I fucked my back up somehow yesterday. I bet it happened when I was with that boy from Long Island, Glen. On the fire escape stairs after the parade. Or the other boy whose name I can’t remember, but I don’t think he ever told me.
There’s three medium-sized knots kind of in a line, right above my ass. And two more along the big bone that goes up and down. It hurts when I press on them. So of course, I keep pressing.
Crawling toward the subway, my head pounds with every step. I’m late for homeroom again. I try coming up with an excuse I haven’t already used on the nuns at Grace Business Institute for Women. One they can’t fact-check, like a fight on the platform or a fire. Something that might invoke sympathy as opposed to their general disdain. You poor girl, New York is so dangerous. As long as you’re okay, dear… That would be nice.
I can hear the train coming from the last station. So I take off running up the first flight of stairs, through the turnstile and onto the next level. “Hold the door,” I yell, hoping someone will help. But no one traveling into Manhattan this morning cares that I’m hungover as fuck. They’ve got their own problems.
I clear those last few stairs in slow motion. I envy each and every miserable face aboard that train as it pulls away. I walk the length of the platform to the front, with a growing concern that I might throw up. And I do, just beyond the tips of my shoes. Liquid barf splashes across my flesh-colored pantyhose. I move back toward where the center cars open so no one will know it was me who puked. Maybe a few people do, but I can’t think about that right now. I watch from a distance as other commuters skirt around the mess I’ve made.
I don’t even like the Paddy’s Day Parade. It’s cold and boring. The music is ugly, and everything moves so slow. I’m no fanatic when it comes to being Irish, but everyone always goes, and I don’t want to miss out on any of the action.
We all met up at Kenny’s on East Tremont Avenue for a few Bloody Marys. They’re a new drink for me —a breakfast drink. How I love starting the day in a bar. Being completely open to whatever stumbles into the loose itinerary of getting wasted. Before long, we were on the subway, singing and passing bottles of liquor around. We headed into Central Park for more drinking, looking for people we knew and making friends instantly.
He was by the bandshell. The first boy, Glen. There was blood all over his face and across the front of his shirt.
“Your nose looks broken,” I said.
“It might be, but I’m not gonna worry about that today. I’m here to have fun.” What a great attitude.
He and his pals sported varsity jackets. Assuming they were athletes, I was impressed. He said he was from Commack, Long Island. That seems really far away. I wish I was better at knowing stuff like what happens in Lacrosse and where places are located. I wondered if maybe he’d let me wear his jacket.
We paid five dollars to get into a dark, warm bar where none of us were carded and we could use the bathroom, which is nicer than peeing in the street. They gave us a ton of drink tickets, like at the carnival. I found a bunch more on top of the cigarette machine and on the floor next to one of the toilets. Why would anyone leave their tickets behind? I wore them with pride around my neck.
This supergroup of old and new companions co-opted tables and booths as if we owned the joint. Large trays brimming with refreshments arrived and kept arriving. Beers, shots and Kamikazis. I said ‘yes’ to every round. I involved myself in conversations where I could only hear every third or fourth word.
Glen drained his pint and announced, “I’m off to see my Nana.”
I didn’t want him to leave. To leave me.
“Don’t go,” I begged, hanging from his arm.
“I won’t be long,” he shouted over the music. “She’s right up the block.”
“I’ll come with you.”
This is great, I thought. I’m meeting his family.
I didn’t know where we were going, but he grabbed my hand as we staggered through the crowded, rainy streets. Dudes were fighting, girls were crying and there was vomit everywhere. The city was filthy with garbage and bad decisions.
By the time we got to Lenox Hill Hospital, I wasn’t sure why we were there. We made out in the lobby. I pressed all the buttons on the elevator. The people riding with us were pissed.
“Wait here,” Glen said.
I flopped into a wheelchair in the hallway, closing my eyes and wanting to lay down. A while later, he passed me in the corridor.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Oh, shit,” he said, smiling. “I fucking forgot you were there.”
I hated thinking this guy was stupid because I liked him, but I realized he might be.
“Do you wanna see Nana?”
“C’mon.” He pulled me into a room where a frail old woman was asleep in the bed. “She has cancer,” he drunk whispered. “She’s on her way out.” She did look very sick. And dead. “Nana, there’s someone I want you to meet.” He shook her tiny hand which was covered in tubes connected to various machines. “What’s your name?” he asked.
I know I already told him my name. “Mary,” I reminded him.
“Nana, this is my friend, Terry.”
I tried to correct his oversight, but I could tell he didn’t care. This whole visit was a dumb idea.
Out on the sidewalk, we kissed again and looked for a place where we could do more. Tucked into the alley between two buildings, there was sex right away. No phone calls or trips to the movies, no french fries from McDonald’s. Just it on the fire escape stairs. I did not resist. I knew what I was doing.
When we returned to the bar, most of the familiar faces I came with were gone. There was no one for me to share what just happened. Suddenly, getting home seemed like a lot of work, so I kept on drinking. I followed what was left of the group to another watering hole where I lost sight of Glen.
But there was that other boy, same kind of jacket. I went outside with him, around the corner and down some steps.
“Where did Glen go?” I asked.
“He had to meet his girlfriend.”
“Are you from Commack, too? Is it near here?”
“What does it matter?” he muttered, as he covered my mouth with his. He smelled of sweat and damp wool. I felt like a failure as he struggled with and complained about my bra. The bricks scraped my shoulder blades and tore up the green blouse I borrowed from my sister’s closet. “You’re heavier than you look,” he said when he tried to pick me up.
A doorman came to the top of the stairs. He banged his flashlight against the railing with a warning. “Get the hell out of here, you animals, before I call the cops.”
This second boy was angry that he didn’t get to finish. And even though I kept apologizing, he hardly spoke to me the whole way back to the bar, except to say, “Shut up already.” He wouldn’t help me look for my coat, either. And it was freezing last night when I finally caught the train home to the Bronx.
I’ll never understand why people love parades so much. I hate them.