I was nineteen the first time I went to New York City. Kaia, my college roommate, is heir to a Jersey City brownstone just blocks from the Hudson, and starting my sophomore year I began making regular trips. During those heady days I would basically split my time off between NY and Boston, each visit to the city bringing new and thrilling experiences. My excursions have grown less frequent as the years have gone by, but even now, eleven years later, I still get butterflies every time I drive into the Big Apple.
Last night was no different. Turning off the West Side Highway into Midtown I felt that undeniable sense of power that comes when you hit the pavement of the biggest city in America, and parking in the Lower East Side felt even better than a full-body aromatherapy massage. And last night also brought another new experience – for the first time ever, I was robbed.
Just hours earlier, locking the Focus before heading out to dinner, Kaia and I had commented on the piles of crap in the backseat. I’d taken some boxes from the apartment, and the trunk, stuffed as it was with SMA’s HD video camera, tripod, and Stephl’s D80, lacked sufficient space for my takeaway items. My suitcase was also in plain view. “At least you don’t have like, an Audi,” Kaia said, with a backward glance. “Sure enough,” I agreed, lighting up a fresh Camel.
Trotting back to the car at 2am, heels clicking on pavement and feeling fine after an evening of steak, Caipirhinas and Bud Heavy, I was almost unfazed by the sight of my broken back window, the shattered glass that covered the sidewalk. I expected the worst – after all, the car had been home to every single piece of equipment I “own”: video camera, still camera, computer, shoe-mounted LED light, and by “own”, I really mean “have borrowed” (except for the computer and the LED). I approached without caution, without fear, fully anticipating finding my car stripped of everything but the empty cigarette packs that litter the passenger side floorspace. It was too horrible to contemplate, too awful to believe. I knew I should never have brought the car into the city, with so much gear inside!
The backseat was a mess – jeans thrown carelessly over my suitcase, box of mugs tilted sideways on the seat – but wait! My suitcase! Was still there! And underneath, my computer case! Could it be? Yes, with the computer still inside! Oh my god, the trunk, the trunk must be empty, the cameras but – wait! No! THEY DIDN’T TAKE THE CAMERAS! Sweet Jesus! Praise to God! I’d never been so happy – I clutched my computer to my chest and my eyes filled up with tears. Sweet baby, I’ll never leave you again!
“So what did they take?” asked the surly officer who responded to my call, using the street as a spittoon while he copied my information.
“Um, looks like…” surveying, surveying, surveying… “a box of journals.”
“A box of journals?”
“A box of journals.”
“What’s the value?”
“Priceless!” cried Kaia, clearly undone.
“Say fifty bucks,” I replied carelessly, with a wave of my hand.
So someone broke into my car and took my journals. Right now, somebody could be reading about my first love, or my HIV test, or my first bout of real depression. Someone could be laughing at all the bad poetry. Or, more likely, someone took one look inside the box, said “what the fuck?” and dropped it in the nearest trash can. That’s four years of my life – fourteen through eighteen – all my most personal, precious, appalling experiences, all my formative thought and feelings. Gone.
But you know what? When I looked in my car and saw that box missing, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I would never have thrown my journals away, and I take this as a sign that it’s time to leave the past in the past. Too karmic? Perhaps. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.
As you can see, my mugs also escaped unscathed, as did my serving plates. They’re still in the car, if anyone in Jersey City is in need. There’ll be no window until Saturday.