(photo taken by grace buckley)
My family gathered in the “itty-bitty chic” living room of my sister’s 3rd floor Brooklyn apartment, on Black Friday of 2016. I listened quietly to the belting laughter of my Mother and her twin sister, the slightly less obvious laughter of my sisters and cousins at the expense of the previously mentioned duo, and the news marching through all of the different city obstructions caused on this momentous shopping day. Its was the type of slightly overwhelming family moment that makes me wince a little but also smile at the feeling of who we are.
Reverting into myself, I ran through my checklist. Bags were packed, the bus station was somewhere in Manhattan, Grace knows the way, she will drive. Bus departure at 8:45. My car waits in Portland and I will have the house alone. I have my new book to read, work in the morning, which will be slammed. Some quiet time to regroup. The plan is set. I drifted back into the room and laughed alongside my siblings and parents at all the joyful nuances of togetherness.
The drive to the bus included pleas for me to remain in the city for the weekend with the rest of my family, which was both difficult and tempting. “Why can’t you just call out of work? I’m sure they can manage.” I spent the car ride torn and guilty, with my finger over the send button of a text to my boss about not working. I would, indeed, miss out on some fun family time, I thought. Many statements involving “I should probably…” ran through my brain until we arrived, at which point I slipped my phone into my pocket, grabbed my little vintage suitcase and ungracefully wiggled across the seats of the car. A few hugs and I turned toward port authority which, if you’ve never been there before, is an intimidating maze of escalators and trains, buses and unapproachable people. The man behind the information desk was barking answers to questioning tourists and pointing in a highly fed up manner towards their variant destinations. I wasn’t worried though. I would cause him no trouble. I thought that for about five minutes of wandering, ticket in hand looking for a Concord Bus headed to Maine, proved to be unsuccessful and I reluctantly shuffled up to the information desk and passed over my ticket with a meek smile to the grumpy man.
He looked down and gave an exhale, and with the shake of his head grumbled, “You are out of luck today. Your bus is leaving from this address on the west side of the city. You wont make it in time. You gotta look closely at these tickets. It’s what they’re there for, yah know. NEXT.”
“One moment sir,” I proceeded, slightly confused, frustrated with his scolding, and pushing past the sinking feeling in my stomach that things would not be going according to plan. “Are there any other buses leaving for Maine from here with open seats? I really must get home.”
“Greyhound goes that far.” He jabbed his pointer finger at the escalator and said, “Two flights down. NEXT.”
Turning towards the escalator, I saw my living room in my minds eye. Steam swirling from my red tea cup, my book open in the folds of a cream colored, knit throw, wrapped around a silent me. Okay, I thought, everything will be fine.
I scurried down the escalators with the masses, fishing through my pockets for my phone, to update my family. I quickly passed off the idea of communicating when I didn’t immediately find my phone amongst the gum wrappers, chapsticks, wallet, ticket all folded up in my deep jacket pockets. My phone is probably deep in my bag anyway, i thought. Moments later, remembering my debit card is in my phone case, I stopped and promptly was bumped by three different hurried new Yorkers, not expecting the breach in flow. I swerved out of the rush, squatting to the ground to thoroughly search my things. Once, twice, three times I emptied and repacked my bags- no phone. I could feel myself being eyed by a dusty woman with a cardboard sign displaying “help, I’ve lost my way” scrawled on it, maybe thirty feet from me. Defeated, I turned over and slouched against the grimy wall. I shared a look with her in which we mutually seemed to say, “help? yeah, would if I could pal.”
Staring straight forward now at the pedestrian highway in front of me, I audibly remarked, “Shit.” Nobody was listening.
Streams of profanity were cluttering my brain as I walked all around port authority station looking for a payphone or a helpful person, waiting for some sort of clue to slap me in the face. I like to make lists when everything is out of whack, so I did. It is pictured below, straight out of my journal.
After a few minutes of banana eating, journal doodling, self pity, I administered some tough love to myself. “This is a problem with a solution and you are a highly capable young lady, Gretta. Just figure it out already, because you are starting to be annoying.” With a splash more confidence, and not a sprinkle of a clue as to where to go, I exhaled and began walking again towards nothing in particular.
My only option, which probably should have been clear immediately, was to use my four wrinkly dollars to hop on a train towards Brooklyn and get off at a familiar station. Slightly more at ease with a half plan in place, I relished the opportunity for stillness in motion, a train ride alone. A place where there is nothing to do but observe and think. Its comforting to know that you can be completely still and moving forward at the same time. Caught up in thought tangents about so many different things, I forgot my situation. So, naturally, I got off at the wrong station.
Suitcase in hand, I stepped out into Brooklyn and stood looking around again unsure of the direction I needed to go, but this time charmed by the fact that I was simply hanging out with myself. “Me time” was, in fact, what I had been looking forward to about a weekend home alone. Being lost didn’t have to be anything but a long walk. Eventually things became more familiar. I greeted each landmark not with a sigh of relief or grudging “oh no, the adventure is almost over,” but simply with an “oh, hello there.” Hours after I had been dropped off that morning I made it back to the apartment. The family had indeed worried with my phone in hand, assuming I had made it to the correct bus station and would call when I reached our cozy living room.
I’d like to say my peacefulness remained as I came to terms with not making it back home for work that weekend and that since this experience I don’t get stressed about abrupt changes in plans or lack of direction, but that would be a lie. Cliché as it may be, this was merely a step towards understanding the beauty of searching for your way without much of a clue about where your going. The point of me telling you this is to illustrate the purpose of Abditory. I’m not sure where this blog is going. It is my practice of enjoying the unknown but soaking in the things I’m figuring out or have figured out. It is the thoughts I have when I am completely still and simultaneously moving forward. I’m winging it and collecting everything I can along the way.