Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wear Your Love Like Heaven

It seems like years ago, but only Monday I got off a train in New York Penn Station to help a friend. I'd warned him I can get lost on the way to the kitchen. Directions to his place went to a part of town I haven't spent much time in, so I asked him to meet me at Penn Station. He said sure, then said to make certain I got on the Downtown A train. You know, you can't convince people you tell the truth the first time, so I asked six people in Penn Station where the Downtown A was, and only one of them was right. I almost got on an Uptown A, but was saved from taking that train by the absolute certainty that if I thought I was right I must be headed in the wrong direction. Eventually, I found two tiny women who said, "Downtown. Brooklyn. Aqui." At this point, I thought my friend would meet me at the Canal Street subway stop. Why? Because I am sometimes pretty stupid, that's why.

I got off the subway at Canal Street and didn't see my friend. My friend was not on the stairs to the street, and not on the street. I looked around for a person to recognize, a face. When I didn't see one, I felt a blind and choking terror. I walked to a spot where I could put my back against a plywood wall and stood there a long time, unable to see where I was and unable to think. As anyone who has ever been in a car with me can attest, I grow distinctly more hysterical with every minute I am lost. Time passed. If I were you, dear reader, I'd get some popcorn and wait for the chase.

Slowly, the panic cleared, and I do mean slowly. When I could read the street signs, I could see Canal, Varick, a couple more, and West Broadway. My friend's place, I was reasonably sure, was on Broadway - or Fifth. Suddenly, I was less sure. The thing to do - because I don't carry a cell - was to find a working pay phone. Two booths down on West Broadway, I found one, called my friend and ot voicemail. Sighing, I described my location and said, "I don't know what to do." I hung up and walked back to the corner, feeling desperate and a little frightened. Now that I'd said, "I'm at the corner of Canal and West Broadway" I was stuck there. And I stood there for some time, telling European tourists I was lost, too.

Logical thinking returned slowly, and I mean slowly. I was standing on West Broadway, right? If you don't know any better, you think, 'If I can figure out which way is east, I'll know which direction to walk in and I'll just start off.' I looked up and it was of course just about noon, so that was no help. I went back to the payphone and dialed my friend's cell again, and got voicemail again. I said I was going to start walking, and I told him what my intended destination was. Then I asked a shopkeeper which way was Broadway, thinking he'd point either right or left. He pointed over my shoulder and straight behind me, so I thought he was crazy. I thanked him and went left outside his store.

Blocks later, when West Broadway was suddenly LaGuardia, I turned and walked in the direction the shopkeeper had pointed. Two lights later, I came to a corner on Broadway, looked at the numbers and turned right. Broadway and West Broadway run parallel to one another, they're not the same road. Finally, I came to the correct address and asked the guy in the foyer where I'd find my friend. Twice, the gentleman told me no. I went to read the names on the directory. Still somewhat panicked and now tired, I didn't immediately see his name. Then, there it was, with a number. I told the man at the desk, "Here, this person." He pointed me toward the elevator. When the elevator door opened, there stood my friend. Still shaking and upset, I didn't respond well to, "How was your trip, dear?"

Tata: Go Cheney yourself, you bastard! Next time I tell you something, believe me the first time. Try this out. What is your response if I say, "It's raining outside"?
Friend: "I'll get an umbrella."
Tata: And if I say, "I've never faked an orgasm" and responding with laughter will cost you your life, what is it?!
Friend: "Intriguing. I believe you."
Tata: You are making excellent goddamn improvement. And if I say, "Please meet me at Penn Station because I could get lost on the way to my kitchen," what is your response?!
Friend: "Your wish is my command, princess."
Tata: Thank you! Fucker! Let's get to work and don't speak to me until I return to my human form. Damn it!

On the one hand, it was an ordeal I would not care to repeat. I considered turning around and taking the train back to New Brunswick but I didn't, and I was really pissed when it turned out he was waiting for me at Penn Station after all. Where? I have no idea. I never saw him. He never saw me. Penn Station is like that: there are few landmarks like the clock at Grand Central Station where two people could meet. So the plan was doomed from the beginning.

On the other, the ordeal offered a hard lesson I needed to learn, during a hard week in which I felt small and covered with fur. To wit: once panic subsides, I can think my way out of a tough situation. That is important knowledge to have about oneself.

Also: we had really delicious sandwiches for lunch. That might've been totally worth the trip.


Blogger Bob said...

You needed the little book that has Manhattan divided into easy-to-read street map sections, & also subway & bus routes, & all the museums & hotels & even lots of restaurants & art galleries are clearly marked. I've taken trains I'm familiar with & walked many long blocks rather than have myself exiting the subway on an unfamiliar corner & standing there clueless & hoping there's moss growing on the side of buildings so I can figure out which way is uptown.

4:25 PM  

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