I needed to leave Chinatown. I was on the phone with my mentor and friend J.T. He told me to let go. How the hell was I supposed to do that? I had spent the last fourteen months building a life with my boyfriend. After our first fight, he disappeared. We had just selected a bed together at Macy’s that same week. It was going to be our first big purchase.
I picked up my gait, turned onto Canal Street. It's fucked up. J.T., whom I thought of as an enlightened monk, spoke calmly, and now his words replayed in my head like death metal. The whole thing is fucked up. I felt myself falling into a dark abyss, fearful of what lay ahead. A motorbike roared by. My heart sped up. Let go. The rancid odor of fish and trash lingered in the hot July air, permeating my lungs, sticking to my skin. It’s pretty fucked up.
My brain was a pinball machine, thoughts rapidly shooting back and forth. I want out. I wanted answers. Someone rushed by, knocking the bag of Chinese takeout I was holding. Drops of moo shu chicken dribbled down my sundress. Jesus, really? It was in this moment I decided to face my boyfriend head on, putting an end to his stonewall silence. You think you can fucking ghost me? You think you can leave without saying goodbye? Fuck you, motherfucker.
In the final moments of the film Five Easy Pieces, Jack Nicholson’s character, Bobby, abandons his girlfriend, Rayette, played by Karen Black, at a desolate gas station. While sitting in his car, she makes a playful sexual advance and he gets angry. It seems to be a common push-and-pull dance they do. She goes in for a coffee. He gives her his wallet. He hitches a ride on a truck headed north. With no warning, he leaves her, drifting into the unknown.
The film was a favorite of my boyfriend Adrian’s. The end in particular was a “test,” he’d said. If a new friend understood the film’s emotional depth, then they were intelligent and worth knowing. Entering our romance with fresh eyes, despite many past failures, I adored him wholly and aimed to prove my affection with the enthusiasm of a child and the passion of a worn-out soul who’d been given another chance at love. Though I understood the impact of the film’s ending, it took me several months after our breakup to awaken to a deeper sense: Bobby is and always will be a loner because he can’t take in love. And Rayette is filled with so much self-hatred, she’ll endlessly blame herself for his departure.
Loving Adrian was easy. He reciprocated my feelings completely. Many nights I’d wake up to find my nose resting against his cheek, his forehead touching mine, our limbs entangled like sleeping chimpanzees.
Looking back, I can visualize each scene frame by frame. Unlike the Nicholson film, every act of our story seemed perfect. We spent Christmas in upstate New York in a ghostly mansion from the 1800s. Being the only guests, we wandered the three-story estate freely, imagining ourselves as rich folk with fancy lives. Passing an antique glass cabinet, Adrian took out a porcelain tea cup. It trembled in its saucer.
“Would Madam care for a cup of tea?” he asked.
“Why yes, my lord, thank you.”
It was on this trip that I told Adrian I hoped our future child would have his blue eyes. He smiled and wished they be blessed with my cleft chin.