it was night and clouds flew fast like butterfly wings, the ephemeral tendrils getting caught in the city's skyline. i had moved to new york two months earlier and was still caught up in my love of its utter differentness. being a die hard californian and bay area snob living in an environment like new york is like moving to another planet. and that's exactly where i moved, to brooklyn. it was october and i was unseasonably dressed in a floral print halter top, a swishy little skirt, candie's heels and a colander tied to my head (filled with real fruit no less). why? because it was halloween! only for this holiday of holidays would i have been caught in fall with a bare midriff in new york. halloween is my favoritest of holidays and as i clunked down 34th st in my wooden heels, one hand constantly checking to make sure my precarious fruit hat was still in place and striding resolutely to hide my shivering, i was overcome with the joy of being of being on my way to let the world know just how much i enjoyed this day. i was on my way to herald square to meet my roommate, put the finishing touches on our outfits and head to the village parade. somewhat deftly, only somewhat because i was still new to the city and hadn't mastered the art of walking there yet, i maneuvered around the crowds that never seem to leave some areas of manhattan and into the macy's that rules herald square.
into the elevator, up 8 stories and out again, i awkwardly presented my id to the guard at the human resources center, momentarily worrying that he might actually not believe me and the grumpy 18 yr old face on my licence were one and the same; he probably didn't care either way and was more intrigued by my unseasonal exposure than my identity. regardless, he let me pass and i wandered through the maze that is any bureaucratic office space to find my roommate. i found her in the staff lunch room chatting with a zombie, a vampire and a piece of celery. after bidding them adieu we headed down stairs to the makeup counter to the pieces du resistance of our costumes. some fake eyelashes here, a moustache there and a very generous application of foundation and eyeshadow everywhere and we were complete: i was the chiquita banana girl, she, my much older, much slicker man friend. decked out in peach slacks, tan loafers, black socks, a knock off louis vuitton fanny pack and a polyester floral shirt of mine that a year earlier had so transformed me my own family didn't recognize me (i'm sure my additional chest hair, sideburns and mustache didn't hurt either), all topped off with a shower cap perched on faux jheri curled hair. oh yeah, we were something, what i'm not exactly sure, a match made in poor quality underground porn heaven perhaps. regardless, we were bright and colorful and just that right mix of familiar and bizarre that made people smile and laugh as they passed us on the street.
down into the subway we went, chattering as we talked off the cold and built ourselves up for the night to come. still blah blahing about something i swiped my metrocard (craftily tucked in who knows where since i had no purse or pockets) and looked around to find that i was talking to myself alone on the other side. she'd realized she'd forgotten her metrocard at work and we yelled to each other over the heads of passengers, and the noise of the peruvian flute band behind me, that i would stay and wait while she went back. i looked around and spied a set of nearly empty benches to my left. i went and sat down, taking care not to move my head too much during the process lest my props/snacks for later fall out.
there was one other person on the bench, an older white woman, dumpy in a way that couldn't be blamed simply on genetics, with stringy blond hair and about as many teeth as fingers; she'd obviously been going through some things. she complimented me on my costume and asked how i had managed to get the colander to stay put; i should have known better than to answer. that simple question led to a conversation the likes of which i have never had with a stranger before or since; a few minutes later found her sitting next to me as i gave her advice on how to improve her relationship with her daughter. she was the wife of the lead flutist of the band that was resolutely playing all your favorite muzak jams on andean wind instruments across the way. i glanced over at them, he was beautiful in that way that only perfectly brown people are, all smooth features and long black hair; i must say i was impressed. at this point i was slightly interested in her story, intrigued by the idea of these two aesthetically diametrically opposed people, so i ventured to ask why. apparently, and not totally surprisingly, that beautiful man was the source of her woe. he was apparently one of those men that just wouldn't do right; he was a man of the evening who drank too much, loved too many women and, at least it seemed this way to me, was just kind of a jackass. it appears that in this family the apple did fall far from the tree and her daughter had the sense to get out of dodge as soon as she was able, unfortunately, leaving her mother to fend for herself. to hear her tell it she was a victim, of both her outrageously attractive husband and her sensible daughter; one lacked pity, the other a conscience, and neither were in her corner. and i believed her, in a sense, saw how in the logic of her world she was indeed an innocent bystander to all this.
at some point i realized the absurdity of it all: a 22 yr old me dressed up as the chiquita banana girl with real fruit precariously strapped to my head discussing the trials and tribulations of a complete stranger in a subway station, with the crowning randomness of it being centered around the lead singer of a street peruvian flute band. but by then it was too late, having had the psychiatrist in me fairly intrigued and wooed, i then proceeded to break down what it was that was happening and ways in which she might improve her situation: step one, obviously, being to ditch the asshole adonis and do some independent soul searching, with step two being to try and reach a middle ground with her daughter. of course i also had slightly convoluted but well articulated ideas about how these goals might be accomplished, but it was halloween and i'd already been drinking by this point so i don't know what they are anymore. and i doubt it matters, even as the words left my mouth i knew she wouldn't listen, that i had essentially been used. she was one of those women who enjoyed the martyrdom of misery, loved the pity she received for having given herself to someone who would never return the gift, and would be unlikely to trade it for a life where she was accountable for her own problems.
at some point our conversation was cut off by the re-appearance of my roommate, giving me the, "really?", look as she approached our little impromptu session. i stood up, wished her well and disentangled myself from the life of this stranger. as we walked towards the stairs, me regaling my roommate with a just lived story, we passed the band and i took one last long look at the man that had broken at least two lives that i knew of and couldn't help but wonder if he knew, and if he knew that i knew. he caught my eye, briefly, and in that split second i could tell that he knew, and didn't care. i sent an extra wish of well being her way, and continued on mine.