The scene: its Sunday night and the last of the hangover from the night before has faded, though that’s more due to the two beers that accompanied dinner rather than time. I see LB on a subway platform; she’s playing solitaire on her phone with an expression that looks like casual indifference to an outsider, but she’s hiding something. There’s a determination to her indifferent look, she’s trying just a little too hard to appear both casual and expressionless. She waits for the train patiently to take her from Brooklyn back home. Everything about her is patient and expressionless and collected. She is an unassuming stranger on a subway platform to everyone around her, except for me.
I am standing in front of her on the pebbled yellow tiles like a rebel and I am screaming.
I am what she hides. I am the one she hides from. She suppresses everything into the black cavity in her chest and that is where I thrive; I am the part that feeds on every emotion and doesn’t let them fade away. I am standing on a subway platform and I am screaming, hysterical, my feet stomp and I remember how good it feels to collapse into myself and feel everything all at once. I am crying, hiccups puncture each sob and there are tears staining my good leggings and I don’t even notice. She keeps her eyes on her phone, methodically tapping the cards into place.
She doesn’t try to run from me, or beat me back into the dark place. She waits for the train patiently, and waits on the train patiently once it finally arrives. People around us are also methodically tapping phones, and there’s a general malaise to the energy, that heaviness that comes on a Sunday night. Neither she nor I know what that’s like anymore, that heavy sadness at the end of a weekend; we work every day and look forward to it even more. I stop screaming long enough to breathe into that space and shrink a little as I remember that the only reason I’m here is so we don’t ever feel that heavy energy for ourselves again.
It’s a long train ride and by the time we get off in the Heights, I’m calmer. That black numbness that is my normal resting state starts to take over and I can feel us merging back into the LB that we’ve become these days. We stop wondering if he got the card that Friday and whether he’s really okay. The black hole where I emerge like a beast becomes a sanctuary for both of us; I can swim in her suppressed emotions and she can exist, and smile, and keep going.
We make it up the stairs and into the apartment, and take a deep breath into the comfort of home. I watch her put the keys away when they fall on the anchor doormat. She halts on the way down as the anchor reflects in her pupils, and before I can step in to save her she crumples onto that doormat again. I watch her breath, ragged and slow, and she counts to five with each exhale. She calls for me, looking for the sweet release of those screams she heard earlier, “come back,” she pleads. “I just need one hour. I just need 100 tears. I just need to feel and then you can go home.”
I enable. We cry. Tomorrow she’ll wake up, make breakfast and go to work and love every minute. But tonight we hold each other and we mourn. Just one hour. Maybe this time really will be the last one.