I lose the game, pull the wrong card, but as I stand up, so do you, you tell me I won’t have to jump in alone. We stand, just us, against the vast water. You grab my hand as we break into the air. Our bodies sink into the lake. As the cold hits my skin, I let go, allowing myself to fall deeper and deeper, knowing I’ll resurface and see you right there, waiting for me. I wish I could exist all year long in those moments, certain, unafraid to let go, before reality presents itself, exposing the fragility of the falsehoods I hold onto, causing me instead, to tighten my grasp.
Summer in the Berkshires dwindled before it really began.
As the crisp Autumn air falls upon us, we meet at the Grand Central clock tower; I beg the clock to turn back. We walk around Central Park, beneath the trees whose crimson-colored leaves disguise the infiltration of death as a pretty sight, worthy of admiration.
Early that evening, from inside the apartment, we watch a young woman standing out on the fire escape. She leans over the banister, cigarette in hand, her bare legs visible under an oversized button-up that most likely isn’t her own. This theory is confirmed just moments later when a young man emerges from the window sporting nothing but a pair of boxers. She can’t keep her eyes off of the cityscape sprawling before her. He can’t keep his eyes off her. We paint them as characters in a movie scene. Noticing their awkward rigidity and politeness in pretending conversation is more than a formality, we decide this is their second or third encounter after meeting online, their arrangement, a side effect of the manufactured desire to want and be wanted, a failed attempt at projecting classic sentiments onto contemporary actualities. You continue, explaining how his attentive eyes are evidence of his interest in her. In objection to your feigned naiveté, I reply that his only interest lies in her ability to make him feel some sort of way about himself. You look away, your mouth opens with intent to speak just for the lie to get caught up in your throat. Only silence follows as I wonder what an onlooker would have to say about us.
I’ve always fallen for this city’s abundance of humanity, more specifically, the indifference it creates. I find comfort in the neverending new encounters and the finality of each goodbye. With the knowledge that I exist to others as a passing thought at most, the feeling of insignificance washes over me as freedom to simply be. However, the insignificance felt under your gaze, strikes me differently.
We climb onto the rooftop of the Soho apartment. I’m drunk on the wine, the view, and the way we used to be. I grimace as you sloppily ingest your wine, leaving no time for appreciation. You frown upon the sight of the emptiness of the glass as if any other outcome could have been a viable result of your actions. And I feel bad for the wine, whose delicate taste, culmination of growth and distillation, has been diminished by your haste, your voracious hunger, your all-consuming need. And I think it is me and I am it, a means to an end, a cheap alleviation to your wounds that are too stubborn to heal.
Time erodes the truth of the memories until I am the one trapping myself. I tear bits and pieces of you apart for the sake of romantics and my own temporary satisfaction. The Berkshires exist now only as a figment of my imagination, rooted in just enough reality to half-convince myself of otherwise. The Berkshires is a dream I refuse to wake from despite the fact that it’s miles away from where I am and even further from the truth.
Nonetheless, with time, even self-perpetuated imaginations fade.
Winter recess breaks. And when I drive myself back to school, from the safety of pretentious Connecticut suburbia to the ambiguity of upstate New York, the Berkshires is nothing more than an inconvenience along the way. Passing through, I look down at the newfound tediousness of the once exhilarating turns of the mountain roads. I then look above, examining the bareness of the trees. And I tell myself the leaves are dead, that they’ve been dead for quite some time now, and only in doing so, I am finally and truly free.