Kissing New York on the Mouth

It is in the taxi, speeding over the Manhattan Bridge, that he speaks randomly about my writing.

“When you write about it afterwards,” he says, pensively. ” It is always a mix of truth and fiction. A person’s memory can’t get every detail. It can’t be helped.”

I am peering at the long steel cable spans, my hair whipping out the windy half-open window.  The cables are the color of the stale ink on a dollar bill and against the pressing of sky and river, they are long threads of rope.

And I remember thinking: Oh no, my love. I will remember this detail.

Although, he is right, of course.  He is quiet often but when he speaks, he is quite often right.

My stories are always just parts and parcels of truth and fiction.  All mixed up together.

In the end, neither you or I really know which parts are which.
Were there pink drinks made with egg whites and a Number Two Subway train that never came? Did I wear a mask through an abandoned warehouse, did I see a woman bathe a naked man and say nothing—I was ordered not to speak?  Did I dance with my eyes closed, one leg tucked neatly in between his two, our hips colliding amongst a mass of people, all drunk on absinthe punch and champagne?  Were we the only ones dancing? Did we eat hot naan at 4 am, half asleep, half dreaming, full on in love? Did I cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot?  Did I drink with Dylan Thomas?

Did I?

And, then ask yourself this, because I asked it of myself before I began to write: Does it really matter if I did?

******

As we begin the descent, at first sight, I think maybe we will land in the water or worse yet–we will crash in the river, but Mike assures me we will not.  And of course he is right, he has been here before a half dozen times. Two little hops and we are wheeling safely down the runway. Touchdown.

As we exit the plane, I tug on the sleeve of his leather coat and slip my hand in Mike’s. What is about new places that make me feel like a child?

There are people crammed in the aisles, looking at me with wide open eyes that aren’t really seeing. They are just waiting for the plane to de-board, to go to the someplace that they have been waiting to go.  I grasp this gently and hold Mike’s hand tighter. I was them.  And now I am here.

In the yellow taxi, on the way to the hotel. My sweaty thighs are sticking to seats that aren’t quite leather.  The driver is chatty and laughs too much, a thick ethnic laugh that makes me grin at Mike. It’s going to be warm today. We picked the right weekend to visit the city.

I haven’t seen the city yet.  In the car, I get small tastes of the big buildings that lurk ahead, around this corner and the next they loom.  Never a whole picture of New York, but instead little doses.

“That’s where we are headed.”  I say this to myself aloud, digesting the distance of the buildings in the horizon.

“Just wait.” Mike tells me but he is really talking to us both.

Soon we are surrounded by blackness, tunneling our way under a water that has rushed for centuries before this day over the head of a billion other girls.  I am of little consequence to all of this. A fruit truck driver beeps his horn and our driver mumbles and throws up his hands in the universal language of “Fuck Off”.  I grin at Mike again and he is watching me.

“What?” I ask, linking my arm in his.

“Just wait.” He promises again.

And when we appear in the Friday light, it is noon and hearty—drowning in sunshine.

I kiss New York City full on the mouth then, naked and sprawling. It is daunting. I am breathless.

“Oh. ” I say and I push myself up from the clammy seat to get a better look.

From behind me, Mike puts his warm hand on my shoulder.

“Oh my…” I whisper helplessly.  I am overwhelmed by what I see.

But I don’t have to speak any words to him at all

Somehow he always understands what I am trying to say.

 

1 Comments

  1. Thank you for continuing to give me opportunities to fall in love with your writing.

    The opening of this piece–all the stuff about memoir being fiction? It’s an endlessly interesting topic to me, mostly because my sister has sometimes been very, very angry with my stories because they don’t match her version. I so appreciate knowing that other writers, too, stick to their right to write.

    Reply

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