“Jesus Christ, if there’s one thing people from Philadelphia love talking about it’s fucking Philadelphia. (See: The beginning of this letter.) (See: What Questlove said.) (I’m sorry about the language.) The second thing they love talking about is how they’ll NEVER move to New York.”—
When people who used to work at Gawker interview people who currently work there for pieces that are completely unrelated to the company, I think back to when I would cadge quotes off of my friends for my high school newspaper rather than having to talk to someone new.
“Someday before I walk in the valley of death I’d love to make a pilgrimage to Death Valley. I fantasize about what it’ll be like to be under the lights as the Tigers take the field to the roar of 93,000 and the first strains of Fight for LSU are sounded by the Golden Band from Tigerland. Then again, I worry that reality won’t match my sweet imagination.”—
At some point, in the midst of my mother driving us around Newark at 1 am this past Saturday night/Sunday morning, she got out of the car at an all-night gas station to ask for directions. Sitting alone in the car, I yelped, “I just want to go home!” out of exhaustion and general whininess.
Then I was frustratingly assaulted by a memory of a night Ryan and I spent together. We went to see a movie, and as we were walking out, I happened to ask if he’d gotten a digital converter box, as the DTV conversion was still scheduled for February.
“No, do I need one?” “You’ll need one in a few months.” “Where would I get one?” “I don’t know. Target? Wal-Mart?” “Let’s go get one now.”
It was 11 o’clock at night at this point and I said as much. In truth, I had just gotten back from vacation a day before and I was exhausted. I just wanted to get in bed and perhaps have some diversions there and then fall asleep. Instead, he decided it was the perfect opportunity to visit an all-night Wal-Mart located somewhere in the general vicinity to get one. We drove for a while and I whined that I thought he had gotten us lost, and that if he hadn’t, we might as well head home as it was nearing midnight and it was freezing and his bed was warm.
“You want to give up?” It was a question he seemed to ask me a lot. I guess it was a challenge. He’d posed it to me several times over the previous few months, and two weeks later would be telling me that I gave up too quickly. I usually met the challenge, but that night I would have preferred to freeze in his little house next to the church, in his bedroom designed and painted by another girl, with her left-behind dog flopped opposite the headboard, buried in clothes.
We found that Atlantis of a Wal-Mart, got his digital converter box, and drove the twenty minutes back to his place. When we had to pay the toll, he and the teller did some amiable joking and Ryan drove away laughing. “Hahaha asshole…!” He dragged out the word. “Why is he an asshole?” I asked. “I don’t know, he just is.”
I guess that was when I started to get an inkling that this was not a very nice person and god only knows what he really thought about me. Later he would tell me that he always got the impression that I looked down on him, that I made everything he said sound crazy. “But it wascrazy!” I typed back in disgust when, during our AIM breakup, he revisited the idea of my dad owning a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise if he were to be laid off. I had resisted saying it when we had the argument in the first place because I thought it would make me sound elitist, but I also resisted saying it because I wasn’t totally sure he wasn’t kidding and I didn’t want to be that idiot who had fallen for such an obvious joke.
Except it wasn’t a joke, apparently. After I proclaimed it “insane” to think that my father would switch from high-end journalism to owning a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, Ryan said, “It’s like that night I wanted to go to Wal-Mart and you made me feel like an crazy jerk.”
Honestly, it was before I knew that he was, in fact, crazy, though I was becoming pretty clear on the jerk part.
But I guess back to the night itself. We got back to his house and installed the converter box which worked the way I guessed that it was supposed to. Surrounded by the streams coming out of the multiple high-power space heaters, I rested my head in his lap and he stroked my hair and then grabbed my hand and we did, in fact, more than enjoy his warm bed because we were never better together than when we didn’t have to talk.
We fell asleep with the lights and NPR on around 2 and when we woke up something like 6 hours later, he apologized for leaving the lights on and rubbed his thumb across my cheek. And yeah, we did what we did again with NPR and the lights still on and the freezing November sun streaming in through the windows, bursting into laughter mid-coitus when the musician being interviewed said something like, “And then I got her pregnant.”
He drove me home in his falling-apart car after stopping for some anti-freeze. He kissed me as I got out of the car and there was something desperate in it for reasons still unclear to me. In my head though, all I could think was I just want to go home, just as I did on this much warmer March night in Newark, all these months later, having just returned from another vacation.