Monday, January 2, 2012

Waning Days

After a few days of late-Christmas at my mother's house in Virginia, I headed up to DC to meet my college friends Anne and Leah, as well as Vern from last week on the Aranui.

We had a grand time getting manicures and pedicures (well, not Vern—who met us later—but Anne and Leah's daughters went to the spa along with us), grabbing dinner, and then on Monday morning, I headed back north on one of the $25 DC-NYC buses.

I texted Michael Kraiger as the bus passed Snake Hill in Secaucus, and then again as soon as the bus pulled into Manhattan, out of the Lincoln Tunnel.

"Be there in three minutes." I watched the familiar-but-alien landmarks whiz by the window. And the crowds! So many people in Manhattan—they were all traveling at the end of the holiday.

Michael Kraiger was at his office—once mine, as recently as February—which is a block from all the discount buses. I'd mailed him my keys, garage door opener, and watch back in March, remember? He brought me my keys and garage door opener.

The watch can wait, along with the dozens of boxes I'd sent him from around the world. I'll have to come in with my car one day and pick them up.

The day was warm as I waited, hugged against the wall of a shoe store with my backpack behind me.

A familiar face, dressed in black and with a stylish hat over gray hair, turned the corner.

"Hello, Marie Javins."

"Hello, Michael Kraiger."

We've been doing that for years (decades?). In a pinch, he'll call me Marie, but I never call him Michael except in business correspondence that other people might read.

He handed me my keys and held my backpack while I wound my arms through the straps. I left him—I'll go to the office next week, since I'm still on a 25-hour-a-month contract—and headed into the Manhattan Mall, down the escalator through JC Penney, and onto the PATH.

Today was a holiday, so the train was on a reduced schedule and went to JC via Hoboken, but I was surprised at how fast the ride was. Zoom. I was across the river.

I texted 27Ray from Grove Street. "I'm waiting in front of Grove Cafe." My plan was to wait next to this because he could pull up in his truck, which was full of his stuff. He'd been housesitting for me since November 1, and was moving to a sublet in Fort Greene tonight.

"Be there in 8 minutes."

And he was, and I watched as he zipped past me and drove on down the street. Penance was he got to carry my bag to where he'd parked.

We checked my garage. Door opened, car wouldn't start. What a mess in there! Some things had toppled over, presumably during the earthquake, though maybe something had just settled. I grabbed a random bag, which I later learned fortunately contained some of my winter clothes.

Ray27 took me to Liberty State Park before going home. This seemed fitting, and I thought back to the end of 2001. I'd come in alone to Port Authority on New Year's Eve, then taken the subway to Babcock's apartment. I'd sat alone at midnight, listening to the cheers outside. In the morning, I'd taken the Staten Island Ferry to get a sad and realistic look at the ailing Manhattan skyline, which had lost two icons just a month-and-a-half earlier.

Today, the evening light over lower Manhattan was beautiful—all gentle pinks and blues—and ten years later, a new building had sprung up where there'd been nothing at the end of my last trip.

I heard the whirr-whirr next to me of Yukon Ray ii shooting photos. He really can't stop himself. But I didn't blame him. I self-consciously aimed my point-and-shoot, to try to capture the light on the city. To freeze the moment, the brief wisp of optimism and wonder at the end of a long journey around the world—quick, grab it before it evaporates into the mundane reality of daily life, before the sweetest promises in the world morph into abandonment and loss, before heartbreak erases hope, your mentions, and leaves you with having never existed, aside from within your own struggle and tears.