Leaving that city was the worst decision I ever made.
That single thought was the materialization of a dozen ideas that circled my head like a dizzy halo. I even said it, aloud, as Dane took us back from the airport. He always drove over the speed bumps like he was passing gas – “oh, oh, here we go – ahh.” This proved to be the worst possible metaphor at the moment, though, since it felt like a small revolution was taking place in my stomach. I knew the perpetrator – it was a shriveled bacon chicken club I had purchased, rather foolishly, at J.F.K. It had no mayonnaise, and the chicken tasted like chilled shoelaces. It really didn’t matter, since I was dying. I mean it, I really was. It seemed as though some invisible lifeline had been formed in my brief stay, and now it was straining and hurting like a bitchy umbilical cord.
I remember stepping off the plane and thinking that Orlando’s airport was so clean. I had liked that before, but now it was pretty nauseating. It wasn’t as cramped, as smutty, as sprawling as J.F.K. There was absolutely no possibility to the thing, and I resented it for it. But this pointless comparison was just a diversion, because I was so mad. The city had at once embraced and rejected me, like some kind of expedited prostitute. I had scampered the streets in my pointed leather shoes, attempting to look completely focused and nonchalant despite the fact that my brain was screaming, “Look – look – look!” I couldn’t get anywhere fast enough. I stood in the tunnels, closing my eyes and hearing the subway in the distance like a primeval chorus of eighth grade girls on a roller coaster. Then there was the gust of compact, warm air. The mutated caterpillar equipped with a horizontal slide projector would go racing past. I piled on and searched for Sylvia Plath. Surely someone had stopped the suicide and she was here, looking for another empty party or scuffing her black patent leather shoes against the brick walls. I’d sit right next to my parents and whisper something incomprehensible about how I would work in a thrift store and helm an independent film. They nodded, numb but supportive, their hands firmly pressed against their ears. Why? Then it occurred to me the subway was skipping along the tracks like a stone with windows, and scraping like hell. I hadn’t noticed. The city’s dirty hands had me by the balls, the brains, the heart. I did as it wanted me to. I decided then, staring into the face of a Hispanic toddler through square brown sunglasses, that I wanted it that way.