After Morgan dropped his heart-crushing news that he was moving in with Delilah, I rushed out onto the busy New York street, suddenly confused by the rush of people and the headlights from passing cars bouncing upon the horizon, I walked for a block or so and hailed a cab.
“Where to, Miss?” asked the cabbie in a thick African or Arabic accent, given the fact that his name was Mohammad, and his last name had like 17 letters.
“I…need, the airport,” I said while sobbing and counting the cash in my wallet.
I took a deep breath. “LaGuardia. I have 19 dollars and some change. Is that enough?” I wailed, totally CURSING myself for giving Morgan $50 for gas, the bastard. My remaining cash was in my suitcase in Morgan’s van. And I CERTAINLY was not going back to Ripley’s to ask him or Ryan for ANYTHING.
With a look of concern I noted in the cabbie’s eyes in the rearview mirror, the he said, “Yes, enough. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said sniveling. At which point, I started babbling about my dickhead, now ex-boyfriend. Aside from the fact that I was devastated by our bizarre break-up, I was pretty much blind drunk. We’d been guzzling beer and wine all day long.
And the cabbie just kept saying, “Oh, and such a pretty girl.” I know he didn’t understand one word I said. My speech was thickened and throttled by the current level of alcohol bashing about my veins and my brain, but I didn’t care. I just needed to let the pain spew forth.
When we reached the ramp for the BQE*, I noticed the meter was already over $20. I sighed, knowing I could’ve just wasted my last cent and then some, and I didn’t know if I could catch a flight to WV at LaGuardia or not, but I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. “Would you let me out at the nearest subway station?” I asked digging for change in the bottom of my purse, “I’ve already racked up more-”
“No, it okay. Pretty girl not ride the subway in the night by herself. Not safe.”
I was flabbergasted. I’d always heard that New Yorkers were cold, mean-assed people, but this guy was a sweetheart! “Really, it’s okay, I don’t mind, I-”
“No, in my country, my father teach us respect, protect women. I not letting you take the subway for a couple dollars. It’s not far now.”
The sincerity in this man’s voice ignited the waterworks again. “Thank you, sir,” I said, taking a deep breath to stifle the bawling, “That’s very kind. Where are you from?”
“A small village near Kenya.”
I paid the saintly cabbie when we arrived at LaGuardia and stepped back out into the frigid New York air.
I half-stumbled my way to the US Air desk, since that airline and Delta were the ONLY ones that fly in to WV. Amazingly, they had a flight out the next morning around 9:00, which cost me $120. And THANK GOD back then, everyone took checks. I did, indeed, have my checkbook with me, just in case. Doing so bludgeoned my budget for my month, but I couldn’t worry about that now.
The whole experience at the airport was colored by my hazy beer vision, but the hefty woman at the US Air desk didn’t seem to notice my lack of sobriety.
“No luggage, Miss?” asked the hefty woman.
“No,” I said, awkwardly, avoiding eye contact with her. These days that fact might cause red flags to SPROUT upon their computer system, but back in the day, not so much.
When I asked about nearby hotels, she directed me to the area where hotels had free shuttles that picked up their weary travelers just outside baggage claim. Then, I slogged my way to a phone booth. I scanned the long listing of hotels in the Yellow Pages.
Days Inn was the cheapest at $70/night. Luckily, my mother had gotten a MasterCard issued in my name when I first started college for “emergencies”, and having no clue where the hotel was that Morgan had reserved nor any way to GET there, it was either charge a hotel room or sleep in the airport. And knowing my mother, my slumbering on a plastic chair in a public place would not be HER choice for me.
And speaking of Mom, I took a deep breath dreading my conversation with her. I needed a ride home from the airport in the morning. I picked up the receiver and dialed her collect.
I briefly explained where I was and who I was with, and…
“What the hell’s going on, Kennedy? I’ve been worried sick.”
“Why?” YES, I was confused because I assumed she didn’t even know I’d left town. And I’d only been gone a few days.
“Jenny and Haden’s wedding, remember?” Jenny was a girl from church… “Your father and I went over to pick you up yesterday, and you weren’t home. You didn’t answer the phone, and no one knew where you were, not even Shauna! I thought you’d been kidnapped or worse!”
“Oh, God, Mom, I’m sorry. I forgot all about the wedding.”
“And did it NOT occur to you to tell SOMEONE you were leaving town, so you wouldn’t give your mother a heart attack?”
I winced, closing my eyes, as the guilt wrenched my gut. I laid my head on my hand…which was on top of the phone. “I’m so sorry. It was a spur of the moment thing. We just got here this morning. I’d planned to call you once we…got settled.”
“I see,” she said, a frosty chill to her tone.
We chatted for a few more minutes, and I gave her my flight information. She wasn’t quite as peeved when we hung up, thank god.
My room at the Days Inn was plain and small but comfortable. I plopped down on the bed and called information. Unfortunately, Ripley’s wasn’t listed. I wanted to call and let Morgan know I was okay if he was still there, and/or maybe, to plead with him NOT to move in with Delilah. On the way to New York, he’d said that he was going to stay with Nigel, a friend who lived on the Upper East side. But Nigel was out of town for a few days, which is why he’d booked a hotel room somewhere near Ripley’s.
I cried myself to sleep with my clothes on. I woke up feeling like a cat had shit in my mouth even though I had used the “complimentary” toothbrush and toothpaste I’d acquired at check-in. Courtesy of the hangover, my head was pounding when I ordered bacon, eggs, toast and a LARGE glass of milk, which I charged to the room. Since my mother was always a FANATIC about eating breakfast, I knew she wouldn’t care about the $16 for my morning meal, that I’d added to the mounting MasterCard bill.
Smiling as though I was returning from a leisurely trip abroad, my mother stood in her long white coat at our tiny regional airport (that has only three gates) when I arrived the next morning.
Mom and I talked little on the way home after I explained that I did NOT want to talk about Morgan.
“Weren’t you nervous?” Mom asked.
“About what?” I asked, surprised.
“Driving through there. Did you have to go through any ghettos?” Mom asked, anxiously, drama dripping from her tone.
“Yes,” I replied, “We came into the city through the South Bronx, and that wasn’t exactly Ritter Park,” I answered, recalling the miles of decrepit buildings and graffiti rolling along, the backdrop for dozens of homeless people with shopping carts.
Ritter Park was one of the ritziest areas in my hometown. “But no one bothered us,” I continued. “Although, some homeless guy wouldn’t stop washing the windows of Morgan’s van until Morgan gave him a dollar. That kinda bothered me. But Manhattan was beautiful. The architecture is stunning.”
About a week later, Ryan showed up at the Monarch. “You know, you really freaked me out leaving like that,” he said, sitting on a bar stool beside me where I was loading drinks onto a tray.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I tried to call Ripley’s, but they weren’t listed, and I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel where you were staying.”
Ryan nodded. “I figured you’d just taken a walk to calm down, and you’d come back in an hour or so.”
“Again, my apologies.”
“It’s okay. I’m just glad you’re all right.”
A couple hours later when I took a break, Ryan and I strolled back to the parking lot behind the bar. He handed me my suitcase from the back of the van.
“Why’d he break up with me like that, Ryan? I thought he was moving in with Nigel?”
Ryan looked away. “He’s scared, Kennedy. None of that was planned. He didn’t know that Delilah would be there that night, and…”
“Staying with Nigel wasn’t, well, for certain. He knew he could stay there a few nights, but he wasn’t sure about moving in there.”
“And Delilah offered after she found out about his legal troubles?”
My eyes pulsed anger, I’m sure.
“He really does love you.”
“Whatever,” I said, walking away.
“Kennedy,” Ryan called after me. I turned around. “He…had limited options, you know? And…”
“Before Delilah showed up, he was going to ask you to stay, but, honestly, he didn’t know where or whatever, you know?”
“So, why did he CHOOSE her over me?”
“She’s a paralegal. She makes good money and-”
“Great. I got traded in for a sugar mama.”
Ryan looked at me a moment with a very stalwart expression, then just looked away.
Annoyed, I started to walk away again, but I looked back at him instead. “So, how well does he know this girl?”
“They’ve been out three or four times.”
“Jesus, freaking, Christ. She could be an ax murderer for all he knows or a complete BITCH.”
Ryan laughed, “Despite what you see in the movies, most people in New York are decent human beings.”
With a nod, that was that. My broken heart was wrapped up in a neat little package and served up with a plate of cold, hard truth. And I just wanted to go home, crawl into my bathtub and cry my way through a gallon of chocolate ice cream and a couple dozen beers. But I didn’t because I was broke. I went back to work, not knowing that Morgan would walk back into my life again a few years later…
Over and out from my Stop and Smell the Crazy life…
TenaciousB and company…
*Brooklyn Queens Expressway