Karim Kassem
Jun 19, 2016 · 7 min read

New York Portals

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I was psyched to move to the East Village, which once was a farm owned by a Dutch governor during the 1600’s and has long history with art and gentrification. In the heart of Alphabet City where Andy Warhol once promoted shows, I disembarked with total mobility. Passing by those streets after Lauren’s film made my heart feel warm and now I had a place to stay there. It all felt like a time-lapse, a sequence of images passing rapidly from that moment up until my arrival. I was dropped off at Benny’s Burritos on 6th street. Turns out Tessa lived in the same building as Benny’s and damn I’ve always wanted to try those burritos. Arriving at 2 a.m. to Tessa’s was rather scenic. The area was filled with bars and colorful spaces to survey once again. Drunken people walked by and gave me high fives or didn’t give me anything at all but brief occasional glimpses. After that, it was quiet for a stretch of time. I rang the intercom three or four times, there was no answer. I waited for at least thirty minutes and sat on my suitcase, hoping for someone to walk in or out the front door in order to slip myself in. A gradient layer separated me from another layer in space. A layer that somehow was being scanned from top to bottom. And on that gradient layer were the colors white, grey and black. White on top of that layer represented a space forward in time, grey in time and black signified backwards in time. This entire sheet being scanned in real time, backwards and forwards in time at the same time. I awaited something to transpire and sensed this layer interchange inside of me. I could only imagine myself morphing into an envelope, capable of sliding through that tiny crack under the door just to avoid the cold. Did this Tessa even exist or was she only a figment of Kim’s imagination within mine? An invention only for myself to believe and feel relieved inside someone else’s mind. Calling Kim at this hour wasn’t the best idea; primarily after this incredible favor she had done for me. I rubbed my hands together and blew on them post-friction. Benny’s to my left was closed and everything around me began to fade away. The streets fell beneath me and the humans around evaporated as if being abducted, just like I evaporated while standing on waters edge in front of Manhattan’s skyline in the wake of my arrival to the city. The lights gradually washed out and darkness slowly took over as if the city was shadowed by colossus. I resided in the galaxy with only the stars to swim around while resting on an aerodynamic meteor. The sound of nothing was merely the sound of a massive gravity pull into the black hole. The unorthodox image had me seeing everything slowly levitate off the ground and into space, leaving me behind with no more than the door and the buzzer. I may have been falling into a deep sleep on my suitcase. But I shook my head in disbelief. Tried the buzzer one last time and lingered. Bzzzzzz; the door opened.

She said nothing, although I could hear the glitch echoing through the intercom. Definitely on the other side, yet in her private galaxy woken up from a deep blue sleep. “It’s Karim” I said, anxious to push that door open. Who fucking else would it be? I imagined her thinking out loud, loud enough to wake up Benny and his burritos. A finger magically managed to buzz me in, sigh. I took the elevator, and found the apartment door on the third floor. She opened the door and didn’t move any of her face muscles. She stood still holding the door and looked at me as if I was some stranger. Well I sort of was, I had just met the girl. A handful of silent seconds passed while standing motionless in our own constellations. “Are you Tessa?” I asked, nervous and sort of uncertainly certain it was she. She coldly replied saying “Yes”, as if I was some retard. I may have misconstrued her energy at that particular moment. It was late after all and we’ve both had a dragged out evening. Or maybe foolishly failed to remember the fact that I am bordering a complete stranger that has walked in to crash at her place at 2 a.m. “Here’s the couch, that’s the bathroom, fridge over there, oh and this side of the fridge is mine. Try not to touch the other side, my roommate gets upset easily.” Out of a sleeping bag somewhere in the woods onto a large white comfy sofa in the East Village, New York City. A window stood just above the comfy looking couch, overlooking the street where I had drifted away into the city lights. I found two orange earplugs beside the couch on a nightstand. “It gets loud in the morning, I always wear these” Tessa added earlier. I slept like a baby that night; the film upstate required a lot of muscle and cardio. My mind and body however, in better shape. The morning after was rather quiet, until I noticed that I was still wearing those earplugs. There was lots of construction going on outside and it made sense to wear them. Tessa and her roommate had already gone to class. I woke up with no appetite and with the sudden idea of wanting to postpone my 1.5-month round-trip ticket. So I resolved to call up Expedia in order to discuss the option of extending my stay. After being on hold for 38 minutes, I had booked a new return ticket and changed my flight. Three and a half months from that very moment, I’d be going back to Beirut. Why I had abruptly decided to add a large number of days of apartment hopping was to me, a subject of dispute. That very moment when I woke up with that notion could nevermore be deciphered. I had one more week to find out where I’d stay next, and that didn’t seem to bother me. As a matter of fact, I felt enraptured. I’d go on venturing to unravel my adeptness and competence like never before. Attempting to hold my breath underwater for as long as I could and walk on the ocean floor while dragging a suitcase pummeling its way through the sand. What was there to lose? A madcap scheme, perhaps. That morning, I swam in a pool of happiness knowing that I was staying to wander for a longer period of time. A fish in the big sea uncertain for how long it can be long lost in there, maybe forever. Whilst lying down on the couch and staring at the ceiling, the apparition appeared once again. It swam like a dolphin by the corners in the ceiling, warping its long elastic humanly shaped appearance. I couldn’t entirely make sense of its formation, but it seemed to be as close to a dark yet somehow transparent liquid saturated against those white walls. With both my arms behind my head and legs stretched out, I continued to eyeball the formation until it was right above me on the ceiling. Unexpectedly, the liquid shaped formation began to impair and metamorphosed into a portal that opened up in the shape of a triangle. It was as if a strange frequency had passed through the apartment, generating this gateway. Another realm waited, faint on the other side that slowly forced me to rise into the air towards it with no choice of fighting back. Sucked into the other side, this jump gate extracted me from where I was and put me in a new territory. Perhaps it was that pool of happiness that I felt. I let go. Momentarily, I received a text from Tessa. The shadow of colossus had returned for real this time and there was no turning back.

- Tessa: “Hey sorry so I just talked to my roommate and I thought she understood the situation but she just freaked out and unfortunately she wanted me to ask you to leave. I’m sorry, I really thought it would be okay but she is just not comfortable to have someone over when I’m not there.”

- Karim: “To leave just when you’re not there or actually leave and go elsewhere?”

- Tessa: “Honestly I think she means to find somewhere else. She was literally combination yelling and crying on the phone. I’m so sorry.”

- Karim: “Did I do anything wrong or..?”

- Tessa: “No my roommate and I are having a lot of problems and she is uncomfortable because you’re not one of my close friends and I confronted her not too long ago about her boyfriend staying here too much.”

- Karim: “Okay, I’ll leave in a few minutes.”

So much for one unruffled week in the East Village, said my shadow on the wall created by the direct sunlight going right through my entangled heart. The portal had closed on the other side where Tessa’s apartment existed in another point in space within the same universe. Well, at least I made it all the way back here. I had no idea what to do next, although I did shower and pack my belongings. Suddenly it was dawn and the light somehow bothered me. I wanted it to be as dark as the night before. The stars were calling out my name. It was somewhat upsetting, but I had to live with it and move on before ending up snoozing at Benny’s, wrapped in a burrito. “The world seemed to have a better sense of how you wanted things not to go” said Murakami. I sat there unfazed on the comfy couch and cogitated about my nearly failed madcap scheme. Where to now?

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