Monday, April 5, 2010

In Search of Anomie

Yesterday was my day off--my vacation from my "vacation"--the one day while we're in New York that I get to do what I'd like. Well, within certain limits. I leave the apartment at 9 am and usually go to Times Square to look for a half-price ticket to a Broadway play. So that's what I did, but the big board didn't have much I was interested in seeing, the lines were very long and I didn't feel like waiting in line for something expensive I only half-wanted, only to get to the box office and find they were sold out. The two shows I almost wanted to see were "God of Carnage," about the crazed behavior of the nouvelle riche of Paris, or "Looped," about the nutty, outspoken Tallulah Bankhead. Well, I hardly needed a $60 reminder of the varieties of bad behavior in living rooms and restaurants on this earth. Contradictory and over-emotionally charged dictates from people you feel you must please (or at least humor)--the comedy in those situations has worn extremely thin for me. I made the mistake a year ago of going to "August: Osage County" and spent three hours in a parallel universe of dysfunction that was far too realistic.
So yesterday, I left the ticket line and walked south until I reached the West Village. Trees flowered on the little side streets. I walked until I was tired, found a cafe and read the New York Times. Then I walked some more until I ran across an Italian restaurant that appealed, so I spent my time and my $60 in a quiet solitary lunch without the hissed recriminations, or the forced feeding that reigns at my in-laws' dining table.
What I could not have: time alone with my husband. His parents assume we get plenty of that at home, but they're wrong. Whatever time we have is sucked up by his job, activities at our son's school, other family events. I can have a little break in New York, but my husband can't. His parents have no compunction about playing the guilt card on him as often as they like.
Walking alone, eating alone--I had a brief experience of detachment. What if no one knew where I was, no one waited for my to come home? For a moment, it seemed an enviable freedom, and one I might choose if I believed that it was that or suffocation. I did have to get back, though; if I don't return to the apartment by (latest) 6 pm, the anxiety goes off the charts. Thankfully, we go home in two days.

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