I never thought it was possible to hate a town. I mean I’ve heard moans about Long Island for the South Shore clientele, Greenwich for the sloppy drunk wasps, and Indiana for the rednecks and spitting. That’s disdain for the inhabitants. Even Seattle and the rain, that’s not the town; it’s the climate. I’m talking about an actual town, barren of people and unseasonable weather. I harbor bitterness and revulsion as fugitives stealing time and refuge in the streets of Nyack, NY.
It seems wrong to hate a town’s hills. The lampposts are ordinary, but strike me near dead. I hate the harmless smells, the ancient trees and musty yellow laced antique stores, even the way the sun burns its buildings, spitting through tree branches. Nyack’s wrap-around porches and curved wooden benches cradle my contempt in their seats.
I actually get a little ill in Nyack, like smelling the cologne of a reckless lover mid-step. I’ve only visited Nyack twice. My most recent trip there was this weekend where my hatred was confirmed to me. I’ll get to my first introduction to the town in a paragraph or five. Okay, relax; I’m getting to the WHY? Hang with me for a sec as I rewind to eleventh grade health class to help illustrate my point.
Health class at The Wheatley School, a 2 credit half-year elective course, was a mix of freshman to seniors. One afternoon we discussed pregnancy and fertility. “A woman’s likelihood to conceive is increased with her orgasm.” Mr. Levine said eyeing an illustration of fallopian tubes, cervix, and ovaries, which quite frankly resembles a bull’s head. In the next breath, we’re discussing safe seex: from the sponge, creams, and gels to pull & pray, coke douches, and stop-drop-and-roll. I remember asking Mr. Levine, “Can we please back up here? Um, how’s a woman expected to climax during intercourse if her clitoris is on the outside?” That’s the Stephanie we all know.
Mr. Levine turned fuchsia as he paced. Glancing at his feet he complimented, “What an excellent question” and then never answered it. Offering only, “Ya see, this is why this class should not be taught to such a mixed age group.” Then he scurried to his green notepad and jotted something down, probably reminding himself to take it up again with some board members. That or it was a reminder to ask his wife later that night.
Okay, that was the flavor of health class. I’m going somewhere… I did learn something in the class, despite its elementary nature, that has stuck with me through the years; it’s that small hovering white cartoon balloon with the fat floating ellipse every time I encounter something or someone I dislike. When our class covered phobias, Mr. Levine assured us there was a reason, in all of our pasts, explaining all of our dislikes or fears. We thumbed through textbook images of fear-stricken faces, arachnids, and pythons. Then the same woman with a boa constrictor wrapped over her shoulders, like a musty fur coat. First they showed her a photo of a snake, then put a caged snake in a room with her… well, they warm you up to it. It’s just like dating again.
“Okay, if you’re sitting at a table and introduced to someone new who is wearing, let us say, a purple shirt, and then for some reason, you might instantly hate this person, get up from the table and pick a new seat. Well there’s a reason that’s subconscious to you. You don’t understand the feeling; you just can’t ignore it. Well, you might have been abused by someone who was wearing a similar purple shirt during abusive outbursts.” Okay, maybe you’re getting my point now…but here it is spelled O-U-T.
After health class, I inquired with the rents about my hatred of eggs. Shoulders were shrugged, heads turned. Mr. Levine was proved wrong, and I felt dumb for even asking. Then three days pass, and Mom chimes in with, “Ya know, come to think of it…” She’s shaking her head affirmative now, “I was in a rush one morning, so I whisked up a raw egg and slid it into your bottle. Yeah, you were sick and never touched eggs again.” My mouth hung open, and from that day on, eggs entered it. Phobia fixed.
So Nyack, what’s up with my hatred for the campy fun streets, lovely art, and well thought out wine stores? I was first accompanied to Nyack by my father, who said I couldn’t sit home and cry all day. Dad searched in mothball antique stores for a new dining room table. I searched for answers in antique armoires, tried to feel the meaning of life as I fingered handmade afghans, wanted for the “why me’s” in chandelier reflections. I sat folded into myself in a leather chair wishing it were a bed, so I could crawl into fetal position and just weep without a man thinking he had to be some cheerleader, without someone judging me thinking, “Oh dear God, not again” as he rolls his eyes. Just wanting someone to hold my hand and honestly believe it’s okay; someone who could understand pain and sadness can sometimes be part of me. And he would realize he needn’t walk around with a tool belt and corkscrew to fix things. Because you can’t fix me—because I’m not fcuking broken. I’m under construction.
Then Dad saw me tearing in the patina of a final-sale mirror. “Steph, you can do better.” He said pushing the tears into my hair with his thumbs.
“Dad, I’ll never do any better. He’s smart and funny and good looking…”
“Stephanie, how could you do any worse?” Best rhetorical question ever… said to me in an antique store in Nyack, after learning that my ex was running around town pretending he was single, hiding his wedding band in his pants pocket incase he ran into me.
He went to trendy clubs after phoning me from a workl phone line apologizing, “I’m so sorry sweetheart; I am stuck at work. We’ll have a nice dinner tomorrow night though. I love you so much.” He’d come home every ovulating day and night trying to make our family, ensuring I climaxed to increase my likelihood to conceive… all the while he was telling lies in my eyes, and spilling them all over my cervix. And then we were pregnant, and he kept on with the lies. I’ve said this before: I understand falling out of love; it’s sad and cliché, but it happens. Trying to start a family while you’re still acting single… not even offering to go with me, your own wife, to the abortion clinic… Let’s just say, I’ve got a snake phobia, too. At least I’m good with my eggs.