it's christmas and you're not even doing anything


 Just the fact that they were all different heights gave me anxiety. I was waiting for a train at 11:30 at night and there were these little kids. They were all different sizes, wearing Chinese letters on their backpacks and rolling all over the place. Their hair black, shiny and sweeping in the wind like a cat messing with blinds.

I just got off my flight and had to face the city at night alone. This is something I usually try to avoid. A few months ago I left a man who thought he could tell me anything. I could hear his nasty words echoing in my head. This is what happens when you let a man tell you anything. You deal with the words months after he’s gone. The thoughts never bothered me while the sun was out but at night they would roam with confidence like roaches. 

Tired. My shoulders felt like horse meat from carrying the bags. I tried to lean on anything I could, close my eyes and pretend that I was home. But I could hear the escalator belt creak, and of course, the kids. I checked my phone. Nobody texted back. It’s okay I told myself and prepared to sink into the pain of the night. Nobody thought about where I was. Nobody thinks about these things. They see a busy girl and assume she never gets lonely. It’s okay I told myself. 

Seven hours earlier I was in the room with some of the most powerful and rich women in the country. Now I’m watching the sign that says my train will be here in twenty-four minutes. Twenty-four. The children were using their suitcases as scooters in the best way they could. Dragging them even to the very edges of the platform. Giggling with little horrifying teeth and way too much energy for that time of night. I was too tired to have a heart attack so I tried to look away. When I turned, I saw the dad.

Attached to his face was a big, silver camcorder. A camcorder held proudly in the year 2017. He was facing it upwards. The only thing above us was the ceiling of the train station. He had that I-can’t-believe-I’m-in-new-york look. I could tell from his jeans and his suitcase and his unattended kids. We weren’t even there yet. The airport I landed in was in Newark, New Jersey and already this family couldn’t believe that they were here. Finally, I smiled. 

I’m an annoying New York person. People think I’ve just turned this way but I’ve always been this way. My parents met in California and I’m convinced that I was the sperm in my dad’s nut sack that urged him to bring his wife and his dreams to the big city. They moved here in ’89. Young people who didn’t know what the hell they were doing but kept doing things anyway. In ’92 I emerged like a pink alien. Translucent skin. Wrinkled fingers. A typical New Yorker. 

“Why did you move to New York again?”

My dad was on video chat in California and was staring at my face at an angle I’d never show on Instagram. 

“Because dad, this is my home.”

He hates that I live here. If it were up to him, I’d be living in a suburb in California next door to him but—I’d rather die. 

“What’s the point of being in New York? It’s Christmas and you’re not even doing anything.”

I expected this sentence and I let it stab me in the stomach where it was bound to go. 

Ten years ago my dad was crying. He looked at me from his office chair and I could feel my blinks. I could feel everything on my face because I could feel everything on his face. His olive skin red and wet with tears. I was fifteen and dear God, he was “moving to California”.

He wanted me to come. My mom lived in Jersey at the time and since my parents were divorced, I technically had a choice. I could go run off to the football fields and convertibles in California or I could move into the state that borders the love of my life. 

Ten years before that I was sitting on his shoulders somewhere in midtown. We were both smiling, bouncing in unison from his stride. Daughter and daddy in the city. Different colors, same blood. I was high up and saw greenness of the park and the golden zooming of the taxis. We were close because I could smell the horse poop. 

As he was crossing the street, a cab turned at what looked like two inches away from his toes. It only caught my attention because he let go of one of my stocking covered legs and banged his fist on top of the car. It scared me. 

“Why did you do that daddy?” 

“He’s an asshole.” 

He looked at me on the camera of his phone “Well, I love you. Don’t go crazy over there. Gotta go.” 

Alex Wolf