The Spirit Dies
In a few days we had plans to meet again at the station, and make our way back to Jon’s apartment. At this point I could hardly sit through a half-day of work; let alone wait until quitting time. Jon was excited too, but probably for much different reasons.
Awesome, I’m going to stop by the store and pick up some stuff for tonight
Great! Can’t wait to see you
We met at a major station hub and he escorted me to his home. Now Jon is your typical WASP; White Anglo-Saxon Protestant-reared suburban boy who has probably never tasted rice and beans mélange on the same plate. At least, not at his mommy’s house…At his stop, I could literally smell the Popeye’s chicken frying in their twelve herbs and spices, before the train doors opened. As we walked, we passed by his favorite bodega and deli shop, a place he called Yemen. I wonder of the type of culture shock he went through when he first moved to the city a few years back. I wonder of the culture shock he went through being with me?
This neighborhood I am more familiar with from an epidemiological standpoint, as I have done some work there. It is predominantly Hispanic and on the lower socio-economic income scale with at least ⅓ of households falling below poverty lines. The trains were above ground, which in these neighborhoods not only add to the air pollution (and high rates of asthma among children) but also the noise pollution, which decreases quality of life and property values. Speaking of property values, there is a less than 20% home ownership rate. His area had one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the borough, particularly among MSM (men who have sex with men) and IDUs (Injection Drug Users). There were many agencies and churches on the blocks leading to his building; offering counseling, food pantry, and WIC/SNAP sign up etc…to the community.
But what really surprised me was that in this minority neighborhood, we followed a stream of blond haired/ blue eyed persons to this one newly built 3 story building that stood across dilapidated houses and an old church. It had card swipe access and security personnel at the lobby. As many times as I have been to Jon’s building, other than the security staff, I was the only recognizable person of color in the building.
Sabine – “Its so strange I’ve been to this neighborhood a few times…to have a brand new building and your neighbors across the street living in abject poverty”
I wonder if Jon ever considered the extent of gentrification in his adopted home town?
His two-bedroom dwelling was comfortable with a large window in the main room, where you could sit on the large leather sofa to watch an enormous TV or play foosball. His tiny bedroom, on the other hand, knocked out all the glamour of living on your own as a twenty something year-old in New York City.
Jon – “Yep so this is it…wanna watch some TV?”
The techno genius had managed to rig an iPad to the television to access his online account to watch movies and shows as well as perform basic functions such as changing channels, volume, etc… Jon also had an intense fascination and skill at playing computer video games, I remember at times sitting next to him as he played; completely engulfed at the 3D graphics and depth (video games have come an incredibly long way since I played PlayStation) and the dexterity and deftness of his hands to type on the keyboard and move the mouse.
When I gave his game a try, I thought my years of piano playing and highly developed eye-hand coordination would surely match if not supersede his abilities. Boy was I wrong, the graphics not only made me dizzy and confused but I’m sure I may have seized at some point in the night.
Jon apparently has many great talents with his hands, aside from computer work. At one point he played drums and had played together with a few friends. And yes, he is a writer or would like to be someday. And (this is so cute!) he doodles: literally, like a second grader on a notebook of graphing paper. Like anyone uses graphing paper anymore? Lol
Passed the two bedrooms and into the small bathroom, which may have never been cleaned, laid two toothbrushes but no toothpaste; which spoke to why when Jon smiled you could tell not only was he a smoker but perhaps some neglect of care. Both towels on the rack belonged to him, along with body wash and skin care products from Clinique, which may or may not have helped his sensitive break-out prone skin. And in his bare but modern kitchen stood a refrigerator that only contained ice.
He didn’t live a Bachelor lifestyle; he lived a college student lifestyle. With his twin-sized cot (no bed frame) and stage curtain-fabric to block out all sunlight. His nightstand and desks were decorated with dollars’ worth of loose change, empty and half empty water bottles, and some deli sandwich paper from Yemen, and a bong.
Looking back now, if home is where the heart is, then Jon’s home had a lonely heart. There were no pictures of him, his family or friends. His roommate, Neil**, in which they were best friends since high school is seemingly opposite. Clean-cut and mild mannered, Neil kept in shape by listing daily pull-ups on a chart, which spilled over to Jon’s column as he didn’t do any. He participated in a local team which met every week after work and seem to enjoy socializing in his new hometown of New York City.
Jon does smoke, and I didn’t realize how much until later on…he wasn’t a recreational user, but a chronic user. You probably would have thought you were speaking to two different persons had you called Jon at 2pm in the afternoon in the middle of a work day, and 8pm at night when he is at home.
I don’t know if his best friend noticed it, as he wasn’t home so often, and they were only living together that year. I wondered if his parents noticed, since they didn’t come to visit; even when Jon moved to a new apartment over the summer. Jon’s parents lived in the same town as Neil’s family, and his mother and sister came for weekend, and invited Jon and a guest to dinner.
But I think what is truly sad, is that Jon didn’t notice it: home is where his spirit died every night.
Next Week: Ch. 4 RabbitHole
You lose track of time when you’re down in the rabbit hole……and your mind slowly dies from the lack of oxygen. This is love: wondering around with an atrophied brain.