I was crying in front of the bathroom mirror in the ladies locker room at work, transfixed in a sort of horrified marvel over the way the crying had transformed my face. Pinkish red splotches spread out over my cheeks. The skin around my eyes had puffed up and my lipstick had bled outside the borders of my lips in a clownish peachy rim. There was no hiding the hint of a double chin at every shuddery sob. It is ridiculous how vanity often takes precedence, even over despair. Ridiculous that I should be standing there, forgetting the original reason for my tears in the wake of this new, tragic ugliness. Self pity on top of self pity, painted over with a thick layer of embarrassment.
I wet a rough paper towel and dabbed at my face lamely. It’s a futile effort to disappear your own emotions. I learned a long time ago that I am forever at their mercy, and most of the time the only thing you can do is hide inside a bathroom stall until they sort themselves out.
Lily had other ideas.
She dabbed pale concealer on my beaming red nose and flushed cheekbones. I rearranged my hair to cover most of my face, and we both pretended I looked alright enough to go back to the meeting. This is how friendships work - a mutual, kind lie. We knew better than to hug, the damage that might cause. A hug undoes composure.
After work, I walked to a restaurant in Soho alone and ordered a basket of french fries and two glasses of white wine. I listened to the women at the table beside me discuss astrology and men over appetizers. They were deeply serious. I poked at my fries with the little wooden skewers. Oddly, this was the same restaurant I had discovered 5 years earlier, on one of my first solo explorations of the city. How brave and excited I felt at twenty, sipping a pineapple soda through a straw on this same patio. It was the first place I went in New York that wasn’t introduced to me by someone else, and so it felt like it belonged to me.
Everything is silly and strange, and not worth crying over, although of course you will. Everything ends and begins and the things that belong to you repeat themselves, and New York City will go on, like a heartbeat, or something less stoppable, but just as human.