I’m going to be late…again.
It’s not my fault though. It’s out of my control.
The subway blurs by me. It rumbles away towards my job interview without me on it. I see the confused face of someone watching me. They’d been on the platform with me. A second more and they’re gone. Sometimes I wonder how many of the same strangers you see but never remember. I wonder if anyone is remembering me.
Another five minutes pass before another subway rolls into the station. I take the coin and give my options. If it lands on heads I’ll get on the subway, I’ll get on. If it tails, I won’t.
The subway doors open and the heads side of my coin glints up at me giving me all the permission from the universe that I need. The cool AC of the train washes over me and chills the sweat on the back of my neck. I hate that I’ll be late. I really want this job.
I settle into my seat and look around. It’s medium crowded. Enough people to observe but not so many that my nervous system feels on high alert. There’s this woman with wire framed glasses and freckles only on her cheeks. I find myself falling in love a little bit. It’s the kind of romance that only a cute stranger on the subway can inspire. Commuters in other cities don’t understand. A subway in New York City pumps delusion and opportunity into the air. I offer my options. Heads, I’ll write a little not with my number on it as I walk out the subway. Tails, I won’t bother her. The coin flips. The subway stops at my station. The stranger remains a stranger.
The building is sterile but it so desperately wants to be beautiful. Even the art on the wall feels so calculated. I love intentionality. I love knowing that someone deliberated about each of these light fixtures.
‘I’m so sorry I’m late. The subway! No matter how long I live here, I’m still thwarted!”
I throw my enthusiasm at the hiring manager like a sacrificial offering. His lips twitch, but I’ll take it. It’s a smile adjacent. He asks me about my resume. He asks about the gap in time. I’ve learned how to tell the story. Enough failed job interviews have taught me the lesson. I can’t totally lie but I can’t totally tell the truth.
“I was in an accident. I had a long recovery both physically and mentally.”
His eyes scan my body. Its a naked vulnerability to have someone look for your scars. Doesn’t he know that our brain holds scars much longer than our bodies?
He walks me out at the end of the interview. I limp slightly just for him to have something to hold onto. I know I’m not getting the job. No one wants to hire someone who is late. Heads-I go to a bar and get a drink to numb my frustration. Tails-I walk home. The coin flips and lands in my palm. It’s probably for the best. It’s not even noon yet.
I live on the Upper West Side, so I decide to walk through Central Park. It’s free to romanticize your life in the park. Almost everywhere else in this city you have to pay to have the experiences you dreamed of when you moved here.
My phone rings. It’s my mom. She probably wants to hear how the interview went. I can’t handle hearing the disappointment in her voice. She doesn’t get it. The last time I was home we had a huge fight about it. She thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am. All I know is that I can’t trust my gut.
We were sunburnt and happy. We’d spent the day at the beach and the day’s glow imbued our whole demeanors. I’d seen a beer in his hand throughout the day. I asked him about it. He said it was fine. He took out a coin and said if it was heads he would drive and tails I would drive. It landed on tails. I should have been driving. The universe literally screamed it at us!
“Don’t you trust me to know my own body? I’m fine little sis.”
“Okay, I trust you.”
I did. I felt in my gut that it was fine.
It was not.
When we collected his belongings, the coin from his pocket was there. The one that told us he shouldn’t have been driving. I didn’t trust myself anymore. I clearly was wrong when it mattered. I didn’t want that responsibility. I didn’t want to be the one in control. Right or left? Up or down? Right or wrong? No. Not anymore. Just heads or tails.
I didn't answer the phone. I walked through the park until I reached my cross streets. There’s a new emptiness in my apartment. I’ve lived here alone for a few months now.
“I can’t do this anymore Elle. I just can’t. I want to go to dinner without having a coin decide what restaurant. I want spontaneity but I also want to rely on a plan! I want you to be in control of your own decisions.”
She’d walked out the door and my heart walked out with her. Heads-I’d run after her and beg her to come back. Tails-I’d let her go.
I made sure I wasn’t home when she brought movers to get the rest of her stuff. For a split second, I wanted to run home, to beg her for another change. I wanted to throw the coin in the gutter, to purge myself of this painful ritual. I rubbed my thumb over the ridges of the coin. Flashes of the car crash jolted through my veins. No, no, no. I couldn’t be trusted. My gut once told me that this person was my future, but clearly my gut couldn’t be trusted.
I open the fridge.
Heads-I’ll make a salad. Tails-I’ll just have a bowl of cereal.
The coin flips and each flip reminds me that this is up to the universe rather than me. I’m just here. It’s not my fault. It’s not my choice. There’s no wrong choice when its no choice at all.