The Parachute is closed down: a journal entry
When she said, Let’s go to Coney Island, I felt like someone had scratched a record. Snapped me out of a fog. I said, That sounds like it could be fun. It wasn’t what I thought right away, but I’m being careful that I’m not putting that hard edge in my voice. She was trying something new out. I’ve said I’ll work on it.
I went down to the garage to get the car. I told the parking guy that we were going to Coney Island. That made him smile. I don’t know his name but he knows that. Jinx would know his name. She always says something to him in Spanish and then gets into the car with a thin smile on her face, as if she is about to hum.
We didn’t use to take the car to Coney Island. We would take the train. From the place we rented on 123rd Street. It was an illegal sublet. The guy we rented it from had gotten some job in Washington. The lock didn’t work, but we couldn’t get it fixed because the super would toss us out of the building. We got a dog instead, a little tan and white Spaniel that couldn’t stand to be apart from Jinx for even a second until the day it ran off into the rail tunnels in Riverside Park. Jinx wanted to follow the dog in, but I kept trying to talk her out of it, and then a park police came and told us it was dangerous in the tunnel, but she blamed me for the dog running off anyway.
Parker came with us to Coney Island a few times. Most of it time it was just me and Jinx, or some of our friends. We liked to go late so we could be there when dusk fell and the lights started to fill up the night. It was a whole separate world there. I loved going out there with her. Every trip was an adventure. I felt wildly lit up inside. Funny. Effusive. Alert.
Jinx wanted to take the subway but I told her that I needed to be back early so I could be rested for this flight today, but that wasn’t it. I didn’t want to sit in the subway and not have anything to do. I didn’t want to sit next to Jinx and try to keep our thighs from touching, and try not to move away if they did. I didn’t want to feel edgy and cranky. I didn’t want my head to start hurting. I didn’t want to wish that I hadn’t gone.
That all is part of my trying. A list of things that I’m not going to feel that I know I will feel if I let myself.
I think she wanted to take the trip so we could get back to feeling the way we used to. Or be reminded of how we used to feel.
I don’t really want to travel back in time with her. We either can go ahead without making each other miserable or we can’t. Remembering how I felt when I was 22 is just going to make me feel old and stupid.
Looking back at the past is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Everything is scrunched together. That’s how memories work. We were happy then. We’re not happy now. It’s different.
I don’t want to lose track here though. I need to figure out what happened and make a decision about whether it is a sign or not.
I think I have been waiting for some kind of sign that will tell me what to do. Not a sign that tells me I’m doing a good job keeping my edge from cutting through, that I’m not hurting Jinx like she says I’ve been hurting her. I mean a big sign, that tells me whether we keep going or not. I don’t know how we can keep going like this. But I don’t have any good reason to stop. If I said to Jinx, I am going to leave you because I am hurting you, she would look at me with the startled look that intrigued me so much when we first got together, and then her eyes would get even wider, and she would blink fast and breath in and out even faster. Then she was settle down and look at me. She’d just wait for me to explain. I wouldn’t have anything to say.
And we would wait and wait and wait.
But a sign would give me something to say. I could go, Look, this happened and I realized that and now things have changed, so I have to do this.
I’m not going to solve anything unless I am specific. I get that.
This is what I could say: Jinx, when you yelled at me to help that pregnant girl in Coney Island, I realized I couldn’t stand the sound of your voice, or your placid acceptance of everyone, or your constant need to help strangers, and that when I look at you I feel annoyed and a little angry, so I’ve decided it’s time for me to move out and get away from you.
That’s what I could say.
That would make it a sign.
But maybe I was just cranky, angry at how the whole trip was making me feel, and then I snapped, and I need to apologize and move on.
If I am willing to keep trying, willing to make myself calm down and stop taking a sharp tone with her every time she does something, that means that I’m willing to make the marriage work, right? I never thought that I would be sitting in a little office in the back of a old brownstone every Thursday afternoon with a woman 15 years younger than us trying to be responsible to my feelings and feeling surges of loathing every time Jinx’ eyes get red-rimmed and she’s about to cry. If I’m willing to make that kind of effort, then it would be stupid to throw all of the time that we have together out the window.
Take what happened and lay it out simply.
We drove out on the BQE. Jinx talked about people we had known and outings we had made as if she were consulting a collection of index cards. We parked down at the end of the island. They’ve build a ball park there. The guy at the lot made us park in back and told us that the gate on the Ocean side would be shut down at 8pm. We walked next to the ball park toward the boardwalk. The parachute jump looks in the sky like a cross in a church. Jinx was talking about some time that we met at the bottom of it. They call it the “Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn,” she said. People were sitting on the big stones around the bottom. I told her that my grandfather took me on the ride when I was a kid. She told me that I was making the story up, that I had never told her that before. A pregnant black woman was trying to balance a Nathan’s dog on her leg and a Coke in her hand and take some fries out of a bag. The hot dog container fell on the ground. “Help her out,” Jinx said. I walked past. “Can’t you ever think about anyone but yourself,” Jinx snapped. She stopped and picked up the container. I kept walking. She yelled after me. I turned and yelled back. “She can fucking help her fucking self, all right!” I walked up to the boardwalk and started east. My chest hurt so badly that I wanted to hug myself. Jinx didn’t come up after me.
It would be so much easier if I knew that this was the sign.
When I was sitting on the boardwalk this is what I remembered. Me and Jinx pressed together on a bench like this after the season, in the cold, watching the gulls float over the surf. The sand was frozen solid. I remember you smiling quietly. I was sad. Not about something, but just sad, deflated, worn out too early. But I was with you. That made me happy. That was a moment that I wished would never end.