with Anu Garg
crapehanger or crepehanger
noun: A gloomy person; a pessimist.
A crapehanger was one who hung up black bands of crape as a symbol of mourning. The word is from English crape, from French crepe, from Latin crispus (curled or wrinkled). Earliest documented use: 1921.
“‘I don’t mean to sound like a crapehanger, because I am an optimist by nature,’ said Thomas Emmel.”
William Mullen; Scientists Try for Butterfly Breakthrough; Chicago Tribune; Sep 3, 2002.
I love my family, I really do. But I always find it really difficult to visit them. The bus ride to Newark alone is miserable. Every time I wait on line at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, whether I try to lose myself in a book or music, it’s not easy to ignore what’s happening around me. The gloomy and very unwelcoming gate. The hopeless looking people. The unhappy bus driver. When I glance around, there is melancholy in everything. The people are like walking corpses; every ounce of life has been sucked out of them by some evil vacuum.
When I finally make it to Newark, the streets are dark and deserted with the exception of a few questionable characters lurking about. I choose to walk in the middle of the street, occasionally looking back for incoming traffic, rather than the sidewalks. They always seem like traps to me. Fallen trees, knocked over gates, barking dogs, strange men on stoops.
I make it to the building where I once lived in high school. The building I was never able to call “home”. I can only think of a handful of people I have ever allowed in that apartment for the 4 years I lived there and the other 7 my family occupied it. I climb up two flights of stairs, passing by different odors and other people’s noises. I make it up, and my mother’s usually waiting for me with a big smile. I kiss her and return the big smile. If I don’t smile, she’ll think something is wrong, and that is the last thing I want. Nothing is ever wrong with me.
I walk to the living room to put my stuff down, and she follows me. She doesn’t stop staring until I do something silly and walk away. I don’t mind her staring though. She loves looking at me. I am her only daughter, and I do things she says she wouldn’t dare dream of doing. Every time she sees me, she says, her life is complete.
My little brother was home for once, and he was surprised to see me. He gave me a big hug, and he tried to pick me up, I don’t know why he finds pleasure out of that. He also had a friend hanging out in his room. My brother’s mood suddenly changed and he was laughing and speaking loudly. He told me stories, which made his friend come out to see what the commotion was all about. The friend told me that my brother has been sad all day, and he hasn’t seen him this happy in a while. My mother did what she does best, she just stood there smiling.
My brother, mother, and I got to talking late last night. I was sleepy, but they needed my attention. It’s really hard for my brother to express himself you see, and my mother calls me all the time crying because she wants him to open up. Last night was the night. Instead of screaming and slamming his bedroom’s door shut. He talked openly about his feelings, and I barely had to do anything.
My brother told me and I quote, “Paola, you don’t understand. You are the ray of sunshine in this family. Everyone is always sad and depressed all the time. There is always a dark cloud around here, and when you come, everything brightens up.” I didn’t cry, but I should’ve. I don’t really like crying in front of people, it takes a lot for me to. While it’s easy for me to tear up about the beautiful ceilings in the Westminster Abbey in London or a random little girl singing on YouTube, it’s hard for me to cry in front of my family. Isn’t that crazy?
I’m not sure how I “made it out” of Newark, but I think it is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Everything is so depressing there. The things I remember during my high school career are just cruel. It really makes you think how unfair the world is. You would think you’re not even in a developed country and there are no means of education where you’re there. Everyone always reminds of me of zombies. I just don’t understand why that place sucks the life out of these people.
I know a big part of me is still there since that is where my family lives. I’m not sure why they feel so stuck and helpless, but I’m sure there is a way. There always is. Maybe I’m the way. Maybe I just need to work harder. It’s really hard trying to live life and be happy when so many people rely on you. The pressure’s on, and I can take it. I still have my beloved New York and the world at my fingertips.