On Exhaling Before Inhaling

I drive into another state to take a train back into the state, down to midtown where I transfer cross-town to go uptown to get out above ground and walk five blocks downtown. I have decided to see a friend specifically to cry. It has been a long time since we saw each other last, at a screening of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with a live droning soundtrack in place of the original 1920 score. At her apartment, my release does not come in tears but in words. My manic catch-up has my friend listening while typing on her laptop, her friend I've met before listening while programming on his laptop. Their fingers move while their eyes meet mine to say: "Listening." Their faces are blue in the glow of their screens. I release my words an open faucet, like the sigh of the red wine uncorked on the table, next to the popped-open orange vial of prescription pills. I am sober where my vice is speaking, sharing. My friend and her friend indulge me with their eye contact and nods, a few opinions when their fingers stop typing. A general conclusion is given when my friend leaves for the bathroom and my words taper to an end. She returns to videochat a new someone in Canada. Her friend in the room talks to me about code. "I recommend Harvard's CS50 class," he tells me when I ask for suggestions. "CS50?" "Basic computer science."

As my friend drunkenly introduces me to her Canadian, citing how she and I had met in France, she opens a document on the screen for me to read. It covers her video but I am not interested in chatting with her beau-friend anyhow as I begin to read the document. It is a personal account of being assaulted. It is a regret and remorse and recovery after the trauma. I spend a long time trying to read the two pages while she talks to her two beaux, one in the room and one out of the country. I say nothing when I finish reading and do not address the feelings I am mixing, the way I ask her if she should be drinking while taking prescriptions. "Oh I don't take those," she says, gesturing to the open vial on the coffee table. Her jesting goes on and we debate over the use of the semi-colon; she cannot make an example. Her friend in the room asks 250 divided by 28 and I answer 9. The laptop computes 8.92857143. My friend tosses her friend in the room a $10 bill and they get high without me. My vices are only words and feelings, like I need to give, share, and care. I put on Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore and leave as my friend watches the screen with her friend in the room.

In Grand Central I am early for the next train and throw myself to a halt in front of a tall blond man who is not looking at me in the middle of the hall. He finally notices my stance and pulls me into an embrace: my friend since I was thirteen, my first boyfriend with the label without being a boyfriend. This city is small. He asks me how I am. I perform the past 5 months for him and all the passerby traffic in the passage, coming back to the past 5 days with crescendo. I openly indulge myself with details and stories to highlight for him the subject of me and how I am. It feels good to laugh about everything, even if salt is on my breath with every sigh. Like a good friend, he warns me I have 5 minutes until my train leaves. I run through Grand Central, through the Main Concourse, skipping around late-night commuters and tourists and stalled couples figuring out their goodbyes. I run down the platform. I run to the end of my train.

"I thought you hated being outside," my friend had said at Grand Central, about my current off-grid location, out of the city. "That's not true," I protested honestly. "I hate sports and all that running. It's so futile." On the train I am high on endorphins until my breathing settles, then I am just cold again.