Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Say Good Bye Boogie

He'd hung up on me. In cold blood, so to speak, and definitely knowing that I was in tears. I begged him not to, but he did anyway. As if it were so easy to dismiss me. So easy to ignore that I was in pain. I knew calling him back would be a low move, but I dialed his number anyway and got the voicemail. He'd turned it off. He didn't want to hear me tell him 'I love you'. He didn't want to know that I felt like I'd made a mistake. He had blamed me for leaving long before I'd even left. He'd made it up in his mind that I was the wrong one, and he was the wronged one. Our perceptions both blurred by our own translation of events. I knew begging for another chance was beneath me, even at that moment of weakness. I tried one more time and got the voicemail again. He had probably walked away from his phone. He was probably in the shower already, scrubbing off the day. Drowning out the sounds of my sobs that would no doubt linger in his ear that night.

The week started out rushed. The air was thin and cold, and I had very little to do, but so much to get done. The days slithered by, and I scratched each one off in my planner. When Friday finally came, I took three hours to get dressed into a tee shirt and jeans. There wasn't much that could be done by way of primping. It was muggy and cold outside and any styling I could possibly apply to my tresses would no doubt be defeated by the sharp winds outside. I managed to look decent enough, blew a kiss to the mirror and was on my way. With HopStop directions and a MetroCard in one pocket and my fully charged iPod in my other I felt pretty prepared to face the long journey. I hoped on the A train and rode it all the way to Lefferts, then changed to the Far Rockaway train that would take me to the airport shuttle. By the time I boarded the AirTrain, the butterflies in my stomach were uncontrollable.

By now I was almost 45 minutes late. I had no idea it would take so long to get there, and I hoped D wouldn't be too upset with me. I made my way past the taxi stand outside and into the baggage claim area where I immediately spotted D standing on guard through the glass doors. His irritation disintegrated when his eyes caught mine, and we grabbed each other and hugged tightly. I practically knocked him over, lifting one foot and wrapping it around his legs. "Hi baby! I'm so glad to see you! I missed you so much!" My words were interrupted briefly with smacking sounds as I peppered his face with glossy kisses. He smiled and welcomed the shower of affection.

I felt overwhelmed on the cab ride home. I didn't know how to feel. I placed myself in the safest state of oblivion. If I was supposed to be emotional, I didn't know it. If I was supposed to be upset, I was too distracted to realize. I purposely dumbed down my conversation, kept it superficial and made sure not to bring up anything heavy. I just held onto his strong arms and kept kissing his temples and cheeks.

That night we trekked out to find something to eat. D was impressed by Golden Crust, the fast-food Jamaican spot at the corner. He wanted to get some jerk chicken, but they were out. So we walked further down Fulton street to find another one, but they were out as well. "How in the hell is a chicken spot out of chicken?" He said, only mildly frustrated.

"Cause black folks is black folks no matter where you go." I said rubbing the top of his beanie-covered head.

We hopped on the A and traveled down to the Clinton area. We finally came across an Indian restaurant and checked out the menu posted outside. It was pretty much empty, but we were desperate and I knew it was hard to find terrible food in New York. We took a window seat and quickly ordered. The food was delicious. We sipped Indian ale and half way through my glass I started thinking about how much I wanted to rip his clothes off.

I text messaged Molly when we were almost through and asked her if she and Ralphy wanted to meet us for drinks somewhere. She said they happened to be in the same area as us and she'd come by. When they got there I realized that by "me and Ralphy", she meant her, Ralphy and Marshall. I imagined Marshall feeling like a third wheel around two couples, but instead he looked relaxed and shook D's hand when I introduced them. We headed across the street to a hole-in-the-wall bar and found a table way in the back. D and I ordered Long Islands and sat alone while everyone else smoked cigarettes outside. I laid my head on his shoulder and scarfed down my drink pretty quickly. In the back of my mind I wanted to get out of this awkward situation. Perhaps I belonged there, in a crummy bar with my sarcastic friends, passing slighted comments between each other like appetizers. But D didn't, and most definitely Papa and Boogie didn't. This was my scene, not ours; and all I wanted to do was climb into bed with him and fall asleep. Pretend that we'd wake up in our sunny Hayward, California apartment with Tiny the cat resting soundly at our feet.

The next morning, D and I decided to get out. Go explore the city. We dressed and headed out to the subway station and took the train to Broadway Nassau. We walked through the Seaport, stopping to pop our heads into some of the shops. Finally, we went into a quiet Italian grill and ordered lunch and drinks. "So hows New York treating you?" He asked. It came off as small talk, but I knew the question was sincere. His eyes were steady; he wanted to know my honest thoughts.

"It's treating me fine. I love the city. It's amazing to be so close to all the things I used to see on TV." It was something I could only say to D. Such a "tourist" thing to say, but it was true. He smiled and sipped his beer. We talked about our old life together, about our apartment and how we'd spend our Sundays lazying around letting the minutes stretch on and run nowhere. Our bellies became full and ready for the next spot. We decided to get on the train and continue into Manhattan.

Times Square was a buzz, and I felt like a New Yorker as I angrily surfed the crowd, trying not to bump into the camera toting tourists that were stampeding all around me. We made it a good four blocks before I couldn't take it anymore. "This is beautiful, really it is. But I can't take all these people everywhere." D smiled in agreement, then said the magic words.

"You want to get a drink?" We headed into a pub and sat down at the nearly empty bar. There were a few people sitting in the surrounding tables, picking at their meals and enthralled in conversation. One man across the bar looked firmly planted at his stool in front of a Collins, as though he'd been there all day. I ordered a dirty martini and finally took a breath. D and I chatted some more, this time it was light hearted and flirtatious. He gazed into my eyes and laughed at my stupid jokes. We decided (after the second round) to call his friend Dave to see if he could meet us. About an hour later Dave showed up and I was drunk off my ass.

The night was basically a blur after that. All I know was I woke up that morning at the Marriott feeling like I'd lost something. The memory I could have had with D was drowned and I couldn't even remember how my clothes came off. We ordered breakfast and laid around eating eggs and pancakes. I had two cups of coffee to ward off the pending hang over. It felt like old times again. D and I in our tee shirts and boxers. Nibbling on breakfast, watching the biography channel. We sang the commercial jingles we knew and nestled under the covers, full and satisfied. Around noon we finally got up and dressed for check out. It would be our last day together in New York.

Sunday flew by and before we knew it the wee hours of Monday had crept up on us. We'd spent Sunday evening with Dave at his home in Newark. He had made a beautiful dinner and was a gracious host. D's sinuses were starting to act up and I began counting his trips to the bathroom. Dave suggested that we spend the night, but D had agreed before we left to go to his house that we wouldn't stay over. Half of me wanted to sink into Dave's guest bed and with D and rub his head the way he likes until he fell asleep; the other half of me wanted to get home so we wouldn't have to rush in the morning and perhaps we could salvage our last bit of morning before he left. But D insisted that we leave immediately. I asked him several times if he was sure, but he'd made up his mind. It was almost midnight.

We stood on the platform waiting for the PATH train to come take us back to Brooklyn. The temperature had dropped to the low-thirties and D looked as though he was about to collapse from either the sinus infection, the cold or the late hour. I pressed my body against him to block the cold and held my cheek against his. "Why'd you insist on leaving, babe, you look horrible right now." He rolled his eyes at the blowing wind, but cracked a smile as he spoke to me.

"Because." He simply replied. I shook my head.

"For me?" I asked. He looked at me as if there couldn't possibly be any other explanation.

"Yea, of course Boogie." I huffed and leaned on him again, this time speaking quietly into his ear.

"Papa, why'd you do that? Your going to get sick out here."

"I always like to make sure that your happy Boogie." I fought back tears and swallowed the lump in my throat.

"You take care of you Papa, you've taken care of me enough." Looking back I wonder where I found the ovaries to say something like that to him. Now when I think about him before I go to sleep I wish more than anything that he felt the need to take care of me. But something tells me, no matter what, he needed me to say that to him.

The next day we headed out for JFK around noon. It was still muggy and gross outside so I wore my full length down coat and a beanie. D dressed in his motorcycle jacket and a thick knitted cap. We barely spoke on the way to the AirBus. I slipped one of my ear buds into D's ear and played some music from my iPod, the battery almost dead. We bobbed our heads in compliance and I closed my eyes until we got there.

For the first time since I met D, I walked as slowly as possible. Towards the security check point which was now within eyesight. When we got to the place where you have no choice by to say goodbye, we were both suddenly reminded that this was the second security check point goodbye we'd been through in a month. I looked up at him and suddenly he seemed so big. He looked down at me and smiled in that way he smiles to be strong for both of us. I on the other hand opted to cry. Silently tears fell from my eyes to my chin and down the front of my jacket. D wiped them away and leaned down to kiss my lips. We stood there lip-locked and huddled for not nearly long enough. I couldn't tear myself away. I couldn't possibly find the strength the step in any direction, to even look away from him for a second. I just wanted to remain underneath him, to curl up inside of him and stay there forever. He didn't have to say it, I knew it was time to go. He kissed me one last time, his lips slightly weakened and held onto me for a minute. He admitted to the lump in his throat, and we both forced casual laughter.

"Bye Boogie, I'll call you when I get there." He said wiping one last tear from my cheek.

"Bye baby."

I turned around to see if he was watching me walk away, but my eyes were too blurred by tears to figure out which direction he was turned in. I got the the staircase to take me back to the Airbus and wiped the tears away in embarrassment. We've always been better at silence, D and I. Better at whats not mentioned or discussed. We're two people who can sit in silence and feel completely satisfied. Good at goodbyes, good at hellos. A gold star for knowing when there's no point in talking about it anymore, and when to stand back and watch what happens.