“Is there eyeliner on my cheek?” I ask ,as we splash around in dirty puddles, hurling water at each other, not purposely of course. It is 10pm in New York city, the smell of rain, dampened news paper, and sewage filled subway is in the air. People on the street are scowling, either at the unexpectedness of the rain, or just wrinkling their noses at the stench that hovered in the air. You are wringing your hoodie of all the water it absorbed from the rain as we ran from the restaurant to the closed American Apparel store in front of us. I wipe my phone screen on my sweater, and stare at the time. We had waited at the restaurant for 2 hours. We reluctantly ordered food the third time the waitress hovered over our table asking gently,”would you ladies like to order or are you STILL waiting for your friend?” It took everything in me to sit at the table and keep my mouth shut without telling her to “kindly go to hell” because you were waiting on your estranged father. But that didn’t happen, so we ordered food, and as the sky darkened outside, thunder roaring in the horizon, rain drops falling on the window pane and you staring at the distance. I knew you had been here before. Your face seemed exhausted, but somehow used to a waiting that started with hope, but always ending in disappointment.
” Yeah a little, God you look like a drowning raccoon, this shit is so serious” you reply, wiping the eyeliner smear off my cheek and laughing. The front of the store is like an enclave, a sunken hole in the giant building we were waiting in front of. We are huddling away from rain that seemed to fall at an angle, defying all laws of umbrella face symmetry. Passers by look perplexed, except for the people with rain coats. Whenever it rained, the people who won were the people with raincoats and rain boots. I made a mental note “buy raincoat from maddy’s”. I can feel the taste of curry and pad thai swimming in my mouth, over my tongue, as if it might all spill out if I opened it any wider.
“I can’t believe he didn’t show up.” you say, wiping rain water from your face. We move closer to the entrance, our backs resting on the glass doors, I can feel the metal door handle drilling a hole in my back, but this is the farthest we could have gone and the rain water was still encroaching. The front of the store where we originally stood, now had a small pool of water that seemed to be moving in our direction. Perhaps we had made a terrible decision to take shelter here. I stare at the streets, and then at the ground. There was an incline, so of course the water would slope down in our direction, we had boobie trapped ourselves in front of American Apparel. The most imperfect way to die. The rain continually poured down like punishment, as if trying to cleanse the lower east side streets of its filth, pretentious.. hipsters. There is a quite now, and we watch people scurrying from building to scaffolding to building, like children playing a game of hot coals, trying desperately to find shelter. “I can’t believe he didn’t fucking show up, such a dick” you whisper. I hold your hand. “Maybe he got held up, it’s crazy out here ..raining like crazy..” I drift off, because I don’t believe my own words. Your father had not shown up, there really was no other explanation. You had probably heard them before, and I knew that this was the curse of parental abandonment. If there was a book with all the promises in the world, you had flipped through it, committed every unworthy excuse to memory and used what you had learned to finish off sentences with the sorry excuse of a father who had failed you.
” No he was never going to show up, that’s just who he is.. making endless promises”. You reply between whimpers. The worst part of this game was the hope. We had all been there, even with people who were not our parents. Nothing hurt more than the hope, nothing hurt more than the waiting. There was nothing more disheartening than a love in the abstract. One that was not in heaven or hell, but stuck in the bowels of purgatory. As much as hope was the liberator, she also kept you captive, held you prisoner with a life of conditions. Days would be spent, showering in the bathroom, walking to school, sitting in your classroom, putting your clothes, talking to your friends about their own parents, your mind fighting itself to rid the “what if’s” ” maybe’s”. It was like a lifelong disease that ate the body alive, the attack came from the inside . From childhood, you were forced to acknowledge a world where you are incomplete, a world where you were always half of yourself, one where no one was coming for you. You crouch down to the floor, hold your head in your hands and scream out all the hurt from your body, exorcising yourself. It hurt to see you on a hurt I knew might never go away. Exorcism is still a self violence. This was a demon that kept on coming back , after you had let it out.
” No one is coming for you Allen” I say crouching down beside you. “No one has been coming for you since you were seven years old, and it’s so fucked up I know, it’s so fucked, but you need to stop thinking he’ll come back. ” No one had ever abandoned me. I had two parents who were present. I had grown up with a false sense of completion. No one left me waiting in school when the doors were closed and the playground was empty. I had not spent nights dreaming about a father who was a knight in shining armor. The good and bad cop lived in the room right across the hall from me. This was a life you wanted. I wish I could some how rewind the clock and give that to you. But the truth is we all need saving somewhere. If it wasn’t Arianna throwing up her food in the bathroom while we pretended that we did not notice her darkening breath, the halitosis when she spoke, it was Damian when he closed the door to his room , preferring the company of his computer to us while we yelled at the T.V screen watching Game of Thrones, a prisoner in his inability to connect.
” That’s the worst part, I always hoped that he would. I used to dream about it when I was growing up. That he would show up when I was in class, show up on my birthday, hell surprise me at my college graduation!.. and before I knew it I was 25 years old, sitting with my friend in a thai restaurant waiting for him to show up.” As children the world is small, and because we are incapable of comprehending and navigating it on our own, we need heroes to save us when reality becomes a danger too big to handle. But when you are an adult, no one comes for , no one is going to save you. Reality is still who she was, waiting for you as she had done when you were still a child. “what they don’t tell you, is that when you get out there, everyone is still a monster, and everything is still scary, you’re still a child.. but you know… just.. just in a bigger body.” I reply, hugging you tightly, my face nuzzled in your damp hoodie.
As I watched your image disappear , with the subway car taking you all the way to Brooklyn, I realized that I also needed saving. I too was guilty of waiting for someone to show up , as if I could hold them accountable, make them vessels for all the problems I had that I were either self inflicted or circumstantial. I decided then that I wouldn’t wait or hope. I knew that I could not be everything to everyone, and no one could be everything to me. I made a mental note to tell you this ” tell Allen on sunday” and made my own way home.