We arrived in the dark tangle of night. The darkness of the plains giving way to the great glow of small cities, spread out like great glowing spiders webs beneath us. The engines of the 737 pulling us onward.
I stared out the frosted window. A curious sense of readying for something, knitting together beneath my freckled skin.
When we stepped out of the Laguardia terminal it was 11:30pm and the sky was an orange glow. We traded our glee with side smiles as the sounds and smells of New York surrounded us. Honking busses and thick accents. The smell of four different kinds of cologne thick on the biting air. The very clear expression of Fuck you! From a girl whose foot got rolled over by a roller bag by the clatter of Midwestern folks trying to figure out where they were going and which bus would take them there.
We waited together in the chilly air, until our bus finally came lumbering into view, its LED ticker board illuminating the words we needed. Brooklyn.
We traded the bus for a train and then that train for another at 42nd street.
As we walked down the long tunnel that connects the blue lines to the yellow and red, I felt the unshakable momentum and rush of air as I passed the echoes of my former self.
My past life.
Who I was when I called this tangle of a city my home, home. I could see her clearly, black work clothes, her hair tied up, mascara smudged from a long night shift at the comedy club, headphones in, eyes glimmering. Hungrily wondering where the next act of kindness would come from, and if it would be her own.
At Dekalb avenue I spotted my former self on the opposite platform, waiting for the Manhattan bound train. Tired from a late night of nannying the playwrights children.
The subway wind buffeting around her. A solo figure in her pink ski coat from home. She watches quietly the rousing choruses of rowdy Halloween hipsters, and she smiles to herself at their inside jokes. An outsider who understand what it means to belong. As our train begins to move she glances up and for a split second our eyes meet. Gray on green.
At prospect park, I watch the platform I grew to know too well, slide up to the window. The familiar tile work, the lettering for the stop in the grimy wall. And too I see my former self, heavy with the grief of loneliness, heading homeward from his 5th floor walk up, for the last time.
As the train doors opened to the platform I felt a sudden urge to rise, to rush towards that glimmer of a woman I used to be and throw my arms around her. Pull her close to my chest. Let her walk through me as I tattoo the words into her heart that it's gonna be alright. That she is enough, and worthwhile and strong and so loved.
And that it gets better than this.
That she'll see.
It gets So. Much. Better.
Back in the train I look up at the tall frame of Ben standing above me, the subway lights flicker and dim. One of his hands rests on the subway pole, the other on his suitcase. His fiercely blue eyes glance down at me and I catch the shadow of a smile as the 'showtime showman' asks for the 200th time. What's my Instagram? I can definitely see it now, that smile, just under the surface fighting for its release in the corner of his mouth. And then it bursts out and he's smiling down at me, laughing at the hilarity that is this life
It gets so much better, I tell the echoes of my past self as our train dives again back into the blackness of the late night underground.