I have to believe in fate. If I didn’t, I would view all of my actions as pointless. And even if they are, I still scour for the meaning in them. Like when I get on the train with no destination or purpose in mind and always end up in the same area. Today, it was the Williamsburg waterfront, a nexus that pulled me in as I continued to search for some semblance of how it used to be, only to find that, impossibly, there were even more silhouettes of condos under construction. Maybe that’s my grand problem in life: I’m always searching for the way it used to be. But that is a search that proves, time and time again, to be fruitless, disappointing and emotionally debilitating. Nostalgia should be classified as a disease. There should be prescription medication for it. I would probably overdose if there was.
I sat at one of the benches near the waterfront and lit a cigarette with a matchbook I had plucked from a bowl of others on the counter of the bar at Motorino. “You always need a matchbook,” I thought to myself at the time. And if you don’t, someone else always does. It’s a method of putting another person at the mercy of your kindness, which is an effortless ego-booster when you’ve really got nothing much else going on to measure your worth to humanity. Taking in a drag like it was air, a man skulking at one of the benches next to me caught my eye. I casually glanced over to give a token death stare when I recognized him as the love of my life.
“Ellis?” he half quavered, half shouted to confirm that it was me.
“Hey Devreaux,” I returned casually. This was going to hurt. I rose from my bench and approached him, automatically giving him the power already in this impromptu meeting. He was dressed in a black pea coat and skinny jeans, and he had the aesthetic of wealth and confidence that he had been striving for ever since we met, ever since I last encountered him–which was when he told me it was over. Maybe it was two years ago now.
“You seem…upset,” he remarked as he tugged at the edge of my flannel shirt and pulled me down to sit next to him. In addition to my flannel, I had on a mismatched knee-length skirt with an allover deck of cards pattern. It was only natural that he would see me this way; even my own clothes were at odds with one another.
“I’m just thinking. Maybe thinking makes me look upset.”
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, gazing off into the distance as though he wasn’t really interested in the answer.
“How I’m really old now, in a way I never thought I would be. And I can’t stop it or pretend it’s not happening the way I used to.”
“Those are some pretty grim thoughts to be having, don’t you think?”
“What would you rather I think about?”
“Any number of things, Ellis. Food, taking a class, going to the gym. Healthy subjects that people in this neighborhood like to think about.”
“I don’t live in this neighborhood.”
“Then why are you here?”
“I like to monitor how severely it changes every time I come back.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t come back. Just move on. Stay in your own neighborhood. Where are you living now anyway?”
“I’ve never even heard of that.”
“Well, it’s in Brooklyn.”
“Who knew there were still uncharted territories?” He paused. “You still trying to write for TV?”
“No. I’ve stopped that now.”
“So what are you doing?”
“What are you?”
“I’m a part of the whole ad agency thing. Over at Anomaly.”
“Seems like it’s afforded you with everything you lusted after when we were together.”
“Yeah, you know…the condo, the clothes, the status.”
Devreaux chuckled to himself. “You’re even more self-righteous than I remember.”
I rolled the matchbook over and over again in my hand, deciding to take another one out so that I could light my second cigarette.
“You should really try e-cigarettes. They’re better for you.”
“Now you’ve sworn off real cigarettes too? In addition to real women?”
He smiled. “No. In fact, I’d be much obliged if you would give me a match.”
This was it. This was my moment, an unexpected way to reverse the balance of power.
“You want a match, huh?”
“Yes please,” he said as he removed his own pack of cigarettes–Parliaments–from his coat pocket.
“You had one. And you threw it away,” I retorted as I tossed the matches out into the water. “And now I’m doing the same.”