Bars. Bars bars bars. Brooklyn bars with graffitied bathrooms, accurate and inaccurate depictions of dicks, bars with dart boards and Connect Four and photobooths. Bars with guys in skinny jeans and plaid, in baggy jeans and fedoras, in suits and ties. Girls who say excuse me, bouncers who say “California, huh?” with a smirk. PBR and whiskey shot deals. West Village bars with infinity mirrors, with specialty drinks. Cocktails paid for by our boss, meals comped by restaurant owners who want us to ghost write their autobiographies, meals comped by chefs who we serve coffee to every morning, drinks from bartenders who wink or cheek-kiss us or raise their eyebrows excitedly when we talk of break-ups. Coffee. 6am coffee when we arrive at work, 7am coffee when the customers start to come in, 10am fifteen minute coffee break, 2pm coffee to go. Repeatedly adding money to a Skype account. Rushing home to Skype text, to Skype videochat, to Skype phonecall. Most used vocabulary word of 2010: Skype. A relationship that lasted through India, that broke up in New York many times over, once in a mediocre Mexican restaurant in SoHo over a margarita and chips. Again through text messages. Again in Washington Square Park, on two separate benches, bench arms between us. A date with a guy who said we “got each other” even though we didn’t, a date with a guy at Brooklyn Bridge Park lying down on the grass and watching yoga, a date with a guy at two bars in the same night, separated by the Gowanus Canal. A summer full of sweating through dates and appointments. Of kissing on tiptoes. Of wearing dresses and cut-off jeans and avoiding hugs and clammy handshakes. Hamburgers with new friends, dance parties with new friends, introducing new friends to old friends, finally becoming friends with people I’ve known forever. Decorating a new apartment, selling a car, committing to stay in one place, to stay with one person. Watching that person fall asleep before me, his arms crossed and mouth closed. Tiptoeing into the living room to watch TV or read with the lights on, then coming back to a warm bed. Quitting a job, starting a new job, leaving that job. Feeling useless, feeling useful, feeling important, feeling hopeless. Finding a few constants, a few fixed points: Brooklyn, a boyfriend, an Ikea couch, 2 rugs, an actual winter coat. Letting my hair grow out. Still not going to a gym. Still not learning to cook. But being smart enough to date someone who knows how to cook.
Why my mother automatically says “good luck!” whenever I leave the house while visiting her. She used to say it when I lived at home and left the house for dates with strange older men so it was applicable then, like, good luck and don’t end up in anyone’s freezer. But now she says it when I, like, go to Dunkin’ for coffee, so I guess she must feel that I need the support, and I guess that’s okay.
My mom and grandma always say, “Be careful!” which is a little more terrifying. My brother and I joke that when you grow up in a house where everyone is always telling you to be careful when you leave to go to Dunkin’ for coffee, you’re constantly looking up, waiting for the anvil to fall on your head.
Her room was full of stacks of notebooks. Or not stacks, per se. But a few notebooks were uncovered here and there, and when piled on top of each other, formed stacks. They contained many deep thoughts and musings. These various vignettes masqueraded as diary entries (assumed because of the headlines, “Dear Diary”), but we know she must have intended them ironically, as they were far too stupid to be real. Really, she must have been a genius, because they seemed very, very real.
Not one of the notebooks was full. Puzzlingly, each notebook only contained a few pages of writing. Furthermore, the handwriting begins pristine and flawless, and slowly transforms into slop after a few paragraphs. Why did she choose not to maintain one style of handwriting? Why did she feel the need to switch notebooks before filling them? Some notebooks were even completely empty! It’s all very intriguing. She remains an enigma.
In addition, her closet was full solely of plaid and striped patterned shirts and several pairs of the same jeans. It’s clear this was a uniform, possibly for an occupation of some sort, or perhaps a social experiment she was involved in, but we do not have enough evidence to determine the cause of the clothing’s presence. It seems she had the desire to constantly purchase the same sweater, repeatedly, even though she owned many versions of it already. Simply fascinating!
She also owned many shoes, which, upon first look, appear to be unworn. Buyer’s remorse or brilliant secret shoe-hoarder? The world may never know.
After reading her “diaries” and e-mails, it appears that she was in many a long-distance relationship. After each one, she proclaimed, “I will never do this again!” and yet, she did! We have been trying to figure out why. She must have had some ulterior motive. Odds are, this was all part of a larger plan or scheme. We can’t be sure, but we are pretty sure. Could her determination to stay in miserable relationships be a product of low self-esteem? Fear of isolation? Abandonment? No, probably not. She is probably just smarter than us all.
What is baffling, still, is the consistency of her lack of consistency. Not only in her handwriting, but also in her selection of college courses and in her history of employment. Courses in fiction writing, Jewish history, Jewish literature, stop-motion animation, sociology of knowledge, psychology, and music video editing. Was she planning to study human behavior and social conformities in Jewish history and turn it into a hilarious and intelligently written stop-motion film? Perhaps translate one of I.B. Singer’s short stories into a sophisticated, highbrow music video? Maybe! Jobs with film companies, in coffee shops, at children’s day camps. Did she have no direction? No idea of what she wanted to do with her life? We are guessing that is not the case at all. Rather we suspect she had a grand plan.
Tell me what to write a book about, and I will do it. 300 pages seems really daunting right now. But as long as I know I have 2 sales (you + my mom) it seems worth it. Accepting book ideas starting NOW.
Keep trying to close the windows. No matter what, feel the cold air come in through little cracks or invisible spaces between pane and frame. Hear the glass rattle. Remember California earthquakes as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult. Getting under your desk, hand covering your neck, hand holding the leg of the table. Standing in doorways, arches, stairwells. Walking outside, single file, to the football field. Hiding under covers during aftershocks. Tiptoeing around broken glass, fingers in ears. Remember what teachers said: it’s mostly the noise that’s scaring you. Silverware dancing in drawers. Fast, heavy footprints of parents coming to see if you’re ok. “Did you feel that?” “I think so, did you feel that?” Gather into one room, regardless of whether you’ve been fighting or whether your brother had slammed his door in your face just minutes before. Gather into one room and wait for the next one. Be thankful there are no earthquakes in New York. Thankful that you only have to use one nail to hang paintings. That you don’t have to secure your bookcase to the wall.
Watch the snow pile up on the sidewalks and the streets, cover cars, make transportation of any kind impossible. Watch New York become a ghost town, if only for one evening. The unthinkable. Watch people come, tiptoeing, slow-walking, out of their apartments in the morning with shovels. Watch them know what to do, how to handle it. Realize you’re clueless here. Realize you don’t own a shovel. You don’t own a car, but if you did, how would you rescue it? Imagine giant blow dryers, big fans. Remember the big fans that blew around fake snow at the mall as a kid. Remember wishing it was real and cold and edible. Someday.
Remember the flood. The multi-purpose room filling with water. That room where you had indoor P.E.? The one with the foosball tables and gymnastic foamy yellow tubes and red and blue tunnels. Imagine your middle school sinking, like the Titanic. Imagine water rushing down the halls, running from it, running for your life. Get escorted outside. See the flood: a few inches of rainwater filling up the streets. Get sent home from 4th grade. Watch the neighborhood go into mass panic. Your mom came to get you in her boots and gear and embarrassing mom outfit. And you walked home, jeans rolled, shoes soaked and squeaking.
Turn down invitations to leave the apartment for dinner or board games. Turn down invitations you sent yourself: CVS? Grocery store? Laundry? No, too cold. Too windy. You’d get swept up and blown away. Of course, for sure, no doubt. Huddle under more blankets. Wonder why your radiators aren’t on. Wonder why they only turn on when it’s not necessary. Wait to find out if your boyfriend will get a flight home. Wait to find out if you showered for no reason. Feel the need to be held, almost as strong as the need to eat or sleep. Eat everything left in your kitchen.
No no no, I love New York City! The part I think you’re referring to, “I will get out of this fucking city,” is about LA, where I grew up. And I did get out of that fucking city. Though now I do love it a little bit. I just didn’t love it in high school. Also, thanks!
Did anybody else have Gahan Wilson’s Ultimate Haunted House?! That game was so sick.
There have been a lot of rats on the subway tracks lately. Fat ones. One I saw yesterday looked like half of its fur had been shaved off. I assume it just had some kind of disease, but I still imagined a tiny rat nurse with a tiny rat razor saying, “Ok, now hold still, we’re going to have to shave the whole area.” When I was in school, my friend and I would go into the city on the weekends to eat a meal or look for a new coat in SoHo, which are really the only things to go to Manhattan for, even still. And we’d stand at the subway tracks and wait for the train and try to spot a rat. I’d mentally give us points when we could find one. Sometimes I’d just squint my eyes until everything was a blur so that I could just notice if something moved. “The biggest ones are the size of fully grown cats!” she told me once. I never saw any that big, but it’s nice to think about. Then we’d play Eye Spy, and I’d tell her I spied something orange and she’d look forever until she saw a golf pencil. Or she’d tell me she saw something blue and I’d scan the tracks until I saw a Bic lighter. But I wouldn’t give us points for finding regular things, just live things. So just rats.
It would get dark early, because it’d be winter. (It would always be winter.) And we’d take the train from Grand Central back up to school, and go back to our rooms to recuperate before meeting up again to walk down the hill to the dining hall. Our body temperatures would fluctuate from too cold to too hot to sweaty-freezing. We’d scan our cards and eat all that we possibly could, patting ourselves on the back when we figured out we could make nachos with side ingredients from different stations, or that broccoli from the salad bar tasted freshly steamed if you put it in the microwave. We’d fill our tote bags with apples and our thermoses with coffee or our Tupperwares with Lucky Charms, and walk back up the hill to the library, where we’d set up a long table for all our friends and snack on stolen goods and write our papers.
And everything always smelled the same: the library stale like only that library, our new coats like the onions from the salad bar, and Manhattan fresh and filthy like Manhattan.
I don’t walk around the apartment while I brush my teeth like he does. I stare at myself. Make faces. I examine my bite, the little rough circles that make up my tongue. I brush whatever is brushable, let the foam foam up my lips. Open my mouth, let the saliva drip out into the sink. Look at the expressions that only I know I can make, that no one has ever had the privilege of seeing. Count the expressions I will never show a single soul, no matter how much I love them. Mine, mine, mine.