Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Uptown and Downtown

I have to admit, after three years of intuitive living, sandwiched between small intervals of behaving as a sensible employed adult, the latter lifestyle can really frazzle my zen. Or my laziness. Whatever it is, I make a funny grown up.
My friend Liza called this morning, sheepishly asking to borrow some survival money. I had blacklisted her from further loans due to proper follow-up repayment, but she had been a good friend to me these past few years. And how can you turn someone down who doesn't know if their train card will go through en route to work? You would have to be pretty heartless. We tried to figure out the logistics of her picking up said funds. I had to take a complicated trip to the Bronx that morning, and she too was on a deadline. She was thinking of people in my neighborhood that I was friendly with where I could leave it for her. Given my freakishly strong desire for privacy, that was an interesting exercise. 'What about the guy at the bagel place? You said he was nice.' I laughed under my breath. 'Yeah, he's not talking to me. I didn't smile at him one day, and now we just don't say anything to each other. It's OK, I hardly go there anyway.' Then I remembered Justin. He worked at the stationary store a few blocks away. He was from Senegal, and we got into a conversation when I first moved into the city. I was struggling to accept how much more expensive everything was in my new urban home, including his overpriced notebooks. I thought he would give some pat excuse and be annoyed that I was disparaging his wares, but he was genuinely empathetic, and even gave me some tips on where to shop. We became friends. I'd stop in and we'd chat about running, my progress in the teaching profession. I developed a platonic crush on him, and one day brought him a lavender butter cookie that was made in the local bakery. He was pleased, not shocked at this obvious show of affection. Unfortunately, he couldn't identify the floral essence in it, so my crush dissipated. So Justin would be the recipient of Liza's money envelope. I sealed it, and considered putting a sticker on the seal, in case there was a different guy in the store, I imagined this would prevent him from opening the envelop. I realized that was absurd, because Justin was one of those people who you could trust your life savings with, and he wouldn't have anyone like that working for him. I was running late for my Bronx excursion. I walked into the stationary store, and Justin's face lit up upon seeing me, as usual. 'Hey, Tamar, how's it going?' I tried to be brief, but after accepting my favor request, he started telling his helper about my marathoning prowess. I chatted a few minutes, and then began my long journey. I was heading to the FedEx location in the Bronx that was holding my important item. Money for school! I had to dip into a retirement fund finally. A worthy cause, if ever there was one. This trip somehow involved taking four separate subways. Shady characters seemed to be strategically placed in the cars I entered. Red eyes giving me the once over, baggy jeans and over sized leather coats. I wanted to read but realized there were too many fast and confusing train changes to do both tasks successfully. Besides, I may need to fend off a purse-snatcher. When I finally ascended from the final train, I looked around, and felt like I was in the middle of a gritty transient industrial town with nothing more than factories and highways. As I started the foot portion of the trip, I discovered that drug dealers were part of this scenery. I felt lucky that I listened to my instincts and waited until the daytime to do this. After getting lost a few times, both on my way to and back from FedEx, I started losing my gateway skills as well. I saw an above ground train, and felt relieved that I was near a station. But after walking another ten minutes and not finding Cypress Avenue, I felt a little hopeless. I turned around, and there was one limping little guy coming towards me. He looked mean. I went right up to him. He pulled out his earpods, I said 'Hi' cheerfully, and asked him where Cypress Avenue was. He stopped looking mean. 'Oh, it's right back there. You see that check cashing place on the corner? Just figure out which way you're going, and that's where it is,' he said, now smiling as though to an old friend. I thanked him profusely, and started heading in that direction. My mind had temporarily forgotten that most subway trains operate underground. In the absence of overhead trains, I wondered how I would ever make it home again. He was right, I did need to figure out which way I was going. One of these days I just may.


paz13 said...

Tamar: What an interesting post. It takes a couple of real life experiences and puts them together. I guess you made it home OK. Hope you figured out which way you are going.


Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Delightful! I look forward to reading the tales of your day any time you want to share them.

Deb said...

What a journey! I enjoyed every single word, especially the "freakishly strong desire for privacy"---haha! I can relate! You're a terrific friend with a huge heart, Tamar. This I have always known about you. I will say this though...through experience, I have gone through the mill with the situation you were faced with. I'm not saying that "giving" money is a bad thing, it's lending that takes a whole new twist on things. I wrote about it on this post, and the main theme is, it's better to just give money as a gift than to lend it, because in most cases, you never see that money again...and it many cases, you never see that friend again. Another twist is, whenever you start giving money to a friend, they sometimes take advantage and keep coming back to the generous source. I've gone through it so many times and have been burned. I'd rather give a place to stay, a meal to eat or a ride somewhere...

I'm glad the "mean man" turned out to be nice and helpful! I absolutely love reading your stories!

Miss you! xo

P.S. Ironically, I just wrote a post called, "Exposed", which I see is the title of your previous one! I'm headed off to read that!

tamar said...

kevin~ yeah, I find my writing flows the best when it's anecdotal. I seem to enjoy reading stories that are similar, too.

Nick~ well, thanks, come back any time :-)

Deb~ that is such a coincidence about the 'exposed' post! I have to check yours too- would be really weird if we posted on the same day- all that Frontier technology deeming us telepathic- or psychopathic :-)
We should talk, sounds like we have a lot to share- and-
'I am so happy to be spending time with you today!'

Just_because_today said...

wait so the crush ended because he could't identify the smell of the cookie?

tamar said...

just~ Are my expectations too high?