Memories Like Fireworks

66 Days.

My adventure in New York was 66 days long.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and the lows, the unforgettable experiences and the lonely days. Through it all, what did I take from it and where do I go from here?

I love the feeling of an expected train. The cool breeze swirls around me, whispering of its coming while blowing at my clothes and loose hair. It tells of miles traveled, souls carried, stories untold.

Millions of little food options are crammed into small corners and apartments; they aren’t an easy find, but a worthy one. Donuts and bagels worth standing in line for close to an hour (I’m looking at you National Donut Day), summer food festivals in the park, little hole in the wall mom-and-pop places serving food from other countries, and elaborate dessert restaurants that fill you to the brim and leave you wanting more.

The area of Brooklyn I lived in during my 66 days was just a 10-minute walk from Prospect Park, which is far larger than any park I’ve been to in Charlotte, yet is still not quite as big as Central Park. Summer time thrives in New York. Concerts in the park every week, food vendors trying to spread their love for food to the masses, baseball in Central Park, and Shakespeare In the Park. The parks of New York are a revolving door of friends and families who like to soak in the adventures and opportunities available to them. Just add the tourists into the mix and you’ll see why it’s so crowded.

The sights are extravagant, the plays magnificent, and the memorials elaborate. New York embodies the phrase, “Go big or go home.”

A tall building on 20th Street has an office on the 11th floor, which crams in two independent publishing houses and a book distribution company. This is where I spend most of my days, asking for project after project in order to teach me about the publishing industry. Some of my projects are simple, such as packing boxes with books, weighing them, and bringing them to FedEX. Sometimes I input data or create fliers and email blasts. Most of my days are spent helping one of the companies develop a new website, uploading content and formatting different aspects to make it more user friendly. My favorite days were those in which I spend working with manuscripts, copyediting, suggesting changes, and brainstorming how to rework scenes so as to make them more believable. I love being a part of helping people tell their stories. My experiences have given me an outlet to continue to do what I am passionate about, and now I work as a freelance copyeditor.

On Independence Day, the weather is gloomy. I take the subway to Coney Island with my brother. As we walk up and down the boardwalk, a chilly breeze tugs at our hair and clothes. A large flock of seagulls do a dance in the sky as they battle the wind. The rides are old and look rundown, though they appear to be working fine. My brother and I dip out of the crowds and into a building to buy tickets to the freak show. We walk into the dark room and find seats on the bleachers. A man is on the stage, explaining some of the history of the show and interacting with the audience. Eventually, he demonstrates the first act by hammering a long nail and a screwdriver into each nostril. I cringe in discomfort. A performer who lies down on a bed of nails and allows others to walk on top of her follows him. Other performers come one after another, displaying amazing contortions and feats. The spectacle is a memorable one, and I leave feeling content in being normal. As we walk back out into the salty breeze, I still can’t shake the eerie feeling of the place. It reminds me vividly of the first time I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – it was during a storm at the beach. Certain smells have a way of bringing back memories. Even the rundown rides and the freak show feel like they could’ve been from the book. I smile as I think about this.

I took some trips to Pennsylvania and Jersey City, since they were so much closer to me than usual. Jersey City is a boardwalk galore. Shops squeeze together along the wooden walkway, their owners hoping to sell souvenirs, spray-painted clothing, and deep fried food. Giant, elaborate buildings line either end of the walkway, housing thousands of slot machines, poker tables, and gamblers with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. All the way at one end, by the Trump Taj Mahal, a Ferris Wheel stands tall in the blue sky – for just five tickets, you can be on top of the world. Another ride sends you flying in the air in a circle. I watch as my swing moves further and further out, eventually bringing me soaring over the ocean. I watch as the sun dances on the water below me. To my right (and then my left), I can see all the small people laying on the beach, walking the boardwalk, reaching for their wallets. Yellow and blue umbrellas line the beach, looking like something out of a picture. I later join the crowds on the beach; drink in my hand, soaking up the sun with one of my best girls. A successful weekend.

In Pennsylvania, I went with my brother to his boss’s farm for his annual summer party. The farm is huge – one would need a golf cart or car to get from one end to the other. By the barn and by the house, tents litter the place, offering endless food and wine or beer. A platform holds a live band, playing for hours. Trucks come in waves to offer popsicles, cupcakes, and ice cream – of the best variety. Along the hill leading up to the barn, hired hands man a rock-climbing wall, blowup water slides and relay races, and a mechanical bull. At the bottom of the hill, people fish or paddle board in the large pond. A bus ride down the long winding road by the corn fields brings us to a rodeo, where we watch bull after bull kick their riders off before they can even qualify – I believe only two stayed on long enough. At the end of the night, when our bellies are full, we all gather around for the final event. I sit sideways on a hay barrel, one leg tucked under the other, turning behind me to face the fence. I rest my arms on the whitewashed wood and my chin on top. There is a crackling sound and a small stream of light soars upward through the air. BOOM. Colorful lights dance across the sky, holding their form for just a second, and then they slowly fade, falling back toward the earth. BOOM. Another burst of color. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. Several fireworks go off at the same time, lighting up the sky as if it were no longer evening. After each burst, the colors fade, leaving behind trails of smoke as if to say, “Remember me. I was the best one, gone too soon. Remember that elated feeling.” As more fireworks fill up the sky at once, the smoke trails mingle, fighting to stay the longest.

My memories from New York feel like those fireworks, each one bigger and more colorful than the next. Each moment gone, leaving behind a trail of smoke for me to remember it by. I hope that the smoke trails stay for a long time, fighting to be remembered as the biggest adventure I’ve had so far.

I Love You. I Promise.

I’ll be there.
When the distance is too far
And time ticks slowly away,
I’ll stretch my arms across the gap
And bid the void no longer stay.
I love you. I promise.

IMG_7199.JPG

I’ll be there.
When the world seems to be too difficult
And managing makes your energy diminish,
I’ll pull those roots of fear, they have no place here
And help you make it through today, these ten minutes
I love you. I promise.

IMG_7724.JPG

I’ll be there.
When your heart seems to burst with joy
And you can’t imagine a better day,
When you get to share your life with those you love
Don’t forget my words, don’t forget to pray
I love you. I promise.

IMG_7049.JPG

I’ll be there.
I promise to never let you go
To walk with you through hard times
Bless you more than you know
And shape you to be mine
I love you. I promise.

Riding the Subway

I leave to catch the train about fifteen minutes earlier than usual. I didn’t have anything else to do to get ready and I needed to refill my Metro card. The train before my usual departure time arrives and I immediately regret it. All the cars were packed with people – double…triple the normal number. I wedge myself in, trying not to touch anyone, and grab the silver, vertical pole. The speakers announce our next destination, the doors close, and the train lurches forward.

A train full of eyes unseeing. No one makes eye contact. Bodies hunched over books and phones. Headphones dangling out of ears. All these bodies meshed together as one in the train, completely unknowing of the different souls and lives. It’s likely we’ll never see each other again. New York is a pretty big place.

base_map_N_diversion_Jan16
A younger guy holds onto the same pole as I. He’s got some of those large, over the ear headphones on and he’s bobbing his head to the music. With the hand he’s using to hold onto the pole, he starts tapping his fingers to mimic the cord progression of his silent song. The other hand is down by his leg, strumming with an imaginary pick. I watch his hands for a while. The train shutters to a stop. A few people get off and are quickly replaced by more. I watch as a woman rushes to make the train before the doors close. She slips in and I notice sweat droplets collecting on her upper lip. Summer isn’t always kind.

Twenty minutes have passed and the train screeches. This is my stop. I shuffle around the people in the train to make it through the doors. The station smells of piss and cigarette smoke. Everyone squeezes through the exits and rush to work, making sure not to look at the homeless man sleeping in the corner or make eye contact with those around them.

New York is a lonely city.

 

The Hardest Goodbye

Don’t let me go
Don’t leave my heart in pieces
Don’t let me go
Please beg me to stay

It hurts me to see
Your tears clinging to your lashes
Your bottom lip quivering
Your attempt to smile

IMG_7538.jpg

Don’t tell me to be brave
Because I’m certain I can’t
Don’t tell me to be confident
I’m sure I don’t know how

It feels like I’m saying goodbye
Forever
Instead of we’ll soon be together
Again

IMG_8199.JPG

Don’t let me go
Don’t leave my heart in pieces
Don’t let me go
Please beg me to stay

Don’t let me go away

And It Happened In a Coffee Shop

I often have people asking to read stuff I write when I tell them my dreams to work with and write books. I thought I would let you take a peek at something I’ve been working on for a while. I love criticism and feedback on my work. You have a voice: use it.

I have another post coming up soon with more of my thoughts. If you haven’t yet, take a look at my previous post about my sister and our experience with her mental health. Hopefully I will be posting a healthy mix of posts featuring my thoughts and my creative writing. Anyways, here we go…


Tuesday:

The bell on the door rang as she walked into the coffee shop. Charlie smoothed her blue skirt and walked up to the counter to order a hot chocolate. The barista handed her the foam cup. She looked around for a seat, but the shop seemed to be having a busy day. A tall boy with caramel skin was doing homework at a table towards the back. Charlie walked over to him.
“I see you at school, you know. I know you.”
“Yeah?”
“I think we are in AP English together.”
He gave a short nod and then returned to his homework. Charlie pulled out the chair across from him and sat down.
“Yeah, that’s right. You sit a couple rows back from me.”
He didn’t respond.
“My name is Charlie. Well, it’s Charlotte. I’m known as Charlie.”
“Rodney,” he responded, not even looking up.
“Cool. Well, I typically come here after school. Not much happenin’ at home and all. And this is one of my favorite places to do homework.”
Silence. Charlie tapped her fingers on her cup. She gave up on waiting for a response that would never come.
“So, anyways. Do you mind if I share this table with you?”
“No,” he responded, still looking at his book.
“Thanks. I’ll shut up now.”

Wednesday:

Charlie struggled to open the coffee shop door against the wind. Once inside, she adjusted her t-shirt and pushed her hair out of her face. She bought a bottle of water.
Rodney was at the same table again. She walked over, dropped her backpack on the ground and sat down across from him. She grabbed the book Something Wicked This Way Comes out of her bag and flipped through until she found her spot. Rodney looked up to see who had disturbed his peace, rolled his eyes and looked back down at his homework.
“’Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?’”
Rodney looked up once again. “What?”
“It’s a quote. Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes. I feel like it’s fitting with this storm coming in and all.”
“Hmm.”
“I heard that there’s going to be some real bad rain, but it should blow right through.”
Rodney put down his pencil and sighed. “Are we really going to do the cliché weather small talk?”
“Hey, I did it in a much more creative and imaginative way. I think I should get some credit for that.” She smiled and pushed her hair out of her face.
He looked back at his homework.
“My uncle read this book in college. He had a friend recommend it. He loved it. Says that it is magical to read. That Bradbury had a talent with words. He came to visit around my tenth birthday. Gave me the book and the movie for my birthday. He wouldn’t let me watch the movie, though. Not until I had read the book. He wanted me to appreciate the writing. He would read it aloud to me before I went to bed every night…” She trailed off. Rodney noticed that her smile was gone. She was staring at her drink with a blank look.
“Are you alright?”
“This book makes me sad.”
“Then why are you reading it?”
Charlie was still staring, as if she was merely talking to herself. “I’m dealing with some conflicting emotions. I was hoping that it would help me sort them out a bit, but now I feel that it’s a mistake.” She shook herself back into the present and began to pack her stuff up. “I’m sorry I bothered you. I will stop distracting you in the future. I need to go home before this storm gets too bad.”
She slung her backpack on her shoulder and left.

Thursday + Friday:

It rained for two days. The roads became flooded almost instantly. The sky was dark even during the day. School was canceled.

Monday:

The bell jingled. Rodney walked in and noticed Charlie sitting on the other side of the shop, engrossed in a book they had to read for AP English. He walked over.
“I don’t mind, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t mind you talking to me. You’re not bothering me.”
She looked down, embarrassed.
“I mean it.”
“Okay.”
He sat down across from her and they worked on homework in silence. The corner of her mouth had turned up, as if she were hiding a smile. It stayed that way for the rest of the day.