Scraping the Silver Lining off my Fantasy is an Ugly, Sickly Truth

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

Even I am entertained by my struggle for self-preservation.

I find myself fantasizing of places as my personal havens. But I find that these havens must not contain me, physically. They must contain the idea of me, of course--that’s what makes it my fantasy.

Does the definition of a fantasy encompass a space, person, or event that you have not yet achieved, but desire? Then perhaps what I am describing is not a fantasy. Yet, it must be, if fantasy is synonymous to desire and desire alone. So I will move forward with this definition.

Right, so I have these places. Through all of my adolescence, this haven was New York City (as I now realize it is for many like me--more on this some other day). I needed darkness perforated by artificial light, and lots of it--here, there, swallowing my peripheral, choking me down because otherwise I would be lonely, the opposite of alone (loneliness was singularly antithetical to the existence of the fantasy).

And I needed NYC because I wanted to be alone, I craved anonymity. On a condition: I needed anonymity against a sea of other anonymous individuals. I couldn’t be in a place where everyone else was fastened, attached, and secured by an invisible network that I was left out of. I would not indulge in any sort of inside games to which I was the exception--I’ve had enough of that already.

I needed a place large enough to breathe with me, to teach me to breathe when I no longer could. A place that would be a collective breath for my body, in lieu of when I lost my own. A place where I could keep escaping and escaping deeper into, just when I thought I had already known the length of its geography.

At one point in time, this haven was New York City. Now it is not. It really is as simple as it sounds.

Of course, the simplicity of it is grounded in the fact that it wasn’t simple at all. (What, you really believed me? You thought it was easy for me, just like that? Like a switch, on-off-on-off?What do you take me for?) I was romanced by the city without a fight--the freedom, the ability to conquer my fantasy, to puncture the crystal ball that guarded my dreams, to watch my fantasy mold into reality. That was the first month. The glitzy lights, the wailing sirens, the ecstatic shrieks of drunks bozos from blocks down that rang deep into the night. I loved them all, I swallowed everything, I felt the city beat against my throat. The rush, the pulse. I felt that. It penetrated my naked, suburbian body. I shook, I smiled, eyes, mouth, body full of those lights, lights, lights.

It was beautiful--I was beautiful in those moments. But as quickly as it had come, the allure, the glimmer of the city began to lull. It lagged and I began to feel the deficiency because at some point, it was the only thing that would fuel me. But as a routine settled, every step I took markedly lacked the touch of spontaneity. Even without my parents, I had begun to box myself in. No, I could not go out at 3am simply because I wanted to--too late. No, I could not take the 1 train to Brooklyn and listen to Solnit--too far.

The city fell short of the promises it gave me. The more I looked, the sharper the city’s angles and rough edges became. Everything glared at me: the screeching train cars, the omnipotent sky, the rusty firescapes. I realized, sickly, that my fantasy had finally turned against me. Once again, reality had ruined me.

Surprisingly, though, I found that the fantasy hadn’t dissolved. Rather, it had re-formatted, stretched its boundaries, and had attached itself to a new ideal: wide roads shouldered by mute scenery, eyeless hills, silent homes boasting of a rural charm. But I was no stranger to this fantasy; the fantasy had become the place I had just left behind. The place I had already grown out of, where I had buried the remains of my former self.

The sudden appeal of my old home caught me off-guard. When I was bombarded by the sounds of sirens, I found myself craving the vast quiet of the ranch. When I was assaulted by the city lights, I wanted to be cradled by the darkness of Old Ranch, all of it. When I was swallowed by the washed-out colors of NYC, I wanted only for greenery to saturate my vision as I drove down 180 North.

The answer only made sense to me, then. I wasn’t happy in the city. But I wasn’t happy in the suburbia I broke away from either. I was only happy when I was stuck in my fantasy. When I was trapped in the suburbian nightmare, I needed the lights and skyscrapers of New York to stretch far, far above me. When I was shackled to the false glamour of NYC, I needed the calm acres of the open fields to catch me.

I was happiest wherever I physically wasn’t present.

This is an ugly realization. Reality doesn’t ruin my fantasies; I do.

So it goes.