I was seventeen years old, utterly drawn to the closing scenes of The Sandlot (1993), when the narrator explains what happened to everyone after the sandlot becomes a location of boyhood. Bertrum said to have “gotten really into the ’60s, and nobody ever saw him again.” was one of the many lines that stuck to me.
In years past, my cousin Makala pointed, “that’s you,” and laughed. To this day, I have difficulty understanding. Sure, I loved Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground, but I wasn’t especially interested in LSD, Woodstock, The Sound of Music, or anything Charles Manson related.
The mosaic of bands that concealed my identity spearheaded the NYC Rock Revival. The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The White Stripes.
I recall listening to Julian Casablancas sing, “Yeah, it hurts to say, but I want you to stay,” on the corner of Washington Square Park in 2014.
Minutes before, my then-girlfriend said, “I don’t think this can last,” and we wished each other the best and never enunciated another word to each other, completely vanishing from one another’s life.
I felt something unlatch.
A few days later, after an evening of spiking forks through boneless wings, the Long Island Rail Road rattled the tracks above the heads of a few close friends and me. We were on the back streets of Forest Hills, speaking for what was our last time. There was an odd yet subtle comfort in understanding the end was inevitable. Everything was changing.
The vision I had of the city, along with the memories connected to it, was all slipping away. It was as if it were a balloon string, and I had clammy hands. Inherent guilt devoured me. I thought of J.D Salinger’s words from The Catcher in The Rye: “I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye.”
I waltzed away to Vermont the following morning. On top of the grass in the Green Mountain College quad, barefoot, around new friends, we swiped crackers through goat cheese, draped our arms around one another, pulled hemp joints, and discussed ideas of peace and what that entailed.
A guy roamed barefoot with a lengthy beard, tie-dye shirt, and guitar. He sat on the large blanket with a group of students who jammed and sang along to what somebody told me was a Grateful Dead song.
Vermont, in various instances, was a haven where the grass was greener. Perhaps I overwatered specific aspects at first to submerge the discomfort I buried. Nevertheless, the seed I continuously doused grew roots, expanded, and shattered through the shell.
I had graduated college, and aspects of life began to unfold. Then, at the end of July 2018, when I received the call that one of my best friends had passed away, I concealed tears in the crevices of bare palms. In the mornings, afternoons, and late nights, various train conductors chimed, “stand clear of the closing doors, please,” and I watched my window of despair shatter the millisecond the doors separated and merged at every stop.
“Things happen for a reason,” numerous commuters cued as they either patted my shoulder or my back before I got off at 42nd St.
Walking through the tunnel, reading The Commuters Lament with tears falling down my face, “Why the pain? Just go home. Do it again.” it read.
Days became uniform, grim memos enabled cynicism, and I couldn’t feel anything halfway through that week.
When thoughts of summer 2018 inflate my mind, all I could recollect was the thick fog. The world around me existed deprived of colour, emotionally heavy, and nothing made sense. Friends, family, and others spoke words filled with love, even hugged me, but I felt deflated. I was a balloon with punctured holes, strolling around breathless, hyperventilating in public, arriving to work late, crying in bathrooms, and throwing up near the carousel in Central Park.
In the middle of August, two weeks later, at my camp job in Pennsylvania, there was a unique installation at camp: the butterfly dome. The man who ran the program, Butterfly Rob, approached me one night while I walked over the thick wooden bridge and invited me inside the dome. We drank a cup of green tea, candidly conversed about people we’ve known who passed away. A chill ran through my body as Rob crossed his feet over each other, pointed across the tent, and said, “think of it like butterflies,”
On August 27th, all counsellors and campers stood beside the flagpole on the hill across from the cafeteria. Each of us watched Rob give a speech, and a few staff members assisted him in releasing about fifty butterflies into the Pennsylvania sky. I watched them vanish completely and developed questions about love and longing.
Over the years, there was no fight, only evasion. As a result, the city was cultivated into a territory of despair. Existential anguish was overt downtown, harshly scratched in bar bathrooms where indie music played. One memo, in particular, caught my eye: “The city is dead.”
Universal grief consumed the earth, left us damp with memories of suffering, and now that the world is opening up, I can’t help but allow hovering uncertainty to devour me when it will.
Dominic Pierre (he/him) is a writer, editor, and a fan of The Strokes from New York City. His work has appeared in CP Quarterly, Winnow Magazine, Dreams Walking Magazine, and Moonchild Magazine.