When I was in New York for the first time back when I was 17, I thought it was crazy to see snowfall before Christmas. That year, it snowed just a few days before Thanksgiving; I remember because it was before the audition for that year’s competition, and the first prize was a full scholarship to Julliard. I remember that was all that mattered to me at that moment. I remember I took the subway by myself for the first time since being in New York; my father had forbidden me from auditioning for the competition. I called Emerson to see if he can come with me, but he was too busy with his parents. I was nervous to call Scott, but I sucked it up and asked if he wanted to come with me. To my surprise, he said yes.
We both sat on the C train going Uptown, just passing Fulton Street. We sat in silence for what felt like hours when really, it was only 3 stops. Being 29, I know now that the A train makes the express stops in the city.
“So,” Scott began to say. I looked at him, nervous to talk to him. I don’t know why I was; we literally spoke every day in school with Emerson, but something about speaking to Scott Campbell on my own felt… scary. “What are you all dressed up for?” he finally asked.
“Oh, uhm,” I started as I looked down at my outfit. It was a sparkly dance ensemble with a flowy skirt; also sparkly. “It’s for an audition.”
“For like, a Broadway show?” Scott genuinely asked. I giggled, thinking that it was really cute of him to think that I was even a good enough dancer for Broadway.
“No, no… for a competition,” I corrected. I looked at Scott, thinking he was going to ask a million questions, because– well, let’s face it; I asked someone that I never hung out with outside of school to accompany me across the fucking borough because I didn’t know how to take the subway. “It’s for a scholarship to Julliard, and it’s–“
“For dance,” Scott finished. I looked at him, a little shocked that he knew. Did Emerson tell him? How did he know? “I, uhm… saw you practice after-school with Ms. Castro a couple of times,” I saw him swallow hard as his eyes widen. “I- I didn’t mean to watch or, like, knew you were always practicing, but…” I could tell Scott was nervous, but I couldn’t help but giggle.
“You would watch me dance?” I asked. Scott took a deep breath before finally answering.
“Yeah. You are hands down the best dancer in the school, and you’ve only been here for a couple of months,” he stated.
“You flatter me, but I am not that good of a dancer; not New York City good,” I responded back. He’s just being nice to you.
“Dude, I thought you were going to audition for a damn Broadway show!” Scott emphasized, and it made me laugh. It definitely took a lot of the edge I was feeling off. I was grateful Scott accompanied me to my audition that day.
I look down at my phone; I have exactly one hour before the audition begins in Uptown. I brush down my attire to make myself look clean and neat; two things I fail to be as a dancer, and in more of a literal sense: as a person. I took a deep breath before opening my eyes and finally seeing myself in the mirror. My hair is tied in a bun, my body shimmers in the sunlight from the glitter on my outfit, and my dirty sneakers to take to the audition, where I will take them off to put on my ballet shoes. Are we really doing this, Grace?
“Hey, girl,” I hear at the doorway of the room. I turn around and Ari’s there. She smiles and walks into the room to sit on the edge of the bed. “You look pretty.”
“Thanks, I feel like shit,” I responded. Ari scoffs as she adjusts herself in her seat. “Why did I think this was a good idea?” I questioned every little thing since the moment I got back to New York about two months ago. I questioned if I deserved to watch my daughter walk to her teacher for the first day of school. I questioned if those in my life; my parents, Max, Willow, Emerson, and even Ari should be mad at me for just disappearing and leaving New York for half a year. Why aren’t they mad at me? I would be pissed the fuck off if someone I cared about would just up and leave–
“Bitch, you deserve this,” Ari stated. “I mean, I’ve never seen you dance, but the way that your mom was so excited that you were doing this; like you must be a bomb ass dancer and you deserve to do what makes you happy. Plus, you’re back in New York, which means you get to spend some time with Willow–“
“You do know that if I get this gig, I’ll be practically spending a year overseas, right?” I asked. Ari’s expression completely changed. She didn’t know what was truly this audition.
“Well, where would you be going? Italy? London? Paris? Girl, imagining performing for Paris Fashion Week–“
“Ulsan.” I interrupted. Ari coked her eyebrow up; she clearly did not know where I was going.
“Bitch, where?” Ari asked.
“Ulsan, as in South Korea,” I finally answered. “The production is going to be in–“
“Grace,” Ari simply said. I looked at her, nervous about where this was going. Ari was visibly angry at me. Finally, someone is fucking angry at me. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No.” I simply said, back to Ari. Ari walked towards the door and closed it before saying anything else to me. She walked up to me, practically in my face. She was more than angry at me; she was livid.
“You’re trying to tell me that you left New York after getting your fucking heart broken by a man, who so happens to live in South Korea, go to California as some type of escape from reality, to then come back to New York with the sole purpose of coming back is to audition for a production that is going to be a year-long in Soth Korea; aka where the man that broke your fucking heart lives?” Ari was practically yelling at this point.
“For fuck’s sake, Ari; Jamie doesn’t own the entire fucking country,” I answered, annoyed at Ari’s lack of support. “I haven’t even seen him since I left New York,” I lied. Ari doesn’t know that for practically the entire summer, I spent it with Jamie in California. Ari doesn’t know that in some twisted way, I allowed Jamie back into my life for a whole summer, not realizing that with Jamie, it didn’t take long for me to remember why I loved him in the first place. Ari doesn’t know that, and it was pointless to bring it up now; I was never seeing Jamie again.
“You going there ups the chances of you rekindling something that is stale and burnt out,” Ari argued. It stung a bit when she called what I had with Jamie “burnt out”. I thought that was just something only Jamie and I felt. Why did it hurt hearing it come out from someone else? “Seriously Grace, I think this is a bad fucking idea.”
“Oh, so now it’s a bad idea when just minutes ago it was something I deserved,” I spat back at Ari. I hated when Ari did this; be a supportive friend, and then make me feel like an idiot when things don’t go the way she wants them to go.
“It was, but now you’re literally telling me you’re leaving New York, again, to go across the fucking world to dance in the country where your stupid fucking ex lives?! Seriously Grace, where the fuck are your priorities?!” I didn’t say anything; I just watched Ari pace back and forth in the room we were in. She finally stops and looks at me. “You’re being a shitty fuckin’ mother to Willow by doing this, Grace.”
I looked at Ari, remembering all of the times we’d had similar conversations in this apartment in the past. I remember Ari trying to convince me to work things out with Max right after I had Willow. We fought until she realized I was going to do what I wanted to do, and slowly we were able to work out our friendship again. The same exact thing happened when I quit the firm. The same thing happened when Jamie and I decided to work things out the last time he was in New York. The same thing happened when I didn’t tell Jamie about the abortion. Every decision I ever made in the time I’ve known Ari was questioned by her, and I fucking hated it. I always thought she did it because she truly had her best interest in my well-being. She was sometimes right in her concerns, but most of the time, she would just make me feel like absolute shit about anything that I did.
The one thing she never brought up was Willow. Sure, I had my moments when I could’ve been a better mother. I could’ve made my decisions with Willow in mind. I could’ve just been this stay-at-home mom and watched her grow into the little girl she is now. I could’ve done a lot of things in my differently, and Ari made me know that fact. But, she would never say anything about me as a mother and how I should be raising my daughter. I took a deep breath, thinking about my words.
“I’m… going to be late for my audition,” I began. I grabbed my bag, throwing it on my shoulder. “And when I’m done with that, I will come back and pack my things.” I looked at Ari, trying hard to not let my emotions read all over my face. Ari scrunched her eyebrows together, looking genuinely confused.
“Are you serious?” Ari asked.
“Yeah, Ari. I’m serious,” I sternly said. “I’m going to stay with my parents while I’m here in New York.” Ari’s response was a condescending laugh. Maybe I was too young and blindsided to see this in the past, but I see it clearly now: Ari is nothing but a mean girl.
“Here you go again, running away from the truth,” Ari got up from her seat. “Seriously, girl, aren’t you tired of running? Like you’re about to be 30 years old, Grace. Grow the fuck up and deal with your shit head-on like a real adult.”
“I’m not getting in this with you,” I said, calmly. I realized that whenever I would react to Ari’s “tough love”, it would feed into this cynical side of her that felt like she was staying the truth. “So, I’m leaving for the audition, and then I’m leaving your apartment, and I’m leaving this friendship.” I passed Ari as I walked out the door. Before I walked out the apartment, she came out of the room we were in and in typical Ari fashion, began shouting.
“This is your problem, Grace! You can’t keep anyone or anything in your life because you think life fucking owes you an apology for your shitty life up until now,” I turned around to look at Ari. In the corner of my eye, I saw Dean take the headphones off his head from the living room to see what was going on. “You need someone to constantly tell you that your decisions are shitty and that you aren’t capable of keeping anything good in your life because you always go and fuck it up!”
“Is that what you really think of me, Ari?” I spat back. “You think being a shitty friend to me is actually something I need?”
“If you think I’m being a shitty friend–“
“You are a shitty friend,” I interrupted. Ari began to walk in my direction, and Dean finally got up from the sofa to calm Ari down.
“Fuck you, Grace! This is the thanks I get for helping you out all these times you literally had no one in your life because you fucked them over?!” Ari was yelling over Dean. I tried so hard to not let her words hurt me. I blinked before exhaling.
“Bye, Ari. I’m sorry, Dean,” I said before turning around and opening the front door to her apartment. I walked out and closed the door behind me; closing the door on yet another chapter of my life. I’m always questioning if I’m doing the right thing.