@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
There were three things I had to adjust to when I moved from my childhood home with my parents out on Long Island to my home today, a cozy apartment in the most North West corner of Queens, New York. The first was the steam heat noise. Anyone who’s lived in an old building is familiar with the sudden “hammer to the pipe” sound that comes and goes. In the dark, it frequently made me jump that first year. The other thing was the gate. The gate to the house I live in squeaks and clanks. Whenever someone came or went, I would know. I would know because of the sound of the gate. At first, this annoyed me. But then I kind of liked the sound of the gate. It was less of an alarm and more like a notification of someone exiting or entering my building, keeping me in the know. Lastly, with the exception of the occasional steam heat and gate noises, the neighborhood is exceptionally, if not eerily, quiet.
He didn’t notice at first, even though I told him. I tell everyone. I tell everyone I live in the quietest corner of the boroughs. Yes, I’m about 10 minutes from an airport, a mile from two bridges, and across the water from the city that doesn’t sleep, but you couldn’t tell from inside my apartment. No one quite understands unless they’ve been there.
“This is weird,” he kept said one night, “I don’t hear anything. No traffic, no car alarms, not even car doors shutting. There’s no voices outside! Do you understand how weird this is? It’s quieter than being in the woods in Vermont.”
“I know. I’ve been living here for 5 years.”
“I can’t believe it. Even your neighbors don’t make noises. Do you understand you’ve found a New York gem?”
“I know. I’ve been living here for 5 years,” though I did spend the first year in disbelief at how quiet it was as well. Fate is not a superstition I subscribe to, but the apartment couldn’t be more perfect for someone such as I.
My neighborhood is proof of some sort of successful social experiment. It is middle of the woods quiet. I don’t know the names of anyone on my block, but we give a polite nod in passing. None of us are interested in being friends, but we’ll make sure no one is breaking into each others houses or cars. There’s never any shouting. Even the kids who live here are well behaved. Litter is minimal. It can be done, New York! We can live in peace and with respect for each other! I am living in living proof of this dream!
“I forget I’m even in Queens,” he’d say. It really was unfathomable to him, how silent it is where I live. He had to hear it to believe it (or not hear anything at all).
The lack of sound only seemed to amplify the clank of the gate. It didn’t trigger anything before him. In past relationships (if one could call them that), I always avoided anyone coming to my place. There’s a level of privacy I like to keep. Even if I’ve opened up about parts of myself and written extensively on abstract concepts that you may understand but are unable to articulate yourself, doesn’t mean I don’t have a whole sector of my life that is kept behind closed doors. Guarded by a loud gate.
See, I never liked having anyone over. I’d prefer going to their place, the homes of past flings. Because then I could leave whenever I want. Otherwise, how do you tell a lover to “get the fuck out after you’re done,” without sounding like a complete asshole? Especially after saying to a fellow “what are you gay” because he said I looked so pretty in a post coital glow. I’m a real charmer. Plus, my bed is arguably the most comfortably bed in the world (there aren’t many who’ve been there so the testimonials are few but one time an ex told me he missed my bed more than me and I was like “I’m not even remotely offended, that bed is amazing.”). Once you’ve sunk into it’s perfect firm yet soft wonder, it’s very hard to leave (I am not a paid spokesperson for Tempurpedic, but I should be at this point). Parting with that bed every morning almost makes me cry.
If only my commitment issues were sex based, I’d have an easier time dealing with it. Mine are more convoluted, deeper and darker than that. Notwithstanding my doubts of sincerity from any man, a backfiring side effect of a cautionary tale told over and over (from women and men) that males are only after one thing, that they’ll lie to you and use you. Even the good men, the ones who held me fast and would have stayed by my side if I let them, though I knew they weren’t lying to use me, I was still convinced they were in love with a version of me that didn’t exist because they weren’t paying attention. The part of my brain that is hesitant to trust thinks it’s protecting me from the thin veils of others intentions.
Most of the people I’ve dated would tell you I was rather cold to them, which I won’t deny. I can be real distant. But in my defense, I was never unfair. If someone wasn’t a song to me, their place was at arms length… and I’d keep them there. If I had eyes for anyone else, I’d end it… If they didn’t end it first, sick of not being a priority in my life. Always on the back burner as I focused on my work. In a couple cases, I wasn’t tuned into the fact that someone was falling in deep for me. With them, I fucked up. Should have pulled away sooner. As a result, the wake of my love life has left more than one man with a torn out heart. That’s not a good feeling, to hurt someone like that, because I did/do care about them. In a way, I suppose, I was long overdue for a damaging heartache myself (karma police, arrest this girl). If you knew the details, whatever pity you might feel for me now would unravel. Shelve your pity. I don’t want it. I don’t deserve it.
This is not about how it started or how it ended, or all the stuff that happened in between. This is not about what happens when two closed people become vulnerable to each other. This is not about a third party wrongfully scorned.
This is about the gate.
This is about how I raise the volume on my music while writing, so I won’t hear it. This is about how I’ll get high as all hell, so I won’t feel it. This is about how I look forward to the day when the sound of the gate doesn’t tempt to beckon me to the window, looking to see who’s there.
Oh how I don’t cry like I used to. Not any more. Strange to watch myself like that: Lori, the ice queen, so proud of a fiery independence; a lone ranger in a self sufficient space ship. No dependence on anyone. Not for money. Not for shelter. Not psychologically leaning on other humans for emotional needs. Proudly never a burden to anyone, suddenly smashed, feeling small. The scent of a left behind article of clothing sends the head and the heart into a ferocious and unforgiving loop, a longing. It’s out of character for the girl who jumps off cliffs to be sentimental.
Geez, the cynical voice in my head says, I think I liked you better when you were just crying all the time for no reason at all.
What the fuck is wrong with you, I’ll retort.
Same thing that’s wrong with you, we’re the same person, jackass.
“You guys have problems answering to other people,” this is what a good friend said to me once. Having dated a comedian for years, she wasn’t off the mark. That’s true of most comics, if not all, myself very much included. I want to be my own boss. There’s a reason why I take certain jobs that pay way less than others. If it allows me a certain level of flexibility, that’s worth more to me than a bigger paycheck. Time is a precious currency. I’m happy to waste it, but only on things that make me happy. I don’t want to have to ask permission.
So. There’s that. The wall between me and you. Me and everyone. A relationship pestilence that is a strong aversion to answering to anyone.
This is where I’m going with this, if you haven’t figured out the way. This is why the gate is so significant. Such a small thing. Because there I’ll be, content in the placid pace of my apartment. Maybe I’m writing or reading, enjoying a TV show, cooking or doing very little at all. You see, I won’t be thinking of him until there goes the gate. That fucking gate. So few company have come through that gate for me otherwise. Wham! A pang of sadness will shake the walls being rebuilt around my head, around the heart in my chest, reminding me I still miss him. Trump’s wall has nothing on me.
It hits me then. That I’ve been wrong about something all along. That being with someone doesn’t mean an obligation to answering to them. It’s an excitement to report to someone. To share a story, an idea, a feeling. To laugh together at a joke, or seek comfort because of a worry. To come home to, to get to, to allowing someone to come and go through the gate because you want them to.
It’s such a quiet neighborhood. Without ambient sound, you usually can’t hear anything at all. No voices. No animal cries. No cars. An almost zen like energy. Until the gate clinks and jangles. It’s a mental disruption. Don’t go to the window. Don’t look to see who’s out there under the street light, unlocking the gate. The sound of the gate won’t be followed by the sound of a doorbell.
There’s no one coming to see me.
I remember a time when I liked it that way.