Sean and I have been bickering; he doesn’t seem to believe that I know what I’m doing or where I’m going, despite the fact that I lived here for 8 years. I say, “we turn left here,” and Sean says, “I want to see a map.” I say, “We need to take the F train,” and Sean says, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m freaking sure; what does he think I did for 8 years – cried into my pillow while waiting for people to load me into cabs any time I needed to leave the house?
And then, as I’m struggling not to pop him in the face, I remember that while I got around just fine, I did actually do an awful lot of crying into my pillow when I lived here. I moved here at 18 and left at 26; my late teens and early 20s were a wash of ridiculous drama, always crying over some insignificant thing or another. I take Sean from neighborhood to neighborhood – the Village, Little Italy, 59th and Lex – and despite the euphoria I experience from being on a street corner I love, I keep seeing humiliating flashes of my younger self. I see a too-thin girl in a tattered black trench coat and high heels shamelessly sniveling in a packed subway car, all because she couldn’t pull herself together and act like a big girl when times were rough. I adore New York City and consider it home, but my time here was all too often marred by drama queen nonsense. Today, the old sad memories have diluted to a wash of regret. And embarrassment.
I remember, too, my first weeks; fresh from Crystal River, Florida and so naive that when an old man offered me a joint in Washington Square Park, I thought it was merely a “crumpled up cigarette.” I remember clutching my purse to me even when crossing the street to class and might only have started to breathe normally after the first semester. Sean isn’t convinced I’m an idiot; Sean is merely nervous – just like I was at the beginning – and wants to feel somewhat in control of his unfamiliar and sometimes rough surroundings.
We’re sitting on my brother’s couch, giving each other the silent treatment as my brother tinkers with his new iMac and Flight of the Conchords – Sean’s new favorite show – plays on my brother’s plasma screen TV.
Sean nudges me. “Gomen ne,” he says quietly.
“What’s that mean?” my brother asks. He and his girlfriend are very amused when Sean and I speak to each other in Japanese; they like to imagine we’re “talking smack” about ugly people. In this case he’s wrong; Sean is apologizing.
I’m sorry, too.