 1st Queens apartment. Which stop did K and I fall out of love?

Steinway. 3D movie in Astoria.

Back up a few stops to Jackson Heights – get off the E and transfer to the 7 train towards Flushing. Off at 46th and Bliss. Dunkin donuts coffee to sip on while perusing the $1 book table outside of the thrift store on the way to the final Queens apt. 

That time we ran down Queens blvd from the train at 1am and the boys chased us and grabbed K’s butt. She was so hysterical she wouldn’t even let me comfort her. Were we in love then? Did she lover herself? Did I love myself? In love would’ve been impossible. Maybe we were co-dependently kidding ourselves.

Queens Plaza. I feel a wave of nausea entering. It’s a familiar feeling in the train – the time-old question of where to vomit. Carrying around Petco dog poop bags in rolls to open up and vomit in 5-10 times throughout the day. Sometimes people noticed. If so, I usually got my own row on the subway.The practical questions: enough bags? readily accessible for when the vomit comes?

On crutches. Take Q32 or Q60 to Queens Plaza, hope elevator is working. It is! Hope for good samaritan to give me a seat on the subway. Thank you! Hope elevator is working at destination station.

Lexington Ave & 53rd St. Transfer to Hunter College. Met J there! And Professors G and K. Thank you for shaping and improving how I think and observe. 

Walk to Cosi from that stop for organizing meetings. We planned our take down of Big Pharma in there. I think we at least empowered and taught some organization skills to diabetics. 

Philly has so many scars yet holds one of the softest spaces in my heart, perhaps because despite them all I made it out alive and me. NYC, in its last year, held inexpressible amounts of pain for me. I could have sat for hours at each of the subway stops as the enormity of the events they still hold began to sink in. I still haven’t gone much further than the chapter titles in the processing work. NYC also gave me so much in 6 years! How much I grew, learned, and lived.

Maybe maturing (again my fascination with age, how infrequently it works for me and continuously befuddles me) is about being comfortable sitting on this train – sitting in in consistencies, ambivalences and contradictions. Knowing better to document them than to battle them.

Cities have always been my home. I’ve rarely felt a particular building as my home as much as a whole city. I like to learn the curvatures of its metro system by heart, to heart. Its parks, the best public bathrooms, clinics, cheap movie theaters, coffee spots. Places to sit and be alone, places to sit and watch people without being bothered, and how to sit in public and open myself up to the scintillating conversation of once-strangers. 

They all hold me. When I left SF with my preloaded clipper card and arrived to NYC with my preloaded metrocard I felt I have a parent in each place. The curve of the E train as it crosses Queens to Manhattan and goes downtown via 8th avenue wraps around me in a warm, gritty, embrace.

I hurt hard here, I loved hard here, I played hard here, I learned hard here. The subway map, like a palm to be read, remembers.

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