It was early afternoon when TRUE snuck out of the hospital. She called me from a Subway shop. She didn’t have any money. The Syrian guy behind the counter let her use the store phone.
“What I really want is one of these turkey subs on honey wheat,” she said, dreamily. She had that morning-after-getting-your-stomach pumped hunger.
“Don’t worry, I got you,” I said, reaching for my converse and a baseball cap and running out the door to meet her.
“You just don’t move,” I demanded.
Of course I was ecstatic that she had called me first instead of Fitz.
I brought her a turkey sub and salt and vinegar chips and a bottle of coca-cola and a king-sized package of peanut M&Ms.
“Thanks, man,” she said, as she laid the food out in front of her like a mini picnic. We were sitting upon a soft blanket of dried grass and soil under a tree in the middle of Central Park. The branches and leaves spread out like a canopy and formed a large tent around us, giving us a level of privacy. She was wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a green hospital shirt with the sleeves rolled up above her shoulders, like the tuffie bitch she was trying to be.
On her feet was a pair of green paper slippers.
“I should have brought you some kicks,” I said, sadly.
At first she looked at me blankly, then she peered down at her feet and laughed, which made her clutch her stomach in pain.
“Hey,” I said and reached for her hand.
“I’m OK,” she growled, swatting it away.
“You do too much for me…way too much,” she said, her voice filled with despair.
“I don’t do anything I don’t want to do,” I said, rather absurdly.
“I know,” she said, “That’s the problem.”
She stopped eating and blinked her eyes in the filtered green light.
I realized, as I do from time to time, that she didn’t want me, but she wanted the way I wanted her, and that this made her guilty, like someone who orders a fancy dinner when they aren’t hungry and ends up pushing the food around their plate for an hour before it’s unceremoniously taken away.
As for me the feeling is another wound, and then another and another.
My desire is left out on the window like empty bottles waiting to be filled with rain.
We sat in silence, with only the sounds of the birds and crickets and cyclists zooming past on the path a few feet in front of us.
Then she took my hand—the fucked up one—and held it with her own.
“You’re my friend,” she said, “we’re gonna find a way out of this.”
“OK,” I said, my eyes welling up with tears. With my other hand I pulled the rim of my cap over my eyes.
“Remember that Pavement show in that bar,” she said, “when everyone bum rushed the stage and we were in the front getting crushed and we could hardly breathe?”
“And I took your hand and told you to follow me and I weaved us in and out of the crowd and out the side door.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“And how I’ve told you that if we’re ever on some 9/11 shit, or some Great White burning show shit, or some lights out blackout pandemonium shit…remember what I told you do?”
“Yes,” I said.
“What?” she said, clutching her stomach. “Tell me.”
“You said to take your hand,” I said, crying openly now.
“Cuz why?” she said, softly.
“Cuz you have an uncanny ability,” I said.
I rubbed my nose and looked up and noticed a pair of pink plastic sunglasses hanging off one of the tree branches.
“No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, you always know the quickest way out.”briar