Coulda Shoulda Woulda

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, orjoin us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Coulda Shoulda Woulda | What didn’t you do this year because you were too scared, afraid, unsure?  Are you going to do it next year?  Or maybe you don’t want to anymore?

This year has been a lot of…closure.  A lot of beginnings and endings; a lot of Big Stuff; catharsis. But I can’t say that there is anything that I was afraid to do. There’s no skydive or bungee jump or anything like that on my bucket list; nothing that I’ve had filed away that I’ve been putting off.

Except…

Maybe…

Years ago, I used to work in the MetLife building, the address of which is 200 Park Avenue. I was young, and it was a BigLaw job, which was soul-sucking on its face. And the job was ending as my marriage was ending as the World as We Knew It was ending. So by the end of 2008, it felt like the whole universe was around my ankles like a bad pair of pants, as I waddled out of 200 Park.

Pan Am Building & Park Avenue

(Via New York Architecture)

I remember when I moved the last of the bankers boxes out of my old office, which had an unobstructed view up Park Avenue from the 42nd floor of the building. It was a Sunday night, and it was late, and my ex-husband came to pick me up, drunk, in the Jag we used to have.

He told me he was mad at me so he’d been drinking. He told me it was my fault.

I tried not to take it personally, but since the whole world was ending in a waspy fireball of bankers boxes and economic doom, a drunk husband behind the wheel of an English luxury car idling outside of 200 Park was probably just part and parcel of That Whole Thing. But I was so angry that I refused to get in the car. So he drove drunk down Park Avenue with the boxes containing my career-to-date strapped securely into our sedan, and I took the escalators back out of the building and into Grand Central to take the 6 train back to Tribeca.

There was nothing remarkable about that night, really, except that it was the last time I ever took the escalators through Grand Central.

(For the uninitiated, there is a dramatic set of escalators leading out of GCT and into/out of the MetLife building. The path then leads through the building and out on to the street above so one can cross through the Helmsley Building and pass on to the upper portion of Park Avenue, which the MetLife building bisects).

My next job was next door to the MetLife building, but I never again rode those escalators through the terminal. I would walk outside of the building — through rain and snow and terrible humidity — just to avoid having to so much as look at them. In fact, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I even raised my eyes to look up at the escalators again for the first time!

But the truth is…

I have cancelled meetings at 200 Park Avenue just to avoid entering the building.

I have walked in the rain without an umbrella to prevent myself from having to go up those steps.

How funny that a stupid electric staircase — a modern marvel! — could come to quietly represent all of my anxieties and fears and failures in one humming, throbbing, metallic, snaggle-toothed loop.  How weird that my frustrations and deferred dreams and All The Trappings of 2008 could be consolidated into a single black line running up the side of Grand Central Terminal and into arguably the most despised piece of Brutalist architecture that New York has ever known.

It wasn’t a conscious decision not to go through the building this year. But I guess I’m not really afraid any more. And what I’m saying is that maybe next year, I’ll take that silly escalator out of Grand Central, and up and out on to Park Avenue.

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