Monday, September 5, 2011

the twenty seven year old second start

And so it begins.

A year ago last week, I moved to Florida. I wore the amulet of Job around my neck, was visited by plagues of locusts first, then boils. I'd just seen my entire adult life thrown into cardboard boxes, fumigated, stored. I rolled one suitcase deep.

I made it a month before I flew back up the eastern seaboard—no money, no apartment, no job, no plan. Turns out, that was the best decision I have ever made. For four months I did little more than work a little, write a lot, and bend myself to mindful pretzels on the yoga mat. In December, I met Jack. He was there for every postmark of my application envelopes, there helping me make line edits at the eleventh hour. And then he stuck around. Cue the most magical winter of my life.

Then the discs went, and, really, that was hard. Still is. But, turns out, I meant more to him than dancing, and so I scarred my forearms making rhubarb pie.

He left in June. I'd been accepted then, been to the admittees' reception, and taken out the 100k in loans. I kept my pedals to the metal and spent one too many summer evenings watching Netflix television from my single bed.

I went to Europe. Got lost in France, then found in Ireland. Somewhere in between, I saw Berlin. I wrote the front fifty pages of a mystery. Went heather picking with the man I love, then had to leave him there.

I flew back into Newark, and cried the whole way home from culture shock. I had three weeks to group my ducks together for their onward march. A list of unfortunate things occurred, in rapid succession, then were solved. I got booted from my humble closet sublet and forced to find myself an actual room.

I sit there now, typing to the Internet. I have a desk, a proper bed, even a closet in which to store my things (they no longer hang above me from the ceiling rail). My Jack came back; I met him at the airport with a little paper sign.

And tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow) I put my money where my mouth is. My first firstdayofschool since January 2002. I'm underqualified and thoroughly unorthodox, but here I come, Columbia, ready for that MFA.

Last week, under the rotunda, we were all convoked. I drank a plastic party cup of Chardonnay and mingled with the elbow-patched professors on the lawn. I purchased all twenty-four of this semester's books.

All that remains is waking up and getting on the train. I miss my mother—how she'd lay out all my clothes, then snap a picture of me trotting out the door. I was little then, and fatter, dwarfed slightly between bike helmet and clunky Buster Browns. I rode off on my banana seat like that about a dozen times, once for each new school.

The lunches, though, I packed myself.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

hurricane irene: sunday afternoon.

Woke up to sirens and howling winds at five am. We never lost power, but everyone else did, and it sounded like the end of days. No tornadoes, no witches, no flying trees.

By noon, we've seen the worst of it. The city reels and recovers. New Yorkers, we are tough as nails.

We celebrate with cinnamon rolls.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

hurricane irene: saturday evening

Four girls, two tiny dogs, tuna melts, TBS, and two bottles of Malbec.

It has started to wind and started to rain.

Friday, August 26, 2011

hurricane irene: friday night.

Jesus is coming.

This is the refrain as I walk up Broadway, towing a rolly-suitcase which I cannot lift up or down the subway stairs, on my way to Washington Heights to weather the weather. The storm won't come for hours yet, days even, and yet the natives rip the batteries right off the rack, and buy the groceries out of bottled water and loaves of bread.

The atmosphere is manic, the sky an eerie, cloudless blue. The food lines are halfway to the meat counters.

Three girls and I stock up on peanut butter and Oreos. We buy two gallons of water and six bottles of wine. We order enough sushi to satisfy a football team. And here we sit, in the apex of our youth, at our devices, soaking up the screen time before the power and the wireless quit.

This is the moment, between Categories, between evacuation zones, where we miss our boyfriends and are not yet afraid.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

dive naked, hitchhike home

I would forfeit any single smell in NYC for one whiff of peat fire on a misty afternoon. I miss there and him so much my limbs are aching for them both, though that could be from jet lag and the flight. Hard to believe I started this day sixteen hours ago in Dublin, and yesterday morning I spent underneath a pale blue quilt, eating soda bread.

I don't do well with change. I fall in love too readily, too fast. I've wanted to stay in every place I've ever traveled to (and some I've never seen), but the fact that Donegal and Jack exist is near enough to break my heart.

To walk across the stone-walled realm of Inishowen is to step into a dream, a place I never dared to hope to find. The ground is hopelessly green, each field lusher than the last, and spotted here and there with cows and sheep. The sea is grey and blue and huge, the horizon far, the clouds low slung. The hills loom straight into the water and the sky. They are mossy, lichened, laid with rocks and scree. When the sun shines, it makes the country glow. It cascades from cloudbursts like a miracle.

I took his hand and trudged with him along the path, then off and over a barbed wire fence and into pastures. We tromped, avoiding bulls and rams, until we scaled the heather patches to the top, and looked down at the sun-scaled sea beneath us, acres down. There was not a soul for miles to see us there.

He picked me a bouquet of hardy blooms, and tied it up with braided grass. "Bushcraft," he explained, all rugged grin, adding in a thistle sprig he'd hacked free from its cluster with a sneakered kick. He found me a mushroom, a shell. A thousand treasures that I cannot name.

We made our way through grasses to the sea. Another barbed wire fence. We walked home against the sunset, sucking peat smoke through our grateful pores. We drank unhurried tea with bread and jam. He built a fire. We sat there in our woolen jumpers with our single malt, nothing but the sound of crackling flames.

After dinner, we read the paper by the fire. He folded his in half, took off his glasses, and lay along beside me—his head on my chest, his arms curled in my hair. We slept like that until the fire died.

For three straight mornings, he made breakfast in bed: a tray laden with soda bread and Irish butter, rhubarb jam and whole cream yogurt, tea, fruit, and a flower in a vase. We read, refilled our tea, not getting out of bed for anything except another endless roam.

It took us the better part of forty five minutes to reach the nearest store on foot, a tiny rural post that sold stamps and not much else. Convenience wares, prepackaged loaves of bread. An ice cream freezer half-stocked with frozen fish. We cut down to the water, through a pasture strewn with dung. It was raining as it had for hours—all morning and all afternoon, the wind whistling across the fields. We didn't mind. We were already soaked. We stripped to nothing on our isolated beach, wading in together, hand in hand, negotiating pebbles underfoot as the rain tapped muted nothings on the surface of the sea.

We high-fived and tried to dry each other off, pulling on our soggy layers. Then back up over fence and pasture to the road. A lonely man in an ancient car gave us a lift. "There're no Ghaeltachts left here. Those people all have died." His mother, too, had died just months ago. He told us we could visit him whenever we liked; he lived just past the pier.

We ate fried cod and vegetables, then I made pie. He helped me cut the fat into the flour with a plastic potato masher. Hours later, the discs of rhubarb given way to stewy tartness, we ate hot slices drenched in cream. And watched another film by firelight.

Day three was much the same. We heard the donkeys bray from bed. Only we slept too late to spend all morning with our novels. We tromped up the Mamore Gap to where the rocks get lost in mist. We met more people by the Blessed Virgin shrine. Mary Queen of Heaven, attended as she was by broken candles, soggy jars, a pile of rubbish and a mass of rosaries. Padre Pio guards the well, on St. Egney's site. I dunked my fingers in to bless myself. After all, the lady said, it couldn't hurt.

We went up a little path that turned into a stream, awash with mud, my Ked soles slipping on the stones. We took our shoes off when the path ran out, went squelching up the hill with pants rolled up, the heather nearly three feet deep. He hauled me on a rock to sit and watch the sea across the bogs. Our breath was steaming while we didn't speak.

I couldn't feel my feet the whole way down. He lent his trainers, walked down barefoot while I bounced along beside him. At the bottom of the gap, we traded shoes, then pressed on to the beach while peeling oranges and smiling at the cows.

The beach was a miracle of cliff and sand, the bay vast and peopled just by fishing boats. We sat in total quiet, listening to the waves, smiling that half-swept wistful smile of those whose hearts are breaking out of beauty by itself. A few families arrived for their pre-supper swims. He ran along the beach and then into the water in his underwear—and that was how I wrecked my Irish lingerie: I ran full force into the ice cold sea. Brand new minty silk and peachy lace be damned. I ruined the reveal. Or—rather—not, he said. He'd never seen me look more joyous than I did when I was standing soaking wet in those exquisite panties, holding up my goosefleshed arms into the sky and smiling like the world might end. I fell in love with him again right then and there.

And then once more, some hours later, as the leeks were frying in a buttered pan. The dog who stole the ham right off his plate day one returned to make his final rounds. He'd learned to love us by the trail of lamb bones left for him in hedges, the scent of breakfast sausages. Cheeky, we named him.

Our last dinner. Steak and roast potatoes, last night's pie. We carried the leftover slices to the neighbors and walked right into history. We sat in high backed wooden chairs, painted schoolyard red, and listened to the songs and stories of men in scallycaps and sweater vests.

And then it disappeared into the rear view mirror of the hired cab, the bus from Buncrana, and then to Dublin via Derry. Then airports, flights, landing somewhere else across the world. I cried the whole way home (by way of Newark), and still I hurt for it. I look at the pitiful array of pictures taken and I want to hoarde them for myself. As if it were a secret, kept by him and me. Ireland, I say. As if it hadn't happened. As if it weren't real.

It was never going to be easy coming back alone.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I am a jelly doughnut

Live however you like; Berlin just doesn't care. I've seen rain fall from a clear blue sky. Real rain, too, long teapot pours of it, like streamers, or very narrow waterfalls.

I don't dry my hair here, or care what clothes I'm wearing. I spend most of the morning writing, the afternoons drifting through museums. I eat four meals a day and one of them is cake.

One rides the U-bahn with an open beer. It is legal to relieve oneself in public, and to be accompanied by as big a dog as one can find. Bull mastiffs wait on leashes by their owners for the nightbus to arrive. This is a city with an infrastructure to put New York to shame. Empty bottles are left beside recycling bins for those who need the extra funds to take away. Unemployment is so high that, on a Tuesday afternoon, the parks are packed with people soaking up the unexpected sun. No one has any money, which makes it all the more civilized to sit on the sidewalk around six pm and have a pilsner. One could live on full-fat yogurt and 3e falafel here for weeks.

The city itself has character. Zones bleed into other zones by tree-lined streets or neon stretches of commercial thoroughfares. We live in ragtag Neukolln, but we danced beside a bridge, next to the Bode Museum, under colored lights on strings with birds alighting overhead. We danced in a restaurant, all wooden tables, wooden walls and floors, while patrons ate their sausages and struedel. And when we grilled in Görlitzer Park, the bleed from all the urban lights was not enough to hide the stars.

No one really rushes for the train.

We snuck into an abandoned East German amusement park, took pictures of the Ferris wheel all but overgrown with weeds, and threatening to sink into a swamp. We barbecued by the terminal at Tempelhof, having filled our backpacks up with beer. We ate at a charming little restaurant by the kirche at Bernauerstrasse, run by an eighty-four year old man who poured our wine with palsied hands, but served a tapas platter seamlessly. I had quarkspeise at the Turkish market and bought bronze earrings in the shape of forks. It's no wonder that I do not want to leave.

I feel grounded here in a way I haven't felt for months.

And Jack, oh Jack. Who still has yet to say he loves me. But who tells me I am glamourous, despite all contrary evidence. Like a Frenchwoman, he says. "You know, she rolls out of bed into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans and ties her hair back with a pencil. That's the kind of glamour you possess."

Friday, July 29, 2011

on frailty and fidelity

I have the sort of boyfriend who can carry me seated upright on his shoulders. The kind who sweeps me down whole flights of stairs. He is a lifter of heavy things, a manager of impossibly numerous grocery bags.

He is smarter than a whip crack on a winter morning. He looks at the world with his sea glass eyes and assesses it, not merely for style and substance, but moral significance. He believes in the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people for the greatest amount of time, a worldview made manifest by his boundless attention to single mothers' baby strollers and frail old ladies' shopping carts.

He is also fiercely independent. The sort of man who needs to be alone with his thoughts, with his Kindle copy of Proust, with his hills in the Highlands.

I believe he is the sort of man I can trust—with thousands of miles between us or just across a dance floor—but I am merely mortal, and subject to the more vexatious aspects of my sex. I see him beset by girl-fouling floozies, and I have to stop the steam from coming out my ears.

He asks a lot of me, this man. He will be gentle, helpful, overly-solicitous, only insofar as I allow him. And then he cuts the chord. He demands that I be worthy of the respect he gives. He tells me I've no reason to be jealous and expects that I will trust him. He gives me honest feedback and hopes I'll bear it humbly. Now and again, he will morph into an undersensitive creature of the male persuasion, but he is the very first to admit his faults.

When the physical falls apart, and I prove less hardy than my better constitution, he's still there. Back injuries, bladder infections, vicious blisters on the toe... these are just unfortunate matters of nature, he says. And he would gladly weather their momentary effect on whatever fun he's having if it means he still gets to be in a couple with me. His words.

As I sit here typing into my laptop, and he types into his across our desk, rainy Saturday Berlin comes down onto the courtyard maple and our window box of herbs. Life is pitifully short, and love is pitifully painful, but right here in this quiet moment, when we've tidied up the sheets on our mattress on the floor, when we've ducked down to the Lidl for milk and mueslix, and when we've taken silly pictures with the massive celery root I found, every single sacrifice explains itself. I've met the man who lets me be the very best version of myself. The benefits by far outweigh the costs. And I am sure he'd say the same.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

berlin, je t'aime, reason 3

This morning I went to the Supermarkt, nightie tucked into my ripped-up jeans, wearing Jack's flip flops and a sweater. And no one cared. Also, I somehow managed to end up with blue-dyed soap inside my shoes last night. As we walked in the rain, suds squished up from in between my toes. I was unfazed. (However, now my toes are blueberry blue, and look as though they'll stay that way.) Berlin is lovely in the rain.

We made an evening of a grand Sicilian dinner, excellent company and bottles and bottles of wine. Then we retired to an unnamed bar for overly expensive bottles of BIER (at two Euro each).

Lord, I love this town.

Friday, July 22, 2011

guten morgen, glücklich morgen

Berlin, so far, is one white-walled, stark and lovely flat. A mattress on the hardwood floor, a desk, two chairs, a terrace looking down into the courtyard. One giant maple tree stands guard, tall enough to stand above the rooftops of our six story apartment Haus.

It is drizzling, and has been since I landed. A gentle rain from a sky pale grey and flat. So different from last week in the shocking Azur blue.

He'd stolen me a towel from a hotel last week in Ireland, and he cleared me out a drawer. He was so distracted cooking dinner, he poured mueslix into bowling water by mistake. He added in the pasta anyway. To us, it tasted great (the plump raisins adding particular flair to the tomato pesto).

We snuck to a milonga after midnight, and took the night bus home.

And safely in his arms, I slept.

(Vielen Dank.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

en transit

I couldn't sleep last night to save my life. The big, sweeping vents kept me awake with their rattling and their teasing of the leaves. Then the moonlight through the window was too bright. Then my stomach churned. But really I was dreaming about Jack.

Or, rather, that I was on a river cruise that crashed. That pitched and heaved in swells among the skyscrapers before shattering through a megastore.

Then I dreamt I couldn't find shoes to wear to the airport—nothing but a pair of tan leather ladies' orthopedic sneakers.

Four, five hours of this restless wishing I could sleep. And now, we wait. Only nine hours to go.

Goodbye again to Ste Maxime, le lovely mer, the ice blue sky, the town that smells of roasting chickens in the afternoons. Hello, Berlin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

here comes the flood

I'm afraid I don't belong anywhere.

I grew up all over, and it was great. When asked on applications to state my hometown, I usually write "miscellaneous." I'm a child of the open road, and I relish it. I can do great things from a single suitcase. I have done.

Passport and clean panties in hand, I could conquer the world. But 'could' is such another matter than 'will,' and I fear I've lost the latter.

Here I lie in paradise, the pine and herby smell borne through the window on a chilly wind. It rained today, unseasonably for the Côte d'Azur in summer. I wish that were the only reason I felt stir crazy and alone. By cocktail hour, the clouds had cleared, and I walked aimlessly through town, not taking pictures. That's when it hit me: I have come here one too many times. I've taken my photos and eaten my petal cones. It starts to feel like home. And every time I've ever had a home, I've had that place rescinded. I get familiar and I'm forced to move along.

I've been looking all my life for somebody to get me. Just one, to fully and completely understand. I thought Peter and his family did. But perhaps understanding lies all in our perception, and that's the part that changes in the end.

All I know is I've become an adjunct character, another guest with another suitcase in another room. Another place set at the table on the terrace. If my motives aren't clear, my mood not easily discerned, I guess I cannot grumble. It was merely the hope of comprehension that made me feel so easily embraced before.

In thirty six hours, I fly to Berlin and to Jack. I pray I steel myself against imagining another home in him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

disconvention (for the record)

Peter Pan is in love.

To normal people, this means we no longer need each other. He goes one way with his Grace Kelly Barbie doll bride, and I go mine, into the arms of Jack—until that, too, blows up in my face. But to us, there is no option. He is the brother I never had.

This is a joyful thing, people. I've never seen him like this. She makes him happier than he has been in five plus years. They understand each other on a skin level, from a pheromonal I-need-you place. They talk wedding rings and babies and hallelujah everafter. They are everything together he and I could never have been. And I am thrilled for them. She and I even get along. She gets it. Jack gets it. We've all of us had meals together. The obvious is . . . obvious.

Trouble is, it's not so obvious to anybody else.

But, people, please. We don't just alight in people's lives never to be seen or heard again. We make indents and imprints and are wholly and completely changed. Because of Peter, I am who I am: stupid, blind in love with Jack, embarking on a grad school dream. Because of Peter, I'm (only 708 miles away from him, and not 4000) in the South of France, with people I would lie in traffic for. We may not be blood related, but I've always been the kind of girl to choose her family, and I chose them—a long time ago. They're in the queue. They're on the prayer list (sorry, y'all, I've been reading The Help). And Peter has his faults, don't get me wrong, but so have I.

It makes me sorry for the people who see love in black and white. In yes and no. In no or always. We are no and always, damnit.

Stop telling him to grow up and do it your damn self.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

pretty, maybe, but I ain't no beauty queen

I am a girl who doesn't often paint her toenails. A girl who has never dyed her hair.

I don't wax my snatch or follow the rules. I dress like a school marm or a fisherman's wife.

I've never belonged among girls my own age. And never is this fact more evident than when I see the throngs of them all gussied up in St. Tropez, their four inch sandal heels clacking on the cobblestones, their eyes outlined, their perfume treacle thick. They've got stylish little purses clutched in manicured claws. They smoke, they reapply their lipgloss, they let greasy men get them overpriced cocktails. They enjoy the cheesy music making it too loud to talk, the cheesy chat of rich guys in boat shoes and checkered shirts. They wear things like bronzer. They flatiron their hair.

In short, they care about all manner of women's magazine articles I never bother to read.

And I am thrilled to be unique. To go out as god made me, with or without a bra. In jersey cotton dresses and a grandpa sweater. With earrings and sunglasses bought on the street. But, then again, I'm the girl who has lived out of her suitcase for eleven months.

I look at them and I see pricetags. Brazilian: $80. Mani pedi: $40. Platform wedges: $120. Make up: $100. Make up brushes: $200. Tinted shimmer lipgloss: $22. Spray tan: $30. Eyebrow wax: $15. Crest WhiteStrips: $90. The list goes on, interminable.

The whole cycle requires such maintenance; just looking at them I'm exhausted. When I have extra scratch, I spend it on books. Or food.

Why then, do I feel so frumpy when they pass?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I woke up this morning, and my heart was racing.

All these somethings we anticipate will eventually come bearing down upon us in the form of something so simple as an early evening flight to France. The paper days peel off the calendar and float away. We look forward, forward, forward to the moment we will be able to sink into some patch of sand somewhere halfway across the world and say, yes, I am home here. And stop, for once. Just stop.

I suppose it is better to save up all our livinginthepresentmoment for moments like those, for months like this. It is progress being made. The resultant goal, of course, is to keep it up when the real world comes flashflooding back in fall. Like keeping Christmas in one's heart through all the year. All I can do is keep learning. And I do, good lord, I do.

Single digit hours til take off. Single digit days til Jack.

The adventure begins. Glück and bonne chance.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


In winter, we heat our homes to summer unbearable temperatures. In summer, we cool them; we refrigerate ourselves.

Girls with curls want straight hair—and girls with straight want waves.

I complained about this city until I tried to move away.

In busy times, we pray for stillness, but when we get there, we are bored.

It hurts more if you let yourself be scared.

The Buddhist term for suffering, dukkha, has really more a Russian doll of meaning. Unsatisfactoriness, perhaps best among them. The unsatisfactoriness of life. Ennui. The constant, stressful ache we suffer to be somewhere or someone else. Even the translation disappoints; the deep, dark subtlety is lost. We have this hunger, and we do not know its name.

Then again, it is amazing how little time one has for navel gazing, while one is flat upon an injured back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

on lowered expectations

Today we celebrate the birthday of a good idea, a country founded on our best intentions. With one glance at the newspaper, we see how far we've sunk—but then again, how far we've come. Perhaps the sinking isn't sinister, just a byproduct of good cop/bad cop Time. In growing up, we're given season tickets to the atrophy of dreams. We just get used to change. And not all for the worse.

New York is a ghost town today. The major arteries are cleared, there's very little honking. Some errant sirens and obnoxious music, maybe, but a day of quiet overall. And here I am in an 8x10 foot room, flat out on my messed up back, an ice pack tucked beneath my spine.

A year ago, I was an adult. I had a steady, big girl job, a closet full of shoes, a business card. If you'd asked me then to imagine life like this, making cucumber and cheese sandwiches three nights a week, attempting to write a murder novel, I'd have guffawed. Surely I never had the nads for this before. Surely not the stomach either.

This injury has filled me with such humility, such sense of mortal chance. It used to be good days were judged by how much fun you had, or if you got your way; now any day in which I sit and stand without feeling as though my spine will snap in half is good enough. Days without panic or pain. Nights without nightmares.

I don't care if I get there in a wheelchair, I am getting on that plane. I am going to meet Jack, who has grown his plant across the pond from mine; we've watched their tendrils knit mid-ocean in the Atlantic air. We're just now about to bloom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

and a little rain never hurt no one

Today is July, and July is Jack.

July is also a reprise of the disc despair (off to a fragile and rather rocky start), involving cancellation of tango practice sessions and trying not to cry. Because, this weekend, at least, is not about me.

This afternoon, at the City Clerk Marriage Bureau, Scott and Jacquie got married. I handed over my Darth-Vader-Meets-Donny-Osmond ID and signed my name as witness for the bride. What is legal tonight will be made real tomorrow, on another rooftop in Bushwick, with me in a grey silk dress, officiating. Then we will have burgers and three-buck-a-bottle Prosecco while the sun sets and I sit out the nuptial tandas, hoping the numbness down my legs recedes in time for me to fly to Europe.

It has all gone by so fast, this summer, my twenties, that brief brush with immortality. In two weeks it will fly by all the faster, to Jack and back home from Jack, into school and out of school, into debt and... still in debt. What a precious thing it is to breathe, to walk, to see.

And even more wonderful: to return home with such a case of weary-hearted blues and find a vase of flowers with a note from Jack that reads only, "Until soon."

Monday, June 13, 2011

well hot n heavy pumpkin pie chocolate candy jesus christ

When I met Jack, he was just a glint-eyed wallflower. Rimless glasses, witty banter, brogue. I leaned up beside him—against milonga walls—and clasped my hands behind my back, as if concealing purloined fruit, eyes wide and wistful, making as confident a conversation as I could. We danced, but it was afterthought—two songs into the last tanda, one half La Cumparsita—all rhythm play with all this air and space between us.

Come December, he draped his woolen arm around my woolen coat and we walked the awkward way new lovers walk, negotiating gaits. We measured out the space—his pack, my shoulder bag, our strides. We compensated to get closer. He bent his face to mine (too close), to hear me, then was gone. I let him. I dared him. And then, afloat on all those pints of Guinness, the whispered chat until the idle hours, our limbs in innocence leaned into one another, we walked. And it was freezing. Our eyes teared with the cold. Stoplights blurred and it was Christmas—showy 34th Street style. And he let his face linger like that, bent into mine.

We missed
I don't know how many traffic lights, I don't know how many little neon walking men.

When I remember Jack, I will remember that. That pillar in Pennsylvania Station. The way he brushed my hear back from my eyes and said how long he'd wanted to do it. "This," he said. "Just this."

I will remember Union Square, the first snow, when we jumped the fence to kiss beneath the trees. I will remember Pelléas et Mélisande, the Met, the way he flipped my ring, and then his quiet kitchen with the spoon-brewed chamomile tea—before the loft door thundered open and my Brooklyn life became forever changed.


It has been one week since he left. Months, maybe, since I scribbled the above on a gutted box of Junior Mints, speeding through the F train tunnel after a showing of Jane Eyre. If I put it down in ink, I thought, it might stay true.

So far it has.

Six weeks until I join him in Berlin. Until then, I concentrate on making my wax wings. Because life is one long leap off of a real tall tower—and I've decided I prefer the feel of falling to the slow way down the service stairs.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

please do not disturb or change these sheets

I love hotels. Of every size and star. For, in them, the act of transit stops. You leave the world. Your life becomes a key card and four walls. You are neither staying, nor going (although, obviously, both). Time is put on temporary hold and, despite its inexorable heavy-booted march, will treat you fairly—with fresh bleached towels and water glasses with wee paper lids. The curtains close, the door frame double locks, and no one ever leaves.

Friday, May 20, 2011

le fin du monde

Say what you will about this tortuous road we call the twenty-tens, there's an awful lot of life out there to love.


Jack sits across from me in a bright red shirt that reads: Give Blood (You Selfish Bastard). The world may end tomorrow, but he and I—at least—will not be among the looters.

The crazy lady in the Bushwick coffee shop (who has been serenading us with hoarsely rendered jazz standards through her toothless lipstick maw) just broke into a chorus of yodels. Full-voiced, flesh tingling yodels.

The last time I came to this cafe, the sidewalks and trees were winter bare. Today, a shock of green bedecks the streets. A pair of heels (yes, heels—and cherry red at that) are strung over a power line outside an artists' shop.

Crazy lady again. She's asked the very patient counter girl if she's aware the world might end. At six o'clock tomorrow. You're a very nice person, she says, before taking her sideshow out into the twilit world.

That's my new favorite word, by the way: twilit. If the world ends tomorrow, I will have found that much marrow at least to suck from out between the piles and piles of bones.

It occurs to me how much we human creatures learn—on our feet, our backs, by the seats of our pants—and how quickly we adapt. Here I am, nine weeks convalescent, damn near weaned off yoga. I dance in fits and painful spurts. The world has stopped its making sense.

How soon we learn to part our hair a different way, to take honey over sugar in our tea, to fit our lives around the current void. I'm eight months living from a suitcase: four pairs of pants, one pair of sheets. One makes one's way. I've spent whole days in the last two months on doctors' tables, in waiting chairs, rubbing my fraying boots across the same industrial carpet pill. We bring ourselves to suffer any ill, provided we survive.

Denied the fruits of our labor, we plant the seeds of contingency. And when those are dashed away by rain, we spend more time crying than it takes to grow another set.

I'm just saying: if the world ends tomorrow, we'll all just have to figure it out. What do we need with a new world when this one has never ceased to change?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

when one runs out of roses

. . . one improvises.

In other news, I danced last night. And woke this morning to glutes abloom with muscle knots. Not to mention one sore-ass sacrum.

Worth it for the first four tandas with Jack in twice as many weeks, and for the way he said, "I don't need to dance with anybody else tonight."

I may be crippled again by Monday, but—ladies and gentlemen—life's too freaking short.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I miss my body electric

Since gone are my ambitious days of yoga and the library, my nights of torso-twisting tanguera body bliss, I've had to fill my time in other ways. First among these ways is trying not to cry. On good days, I am full of what I like to call recovery hope. On bad days, to go two hours without tears is quite the feat. Some faceless and malevolent force has slashed my pillow from the underside, spilling all the down. I replace the feathers with synthetic substitutes, prosthetic hours. In place of practice, I swim laps. In place of logging sedentary hours before the laptop screen, I go to chiropractors to be poked and plied. I see doctors, hoping one will find the fix to bring me back to life. I take deep breaths. I walk at dopy tourist pace. I carry only what I absolutely need, to spare the extra weight. I take elevators. I take cabs. I let my boyfriend carry me up stairs. I lie on my back. I lie on my side. I cramp, I twist. I futilely rub wherever's sore. I watch hours and hours of internet TV.

I am impatient. But I refuse to cease to learn. I've learned to cry alone, so as not to burden friends who've taken up the cause of keeping me afloat. I've learned that even when you're full to effing burst with Grateful, you still can take for granted something simple like the ability to move. And I've learned that there are always silver linings, or—at the very least—unadulterated good to harvest even in the worst of awful times.

Beyond the obvious: I have swimming, I have writing, I have Jack. So I take it like a crack addict, which is to say, one day at a time. I let things unfold in twice the time, I swim my thirty laps a day, and then I try again. The only thing I want (like breathing) is to dance.

(Let it be soon.)

In the interval, I watch—trying to cultivate my writer's observation deck, that infinite expanse behind my eyes.

Whereas before I found my stillness only in the movement, I'm faced now with finding the movement in my stillness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

here's to opening and upward, to leaf and to sap

To be sure, between the lady part cancer scare and the herniated discs, I have complained a lot of late.

Really, since September, in my self-imposed exile, self-shortened by the crisp call of a Northeast October, I've been riding my one-woman roller coaster through the Depths of Despair. The peaks have been higher than the drops were low, but I screamed bloody murder all the same.

I've struggled with gratitude. Easy to come by at the tops and crests, arms up and face to the blinding sun. Woohoo escapes your lips and all gods and grandeur answer back.

Then the car catches on the hydraulic brakes, your neck jerks, and the fun comes to a complete and semifinal stop. Five weeks pass in slothdom and sedentary fever. You wonder who you are without all that you have worked so goddamned hard to be grateful for, those big yellow life rafts that steer you through your self-created shipwrecks. How easy it is to lose face, to lose footing.

Four months ago, I fell for a man who's brought me nothing but blessings. Abundance in Bohemia, a living fit for kings. And that man appears to have the patience of ten. Note how he cares for me, carries me down subway stairs, ferries me in service lifts and . . . (forgive me if I gloat) breakfasts me in bed.

I write while he writes. I sleep while he dances. So what if I crane my face away at three am to cry myself to sleep—the very next day he dries my tears. This too shall pass. I'm young and vital and my back will heal. Today the Quackopractor even let me swim.

(Moving through the YMCA pool, I am exultant.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I've stopped counting the days.

I've also shot to hell the theory that says I write best when I'm miserable, because—hell, take away tango, yoga, etcetera and I barely know who I am. Add the mandatory five pounds I've gained (so far) from fat lady rest, and there's not much left in me for lemon squeezing.

On the upside, my friends are really good to me. (Not that I feel guilty about this . . . after two ugly break-ups at the hands of emotionally retarded fuckwit fortysomethings, two Plagues of Locusts and one quarter life crisis, followed almost immediately by a brush with the big C .)

And on the down, we still don't have a diagnosis. Could be hip or back or gluteus medius. Could need surgery, could need six more weeks of rest. Could need ice, could need heat. Could respond to stretching, could get worse.

And here I sit, lumpy, losing muscle definition, losing patience, losing my grip. Paying for cabs I can't afford to ferry my gimp ass across Manhattan. Picking fights with the scary version of Jack that lives in my head and will never love me.

I'm not out of optimism yet, though. Just, almost out. May the MRI bring answers!

Monday, March 28, 2011

the healing power of pessimism

Having not been raised religious, my guilt muscle seems disproportionately defined. I shy from sloth and rage and all those sins, even while I tell my friends they ought not bother with such parochial concerns.

If I practiced what I preach, I would have a lot more fun.

Be that as it may, I do not enjoy convalescence. An afternoon is one thing. A hungover Sunday with fettucine alfredo is another. A prescribed ten day hiatus from all activity is about to kill me.

Day one: prosecco followed by pudding cake. Pain.

Day two: overdid it—courtesy of work, class and the NYPL. Discovered chemical burns caused by Thermacare patches. Thanks, Universe.

Day three: more library (but hell, at least I was sedentary), Paganini caprices at Carnegie Hall with Jack, then late night Bedford biergarten. Took a lot of taxis, rode the service lift. More pain.

Day four: bed, followed by pasta, followed by bed. Less pain.

Day five: spent three fifths in bed, but spent the other two limping and seizing from stem to stern, blinking back tears. Lots of pain. Thought it would be a good idea to meet Jack at Roko. I was mistaken. (Don't worry, I didn't try to dance. Just sat at the front desk trying not to cry.)

Here we are at the close of day six and the situation continues to spiral. I've gained five pounds, choked up in front of my boyfriend, and had to postpone work until seven pm because I couldn't put weight on my left leg when I woke up this morning. I'm sick to death of the sound of myself complaining, sick of calling in favors, and sicker still of saying thank you to those who give and give and give. I'm afraid they must be sick of me.

I've never been good at asking for or accepting help. But I'm getting great at gratitude.

I'm saying this now, in case the Universe is listening in: please just fix my back. Restore me to my yoga mat, in tango shoes, where I belong. And to the arms of Jack.

Friday, March 25, 2011

on the fragility of existence

Point of fact: I have a newfound patience for the elderly and the impaired.

Never again will I curse in exasperation as some hunchbacked or otherwise limping soul struggles its way down the subway steps, holding the rail for dear life, thus causing me to miss the R train.

There will always be another R train. Moreover, that simple schlep can be both daunting and excruciating for the in-any-way infirm. Since I sprained my hip, I've come to dread the simplest exertions made necessary by life in NYC: that easy twelve block walk, the madcap dash to catch a train, the idea of being on one's feet from dawn to dawn . . .

On the bright side: I was sent to a charming young orthopede named—shityounot—Dr. DuChey (please withhold your snickers til the end of the post; it's not pronounced that way), who took x-rays and determined the problem to be soft-tissue (and thereby not bone) related. He prescribed ten days of Fat Lady Rest: no tango, no yoga, no stairs, no . . . "et cetera." In essence, I'm to eat bonbons in bed. Alone.

On the brighter side: I had a hilarious run-in with my former boss while wearing my paper examination bloomers (see above). Followed by a trip through the waiting room clutching the aforementioned shorts and exclaiming, "Yeah, you want a piece of this."

And, on the brightest side: with me was the Waldorf to my Statler, to translate me out of speculative doom—and ply me with Prosecco when all was said and done.

Monday, March 21, 2011

the what-ifs are coming all in red

Monday night, forty four degrees.

A doubting night. For every blessing a riddle left unsolved. I think I love him, now what? I'm going to Columbia, now how will I pay for it? I've sprained my hip, now how am I supposed to dance?

To add insult to injury, it's Spring. Or, at least, it was. This morning there was snow, and then the piercing tendegreesfromfreezing rain. I stayed home last night with my spasming joint and Jack went out to dance. He said stay, but I was on the train by midnight, turning tail. I am afraid of losing him, yet I'm almost sure I will. There is a surplus of uncertainty. An ocean, three months distance—and what if this injury doesn't heal?

I get the feeling every time I thaw, and send my crocus spears to look for light, that there is always going to be another snow. This is my overdeveloped sense of dread.

It's hard to think so much in I when the world is such a bloody mess. Haiti, Libya, Japan. Love falling apart around me, people losing jobs. We all keep carving out our shelves behind the waterfall, I would just like to see some damn waterproofing.

And not just on my shelf, but on yours.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

nothing at all to do with elizabeth bishop

They say jewelry is first to jump a sinking ship.

I can count the major moments in my life by the baubles I have lost, trinkets that verily have leapt from my person to form a trail of breadcrumbs back to all my former selves. There are pieces of me in cities and subway cars across this and nine other countries. I've learned to watch them go with grace—no matter the sentimental value.

I used to keep a box of single earrings, a graveyard or an orphanage, I could never quite decide—you know, just in case that lost pearl stud would find its way back home. Now that I've maximized my minimalist existence, I've been even better at goodbyes. An earring is just an earring, and usually it absorbs a world of pain before it bids adieu.

You see, my mama taught me well. Jewelry will often dive off your body in response to major change and/or the close of questionable relationships. Sometimes we mourn the loss of particular people and pieces, but we always overcome.

A couple months ago, I lost my bracelet. The one with the cedar beads I worry like prayers on airplane trips, my good luck charm since August (when I quit adulthood). There one day and gone the next.

I thought the world had taken my bracelet because it had deigned to give me Jack, so I spent the past two months trying to trust the face that launched my thousand ships. Then I spent the past two weeks trying to will a phantom menace from my lady parts. I've done my downward dogs and my trikonasanas and more than once I've wished I could roll on that comforting clump of beads when I emerge from sleep and showers.

Well, kids, as of this morning I am cancer free. And, at approximately four pm, I found the absent bracelet. Tucked into a fold of the suitcase I took out to pack for an imminent weekend away.

Either I'm about to lose something else (please, lord, anything but Jack) or this is the Universe's way of saying: keep your chin up, kid. You're gonna be okay.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

doubting in the digital age

So here we are, two and a half months in, and Jack has finally acquired a phone.

This means I can reach him if and when I find myself locked out of the loft, or the C train gets stuck and he's waiting by the fountain at the Met, in the cold. It means thoughtful text messages at twenty cents a pop, which I know will be few and far between, but still they make me smile.

It also means abject dread. You see, the phone is the final province of privacy, the primary medium of liars and cheaters the whole world over. Suddenly, I'm on high alert for shady cell behavior. The damn thing rings—and it is a garish ring, the overly obtrusive jangle of the electronic toy—and I panic. As if the hordes of eligible women wanted only this mode of contact to be opened to descend upon him, begging for dates. As if I had him tucked away in a place apart from all this texting and being always available for interruption, and now he flew the coop.

I suppose I ought just to trust that he is not of that unfortunate ilk, and stop searching for trouble before it has time to track me down. But it is hard, still, not to see the little LG mobile device as the foreboding beginning of the end, and I hereby mourn the moment on Friday afternoons when I would turn my phone to silent and surrender to these weekends out of time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

here comes the rug

If tomorrow brings bad news, this may be the last two am I will greet with optimism—not to mention a belly full of brilliant cuisine. Here I am at the Tour d'Ivoire, keeping Peter Pan and the Fetus company, in the very room in which I spent my very most upsetting month (October Twenty Ten), in my puppy dog pajamas.

I will spend the majority of these last eight pre-diagnostic hours asleep. But even as I drift away, I will do so dreaming of Thomas Keller, mignardises, and Jack.

Goodnight, world. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, February 25, 2011

on dresses and doomsday

Even at the end of all our girlhood hopes, we are allowed to indulge in one final round of fairy tale dress-up; only at this age we are allowed champagne and the afternoon ends with a three thousand dollar price tag. Bridal boutiques exist not just to sell pounds upon pounds of overpriced lace and tulle, but also to give unmarried ladies that one last sprinkle of fairy dust. To sell them on the vows they are about to take. To remind us to believe.

We are all supposed to grow up eventually. To leave behind the schoolyard brooders in favor of a more stable mate, a man who will agree to grow up with us. In this way, babies are made and houses are painted; family portraits fan out across wide summer lawns. We trade in our Tinkerbell wings for something more sensible and then, well . . . may the next adventure be kind to us.

Call me a cynic, but I believe I've stopped believing. In true love, in marriage—or, more particularly: in one man's ability to say "I do" and follow through—for longer than feels convenient. I imagine all the happy endings and the honeymoons, then fast forward to the part where the erstwhile bride has to start all over again in middle age, pulling herself out of the darkness with banal activities and banana coladas while he reinvents the wheel. I dream—oh but I dream—of the man who'll show me otherwise.

That said, my dear friends K and J are both due for a trip down the aisle, on the sooner side of someday, and both have asked me to stand up there beside them. This honors me; I am honored. There could be no higher hopes than for these two unions. Ironically enough, I believe in them.

Two things have forced me to confront my mortality this week: first, the sangria hangover of doom, and second, the biopsy scrape of the lady-parts that leaves me to a week's worth of potentially pre-cancerous limbo. Throw in global warming, world unrest, and any number of asteroids likely to slam into Earth by the year 2039, and you get the feeling life is very short.

As I type this, I'm working across from Jack. He is frowning over his ancient iBook, jiggling a corduroy pantleg, staring hard at the screen through wire rim glasses as he tries to parse a thesis together out of paragraphs. His hair is mussed, his scruff is overgrown, and he is the handsomest thing I've ever seen. His eyes are sea glass green and invariably kind. When he touches me, I swoon like they used to do in movies, the doe-eyed heroines, sharp-tongued vixens in stockings with seams down the back and round-toed heels—Katherine Hepburn into someone worthy's arms. When he touches me, he means it.

If all this were to go away, the boyfriend, the bohemian renaissance . . . reality . . . I've found the peace that says: but at least there was this. There were good times, with mothers and fathers, with friends. Margaritas on the sidewalk on Second Avenue, cupcakes and champagne. There were travels to four out of seven continents, and the pictures to prove it. There were old friends and new friends and people who, when the hour cried for help, had my back. There are kindred spirits to be found, even past your prime, girls you can speak to like sisters and drink sangria on a Tuesday night like a couple of coeds in Cancun. There are women you can go to dinner with who won't mind if you cry into your moules frites the whole way through. And there is Peter Pan, who maybe doesn't always say the right thing, but he is always there—as I am there for him.

And now there's Jack. Who maybe doesn't love me (yet or ever will), but who has taught me how to love. How to wait for it, how give the word its due weight, how to relish the process and enjoy the road. How to see myself through someone who appreciates me, both body and brain, who believes in my ability to rise. I meet this challenge, I grow toward the sun outside the darkest closet. I . . . photosynthesize.

There's an awful lot of talk these days about gratitude. We thank ourselves for coming to the yoga mat, we thank the Universe for the gifts we are about to receive. What I find myself flooded with today is a deep sense of precisely that. This past half year has been a spin cycle of trial and triumph, but I'd be blind if I didn't recognize the sheer force of love that's hit me in the face from the profoundest of places. My mother, my father, my friends. Peter Pan and family. The tango community at large. And Jack. I've been strong enough to pull my ass out of bed every day and make lemonade, to varying degrees of success, but all the same. I made it. And I did so floated by the hands of the aforementioned.

So say the old Lakota warriors: It is a good day to die. If the rug is pulled from under my feet tomorrow, next Thursday, next year, I will have spent my time here wisely. Trying, failing, learning, living, and indulging in a little too much sangria for the sake of love.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

and here you come with a cup of tea

I took a cold shower yesterday morning. First, the hot water took off, tail between legs, before I could so much as shampoo myself. Then I stayed, to shake the dreams of Jack I'd had.

You see, happy or unhappy, our self-sabotaging subconscious knows us better—knows when to suggest the man who sent you Seamus Heaney lines on Tuesday could forget you by Thursday. Three days is all it takes to undo all the good of your best harvest. And my hard-wired rejection-happy heart knows it.

My Jack is an academic. Now that the semester has started, he'll be off teaching and reverse commuting half the week, and I will be here. Without him. This is a good thing. Forced autonomy, a chance for me to install safeguards and shoulders on my emotional superhighway, a chance to reroute my GPS back to me. I've seen what happens otherwise.

The trouble with finding someone compatible is just that. The things which make you . . . you . . . also make you two. I cannot separate this man from tango, from yoga, from opera . . . and worse, from writing. So I make a point of dancing on my own, accepting nods from strange new leaders, trying to improve. I found the yoga class to end all yoga classes, where I go every Tuesday and Thursday (day full of poetry, day of forgetting) to sweat and stretch and (fuck blog-writing me for saying this) find myself.

And writing . . . oh, writing. My hail mary pass MFA applications in, I realize just how far I've come: from someone who did not write what was not posted here, to someone with a thirty page memoir excerpt and an embryonic sense of discipline. It's clear I've had a breakthrough. My sample morphed—in leaps and strides—with Jack et al's edits. Because of him, I turn out 1500 words a week to the philosophers pool for quality control (else I cough up twenty bucks).

If he were to break my heart tomorrow, would I come to associate the practice of writing with the presence of him? Probably.

So I add a few guard rails to my turnpikes and beltways around the metropolis of him. I signed up for a fiction class at Hunter (first, for the abovementioned fears, and second, because it scares me). I now owe 1500 words to the philosophers and five pages to Grace Edwards and her group of lawyers and novelist retirees.

Thursday was our first session. We met at an Upper East Side Catholic high school, in a fifth floor classroom. I trudged up all five flights, watching the city get shorter through the landing windows, and made my way past the Lilliputian lockers to room A, where ten shimmy-in chair desks were arranged in a circle.

This is a good thing for you, says Em, and she's not wrong. She's also not wrong that, had it not been for the G.I.Q. and His Royal Highness The Mogul, I may never have been so scared into staying healthy, keeping my escape car stalling on the emergency rails.

Still, I went two days without a word from him and I was rattled. I tried to remind myself of where he was and why I'm nuts and that, if I would only think back to Tuesday night, I would find imprinted in my memory a dear man removing his spectacles to hold me while I slept. Trouble is, I went to sleep . . . and all the doubts turned to demons, to vivid dreams of cruel rejection. I woke up with a motor-churning gut ache, mad at dream him and madder still at real-life me.

Even if my new writing workshop didn't feel like an AA meeting (minus the coffeecake and cigarettes), I would still have the feeling that my life since The Eighth Plague has become a constant exercise of self-improvement. An evolution project in progress. Some days I fall asleep triumphant, others, mornings like yesterday, I wake up in panic; I question whether I've accomplished anything at all—or ever will. My first quarter century, once a rich garden of masterpieces and beautiful mistakes, reduced to phrases like this: "Failed actress/always-waitress can't hack it as career girl . . . watch her as she drifts through life on odd jobs and ephemera until her teeth fall out and she dies, penniless and alone." This is where all my best laid ambitions crumble and I laugh from somewhere dark inside myself. These Jack dreams are the same: the cold, throaty chortle of my sinister cynical self.

In yoga, you hear a lot about the two selves: Self and self. What if my true Capital S self is too weak to bear the weight of my (fuck me again) dreams? What if I'm just a lazy, uninspired, uninspiring dilletante, a woman weak in constitution who really just wants to belong to someone, to be somebody's wife? Only I'm the sort of smart-enough person to know that, if I ever got there, it would only end in the inevitable sucker punch to the heart (because everybody knows marriage amounts to nothing but betrayal and eventual falling-out-of-love).

He wrote. Of course he wrote. And we spent the evening together listening to Nina Simone by candlelight, talking about the non-separateness of human beings. My pulse slowed to its favorite weekend pace. I crawled into bed after the ritual silencing of my cell phone and slept the sleep of kings.

If domestic contentment means more to me than most everything else, and that state is ultimately unachievable, what am I do to? Keep writing plotless messes riddled with extra adjectives, lazy prose abandoned for insomniac episodes of Ally McBeal in my dark twin bed, numbing myself to all experience to protect me from the one pattern I just can't break?

He's no Ted Hughes (and I no Sylvia Plath).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

irony: not just for hipsters

Strolling through Bushwick hand in hand, after Saturday afternoon vinyasa death class, I realized why the intersection between Jack's loft and the yoga studio always feels so familiar.

Remember that douchebag Vegan realtor that took me apartment hunting in Bushwick?

Yeah well, I just realized that (had I been able to fit a twin bed in the room and still closed the door) I almost lived two blocks from Jack's apartment. In a never-been-renovated railroad apartment above a framing store. Across from a Getty gas and a few industrial warehouse loading zones.

Also: Tuesday nights after tango class we've been eating our brought-from-home sandwich dinners over paper cups of tea at a deli on 7th Avenue. One never notices the names of these places, but—just in case you were curious—this particular one is called The New Start Deli.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

città d'amore

January is a slow month for tango.

Maybe it's the seven varieties of frozen precipitation, or perhaps merely the post-holiday backlash blues and a general lack of funds . . .

Either way, I've danced a great deal less since new year. Unless you count the kind of dancing one does to Caravelli (in woolen socks on kitchen floors in Bushwick lofts, a pot of tea or else a skillet full of frugal food abubble on the stove). I say why not.

My mornings have come to smell of gasoline and truck exhaust, or else of deep fried duck, as now I pass the Peking Food Corporation and an auto salvage yard on my commute. My walk to the L is bright, white snow piled against stark, square buildings. It smells cold and the light almost blinds me under this black wool hat I've come to wear as much for Jack as for the warmth (because I like the way he moves it from my eyes).

I reiterate, at the risk of angering the Fates: I have never once been happier than this.

I work mornings, dish and dusting duties eased by NPR. I do yoga. I eat damn near the same Whole Foods salad every day for lunch (with bowl rebate, just under three dollars). I spend the rest of my day writing, with or without Jack, drifting from tea to steaming mug of tea. Evenings I dance. Or else the Ginsberg Group convinces us to join them for a film, projected on the big, white walls in their cold, white common space, sipping real good whiskey from a coffee cup.

We sleep braided together as if the bomb might drop, or the bed might plummet down the chute to the river Styx. His is a nightstand built of books. He talks me through his theories, he reads my drafts. I've worn the same pair of socks for six straight days.

Funny how easily we change. Nothing fundamental lost, just this new geography, the new routine. How soon Miss Lonely Hearts gets used to hearing 'we' without a flinch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a barrel full of doubts. This mutually supportive, monogamous thing I've found myself in, with its two-way superhighway of communication—it scares me. But these slow dance moments, this tender—genuine tenderness—has me lit up like a hothouse lily.

New love is a gamble anywhere. It is impossible in New York City. The scenes of your reverie will turn to landmines after the fact, the city a treacherous field of pain for you to navigate alone. But what kind of romantics would we be without the leap? We do not care that certain delis, certain subway platforms, certain bits of park will be off limits when this thing ends in tears.

You might imagine I feel invincible. I'm sorry, I do not. And I do not mean to brag.

If anything, new love is like a terminal disease. But you accept your diagnosis and run naked from the office, ready to lick life from the gutters if you must. It only lasts as long as you let it flap around you like a flock of birds.

Friday, January 14, 2011

just in case the latest platitudes are true

New Yorkers are busy people, acclimated to the fiendish pace set by a zealously over-competent service industry. In no other city in these United States can you order a sandwich and already be holding up the line by the time you find your wallet. In bodegas, in coffee bars, there is an infrastructure to maximize efficiency; things happen fast. We are therefore soft on waiting.

Cue the inevitable anomaly: a tortoise-paced barista pacing from pastry case to cash box with all the expediency of a low level bureaucrat on lunch hour. The sighs behind me are audible.

Jesus fucking Christ. (Always the first comment overheard.) You try to ignore, hold your weight evenly between your two feet, balance your heavy donkey’s load of laptop, purse, and Whole Foods lunch, have patience with the questions in your heart and remember this is the only Friday, January 14th, Two-Oh-One-One we're ever gonna get. You watch this creature lumber back and forth and begin to fantasize about your own till proficiency, your bygone bartending wonder days. This is amusing for approximately seven minutes and then, just as your own impatience is about to pop, the dampening hulk of a man behind you mutters more—

Wow, lady, you are fucking slow.




Slow slow slow slow... fuck me. Wow.

I mean, he's right and all, but somehow the ugliness of his short fuse builds an almost beatific buffer between you and all the douchebags of the world. You start to think perhaps there's not a fire to run to after all. And, by the time your turn comes at the counter, you are able just to smile, order your latte, and say thank you very much.

That got me thinking. Breathe in, breathe out. Have a little patience, have a little faith.

My dad has been . . . unenthusiastic? About Jack? Mostly I think just to keep me from spinning off the road in eagerness to celebrate my relative domestic contentment. Meg, he said, you were just so desperate to have a boyfriend. And that might be true. But not as it applies to Jack.

You see, had I just inhaled and exhaled my way through the wilderness back last December then this July, perhaps I could have avoided the belly flop I took trying to get Gatz and the G.I.Q. to give two shits to rub together.

If I'm learning anything new these days, as a new woman and a New Yorker, trying to walk mindfully in this city of quick and dirty sin, it is perhaps that good things come to those who wait.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd better nip off and embroider that on a couch cushion somewhere.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the internet gaping before the great awake

I have become afraid of sleep.

It is the darndest thing: to stomp through my routine each night by rote—teeth, hair, toilette, leave daily socks on under pajamas, cocoon myself beneath flannel sheets and folded quilts. And here I am stalling, half midnight.

I am tired, running another fever, leaking from the nose. It was only Sunday I was quoting Sylvia Plath to Jack in bed. I am too pure for you or anyone.

Fact is, I'm not.

I'm not afraid of all that much anymore, be it death or pain or yet another broken heart. I like myself on the yoga mat, the dance floor, the far side of Saturday night. But something happens in the bower that makes the doubt start beating in my heart, flapping its ugly wings, turning itches into ailments. These moments I feel I am a cheat, that the big-winged birds are coming to collect.

If when I shut my eyes alone, I lose my grip, why should I sleep?

Monday, January 3, 2011

so this is the new year

The grateful train is leaving the station. Thank you, powers that be, for the following:

Bushwick rooftop midnight.

Champagne, fireworks, cold weather kiss.

Sweaters, topcoats, made of wool.

Funk music dance off.

Tête á tête with airplane scone.

Couch cushion movie theatre, single malt Scotch.

Early evening nap, macaroni and cheese.

Peeled grapefruit sections, avocado on toast.

Earl Grey with milk.

A day spent asleep.

Oh . . . and thanks for Jack. Being held by him is like lying in an airfield at the close of dusk, the world a quiet, windy blue. An eerie silent sound prevails, ocean to eardrum. Dim streetlamps in the distance twinkle in the darkness. Safely falling into unknown space.