When the midnight men strung up city-wide christmas lights, the people on the other side of the hallway told me they wished that I could see them – the way the sun sets behind the giant plastic snowflakes dangling above traffic. I agree, saying ‘it must be so nice to be able to see it all, the big picture.’
I want to tell them that they don’t have a clue, staring out through their frames and canvases. They won’t understand this city until they see it in snapshots. Until they spend entire nights sleepless – from the time the chinese bodega across the street pulls in the racks of toilet paper and locks its doors until the first thoughts of day break over the apartments that mirror mine – they won’t get it. Last night I watched a girl sit for hours in the laundry room with a broken light. I wondered what she was thinking about. I wondered if she was crying.
The girl down the hall tells me, mortified, about the horrible surprise last night. In the middle of having sex with her boyfriend she looked out the window to see two kids in the stairway of the building across the street staring in at them, frozen. She turned off the lights and pulled closed the blinds, pulled up the sheets.
I feign of shock, disgust, dismay, and tell her to always remember that she lives in one fishbowl in an aquarium.
I want to tell her that I’ve filled my tank with fake plants and pretty things, that I walk around my room in this spring’s fading underwear. I want to tell her that I’ve started stripping naked and sitting in the window at night, looking up at the airplanes and torturing myself with the breeze, wondering if anyone is looking at me.
Perched on peeling stools, the girls complain that their feet hurt from the standing, that they don’t know how they’ll do it again tomorrow. I nod as I lean against the counter with locked knees. Pointing down I tell them it’s all about sole in the end.
I want to tell them that every day I wake up on this broken bed frame and wonder if today is the day that I’ll have to wear my brace in the kitchen. I want to tell them about the first time I had to take it out of my otherwise empty suitcase. I want to tell them how it felt so familiar, how I cried ugly tears as the velcro held me up, held me in.
The girls in the locker room talk about the weight that they’re gaining. They talk with disgust about the butter, the salt, the oil that goes into everything here. They talk about going to the gym, how they should go, how maybe they shouldn’t worry. They say they’re going to eat salads for dinner. I tell them they look beautiful. I tell them not to worry. I tell them I don’t go to they gym either, let it be what it will be.
I want to tell them that I don’t go to the gym because the last time I got on a treadmill I stayed there until I burned the 500 calories I had ingested that day. I want to tell them that buying a full length mirror was the worst decision I made in the first weeks that I was here. I don’t want to admit to myself that I found myself turning a box over last Monday and lingering on the cold tile. It’s getting harder to think about getting on the plane.
They tell me I was meant to be here.
I tell them it’s going well.
I want to tell them that I’m almost strong enough, that it won’t ever feel like home.