After what happened with the Model, I've been feeling a lot of dark emotions. Anger and hate towards him for deceiving and using me. Resentment and jealousy towards his girlfriend for living in blissful ignorance of his infidelity, and for her Instagram posts where she went on and on about their amazing relationship (and he was always the first to "like" or comment on them). Frustration with myself for still having feelings for him and for feeling compelled to look at their Instagram pages, even though doing so hurt me each time. Sadness and disappointment over what I'll never have with him.
But then last week I went to New York City, a vacation that I'd planned months ago. I'd wanted to go back to New York ever since I first went there four years ago. And gradually, I started emerging from the dark cloud that hung over me ever since I first found out that the Model used me to cheat on his girlfriend.
One of the first things I did was Google "literary events in New York City," which is how I found out about a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. When I lived in Small Town, Tennessee, I used to drive for hours to Nashville on a regular basis, partly because of its thriving literary scene; there were poetry readings and open mic nights for writers almost every week. They don't really have anything like that in College Town, which is why I was excited to attend the poetry slam, not to mention it only cost ten dollars to get in.
The poetry slam at Nuyorican Poets Cafe was very different from the open mic nights I'd attended in Nashville. For one thing, the majority of the poets and audience members were African American, and the audience was much livelier, responding appreciatively with "Mm-hmm," and "Preach!" while the poets read their work. And the poets didn't just read their writing; they performed it, with all the passion, fury, and sadness that they were feeling. Their poems were about topics like what it was like to suffer from PTSD after being date-raped, the anger they felt about young black men getting shot by police officers, the alienation they felt over being biracial, and one in particular stood out: a funny poem by a white guy, who described himself in his poem as "the wokest, whitest, straightest guy who you will ever meet", and went off on a riff about white privilege.
Listening and watching them perform their poetry was like salve on the open wound of my broken heart, and for the first time in a long time, I felt glad that the Model wasn't there with me. He wouldn't have appreciated or understood it in the way that I and the others in the audience did.
I went for a walk in Washington Square Park, and some people invited me and other passers-by to write down short stories on small square pieces of paper that they were handing out. So I did, and then they hung up the story alongside several others on a display they had. It made me happy to know that other people walking through the park could read what I wrote.
I wanted to buy a ticket to a Broadway play, but even the discounted tickets cost eighty dollars, which was more than I could afford. So instead, I managed to get tickets to two different shows for less than forty dollars total: a musical in the Acorn Theater called 68, about the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and Katie & Julian & Nicholas: Corkscrew Late Night at Paradise Factory, where three "dramaturgs" performed songs from musicals that they had written. One of them described one of his songs as a "burlesque from the point of view of a Confederate statue."
I liked watching the actors perform and sing, except I came down with a sneezing fit during the second show. I think it was due to a combination of several factors: the fact that I'd been walking in the rain in Central Park, the fact that my cheap, dingy hotel room wasn't properly cleaned, or the possibility that one or all of the audience members had rolled around in cat fur before the show (I'm allergic to cats). My nose was literally running throughout the majority of the show. I was sitting at the end of the row near the wall, furthest from the door, and I didn't want to keep getting up to blow my nose in the bathroom during the actors' performances. So I sat there, pulling Kleenex out of my purse again and again and thinking, Don't sneeze don't sneeze don't sneeze ATCHOO!
I did all the usual touristy things. I got my picture taken with costumed characters in Times Square, who I made sure to tip, of course. I ate a New York style hot dog and slice of pizza. I drank bubble tea in Chinatown and watched Chinese women do Tai Chi in a park. I took the train to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which I think of a hipster's paradise, and which also reminded me of a cross between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park in Chicago. I browsed in bookstores like Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg, where people were reading out loud to each other. I stopped at a juice bar and asked for an apple juice, and when the barista said, "OK! That'll be six dollars," I tried not to respond like this:
I also went to the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, and I bought Waiter's Rant by Steve Dublanica and a Dave Barry book because the genre that I like to read most is memoir, especially memoirs where neurotic, obsessive people write about ordinary things in ways that sound hilarious. That's something that I've always aspired to do in my own writing.
I ate chicken parmigiana in Little Italy and admired the Vermeer paintings that were on display in the Frick Collection. I ate breakfast at Balthazar Bakery, and I watched Broadway actors perform for free in Bryant Park.
It felt so good to be in a big city again, navigating my way through the crowds, listening to the New York accents and hearing people call out to each other in different languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Polish, and German. I didn't even mind (too much) the fact that my hotel room in Chinatown was right by the train, which rumbled loudly all night long and made it difficult for me to sleep. Since I hate driving, it was a relief to be able to walk around or take public transportation to get to where I needed to go, despite the extreme heat and humidity and the fact that I had to spend way too much money on bottled water.
What I loved the most about New York is that it's a city full of artists: actors, musicians, painters, writers, etc. Immersing myself in their work inspired me and motivated me to get back to work on my own writing.
I must admit that I am not over the Model, and it will take me some time to get over him. I will never have what his girlfriend has with him: a real relationship and a life with him. When I first realized that, I felt empty inside. I thought that I would never feel for anyone else what I felt for the Model and that I would spend the rest of my life alone. But that week in New York filled me up, and even though I am not yet whole, I realized that even if I never find true love or happiness with someone, I can have my own happy ending: a life that's filled with poetry, books, writing, travel, walks through big, interesting cities like New York, good food in new places, art, music, etc., etc.
I may never be surprised with a romantic vacation to Mexico for my birthday the way the girlfriend was with the Model, but I can take my own vacation that I paid for with my own money to a place like New York City. His girlfriend may very well end up marrying him, and I must admit that if I make the mistake of looking at her Instagram page again in the future and see their wedding pictures, it will hurt like hell. But on the other hand, she will spend her life with a narcissistic, insensitive, dishonest sociopath who cheated on her (and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person he's cheated with, which would explain why he often comes back to College Town without her, because that makes it easier for him to hook up with other people behind her back). And I may end up alone, but I will live my life with the freedom to live on my own terms.
What about you? What does your happy ending look like? If you could go on your dream vacation, where would it be?
Interview with… Adam Byatt - Today it’s the turn of Adam Byatt to sit down and share his writing with us. This is my 13th interview, and there are still some wonderful authors to come!...
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