When I got dressed on Saturday night to hit up the party on the east side, my biggest concern was making sure that I had cash in my wallet and that my arms weren’t ashy. It never crossed my mind that I might end up on a bench tryin’ to account for lost time, dirty jeans, and a sharp pain that shot up and down my left arm. Even though each year I age brings down the warranty coverage on my body, I still like to believe that I’m relatively invincible and impervious to high levels of pain. I also like to think that no matter what I do on any given weekend that I’ll wake up on my bed or couch with leftover hood Chinese food nearby. Yeah, I like to think that…
So I made it to this party. I had a couple mixed drinks, then chilled for a bit. The tipsy tingle wasn’t too far off, so I waited before switching to beer. 2 Coronas would be my limit. After all, I wasn’t out with the regular homies and wasn’t tryin’ to sleep past my stop on the train and wake up in the Bronx or touching White Plains in black shoes. I’ve done it before. It’s pretty f*ckin’ annoying, like when you stub your toe and can only blame yourself for the pain.
By the time I finished my Coronas, hunger and initial sleepiness started setting in. My plan was to stop at Penn Station, grab some food, then hop on the train up to Harlem. I felt no different than any other night out with ice cubes clanging in glasses and limes floating amongst bubbles. And since I was so sure of myself, I had a glass of fancy champagne right before I left. You can’t turn down the fancy bubbly. It turned out to potentially be one of the most costly drinks I ever had in my life.
I walked out the party, got in a cab, then headed to Penn Station. And somewhere between the time I got out the cab and on the escalator, I was either abducted by aliens or blacked the f*ck out. And when I returned to a semblance of my regular self, my eyes were closed, my clothes were damp, and my left arm was throbbing. I knew that I was somewhere unnatural and could hear the faint echo of late night conversations. When I opened my eyes, I saw metal, mud, and mice. Nah, they weren’t mice. They were curious rats wondering why someone had come down to visit them so emphatically. It was at this moment that my heart skipped a beat and I realized I had fallen onto the train tracks in a NYC subway. I looked to my left and prayed I wouldn’t see tons of iron barreling toward me. Then I looked to the right and saw 4 police officers sprinting in my direction. With a left arm that was worth no more than the pain in it and weight of it, I tried to climb out of the subway, but couldn’t. It was probably the most helpless I ever felt even though help was clearly on the way.
They grabbed me and pulled me out of my predicament. I looked at my pants covered in the brown filth of the subway tracks. My t-shirt was ripped and muddied. My heart was pounding like I was about to go on stage and rock my first show when in reality I had just hit a potentially deadly bottom. The police asked if I wanted to go to the hospital or get an ambulance. I shook my head and said I could make it home. They pointed me to the other side of the tracks to catch the train in the right direction, but I opted to go above ground and catch a taxi. I wanted no part of the subway system.
I tried to hail a cab and not one would stop for me because I looked like one of the many homeless men that I ignored everyday — dirty, crestfallen, and desperate. The shock of what happened beneath ground was wearing off and the reality of what could’ve been was coming to the surface. There was a bench nearby that gave me a chance to pull myself together as much as one could given the circumstances. And when I sat down, I broke down. The realization that I could’ve died from crackin’ my head on the rail, breakin’ my neck, or gettin’ hit by a train was beyond sobering. My first thought was my mom. She always tells me to be careful and take care of myself — particularly when drinks are involved. And I always respond with “I know. I’m grown.”
Then I thought about other family members. Then I thought about my friends. Then I thought about online folks. This would not have been the way I wanted everybody reading my writing to find out my name if they didn’t know it already. For a moment, I felt all the pain that I would’ve caused others had I not made it out of that night alive. Aside from getting the news in 2008 that my father had passed, this was unquestionably the worst moment of my life.
Eventually I made it home. I started undressing before I even got in the door. Never had a shower felt so essential. I wanted to wash away the events of the night, go to sleep, then wake up hoping it had been a terrible dream. It was simultaneously the best and most unsavory shower I ever took, but it was enough to help me sleep.
When I woke up in the morning, I went to my living room to see if my clothes from last night were back to normal. I was banking on a dream I knew I didn’t have. So it wasn’t too surprising when I saw the worst night of my life on the floor where I had left it. I considered washing the shirt and the jeans, but was sure that no detergent would be able to remove the memory of the night I could have very easily ceased to exist.
They say you can’t just throw away the memories, but best believe I put those clothes in a bag to be thrown in the garbage. And now that I’ve written this post, I feel like I can finally bring the black bag downstairs, toss it in the trashcan, and try to stop thinkin’ about what could’ve been and focus on what I am…
Thankful as ever,