“We can handle New York City on our own,” I told my mother. “Michele and I don’t require supervision.”
Everyone thought she was nuts, but after Mom made sure we had enough money in our pockets, she let us go by ourselves, my sister and I, to discover New York alone.
We got lost twice, which is part of the process. A homeless lady helped us the first time, we gave her a dollar for her troubles; the other time we asked an uninterested subway attendant who didn’t lift a finger to help except when he finally pointed at the map on the wall.
We figured it out.
Chinatown to haggle over the price of a fake watch. Greenwich Village to scrounge thrift stores for bargains, where I finally found the perfect peace symbol to sew on the back of my jean jacket. It was at the bottom of a box labeled “Pennies for Peace.”
The clerk had dreadlocks.
The World Trade Center to walk around the lobby and make fun of suits who worked there. CBGB was out…Michele didn’t have ID and I wasn’t that kind of sister.
We wandered back alleys and avoided well-lit areas where we’d run into cousins shopping for designer clothes. Getting tipsy off the tiramisu at Grand Ticino was a lot more fun.
Battery Park to sit and watch people. Crazy people. Interesting people.
A guy yelling at his girlfriend.
It wasn’t your usual yelling, like at the beach when couples fought over who was staring too long at who in a bathing suit. This yelling was serious, man. This yelling was about walls.
“Shut the fuck up, Roy,” Amy said.
She was tired of his shit.
“Walls are for the timid and weak,” Roy told her, while I pretended to read The Village Voice. “It doesn’t mean you’re tough. Doesn’t mean you’re strong. It means you’re fragile. Look at East Berlin. You think they’re strong? They’re not. THAT’S WHY THEY NEED THE WALL, AMY.”
Amy didn’t get Roy.
“Why would I want to tear down your fucking walls?” he asked. “I prefer strong women who have the confidence to be kind. This rude routine is transparent and tells me I have the capacity to hurt you. That I’m the strong one. That you have to protect yourself and that’s some fragile fucking self-esteem Amy.”
Amy wasn’t listening. She was hauling ass in the opposite direction.
“That’s a hell of a message, Amy! Are you serious? People without walls are the strong ones, they say COME AND GET ME YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY DESTROY ME. They’re genuine. FUCK your walls.”
I wanted to follow Roy. No doubt he was going to some thought-provoking poetry slam. Or a dive bar.
Michele shook her head and wondered how we came out of the same uterus.
On our flight home, I tried smiling instead of scowling. The attendant upgraded our tickets to first class. We ate a steak dinner with real silverware and drank out of real glasses for free. I felt good and strong.
It wasn’t because of the steak.