It’s 4 AM when I wake up from the jolt of our plane touching down on the tarmac. Taking a red-eye from Detroit to New York City made it so that I could leave without saying goodbye.
Must keep walking. Must get into cab. Otherwise I’m going to get right back onto the runway for a one-way ticket home.
I’m now in the cab and I feel even more anxious. For a few fleeting moments, the lights from the glistening pointed skyscrapers push back the thoughts that are racing in my mind about who I left behind. Eight years of marriage and all Sulily ever did was love me, yet I wonder how much of why I’m here has to do with the idea that she changed and I stayed the same. In the beginning, we both said the “white picket fence” lifestyle didn’t fit us. Back then she modeled full-time and I had just published my first short story, and at 24 we felt invincible in taking on the inherent risks that come along with a life led by our passions. Ultimately, the unpredictability and instability of our lives got to her, like the night we hitchhiked through a part of Montana because our car broke down for the third time and we couldn’t afford the replacement parts.
Manhattan is an addictive frenzy of joy, novelty and grit. Fall in Manhattan is especially beguiling, and at times, disconcerting to the senses. The last vestiges of the putrid sewage smells from summer are undermined by the majesty of the colors in Central Park. The City never goes dark and no one is ever truly alone, even in the narrow rat-ridden alleyways of Carol Gardens. I find solace in that truth like I find solace in the dark quiet corners in my mind.
In the cab, I pass Macy’s on 34th and 6th, and I put down my window to let in the cool air and bright view. The big box retailers are already preparing their window displays for Christmas shopping. To my immediate right, I see four iridescent mannequins and they remind me of Sulily. I think back to this time last year, when she and I walked through Midtown together. Sulily enjoyed walking along this area and would stop to at almost every window display. She looked intensely in each storefront, with a mesmerized look on her face. She loved the mannequins, in particular.
"Sulily, what is it with you and the mannequins?"
Her face slightly fell, and she gave me a look that told of unfulfilled dreams. “There’s a grace about them - their pointed fingers and slim torsos give them an elegant power. Reminds me of my days on the catwalk.”
“They all look the same to me, I guess. You were a lot more graceful on the runway than any of these fake models.” I remember thinking, look at these models posing as humans, void of any thoughts or careless actions to trouble them. They would never experience the pain of life, yet they would never have the awareness of their beauty.
The stoplight turns green and my cab moves forward. I miss her, I knew I would, and it’s that deep-in-your-bones kind of missing when you know that a part of yourself is gone, like a severed finger.
I liked the dream of us more than the reality.