Blacker Than Blood

My scream was mountainous.

I continued to fall onto the cold concrete, let my phone slip from my ear, and roar into the eternal sky. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t have been. My dad was still on the other end of the call, pleading with me to dry my emotions on my sleeve, asking if I was in public and if so, to calm down before I drew too much unwanted attention. Go to Port Authority. Buy a one-way to Princeton. Call when I’m close to the bus stop. Go to Port Authority. Buy a one-way. I kept repeating this rhythm in my head over and over again, feeling a nervousness slowly drip out of the corners of my mouth. I hung up and screamed with a scream I had never heard my heart speak before.

Strange people came up to me and began to ask if I was drunk, or if I needed some water to sober up. My mouth cracked with fire from all the snot and tears flowing past my lips. I twisted my body into a fetal position and announced to the world that my mother had died (“My mom just fucking died!!!”). Now, these strangers re-tuned their tones with a swiftness unmeasurable by the conventions of time. Quickly, my pain became essential. I suddenly needed things, like a hug, a glass of water to clear my nose and throat, a taxi home, my belongings from inside the café. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye for fear of losing any more of myself to the world. I allowed these strangers to encircle me with a bundle of serious and gentle hands, begging me to humble my emotional tremors, reassuring me that this will all pass quietly like a monsoon in spring. I was not ready to stand on my two feet yet, so I remained bent in my crumpled position, heaving with a new heaviness, and waited for Sam to come outside with my coat to head back home, a place I would learn to know as a place where everything was unraveling by the seams.

The ride to the bus depot felt weightless, like sunlight passing through a curtain. The driver asked me and Sam how our night went. Sam snapped at him telling the driver to mind his business (“Hey, not right now, alright?”). His hand was now entwined tightly in mine as I gazed into the infinite spaces of Manhattan, corners bursting with a hustling spirit so character of its city, of lights sinking into the cold glass of skyscrapers.

I was floating.

Indeed, I couldn’t seem to catch my senses in time to process them as real things. As if things weren’t truly occurring the way they were suppose to because I did not want to accept them as objective truth. Death, what is absent of here and now. Or is it a time and place? An eternal ring in space? Every moment I sat in the taxi, I fanaticized about creepy thoughts I probably shouldn’t have had at the time. I thought about the possibility of the driver pulling over in Times Square, turning around with a smirk, and telling me that my mother was okay. That she actually wasn’t dead, but was playing a really morbid joke on me to see if she could scare me into moving back home to New Jersey and live with her rather than with my dad. The whole situation that brought me here was undoubtedly immoral and I contemplated this prospect almost every day as I woke up in my apartment, my window overlooking the 59th Bridge. I envisioned her doing such a thing, but then my mind rejected the thought because I knew how much pain she was in when I moved away in the fall.

A layer of betrayal proceeded to cloak my damp shoulders as the taxi stopped in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I saw Sam reach into his pockets for his wallet and I begged him not to pay for our fare. I tried to negotiate with him by offering to pay half, though he remained determined that he wouldn’t hear of no such thing (“No, don’t even think about paying me back.”). I stopped my pleading and followed him outside and into the harsh cold of January’s dark grey winter.

As we walked into the bus station together, I realized how light-headed I really was. Sitting in the dark for almost thirty minutes manipulated my mind into adjusting to my internal darkness and grow comfortable with the absence of light to illuminate my world ahead of me. I still hadn’t looked Sam in the eye, so I found myself making a pattern of darting my focus around the terminal to look for things to distract myself with. Like how unfamiliar I had become with taking the bus because I never had to go back home, or, how empty the bus station was because no one really takes the bus to travel outside of New York City. Sam entertained my shallow observations for the purpose of making me feel constructive, but small parts of me also knew he secretly enjoyed my trite humor.

I bought my ticket to Kendall Park for twelve dollars (“One way? 12.50? Since when?” “Since always.” “Yeah, sure. Whatever man.”) and proceeded to walk upstairs to my bus’s terminal. It was a few minutes past midnight and we had just missed the bus by about eight minutes. We waited there for another thirty minutes for the next one to arrive, all the while exchanging morbid jokes about me performing for the first time at Nuyorican Café and my mom dying the moment I felt most alive when I got off stage. Or, when Sam offered me to watch Netflix on his phone and me laugh at his cordial disposition. He really didn’t have to take me all the way uptown to the bus station from where we were, stealing him from hanging out in Alphabet City and kicking it with the coolest artists on the Lower East Side. History was made that night, but fatality promptly transformed the narrative into an epic of tragic proportions.

My bus finally pulled into the terminal and I turned to Sam to give him a hug. He embraced me with a new ease and concern that had been absent from our friendship only a few hours prior. I couldn’t stop telling him how appreciative I was of him for coming with me and being with me through this moment of profound horror (“I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am for you right now…”) and he squeezed me with a tightness that said you’re welcome in a language I did not know well but understood with a speechless love. I suddenly had the burning urge to kiss him, yet, I quietly dislodged myself from his arms and hurried onto the bus to begin my journey home. For the first time in my life, I traveled home, carrying with me a clear absence of joy. I shuffled into a window seat and saw Sam wave farewell through the dusty terminal window. I waved back with a weak ecstasy, hoping he could not see my tears burning a set of parallel rivers flowing down my neck. As the bus pulled away, I, too began to pull away – from the world, from myself, and from the time before I knew snow to look blacker than blood.

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