The single bartender catered to the joyful laughing crowd with rare smiles and did not pause once. We commented on his flow, which provided for constant motion to watch before us, a kind of motion that we do not have to participate in but entertains us nonetheless. (A kind of flow we theorized required some stimulant stronger than caffeine.) We ordered whiskey rail shot after whiskey rail shot, with a few bourbon gingers split between the three of us. A women commented that we “looked like we are really in love, or drunk”.
I don’t make a habit of being at the bar until last call. When I do make it to the music-cut-moment, it’s a moment where I know that I’m so comfortable in my own skin, with the people I’m around and the place that I’ve ended up at, that the ecstasy of the night takes over and I can’t feel time anymore.
So it’s time to leave that comfort zone.
The last time I stayed until last call was towards the end of living in DC. I had become so used to my DC life–my job provided few challenges, and I never left work in tears the way I used to; I practically had a list of reliable drinkers who I could call on my nights off and be guaranteed some good conversation, laughs, and possible dancing; and I had the rare-but-crucial girl friends who I could depend on in times of emotional distress. And to me, that means it’s time to go. I can’t exist with that level of comfort for too long. It feels like I’m going no where fast, it feels like I’m circling the drain the way my most critical patients are, but for some reason my version of circling the drain is seen as normalcy.
I’ve been talking about the bike trip more and more. I don’t talk about something that I’m not going to do, and I’ve noticed that talking about something you want helps make it happen. Like forming words about what you’re looking for allows others to help you make it real. But sometimes haters gon’ hate, as we say in Jersey, and a few people have been asking me if I’m afraid. My response tends to be along the, “No, why would I be afraid?” line. They then feel awkward about putting me on the spot, feel like they’ve been put on the spot, and turn away from confronting me about the danger of my future journey. They usually respond with, “I don’t know, I’d be afraid to do something like that.”
In all honesty, of course I’m fucking afraid. Fear is something I live with everyday. I’m a woman. I’m brown in a majority-white country. I live in New York City. I take the subway and stand dangerously close to the tracks sometimes. But fear isn’t something that can, or should, prevent me from living the way I want to live. Fear can motivate me, push my boundaries, ask me to question why I am afraid and whether it is warranted. Fear can bring me closer to allies, fear can bridge gaps between individuals who would have never spoken otherwise.
When I was new in the neighborhood, it was fear that pushed me to say hello to every single one of my new neighbors. It was fear that initiated these interactions, but now they tend to say hello and good morning to me before I can to them. When someone grabs my arm in public, it is fear, and my newly developed sense of NYC attitude, that helps me instinctively push them away and yell, “What the fuck are you doing!” It’s fear of vulnerability that helps me puff out my chest, raise my head, make eye contact, talk louder and walk prouder.
If I allowed fear to prevent me from traveling, from moving freely, from going into the world, I’d be letting the predators make me their prey. I’d be letting the men who assault and cat call win. I’d be putting a target up to my head and allow the racists to take aim. I’d be pushing myself onto those subway tracks instead of giving the majority of the world the opportunity let me live.
I’m not going to let myself slowly circle the drain. I abandon the comfort of perceived relative safety, dependable friends in close proximity, spaces that I know well enough to stay until last call. I look at fear and consider whether the fear that might prevent another person from taking this journey can help me cross lines I’ve never crossed.
I will explore what comfort can be in the midst of fear, and who knows? Maybe I’ll make it to last call.