“Leaving New York” by Andy Folk

Leaving New York by Andy Folk

I take one more look at this highway, 4 lanes in both directions with no crossings or traffic lights as far as the eye can see, and realize I’m not going to make it. Across the divide is where I think I can catch my next bus, the one that will take me to JFK in order to redeem my ticket out of this place that has so decisively betrayed me. The sign is hard to make out; it could be a bus stop, but it also looks like a sign pointing the way to the nearest Dominos.  Traffic is moving fast enough that attempting a Frogger-style crossing doesn’t seem to be in the cards. I knew I shouldn’t have smoked my remaining pot out of that tin Kazoo last night, but alone in the apartment of a sober friend on vacation, I could devise no other implements. The tin fumes must have distorted my body clock, causing a late wake-up and twisted dreams of being menaced by a flight attendant Mayor Bloomberg in a pig mask, the World Trade Center sprouting again like trees from the middle of Tompkins Square Park, Lady Gaga revealing to the masses her steel wool pubic bush in the ruins of a freshly demolished Shea Stadium. No one around to give me directions, not here in the nether-regions of Brooklyn, at the intersection of several neighbourhoods I’ve never heard of and that none of my friends have ever discussed. I’m surrounded by big white buildings, turned grey in the sun. It looks like there’s a convenience store across from me but I can barely read the sign. How does a borough get this massive?  It’s like I’ve entered some sort of urban purgatory, the point where enough should have been enough, but the prehistoric New Yorkers kept right on building with no plan or purpose. Just a week ago a friend of a friend went missing in this city.  Her name was Lydia and she’s one of those vanished white girls that manages to really capture media attention. First came the Facebook group with a mere 24 members pledging their concern. Last I checked it had grown to 3,459. Last seen: on Brooklyn-bound G train with only her purse and flip-flops, in a normal mood, on her way to a job interview. Didn’t take her medication with her. May be manically depressed or disorientated at this point. After 4 days she showed up in the blogosphere, and then, somehow, the story went national within a week. Rumoured spottings began to circulate: an art student thought she saw her on the Chicago Metro near the loop, same outfit and bag, but on the same day she was seen on a city bus in Des Moines by a commuting pizza chef. Two days later a DJ posted that he thinks he saw her on the Light Rail in Denver, wearing a funeral dress this time. It’s like she found an effortless way out, maybe a subway line through ancient American wormholes. I envied her, because, for some reason, my escape wasn’t going to be so easy. The Egyptian embassy hadn’t mailed me back my passport even after the 4 to 7 business days. My one-way trip to the Middle East was hanging in the balance. The rising sun is becoming unbearable at only 8 AM, increasing the anxiety, pushing it towards a conviction that this plane will take off without me. At the huge Bushwick rooftop party everyone’s asking me when I’m leaving and for how long. I respond, “I don’t know if I’m leaving and if I do, maybe for a month, maybe forever.” The whole party I keep running into this one guy over and over again, which is weird because the place is crammed with greasy people that all look like paper dolls made from different issues of Vice, who looks kind of like me and I listen in on him making these sarcastic jokes about Adam Green and other anti-establishment indie rock personas, which is my shtick. Japanther plays for 7 minutes. Ninjasonic for longer but the sound is barely functional after Japanther. Around 1 AM Nat grabs me to tell a secret: “See that guy over there with the asymmetric haircut and the rad Salvo polo?” “The one that looks like me?” I ask. “Yeah, get this, he’s Cocksnake!” Fuck! Not cocksnake! The most contrived and obnoxious street artist in New York, which is the most contrived and obnoxious street art scene in the world! “You would like him,” Nat continues. “I think he’s a communist.” I take a long gulp of my 4Loko and formulate a plan to publicly embarrass him; the amateur critic’s rage burning within me, a fire kindled by unearned elitism, half-baked political-aesthetic critique, and of course, jealousy. My clever scheme amounts to loudly praising him with growing sarcasm. “Oh you’re Cocksnake! I am such a big fan! How did you think of putting a dickhead on a snake and stencilling it all around town? It must have taken you years of agonizing soul-searching to conceive of such a transgressive statement! Have you made a lot of money on the project? Is Dietch clawing at your studio door??” But when I walk up to him, he recognizes me first. “Hey I know you. Aaron right?” It’s not Aaron, but I find myself saying “yeah.” “Oh yeah, I met you with Lydia. You’re friends with Lydia right?” I just stare back as my machismo escapes me. “Well I know where she is man. And believe me, she’s gone. Way gone. She’s not coming back…” He makes a motion with his hands that suggested a hot air balloon ascending. “That’s not fucking funny, man.” I say, and walk away, rushing down the flights of stairs. Outside a single bouncer is preventing about 40 young-looking club kids from getting in. As I bike away hundreds more are parading up the street from the L train. Another night biking home drunk, one day it will kill me. I get a text from Sophie at 4 AM, asleep in the empty loft which we moved out from a week earlier: “WHERE IS SHE”. When I wake up I respond: “Find cocksnake.” My friends are getting tired of this kind of bitter ambivalence, only reinforcing my desire to fuck off. I call the Egyptian embassy and they haven’t even touched my shit yet, but they have it, thank Ra. I tell them I need it in a week or I’m screwed. I begin to make alternate plans, most of them involving places with better weed, cheaper booze, and a less uptight social scene. The Hasidic landlord walks in with two potential tenant yups, finding me sweating profusely in the noon heat, stripped naked as the apartment itself. “Oh excuse me,” I say. “I just came by to drop off the keys.” And I dress and make my way out, not leaving the keys of course. Later in the week I bike to Canarsie for Nat’s graduation party, which I did not know would involve having hung-over conversations with her extended family, and spent most of the evening looking at her Grandfather’s photo album. He was a photographer in World War II, and half the book was him posing with soldier buddies and girlfriends from home, the other half of the annihilated cities of Germany.  Now I’ve got these fantasies of lumbering bombers zipping through the minuscule New York skies laying waste to the city. There’s no shade anywhere, leading me to conclude this area was not designed with humans in mind, leading me to believe there is no bus stop and I’ve made some fatal error. At this rate I’ll never see the pyramids. The Sinai Peninsula will remain a Bible myth, and the sphinx a solemn stranger. I asked Nat how the rest of the roof party went. She tells me there was a small riot when the kids weren’t allowed in. Cars parked around the building had their windows smashed as the mob danced to their iPhones. Nat’s Mom sends me home with two tubs of Hummus and as many High Lifes as I can carry. I think: this will be the summer I get the tattoo of the woman lounging on the crescent moon, celebrating all the wonderful summer memories I’ve had drinking that crisp working class beer on Philadelphia and Providence porches. That night I end up drinking half the beers while doing little more than staring into my computer screen, all the while disgusted in myself for how uneventful my use of summertime has been, and upset at my friends and the whole damn city for not offering me more. I thought of calling Nat a bit after midnight, but our previous encounters in the week reaffirmed that she would not have me back. She would dodge the call and it would just be another little disappointment to chuck into the rubbish bin of my memory, now weighing heavy on me, making life just a bit more unbearable each day. The next night I call up Axel and we sneak onto an industrial property on the Williamsburg waterfront, and climb to the top with a couple forties tucked into our bags. We drank mostly in silence, staring at the Manhattan skyline. The Empire State Building was lit up blood red, as if celebrating a murder, and we debate for some time if we could hit it with a rocket launcher from where we sat. My passport arrives in the mail the next morning. There’s no going away party. I spend my supposed last day buying granola bars, a swimsuit, and trying to sell or smoke the rest of my weed. I didn’t leave anything at the apartment, I don’t think. I do still have 45 minutes to catch the flight, but I didn’t say goodbye to Nat, Lydia is missing, someone is spraypainting cocks all over New York, my friends won’t miss me, I can hear sounds of heavy construction somewhere close, and the endless procession of speeding cars that have trapped me here in Brooklyn’s doldrums, their drivers obscured behind tinted windows, have reminded me of what my father once cautioned me at a city crosswalk: They won’t stop for you.

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