The phone rang. One drawn out ring meant it was a text. It was Drea.
That was the nature of our friendship. When we did hang out, we'd text "Home!" afterwards to let each other know that we had gotten in safely. We were protective of each other like that, like family. So either this text was a little late in delivery, or she had fallen dead asleep on arrival.
I sent her a text. Hey...
After a few a.m. pleasantries, random emoticons and inside jokes, she said something like, "Were we really in McDonald's crying last night?"
The vodka had briefly stolen my memory of the exchange. Drunk out of our wits, I recalled how we walked from the Grey Goose party on Hudson towards the train. One of us had wanted fries to sober up a bit, so we ventured a little further, ordered and sat down to chat. Long story short, the conversation turned to our parents, our fathers specifically -- how they were our favorites, what they lacked and how we had ended up dating versions of them. It wasn't quite blame-game speak, but digging deep into past hurts have a way of bringing that out of you.
My dad was a man of many dances. Charming he was in his manner of telling stories, he knew how to make you believe in fairytales. He'd take you out to parties when you were barely old enough to drink. He'd teach you how to drive like you were Senna wheeling it down the Autobahn. He would even say the silliest things, too, and cap it with a hearty laugh, a memorable one that would draw anyone out of their shell. He'd do backflips into the pool and show you why you shouldn't be afraid of the deep end. He was unforgettable. So when he promised to call or be there, you'd wait on him, anticipating his arrival with enthusiasm. But most times, all you did was wait, staring blankly, confused by the broken promises.
In hindsight, it was actually quite fitting then that we ended up at this particular fast food haunt, forcing up years many of gripes that we had swallowed with each and every bite. Being that this was also the place my father always bribed to take us as kids, the event was karmic as it was cleansing. However unexpected, it was a moment we clearly both needed, as our silent fear to burst into tears at any other venue led us to our current safe house. It was the only place, where time was not a factor, and finding the answers didn't mean now. We were simply venting, sharing our struggles, our questions, our reservations and our hopes.
Though Drea was younger than I and still lived with both parents, in many ways we were a-alikes; nerdy Black girls cloaked in New York City cool with a deep thirst for rare eccentricities -- people, things and ways of being. We were first gen'ers who loved Brooklyn. Culture seekers who found music at the core. Sensitive types, who were open and flexible, and yet bound, from yea high, to these fixed ideas that were instilled in us by immigrant parents. We had been hurt deeply by our innocence, and struggled with it habitually, though on the surface some might perceive us as "normal," functioning. Inside out, we lived from the heart. We were broken black sheep who often felt left and misunderstood. And so we wandered, searching and shape-shifting every few paces because this is what disheartened people do, they compartmentalize and tailor to suit. So no one could put a finger on us -- not in our families, save a few of our closest and dearest friends who took the extra steps to unearth a special connection. And even then, it didn't always last.
But it was the unsaid, like the bass of a classic hip-hop interlude, that carried us through that emotional session. It was no stranger to us, and however elated we had found ourselves just hours prior, sadness was rearing its ugly head again. Our mascara was running and our faces moist, as we huddled, dressed up, drunk and eating french fries in the open storefront. We had both been here before; for me in high school as I barely made it past those freshmen year bullies, in college when I felt like I was wearing someone else's skin, and just after, when I was convinced that both love and god were falsehoods I would never commit to.
This is what depression looked like to the passerby. Being shocked, let down and disappointed by life's ups and downs was what brought us here. And yet, this was the only way we knew how to cope with it all, however trivial the delivery, non-linear the flow, or minute the information. We wanted to see ourselves in each other for confirmation that this life and these feelings were all real. We were growing tired of being aimless... we just needed to share.
And while I don't remember how the conversation came to a close, when we finally walked outside it seemed we had lost all sense of direction. We said our goodbyes, hugged and I waved her off as I smoked my last cigarette. The conversation had obviously done a number on me. I was sober (I thought) and over-thinking. How long would I continue to blame my father, my mother, the system, that dude -- any of it -- for who I was becoming? How many more years would I lose pretending to be alright with this suffocating cycle? It wasn't them holding me back, it was me. And if happiness is a choice, what was I waiting on?
The alarm bell had rung. I didn't even bother to put on my headphones when I got on the train. I started talking to myself, as only one deep-thinking New Yorker to another could understand, quietly chanting in my best Deepak Chopra voice: Let. It. Go. Sometimes I chuckled between breaths as I sat alone on the far end of the 2 train car. I must have looked crazy to the people on the other side, but I didn't care.
Was this my version of the Eat Pray Love bathroom experience, packaged in a messy meeting between homegirls on 14th Street? I was thinking again, wobbling between pain and possibility. Consumed I was by choices as I made my way home. Not knowing to what or whom my will would finally groove to. Sure, being a writer comes with its own neuroses, but this was different. This or that? This or that? A couple of rounds of it, and I was done with the dance. I let myself fall face flat on the pavement... until I eventually got up the nerve to just move.
This story appears as part of a collection of stories, entitled Saturn's Return by Amy Andrieux, Editorial Director at TheStarkLife.com. The series sees Amy documenting her 35th, while reflecting on moments past and how to move forward, for the Huffington Post. Each piece is inspired by real life happenings, few with exaggeration and embellishment, or change of name to protect the innocent.