Sides of the bed

You see, the thing about having space on either side of the bed is that if you wake up feeling all sorts of wrong, you can go back to bed and get up on the other side. That’s why these small New York City apartments will never really do it for me.

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Ailment Shopping List

As a reminder, so I don’t have to make multiple trips to the convenience store while sick

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  • Water, 6 bottles of, for keeping hydrated
  • Gatorade, 4 bottles of, for replacing electrolytes forever lost to diarrhea
  • Dayquil, liquid form, for when you can’t put off your to-do’s any longer
  • Nyquil, tablet form, to sleep through coughing fits
  • Aloe Juice, for heaven-sent, albeit short-lived throat relief
  • Excedrin, to avoid having to make coffee
  • Tissues, preferably aloe infused

Ten Thousand Joys

My roommate is a special education teacher for eight year olds at an inner city magnet school. While you might think the kids there are better off because it’s a magnet school, it unfortunately isn’t the case. Parents in the area often put their kids in magnet school as a last ditch effort once they get kicked out of public schools. As a result, this particular school is now considered a failing school, with test scores lower than the public school it shares a building with. The kids travel between shelters. They don’t shower, not because they’re kids and they don’t like showers, but because there’s no place to shower. Some kids come in with limps and bruises. All the teachers have a working relationship with ACS. Struggling just to get through the here and now, the least of these kids problems is a better future.

A few shifts ago I met a young woman. Her address came over our screen and we immediately recognized it as a homeless shelter. She had been physically beaten by someone close to her, but you could tell she was used to it. Her voice was slow and monotonous, and her eyes were dissociated, enough so that we wondered if she was on drugs. We stood by as the police questioned her for their report–a necessary, but callously formal process. A process that requires directly asking invasive questions that you purposely avoid thinking about.

Are you living at this homeless shelter? Yes. Do you have a child? Yes. Does the child live with you? No. Do you know the man that hit you? Yes. Has this man hit you before? Yes. What’s he look like? Where does he hang out? Where did he hit you? Why did he hit you? How did he hit you? Are these marks from him? I’ll need to take a picture of them.

The questions were enough to make her voice crack, for a exasperated inhale, and for a small sob to make it’s way out. But just as quickly as her demeanor broke, it resumed its prior disengaged disposition. She wasn’t on drugs. She had simply learned long ago that life is only bearable when you’re not invested in it anymore. Divorcing herself from reality was easier than enduring all the unfair punishments life unceasingly pushed on her.

Coming home from work to hear my roommate rant about the younger versions of the girl I met–it wasn’t hard to see the crushing cycle the poor live through. They say that for every ten thousand sorrows suffered there are ten thousand joys. It certainly doesn’t seem true for the individual person. Perhaps it holds true on a bigger scale. For every ten thousand joys some people feel, others will feel ten thousand sorrows.

‘Becca

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    She was old and battered when I found her. She’d been dropped on her side time and time again and her scars showed it. I found her huddled inside a small hole-in-the-wall garage out in Staten Island of all places.

    “You can have her for $700 if you want her as is,” said a voice from deeper inside the garage. “Or I could fix her up for you and you can have her for a grand.”

    Becca was just a black Suzuki 250, but her bigger frame made her look like she could tussle with bigger boys. I had gotten my motorcycle license after just 2 days of riding a year prior, but between then and now I hadn’t so much as touched a bike. So the next logical step was to take Becca on a road trip. I would take her on a small 250 mile ride down to see Susan, who was in Maryland for the summer.

    The first few times you sit on a bike–as you turn the keys and flip the engine on–it really does feel like you’re dealing with an animal, complete with a personality and voice. You can’t help but put your hand on the gas tank as if saying, “Whoa there,” as her engine settles from being jolted awake.

    There are without a doubt, benefits to road tripping with four wheels: comfort, more storage space, passengers to keep you entertained, and so on. But riding a motorcycle offers a more intimate experience with your surroundings. I grew up in New Jersey, but ever since hitting 18, I’ve been making my bed in New York City. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say I’ve traveled the roads between New Jersey and New York City a hundred or so times. But it wasn’t until I traveled that highway on a motorcycle did I realize an up-until-then unnoticed aspect of that road: the smell. Oh goodness, that smell. It’s putrid. A mix of swamps, factory fumes, and salt water. That stretch of highway was nauseating to say the least. I can’t make that trip anymore, even in a car, without being haunted by the smell. I loved it.

    As I mentioned, my first road trip with Becca was down to Maryland, from New York City. Like a lot of first-time-arounds, there were mistakes made. But as the saying goes, “Live and learn.”

        -Wind. Oh gosh, the wind. Even on a seemingly windless day, traveling 80 miles per hour (or in ol’ Becca’s case 60 miles per hour if going downhill) will make it seem like Zeus himself is trying to blow you down. Being absolutely inexperienced and choosing to learn from the aforementioned “live and learn” method (as opposed to the more logical, but less exciting, “research online” method), I’ve learned of the necessity of windshields. The wind will freeze your knees, and throw your helmet-laden head back. And imperceptible debris hitting your neck  will feel like rocks. So unless you are actively trying to strengthen your neck muscles, windshields windshields windshields.

        -Sunlight is your friend. For some, now inconceivable reason, I chose to make my trip after sunset. Actually I do know the reasons: A.) I normally work night shift, so I thought I’d be most attuned to this time (turns out, I merely adopted the dark), and B.) Being a complete rookie, I figured there’d be less cars around me at midnight to hit and be hit by. But what resulted was simply me not being able to enjoy the scenery on the trip, because as it turns out, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland all look exactly the same when it’s pitch black outside. Perhaps this could’ve worked with better headlights. But with the dingy headlights that ‘Becca came with I probably couldn’t make out a fire in pitch black field.

        -Time. Give yourself extra time to accommodate for the unpredictable (i.e. rain).

    Road tripping on a bike though, really is an introvert’s dream. There’s nothing but you, your thoughts, and the road. You can stop where you want, and you can park virtually anywhere. The feel of the road, the smell of the air, and even the sound of the passings. The degree of freedom that intertwines with the intimacy you can create with the environment brings about an absolutely romantic feeling to the whole thing.

Jazz on the Park

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©NAYYAR PHOTOGRAPHY

    I was eighteen.

    Anya was from Russia. She was tall and slim, with long, curly brown hair. She wore a grey tank top with slim brown jeans. Her face glistened in a mixture of her oils and a day’s sweat that somehow worked for her, and she looked comfortable. She sat outside in the courtyard smoking. She lit my first cigarette.

    John and his group of friends were from the UK. John was maybe 5’5, and weighed about 110 pounds. He taught me the difference between College and Uni in the UK.

    I didn’t realize Eduardo was there until a few hours into the night. He had been sleeping on the floor, halfway past the entrance to the bathroom. Eduardo was backpacking with his friends from Mexico, and it was his birthday. We sang him happy birthday in our respective languages. He was the reason we were all here.

    The next morning I met Jean. He was from France, and he was here by himself, on a whim. A tall, slim, man with greased back black hair, and a thick, artistic mustache to top it all off. He had thin legs, and tight black jeans that hugged those thin legs.  He taught me that fromage wasn’t used as an adjective in the French language.