I want it on record that although I lived for years in a three room apartment in Brooklyn, with sloping floors and a metal gate over one of the kitchen windows, I existed in lavish places also, and that I ate and drank heartily, lived exuberantly, gave easily.
There are layers under the snow like strata, lining the sidewalks of Brooklyn. Nearest to the top is Thursday’s recycling, then Monday’s garbage, then more snow, more garbage, and at the very bottom a stratum of decaying Christmas trees. Trash blows into the vacant lot next door and collects around the clothing donation bin at the end of the block. The snowbanks are painted with dog piss and grime. The ground is coated in indefatigable ice, despite the salt that crunches everywhere underfoot.
Somewhere in lower Manhattan, I recline on a Fendi sofa in a 36th floor hotel suite while behind the glass of the floor to ceiling windows, the sun sets over the Hudson river in an orange rind sky. The ice in the champagne bucket cracks quietly, shifting as it melts. I sink into the furniture, buzzing with the pleasure of knowing I brought us here: New York, my first home, and the hotel, my second.
We take the leather-paneled elevator all the way up to the top floor to the empty meeting room, and I watch my sister and her husband wander between the empty tables covered in white linen. The city sparkles from every direction, the Manhattan bridge winking in the distance. From 46 stories, the city seems very bright and very quiet. I am puffed with pride, as if I had a hand in building it, block by block. I show off the Chrysler building like a new necklace.
Back in Brooklyn, I drink whiskey and lime and tequila and more lime in a dark bar that glows warm and amber like a glass of scotch. It’s little more than a hole in the wall - a luminous, shadowy little cave, and the four of us merry and pink with our good fortune.
At dinner, there is red wine. I have the first taste from the bottle, spin the liquid in my glass. Then there is bruschette pulcinella, mozzarella di bufala alla caprese, and warm bread in a basket. Red checkered napkins and a wood-fired oven. There are pizzas with pesto, with potatoes, with onions and spicy sausage. We eat until we can’t take another bite. Full and flushed, we make our way back out into the city.
I feel caught between so many lives, tangled like ribbons wrapped around this place. I have answered phones and folded laundry. I have slept in a penthouse and stolen chocolate covered strawberries. I have sipped cocktails in speakeasies and slept on subways and scrubbed toilets. I have danced in ballrooms with towering crystal chandeliers and washed my hair in a glass walled shower overlooking the city skyline and I have sat on curbs, crying, vomiting, lost or drunk or angry. And all of these are New York for me, not one any more or less than the others. I am fortunate and diligent and brave, scuffed up broke and rich as royalty. I am still putting night after night in my pocket for a story.
I’ve been lying in bed for days. Shivering at first and then sweating through my clothes, through my sheets, waking up wet and shaky and flushed, reaching for Ben who gathers me into his arms again and again.
Yesterday I decided I needed the fresh air and thought I’d walk the half mile or so home from Urgent Care. I was hazy from not eating for almost 48 hours, but my fever was down and I was finally feeling hungry. All I wanted was chocolate peanut butter ice cream and Newman’s lemonade, even though I don’t particularly like chocolate peanut butter ice cream and haven’t eaten it in probably 15 years. Still, I felt a strange urgent desire to satisfy my cravings, so I stopped at the grocery store and floated around the aisles, pale and greasy, and gripping tightly my little bag of antibiotics.
After the grocery store, I continued on my way home and missed my street for the first time in four years. Just walked right on by it and didn’t notice for a block. I could have been any crazy woman with snarled, unwashed hair and vacant eyes, turning around in the middle of the sidewalk and retracing her steps. Under my new winter coat I was wearing Ben’s tshirt and the same pants I’d been pulling on for days. They were the same cheap black jeans I wore in Albany Medical’s stroke unit, waiting with my mom while I felt this fever coming on, flaming up the sides of my face and freezing my hands and feet. She says she’s afraid to go to sleep at night and I know we are both thinking of that hole in her heart, tiny as the point of a needle or the place where crosshairs meet. I think, my blood, my heart, my mama.
The hours are all muddled. I stay alert until 5 AM, sleep past noon, let the apartment go dim and then dark around me, thinking about hospitals and illnesses and the girls I’ve known since high school who will be doctors soon. There’s a picture on Facebook of Natalie - my baby, my niece, my girl-child in the heart-print cotton shirt and leggings I bought her for Christmas, sitting cross-legged in a little blue wagon in a hospital hallway with an IVIG in her arm. She stares at the camera, unsmiling, pensive, every inch of her peach-pink and tender. I think - my blood, my heart, my little one. I want to gather her in my arms again and again.
Too cold to leave the apartment, we hole up inside with the dry heat of the overbearing radiator. I wear Ben’s plaid button down shirt and little else for days at a time. After weeks of inactivity, we decide to exercise at home, sliding the ottoman out of the way to make room for lunges, squats, and planks in the living room. The next morning, my thighs are stiff and climbing down the subway steps is a challenge. The cold air turns my tired legs numb. Every pair of tights I own has holes in the toes and some are split in the crotch, but I keep them anyway. Each morning I feel like a bicycle in high gear, unable to get moving without strenuous effort.
The streets are lined with discarded Christmas trees and the hallways of my apartment building are coated in browning needles, smelling of stale pine. The days are steel colored and blurry, like the inside of a dirty kitchen sink. Trash clings to the sides of the chain link fence surrounding the vacant lot next door. When the wind blows, I wind my scarf tighter against the breathtaking cold on the way to the office.
All anyone at work talks about is juicing. "None for me, I’m juicing." "I can’t today, I’m spinning." Juicing and spinning, as if they collectively resolved to squeeze the life force out of everything this year, including themselves. How much lemon juice does one need to make a lawn-tasting beverage palatable? They compare notes and I hear myself joining in. I note warnings about the dangers of sugary pineapple juice. Everyone looks dizzy, hopped up on black coffee and ambition. I am struck by how little I have to say.
The snow melts and the weekend is warm and wet. The rain is misty, hovering in the air like a fog, as if each drop was poised to fall and then collapsed into apathy before reaching the ground. Like those cartoons where the plane runs out of gas and halts in midair. Even the sky is exhausted. Ben and I make soup in the slow-cooker, filling the apartment with the scent of warm onions. We write thank you notes and bake pizza with thick, floury crust. I buy bagels by the bagful, brown rice and black beans, peanut butter and fat loaves of peasant bread, to stretch every dollar.
I start the year by surprising myself with my own face in the mirror, with new short hair that curls slightly just below my chin. Before the cut, I tell Lily that I want it despite knowing I’ll regret it. “There’s something powerful about ugly-on-purpose,” she says, and I agree. There is power in making swift, scissor-sharp regrets. In beginning the year with a head that is literally lighter than it was before. I don’t even glance at the dead ends on the floor.
Poor disgruntled January, puffed up like a balloon with the all the hopes of the new year, wheezing its way to empty before we’re halfway through the month. I neglected to make a resolution, so I resolve now to be kinder to January. Overeager new calendar January, with its red-rimmed eyes and curbside puddles, poised to disappoint. We thrust our optimism and anticipation into the new year and are met with a wide-mouthed yawn.
I miss you.
I know we’ve said it and will continue to say it to each other, but I want you to know that I mean I miss the way you look eight when you’re delighted. I miss your curly mop of hair - in pigtails and ponytails, rained on and frizzy and all done up with braids and pins. I miss how you smell like vanilla body splash and always show up wearing an old cardigan of mine, earbuds in your ears, with a bounce in your step.
I miss texting you from my cubicle while you work two blocks away. I miss your shiny turquoise flats walking down the cobblestone soho streets next to mine. I miss sneakers laced together and slung over your arm because you were always on your way somewhere that required running. A purse overflowing with books and snacks and god knows what else. I miss singing and subways and side glances together.
I miss our margarita habit and the way we always laughed at the same parts of movies. Your innate ability to hate the same people I do. The fact that I’ve never once seen you carry an umbrella.
I miss sangria, cheese plates, guacamole, mimosas, french fries, whiskey-soaked cherries, and sea salt chocolate with you. BLTs and turkey clubs at 2 AM with you. Diners and grocery stores and bars and brunches with you.
I miss “have you heard this song?” and “did you SEE that email?” and “did you hear who quit?” and “meet you in 15,” “see you in 10,” “leaving my apartment now,” “be there in 5.”
I miss the way nothing felt real until I told you about it. The way I trusted your opinion about everything and got angry at you if we disagreed, and took you upstate to meet my folks at Thanksgiving like you were my new boyfriend.
You should know that New York’s all wrong without you and I think the Chrysler building’s gotten dimmer since you’ve gone. I should tell you I’m still thinking about moving to some east coastal town in a year or two. A cottage near the ocean where I can write and raise babies. And I wouldn’t complain if you moved in next door. We could plant flowers together and eat dinner outdoors, and I’ll send the kids over to Aunt Lily’s for salt and I’ll make up a pitcher of margaritas with fresh lime. I’ll say “Come over!” and you’ll say “Be there in 5!”
2013 was the year Ben moved in with me. It was the year this relationship filled a space I didn’t know I was capable of making.
It was the year that my one year old niece was diagnosed with cancer and OMS. The year my family shook loose our disagreements and discomforts in support of this child. In the pursuit of her health. The year my sister fought for her daughter’s life in daily hospital visits.
In 2013 I emptied my tiny savings account and got on a plane. I spent a week in the Caribbean Sea. I climbed a mountain in the Adirondacks. I took a boat out in Central Park. Rode the Cyclone on Coney island. I wrote my first short story. Read 30 books, saw 2 plays, 2 musicals, and 2 ballets. I hung art on my walls. I started writing copy.
It was the year I spent an entire September with everything I own in plastic bags. The year I learned everything I’ll ever need to know about bed bugs. A year of letting go of things I thought I couldn’t do without. The year I did without.
It was the year my mother got remarried in a little church upstate. The year I came to terms with that.
2013 was the year I laughed instead of crying. The year I shrugged instead of yelling. The year my best friend moved across the country. The year I said I was fine, and in the end, I was.
In case you aren’t already End of the Year Listed out, here are the books I read this year (in order) and the briefest of impressions of each.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - I’m the only person who doesn’t like this book on the entire internet. I wasn’t interested, and every time I started to get interested, the plot veered abruptly and something else I didn’t care about was happening. Sorry, internet, I respect your opinions, but this one was not for me.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz - A relief, after Kavalier and Clay. Very readable, swift, colloquial prose. It drew me in, but never lit me up.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed - So, so good. Please read it before the movie comes out and you can no longer hear Strayed’s words without thinking of Reese Witherspoon’s face. (I’ll totally see the movie, against my better judgment.)
Emma by Jane Austen - Delightful, charming, Cher Horowitz, etc. Boys, please get over yourselves and read some Jane Austen. I’m sick of boys and men never knowing anything about Jane Austen except that the ladies seem to like her. It’s a travesty.
Old New York by Edith Wharton - After finishing Emma, I only wanted something old-fashioned and perfectly crafted, and this was ideal.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin - I kept waiting for something to happen, but enjoyed the wait, even when nothing did. I liked this book, but I don’t really remember it, except for the impression of so many white gallery walls and expensive hotel rooms. The characters were largely forgettable. What a pretty cover, though.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - Loved it. Fuck the haters, Green. It’s hard to write a book about teens (and for teens) with cancer that isn’t overwrought and tremendously cloying, and this wasn’t, and that’s something.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls - This book has really stuck with me, maybe more than any other book I read this year has. The story is fascinating and Walls writes about her childhood so clearly and beautifully. Made me want to ready nothing but memoirs.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy - I went into this knowing nothing and was very pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting poetry. I wasn’t expecting nightmares. I liked it very much.
Self Help by Lorrie Moore - Loved it. Obviously. I’ve read Who Will Run the Frog Hospital and The Gate at The Stairs, and I liked this one best, by a long shot.
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (guess his parents wanted him to be a writer) - Cute premise, plot got completely lost, what the hell was this even.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch - Yuknavitch writes with such lyricism and emotion. Inspiring, gorgeous, and moving.
Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon van Booy - This was pretty enough, though not particularly memorable. I think it might make an interesting film, if there was a good cinematographer involved and lots of shots of the city.
A Taxonomy of Barnacles by Galt Niederhoffer - I was loving this book for the first half. Completely smitten with the characters and the descriptions of their lovely, crazy house. I was still on board for the 3rd quarter, and then it fizzled out completely at the end and things were wrapped up dully. I honestly can’t even remember the end except that I was very disappointed with it.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - Coolly, elegantly written. I enjoyed this all the way through.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov - My god, you guys, Pale Fire almost killed me. I am not smart enough for this book. I went in without any context and I was puzzling about for a while. Really just flailing through it, getting the humor occasionally, putting the narrative together slowly. I wanted to appreciate it, and I guess I did, but I was so relieved when I had finished.
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt - I blew through this in a day. I liked it, but I’m struggling to think of anything else to say about it.
New York Diaries edited by Teresa Carpenter - I enjoyed many parts of this, although to be honest, I didn’t care at all about most of the political figures or specific entries about historical events. I much preferred the simple, silly observations of daily life. Sometimes it was very jarring to constantly be jumping time periods. Tough to read straight through, though I did.
Special by Bella Bathurst - A must read if you enjoy depressing books about adolescence, boarding school, and/or teenage girls. It reminded me a lot ofCracks, which was an alright book and a lovely, little-known movie starring Eva Green.
The Adults by Alison Espach - One of my favorites of the year, though I can’t exactly pinpoint why. I loved this narrator. I didn’t want to put it down.
New Yorker Stories of Ann Beattie - It took a few stories before I was comfortable with Beattie’s style and rhythm, but the further I got into this lovely, large book, the more I liked it and the more I desperately wanted to write some short stories of my own. This book is a good teacher.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - A fun and silly page-turner that reminded me of much of the teen lit I read in high school.
The Devil and Miss Prynn by Paulo Cohelo - This parable felt like something I would have been assigned to read in high school English class. Interesting enough, but without any particular soul.
Inferno by Eileen Myles - This was more difficult than I expected it to be. I wrestled a bit with the structure, or lack thereof, but I liked the challenge of the writing and the unique form.
Seven For a Secret by Lyndsay Faye - The word “romp” comes to mind, as do the modern Sherlock Holmes film adaptations, replete with fist fights and old-fashioned insults. I liked this book best when it didn’t take itself too seriously or give way to too much flowery prose.
Paris, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin - This was just alright. I wasn’t sure of the point, mostly. Anti-climactic and more dreary than funny.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - So good I had to read pages of it aloud to Ben. Have to admit to being a little disappointed by the ending, but that seems to be a theme with this list, so that may be a personal problem.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - This felt very similar to Rules of Civility. I think the writing wasn’t as quite as good, but the plot was marginally more interesting, so it’s sort of a toss up.
Hard-Boiled Brooklyn edited by Reed Farrel Coleman - Some of these stories fell flat, some worked as fun interpretations of the crime theme, one in particular was quite good. It reminded me of those short-film collections Paris J’Taime and New York I Love You. They could easily make a film noir-specific one about Brooklyn based on this collection.
Torch by Cheryl Strayed - This book was pretty unbearably bleak. It didn’t make me cry, though it hit me in the gut more than once. It was just… so so grey and exhausting and hospital rooms and jail cells and cancer and snow and god, I’m getting tired just thinking about it. This cover is wildly misleading. I liked it fine, but Strayed has written many better things.
I wanted to include Bel Canto by Ann Patchett on this list, but I left it at Ben’s mom’s house while I was home for Christmas and now I doubt I’ll finish it before the new year. I’m enjoying it very much so far.
Inspired by Lily’s post.
"and I don’t know how to be sad with other people but I wanted to tell you because I know you’ll understand."
"Some girl on my facebook just posted: "to anyone out there who is feeling sad, angry, depressed, upset, anxious, etc, you’re one workout away from feeling amazing, happy, joyful, blessed. life is beautiful - enjoy it <3 there is no room for negativity from you." and I want to reply that I worked out this morning and it did not make me feel amazing, happy, joyful, OR blessed. it did, however, make me feel sweaty, disgusting, out of shape, short of breath, and exhausted, so there’s that."
"6. This is trouble.
Today, the internet was down at work and everyone kept pacing around everyone else’s cubicles, cracking jokes, breaking into song, chatting and gossiping. It felt like the hallways of a college dorm. It felt like being trapped indoors during a storm with people you’re warming to.
Last night Ben and I walked to the BAM to see Blue Is The Warmest Color, which is a long and tearful movie. I didn’t cry, but there was lots of snot-dripping crying depicted with big fat tears. It was realistic and prolonged and beautiful, like a life. It made me feel reflective and sexy and hungry. And that is my review in its entirety.
Tonight we cleaned the apartment. We have capital C Company coming tomorrow and I’m always a bit nervous about inviting outsiders into my messy little place with its grimy windowsills and too many books. Now I’m burning a pumpkin souffle scented candle in a pretty white jar. I had chocolate and red wine for dinner, as one should, on occasion. I have Fanny Price and her ball on my mind and I don’t know what’s going to happen next and I like that.
This weekend I put on my sneakers and jogged for the first time in months. Ben and I made our way up to Prospect Park. I huffed and puffed and complained that my throat was hurting from the crisp air. We appreciated the trees. I begged for water. We walked. We pointed out dogs. I focused on my breathing.
This weekend I ate french toast and drank mimosas out of stemless glasses on a little patio.
I curled up with hot chocolate mixed with kahlua and sambuca on a leather armchair by a roaring fireplace and read Mansfield Park, while Ben laughed quietly next to me, reading Me Talk Pretty One Day.
This weekend I bought tickets for the American Ballet Theatre’s performance of the Nutcracker at the BAM in December.
Ben and rearranged our artwork and hung some old prints on the walls, high-fiving when we got one to hang just right.
I listened to the marathon runners go by out my bedroom window. A block away, a live band played all the music my dad likes - The Beatles, The Traveling Wilburys, The Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.
This weekend I ate peanut butter cookies and took a long, hot bath. I pulled up the big, grey, feather duvet and hid under it. I reveled in the radiator’s hissing.
Lily came across this playlist before she should have. It was a present I was working on to give her the day before she leaves, but she discovered it a day early on her own, without knowing I had put it together for her.
I wanted to make you something to accompany you on your journey. When putting this playlist together, I tried to keep a particular mood in mind, choosing songs that felt melancholy, dreamy, bittersweet, and hopeful. These are the songs I can imagine listening to while staring out the window while the country passes by. They are songs about leaving, about transforming, about aching. I had fairy tales in mind. Daydreams and shadows. Sad songs, love songs, songs about saying goodbye. So here they are, 75 handpicked songs with gilded edges, and songs meant for crying your heart out into open palms.
Joni Mitchell - A Case of You
Nothing like a little Joni to get this playlist started off right. Our wise Joni. Picture Sandra Bullock singing along to this in the car on her way to save Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic. Picture me listening to this in college in Canada - Oh, Canada - over and over, sitting on my dorm room floor. Part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time. So perfectly describes what it means to be changed by someone.
Basia Bulat - A Secret
I like this little ditty. It’s short and sweet and sounds like things hidden in giant old attics. A music box of a song. An old letter with swirly script. A present. A prize.
Fiona Apple - Across the Universe (Beatles cover) (obviously)
I don’t know if Beatles covers are acceptable to you, but I’m chancing it because this particular Fiona version has been a favorite for so long. It’s such a zen song - perfect, I imagine, for giving oneself over to a long train ride and existing solely in the journey. Nothing’s gonna change my world, nothing’s gonna change my world. Repeat as necessary until you believe it.
Bill Withers - Ain’t No Sunshine
Moody, bluesy, self-explanatory.
Jenny Lewis - Bad Man’s World
It is a bad man’s world, isn’t it? With you and me and Jenny Lewis just living in it, trying to be bad girls and not really succeeding entirely. It’s a bad girl song for girls who are good, in spite of themselves.
Warpaint - Billie Holiday
This song sounds a bit like an incantation. A children’s rhyme, twisted into something ever so slightly darker.
Plants and Animals - Bye Bye Bye
Unfortunately not an NSYNC cover, this song nevertheless delivers. It’s probably THE most emotional song about change I know. What’s gonna happen to you? You have woke up too soon and found the world rearranged and now your feelings have changed. Say goodbye to before (bye bye bye), you are not welcome anymore. The door’s been shown to you, but only if you go through. It so perfectly describes that feeling of waking up and feeling like suddenly everything has changed, like you are being pushed out of your old life and into something new. And yet t’s hopeful at the same time - the door’s been shown to you, but only if you go through. There is a way out into the unknown and you have only to walk through.
Andrew Bird - Candy Shop
This song found it’s way on here because of its old-fashioned, tap-dancing appeal. I can imagine you doing your signature tap shuffle, bow in hair, to this one. It’s upbeat, old-fashioned party music.
The New Pornographers - Challengers
Possibly the most apt song on the list. Kept thinking of the line wander the West Village in flames. And also, especially this one: Be safe, you say. Whatever the mess you are, you mind, ok? Can’t seem to get a consensus on whether it’s “you mind” or “you’re mine”, but either way, I think it’s perfect.
Rogue Wave - Cheaper Than Therapy
The music I want is cheaper than therapy. I’ve always believed in the truth of this line.
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
What a wonderful, soul-filling, swell of a song for traveling. It’s about leaving behind your mistakes, fleeing them literally and then recreating yourself somewhere new. It’s transformative and brilliant.
Slow Club - Christmas TV
It’s ok to have scars, they will make you who you are. It’s ok to have fears, as long as you’re not scared of coming here. And in the middle of the night, call if you wanna talk, cause you know that I wanna talk to you. Sometimes all you want is someone who’ll watch Christmas TV with you. It’s a song about coming home.
Debussy - Clair De Lune
Maybe you’ve heard it too many times? Maybe it doesn’t sound like lakes and lilypads to you. To me, it’s still lovely. Clair de lune is French for moonlight, in case you didn’t already know. (I bet you knew.)
Sia - Day Too Soon
I’ve been waiting all my life, I ran away, I ran away from good. I don’t know if there’s a person alive who doesn’t know what it means to run away from good, at least once in their lives. There’s some good that needs running from to find out who you are. Once you know what you know what you’ve been running from, you can recognize it when you see it again.
The Cranberries - Dreams
I mean, obviously. A song about getting up early and walking down the sidewalks of New York with a bounce in your step. About changing every day in every possible way. I know I’ve felt like this before, but now I’m feeling it even more. Isn’t that just New York, for you?
Morrissey - Everyday is Like Sunday
When I was twenty two, I took the train home from a weekend at my boyfriend’s house upstate. Just before dropping me off, he said something that hurt my feelings and all at once I knew that it was over. He was not the person for me. I listened to this song on repeat for most of the way back to the city, crying the whole way. Every day is like Sunday, every day is silent and gray. I felt exactly like that. The Sunday dread of the week beginning, the deep down knowledge that something wasn’t right.
Martha Wainwright - Factory
This song perfectly captures the moment when you walk into a party and want nothing more than to leave. These are not my people, I should never have come here. It’s that alone in a crowdness, the fight or flight instinct. Playing out my very last chance to run, run, run.
Iron and Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth
This song takes a listen or two. All of your street light eyes wide on my plastic toys. There’s something about the way it builds and the way he sings with such vulnerability Have I found you?
Ingrid Michaelson - Giving Up
Sometimes I think every relationship I’ve ever had can be summed up by the line What if there’s always cups in the sink? What if I’m not what you think I am? While it is a song about giving up, it’s far from hopeless. It’s about giving up on pretending to be something you’re not and giving over to reality in all it’s beautiful, ugly mistakes and pain and unknowable what ifs.
Beirut - Goshen
Why is this song so inconsolably wistful? You’re not the girl I used to know. Oh, I know the feeling.
Lissie - Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac cover)
This is a great breaking free, escaping song. I mean, I can’t imagine anything more freeing than shout-singing at someone “you can go your own way!" unless maybe it’s whispering it to yourself on a train ride across the country. Open up - everything’s waiting for you…
Gotye - Hearts a Mess
This song creeps up under your skin and stays there. Those of us with messy hearts will always understand.
Oren Lavie - Her Morning Elegance
Another rainy day song, about the unknowable inner lives of everyone, and the sad details in the dull everyday. And she fights for her life as she puts on her coat. And she fights for her life on the train. She looks at the rain as it pours. And she fights for her life as she goes in a store with a thought she has caught by a thread. She pays for the bread and she goes. Nobody knows. There will always be days when going to the store or getting on the train feels like a fight for your life. This song will help you through them.
Meaghan Smith - Here Comes Your Man (Pixies cover)
For levity’s sake, something with a bit more bounce. I’ll be damned if I know what it means, but I know that it always reminds me of the way it feels when you’re first falling in love or in lust or into a particularly exciting crush, and the object of your affection enters the room. It’s that lit up from within feeling.
James Vincent McMorrow - Higher Love
A sad, but hopeful, song, a bit like a prayer. Just this steadfast belief in something more, something higher, something better.
Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There’s Someone
More dismal/hopeful music. His voice is so unique and strange. The song is a bit nightmarish, with ghosts and oceans and dreams. Oh I’m scared of the middle place between light and nowhere.
Teitur - I Was Just Thinking
Long-distance love song. A song about postcards and phonecards and pining.
Johnny Cash - In My Life (Beatles cover)
Just sob unabashedly, it’s fine.
Camera Obscura - Let’s Get Out of This Country
It was difficult to choose a Camera Obscura song for this playlist because there are just too many that would work well. But this one is just so perfect for leaving. It’s hopeful and resilient. Let’s get out of this country. I admit I’m bored of me. I drowned my sorrows and slept around, when not in body at least in mind. We’ll find a cathedral city - you can convince me I’m pretty… and of course What does this city have to offer me? Everyone else thinks it’s the bee’s knees. An absolutely perfect getaway song.
Lisa Hannigan - Lille
This song is a lullaby. Let it rock you in and out of sleep.
Lia Ices - Love is Won
Mysterious and gentle and magical. A puzzle planted on the forest floor has grown tall by now.
Blitzen Trapper - Love the Way You Walk Away
I like the folksy vibe, which feels especially right for travel. I’ve been feelin in the way, kinda underfoot on a Saturday. Reminds me of barn dances and hayrides and old guitar picks.
Bright Eyes - Lua
Oh, such an end of the evening, sad-drunken song. A New York City hangover of a song. I know that it is freezing, but I think we have to walk. I keep waving at the taxis, they keep turning their lights off.
Adele - Make You Feel My Love (Billy Joel cover)
Apparently, this song was originally written by Bob Dylan, but Billy released his version first, so I’m calling it his. It’s the perfect gloomy weather song, plaintive and caring. When the rain is blowing in your face. And the whole world is on your case…
Elton John - Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Crying on the subway. I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.
Audrey Hepburn - Moon River
Yes, I am trying to break your heart. Audrey Hepburn on a fire escape. Or Carrie and Big doing the twist in his empty apartment. Whichever New York reference you prefer. Two drifters off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting round the bend, my Huckleberry friend, moon river, and me. It is impossible to hear those words and leave this place and not cry, at least a little bit.
Travis - My Eyes
This has been a longtime favorite song of mine. It’s so joyful on the ya ya yay's it makes me tear up. Welcome in, welcome in. Shame about the weather…
Matt Damon - My Funny Valentine
I may have scared you half to death that time I made you watch The Talented Mr. Ripley with me, but you have to admit that Matt Damon’s version of this song is amazing, and tender, and so perfectly sinister. It’s creepy and lovely.
Damian Rice - 9 Crimes
This song is dark, and always reminds me of a car crash in the rain. Is there a movie where this song plays over a car crash in the rain? I don’t know. All I know is, it feels exactly how it does to know you’re doing something dangerous, and doing it anyway.
Laura Marling - Night Terror
I like that this song is about nightmares, and protecting our loved ones from their demons. I roll over and shake him tightly, and whisper, if they want you, oh they’re gonna have to fight me. The video is spooky and wonderful.
Mr. Little Jeans - Oh Sailor
This song is to remind you that when you are adrift, you have the ocean. You have the wind. You are being held afloat, and looked after, and you are not alone. I also just love the children’s voices singing in the chorus.
The Barr Brothers - Ooh, Belle
The line ooh Belle, sometimes I’m overwhelmed can bring me to tears all on its own.
Nick Drake - One of These Things First
A song about what might have been, had things gone differently. About paths not taken, lives not lived.
The Smiths - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want This Time
So fantastically self-pitying and hopeful at once. Hopeful finally, in spite of all the disappointments in the past. Just cautiously, prayerfully hopeful.
Broken Records - Problem With Remembering
Sounds like a waltz playing on a record player in a faraway room. And I held your hand, and I thought I would die. Cause it will never feel like this again in our lives.
Rachael Yamagata - Reason Why
Perhaps THE perfect breakup song. I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to this song after a long, painful breakup. Nothing better captures the resentment, the love, the hurt feelings, the inability to stop yourself from wondering what might have been. So I will head out alone and hope for the best. We can pat ourselves on the back and say that we tried. And if one of us makes it big, we can spill our regrets, and talk about how the love never dies. But you and I… know the reason why I’m gone and you’re still there.
Lana Del Rey - Ride
I mean, come on. Such a marvelous song for traveling cross-country. Watch this video 10 times in a row and it never gets old. It’s this sort of seedy, biker, torn up jean jacket and wind in your hair kind of song. Beers in dive bars and the freedom of the open road.
Jaymay - Sea Green, See Blue
Won’t you miss me? you said inside Grand Central Station. This one is just chock-full of great lines (you moved to Montreal to be closer to France, how’s that workin out?) although perhaps the best is I miss not being misused. I miss it all, so I guess I lose. Ain’t that the truth? Those of us with the misfortune of missing everything have to feel the loss of things all the time.
Cat Power - Sea of Love
So utterly simple. Every deliberate strum of the guitar feels like it pulls directly on your heartstrings.
Blonde Redhead - Silently
A mythical song, with it’s own sort of offbeat magic. It’s a song about travel by sea. About realizing things too late.
Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
This is how it should feel to pack up and move - exciting and positive and fresh and your heart going boom, boom, boom. Grab your things I’ve come to take you home.
Regina Spektor - Summer in the City
This song is very much tied up in my love of New York. For me, it is walking, lonely, around Union Square. That moment when you think you recognize someone and they turn out to be someone else and you feel lonelier than before. The desire to feel anything at all. I’ve been stayin up, drinkin, in a late night establishment, telling strangers personal things.
Rufus Wainwright - The Art Teacher
I looked at the Rubens and Rembrandts. I liked the John Singer Sargents. He told me he liked Turner, and never have I turned since then. It is a song about the people that change you and shape you, and I love picturing the story as it unfolds.
Stars - The Aspidistra Flies
I think this is my favorite song for a rainy day. It’s foggy and soft. Run to the window and call out my name. We’ll meet where the sun goes to hide from the rain.
Michael Nyman - The Heart Asks Pleasure First
This is from the movie The Piano, and it’s gorgeous in its intensity. Powerful and transformative.
Nico - These Days
I love this glum little heartbreaker. One of the best lines in any song ever, and one I constantly repeat to myself - Please don’t confront me with my failures. I had not forgotten them.
Jeff Hanson - This Time It Will
I first heard this song on one of those brilliantly colorful fall days. I was driving home from work in Saratoga Springs, on the roads that wind around Saratoga lake. The leaves were red and yellow and then this song. This song! His remarkable gentle, feminine voice and the lyrics about dejavu (haven’t I done this all before? maybe I have, I’m not sure…) and feeling stuck. And the friends that really were aren’t really now. Ah! This one just kills me.
Fleet Foxes - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
Sounds mythic and woven - like a legend, told in front of a fireplace in some dark cabin at night.
Vashti Benyan - Train Song
Ok, maybe a bit too on the nose, but it is perfect for train travel.
Neko Case - Vengeance is Sleeping
I happen to really like this title. The lyrics are very poetic and a bit opaque, but the intention with which she sings always slays me.
Duffy - Warwick Avenue
Another amazing breakup song, and one that’s especially good when you’re the one doing the leaving. I imagine it’s also good for leaving town. She has such an amazing, powerful voice, and was anything ever as true as you think you’re loving, but you don’t love me ?
Wilco - What Light
To be honest, I don’t actually have a particular attachment to this song. No anecdote or story. I heard it out of the blue a few weeks ago and liked it and felt like it deserved a place on this list, so here it is. Make of it what you will.
Guster - What You Wish For
An old favorite. There’s something so buoyant about this song, especially at its climax toward the end. And what you wish for could come true! You aren’t surprised, love, are you?
The Be Good Tanyas - When Doves Cry (Prince cover)
This song reminds me of lonely gardens. The kinds with old stone fountains, butterflies, eyes peering from trees, wings out of the corner of your eye. I think it’s about becoming something you never meant to be - something needy and desperate.
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - When Your Mind’s Made Up
Christ this stubborn song. So, if you ever want something, and you call call, then I’ll come running to fight. And I’ll be at your door, when there’s nothing worth running for. This one always leaves me in tears.
Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To My Lovely?
The words to this song are so delightful. I suggest memorizing them and singing along. It’s just that sort of song. Well you’re in between 20 and 30 - that’s a very desirable age.
Emily Jane White - Wild Tigers I Have Known
Holdin flames. Holdin hands in hearts. This song is poetic and lovely.
Joshua Radin - Winter
I love his voice - sounds a lot like Simon and Garfunkel. I should know who I am by now. That’s the opening line! You know you’re in for it. Remember this song when you have that gut feeling that you’re about to do something you’ll regret. But I don’t have to make this mistake. And I don’t have to stay this way.
Tori Amos - Winter
Another winter song. What is it about winter? Absolutely heartbreaking. I used to listen to it over and over in high school. When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do? When you gonna make up your mind? Cause things are gonna change so fast. Be careful with this one. If you listen to it when you’re feeling fragile and missing your parents, it’ll tear you to pieces.
Aimee Mann - Wise Up
This song is featured prominently in one of my favorite movies, but it stands on it own beautifully. It’s a song about growing up, about learning that these emotions and tears and feelings are ceaseless. It’s unending. And being crushed by it all will continue until you accept that. It’s painful and it’s perfect. You got what you want, but you can hardly stand it though, by now you know, it’s not going to stop. It’s not going to stop. Til you wise up.
Rilo Kiley - With Arms Outstretched
Listen to this one at dawn one morning on your trip. Listen to it as the sun comes up and through your window as you speed across the country. It’s 16 miles to the promise land, and I promise you, I’m doing the best I can.
Barzin - Words Tangled In Blue
This one is about the messes we make in our own minds and the things we leave unsaid. Just a sort of slow, contemplative song.
The Weepies - World Spins Madly On
Oh god. I’m sorry for all these heartwringers, but I just couldn’t leave this one off. I thought of you and where you’d gone, and the world spins madly on.
Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights
I don’t know what to say for this song. If you don’t already know it and love it, you may actually hate it. It’s a weird, creepy, wonderful song, and I highly recommend watching the video, practicing her moves, getting a little drunk, and singing along. All you need to memorize is this part: Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home, I’m so co-o-o-old. Let me into your window!” Just sing that loudly and with gusto, over and over.
Daughter - Youth
And if you’re in love then you’re the lucky one. Cause most of us are bitter over someone. Setting fire to our insides for fun. I like that it’s simply entitled “Youth.” Does that mean we stop torturing ourselves when we get older? I certainly hope so. Until then, all we can do is keep heaving through our corrupted lungs and collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our homes. All we can do is keep going.
Do you know that scene in Ghost World near the end, after everything has happened - graduation, jealousy, and drunken mistakes, terrible jobs and boys and men and adventures in diners - after all of it, Enid and Rebecca are sitting on the bench, holding hands and not talking? I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot lately.
At the same time, I keep thinking about the scene from Anne of Green Gables, where Anne and Diana are standing on sand dunes. Is it sand dunes? Or a grassy hill? Either way, they are standing on this ridge, looking out ahead at the sunset or the sunrise or the future. They are wearing these gorgeous white dresses and the wind is blowing their hair. All of a sudden they look older than they have before. And Diana says she wishes she were rich, so that she could spend the whole summer at a hotel, eating ice cream and chicken salad, and Anne, in the most Anne way, says “You know something, Diana? We are rich. We have sixteen years to our credit, and we both have wonderful imaginations. We should be as happy as queens. Look at that. You couldn’t enjoy its loveliness more if you had ropes of diamonds." And Diana says "I don’t know about that." But you know that she agrees deep down.
MUSIC (a list)
Track List For CD
Pink Martini—Hang On Little Tomato
Santogold—Go, feat. Karen O.
fun.—All the Pretty Girls
Neko Case—Buckets of Rain (Bob Dylan)
Ruru—House of Cards
Alex Winston—Animal Baby
Swanky Tunes—XOXO (original mix)
Mumford and Sons—Winter Winds
Martha Wainright—Don’t Forget
Party Ben—Ooh La La Summer Nights
Ellie Goulding v. the Jackson Five—I Want You Back v. Starry Eyed
Nina Simone—Turn Me On
Cat Power—Naked If I Want To
Harry Nilsson—Don’t Forget Me
Etta James—I Just Want To Make Love To You
Albert Hammond, Jr.—Hard To Live In the City
The entire Fun. album, but especially Some Nights and Why Am I The One, of course, and even more specifically, that point where he nearly screams Why am I the one always packing up my stuff? Ohhh! As if he’s just then realizing how excruciating life is.
Countdown by Beyonce and the video for the song were a particular obsession of ours. I remember trying to choreograph a dance to this together in my kitchen and also drunkenly once on a subway platform, although the latter might have been alone, my memory is a little hazy on that point. There was at least a week during which I would wake up and watch the video immediately. I couldn’t start my day without it, and Lily and I would gush about how the colors and the clothes and the cat eyeliner in this video were the spot on reflections of our souls.
There was Nicki Minaj, blowing up on the music world like a giant bubble of pink gum. We used to recite her tongue-twisting lyrics like a mantra on our walks from work to the bar, as if learning them could make us tough and weird and capable like her.
The New York, New York remix from Friends with Benefits - a not particularly good romantic comedy that we watched in a little theater in Brooklyn, drinking awful Mike’s Hard Lemonades and eating chocolate chip cookies. The song had staying power, though, and it filled us both up with that feeling of MAKING IT THERE, and there meant HERE. Right here, doing it, living it, fucking dancing our way through the streets in these vagabond shoes.
New York by Caitlin Rose and how I knew immediately that Lily needed to hear it because it’s a song about Not Staying in a place which is a specifically Lily thing in my mind. The first time I heard it, I went home and sent it to her right away, a song about suitcases and southern drawls and nights spent on someone else’s couch.
Cults. Specifically, the fall of 2011 - listening to Cults and wearing legwarmers and shorts and kind of grooving around my apartment, drinking wine and planning our Halloween costumes, watching scary movies and eating candy from a big mixed bag, feeling creeped out and excited and strange.
Dreams by the Cranberries and its resonance due to the opening scene of You’ve Got Mail, and how we played it walking through Central Park in the fall of 2012 when the leaves were russet and gold and the tunnels were chilly and men were jogging up and down the stone steps by the fountain, while we drank hot ciders with the contents of airplane bottles of rum in them, hazy, perambulating over the rolling green hills. Changing ev-er-y day in every possible way.
Also: if all goes according to plan, I will have a fake ID by Monday and you know what that means? We need to go out dancing ASAP.
I thought a lot about our Valentine’s Day last year, which was a week before we both signed up for OKcupid. We went to Home Sweet Home and I danced my ASS off and didn’t care if I looked dumb and I got so sweaty I had to put up my hair. You got your shit stolen and took a picture of me in front of that Relationships are Gay sign, which I later put on my online dating profile. After your stuff got stolen I think I bought you a sandwich and a subway ticket and we were both still kind of upbeat and probably drunk and I feel like it was a pretty nice Valentine’s day, too, despite life, and thieves, and the lack of romance.
We used to joke that Lily’s drunk “tell” was when she’d get up from her seat and start to tap dance. Sometimes I’d join in, sober or not, happy to have someone to make a fool of myself with. Early on in our friendship I taught her a simple step that makes you look silly and feel nimble. We’d practice it after too many cocktails on sidewalks in the West Village.
We danced at Lily’s 21st birthday party, pushing dollar after dollar into the jukebox, jumping around the empty dance floor at a little dive bar in Soho. We danced in our chairs and we danced in bar basements, and we danced on streetcorners, giggly and full of odd, late night energy.
I remember getting drunk and kicking up our heels to the theme from Footloose in a bar, piped in over the stereo from my ipod by a bartender who liked to indulge us, and the 4 or 5 other patrons who were left in the early morning hours were laughing and dancing, too. It felt good, the dancing and the being drunk, and the up too lateness of it. That’s how our friendship always was - an inhibitions down, slurring, falling, laughing kind of love, that could turn into tears at any moment. An after midnight thing, to be enjoyed over plates of BLTs and french fries in a booth, or slices of pizza eaten standing up and makeup smudged and tired as hell. A confessional, swooning, chatty thing, trading advice over barstools and paperbacks out of purses, and chocolates square by square from a foil wrapper.
Buying condoms on my way home tonight. That feels like a cvs trip we should be taking together.
Can you believe that the 24 hour CVS by the West 4th Station closed? Just recently, too. It’s one of those seasonal Halloween shops now and then I don’t know what it’s going to be after this. We used to stop in that CVS all the time at night, after getting off our evening shift at 11:30. We’d browse the nail polish and the candy aisle and buy shampoo there. It was this little haven of glowing fluorescent light, wedged in between sex shops and tattoo parlors and a nail salon and the IFC center, and I depended on it because no matter what time it was, or how awful your night had been, the CVS would be open and the cashiers would be awful and you would wind up outside, having bought things you didn’t know you needed. I know it’s just a CVS and I may be the first person of all time to get nostalgic about a CVS, but if anyone ever could, it would be me, or Lily.
My apartment became a capital P Place. A place to meet up, to nestle on the sofa and put on makeup and eat takeout and sleep. We exchanged Christmas gifts on it and cried watching movies. I kept bedding in the ottoman to make up the couch for impromptu sleepovers. It was such a constant in our lives. Over the course of three years, Lily lived in two boroughs and five apartments, with a total of 16 different roommates, while I stayed in one, collecting furniture and picture frames from the street, various wineglasses from the dollar store, and more books than some small libraries. Lily likes to cast things off as she moves, shedding anything unnecessary and cumbersome, and I’ve often envied her rolling stone attitude. But I can’t imagine us without my place in Park Slope. It was both lighthouse and ship’s cabin, a guide and a safehaven, carrying us through all manner of stormy nights, and yet ever present, unchanging, and stoic as a signpost.
I remember changing our clothes in the locker room at work. It seems like we spent days in that locker room, and maybe it would be if you combined all the 15 minutes here and there, tearing off uniforms, and trading tops, and perfecting our eyeliner in the bathroom mirror. Lily sometimes says she never feels like she got the Real College Experience, because she didn’t do the dorm and campus, 4 years in one place thing. But I think that locker room is a pretty close manifestation of it, honestly. All those girls, those bodies, those lives, stuffed into one little echoing room, and you’re craning for space at the mirror, and about to go out, destination uncertain, fixing your hair, fixing each other’s hair, and borrowing blouses, hemming and hawing over cute shoes or comfortable shoes, because it’s always one or the other, never both. I’ve cried in that locker room, and Lily has, too, and we were there on New Year’s Eve one year, changing into party dresses (hers silver, mine gold) when the clock struck midnight. We were in that locker room in the space between 2011 and 2012, and then we ran out of it, blowing noisemakers and tossing paper party hats, meant for the hotel guests. And it was like the passage of time was a palpable thing, which we had both chosen to ignore completely.
Caroline, from here until infinity, you can assume that my answer to any bar-related or blog-related “are you in?” questions will always be, “Hell. Yes.”
Yeah, there are people winning the Olympics at 16, but there are also people living lives of quiet desperation at all ages, and here we are living this beautiful adventure in the greatest city on earth. You’re already bold and amazing. However much this entire city sometimes conspires to make you feel like you aren’t (that might just be me, don’t let me project).
And I can’t speak for all your friends, but I don’t think you’re boring. Literally like two days ago I was feeling insecure about how you’re clearly wittier than me. And of course I like you. You’re in like my top ten people of the world.
One sunny summer afternoon, we covered ourselves in sunscreen and rode the subway out to Rockaway Beach. Floating on our backs in the waves, we made plans to rent an apartment there one day, something beachfront with a balcony, far away from the thick of Manhattan, but close enough to ride into the city once in a while. It was the middle of the week, so the beach was uncrowded. The sky was an endless blue, and we were impossibly light.
During Hurricane Irene, we both took up residence at the hotel and worked double shifts. I brought a suitcase full of cheez-its and fruit-rollups, a red cardigan, and my video camera, and we jumped on the king size bed and watched the storm from our corner suite wreak havoc on the streets oh Soho. At night, we ran out into the rain and showed up at the only open bar for miles, soaked to the skin. The bar glowed gold and hummed with the sudden outlet of nervous anticipation of so many people kept indoors, hurricane-diligent, for too long. Lily kissed someone by the jukebox while I squeezed out the ends of my hair onto the floor.
I remember the day that I bought an entire backpack full of alcohol and set it all up on my kitchen table, the bottles of vodka and chambord and dark rum and whiskey, and we tried our hand at mixology, following recipes from a book, concocting awful things in plastic cups, eating pizza and wearing vintage nightgowns in my living room in the middle of the afternoon. Then we went to see a terrible romantic movie that we mocked in whispers throughout, and afterward we went out for giant slabs of chocolate cake. It was Fashion Night Out and the city was swarming with models and girls with fashion blogs, and we watched them from the window of this little whitewashed cafe, eating our cake, and drinking tea and coffee from giant ceramic teacups. We were still kind of drunk, and exhausted and the girls paraded through the streets of Soho in vintage dresses and high heels, while inside we both got stomachaches.
And I remember bluegrass bands with handsome singers, golden whiskey sours piled with maraschino cherries, and nights up late dancing to soul train on a wide, wooden dance floor, dizzy as a couple of disco balls.
Late one night we were leaving a theater after seeing a play in Times Square and the whole world was lit up, and it was cold, I think, and Lily had to stop to change her shoes. And as she bent, I couldn’t stop looking around at the sparkling advertisements and the newspapers blowing at our feet. It was beautiful and scary, and I felt like I could run around the city like a child on a playground or like a woman in a nightmare. Like the city was very big and also very much mine, whether I wanted it or not, and then we ran to the subway, kicking up plastic bags and shivering and laughing and relieved to be on our way home.
So, this is coming from the Glamour survey of men so, you know, grain of salt or whatever, but 72—SEVENTY TWO, CAROLINE—percent of men said that they would only make sure a woman had an orgasm if they were sleeping with somebody they loved. I mean, that kind of reads with my experiences, I’m not shocked, I’m just indignant.
In conclusion: feeling pretty iffy on dudes and depilation right now. How was your Valentine’s?
There was the era of OkCupid and date after date with strangers and the emails back and forth about these men and their text messages and their terrible jokes and poorly written profiles. We traded date anecdotes with a mixture of pride and cringing regret, like war heroes swapping stories. We were both lonely, then, I think, and caring more than we had in a while, but trying to act like we cared less, about everything, including each other. If you start getting careless with yourself and with your friends, it won’t be long before you get your heart broken, and we both did. I was a perpetual combination of disappointment, annoyance, hurt feelings, and worry in varying degrees.
After I broke up with my boyfriend of two years, I dragged myself out of my apartment and went shopping. I was miserable and determined and I bought bag after bag of clothing and lugged them all home hours later. My wrists were aching, arms weighted down with things I didn’t really need. When I reached my apartment door, Lily was sitting on the steps outside. She had dropped out of school that day and had her phone stolen recently and still, there she was, looking glum and concerned on my stoop. We went inside and I pulled clothes out of bags on to the floor - half laughing, half crying at the mess. What a goddamn mess all of it was - my heart, our lives, that apartment. It seemed like nothing could last, like everything was stealable, disposable, quittable. But it wasn’t, was it?
This morning I yelled at these guys on the street. They were making kissing sounds at me, from about when I was half a block away. I didn’t plan to, but they just kept doing it and I was so tired and wasn’t wearing any makeup and was in jeans and hoodie, like, do I look like I left the house hoping to be cat called today? and so I just turned around and yelled, “I heard you, I’m just ignoring you! Shut the fuck up.” I was so mad.
The first of many updates.
OF COURSE I still want to be friends. How else am I going to get back the 80 bucks you owe me? No, but seriously, you are my best friend and you get it and I can write multi-paragraph emails to you about how I feel like a loser and I’m sure you will read the whole thing. Right now it is 10 AM and someone is straight up blasting DJ Got Us Falling In Love outside my window. Like, I think he just decided to park there and play some tunes, loudly. That’s his Saturday morning.
There’s too much to care about, and we can all only care and help so much, so we care and help when and how we are able—financially, emotionally able—and it’s not enough, but it has to be enough anyways because there’s nothing else.
There was the night that Lily was mugged (for the first time) and came bounding back over the Williamsburg bridge in the direction she had come, and she called me from hotel security, and I came back to the city from Brooklyn and waited with her while some cops wrote up a half-hearted report. That night I felt this pulsing maternal instinct coursing through me like caffeine. And all of a sudden, New York wasn’t this place that we could prance through anymore, invincible at all hours of the night. It wasn’t an amusement park of handsome boys and sparkling bars, with the Chrysler building hanging from the ceiling like a lit up chandelier. It was a place where a man on a bike could stop you on a bridge, away from storefronts and streetlights, and pull out a gun and change everything.
I had to admit certain things to myself then - not the least of which was that New York was perhaps making us jaded, after all. Living in the city can wear a person out. It can sweep you up like a hurricane and drop you somewhere else entirely. We fought, Lily and I. We saw each other less frequently. We put some distance between us, purposefully and unceremoniously.
But my relationship with New York and my friendship with Lily were one and the same, forged simultaneously on the sidewalks of lower Manhattan over ice cream cones and conversation. I found that it’s impossible to really leave a person or place you love that fiercely.
Read the post you wrote about us this morning (afternoon) and had tears streaming down my face. I’d like to frame it and hang it in my bedroom, so any man who comes in there will see it and know, but mostly so I will see it and know.
It’s funny because you and I are often willing to be so vulnerable on the internet, but though we talk about everything frankly, we rarely know how to verbalize our compassion (or our pain), or comfort each other in person when we need it. I think we care too much. Sometimes I want to hug you and I feel like one of those stoic 1950s fathers who has never hugged his children, but loves them fiercely in his own manly way. That’s a super weird analogy.
But I think we’re doing ok. I hope you’re doing ok.
And thank you. Thank you thank you. I love you.
And then out of the blue one day, Lily sent me a picture of her one way ticket out of New York, and I felt an odd union of loss and relief, having known that it was only a matter of time before she would pack up her things again and move across the country, while I was here to stay. It’s hard, you know, to be the one who stays, but that’s the lot you agree to when you befriend an adventurer.
Lily leaves next week and I have to admit I’m somehow still unprepared. It’s an odd thing to imagine cities going on without the people who made them real for you.
It won’t surprise you to learn that I cried listening to Elton John croon Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters over my headphones on the subway a few weeks ago. I am nothing if not predictably sentimental and prone to tearful rides on the D train.
Have you listened to that song recently?
Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true,
you stand at the edge while people run you through.
And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.
I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.
It’s enough to break your goddamn heart.
So what’s the word for don’t-go-although-I-know-you-will and good-luck-although-I-doubt-you’ll-need-it? What’s the way to say thank you for three years of something like an understanding, a secret handshake I’ll keep in my muscle memory, without even having to try? Getting to know you has been something like finding my way.
Here’s to finding yours. I have every confidence in you.
Yesterday, Tasnim and Lily and I took a rowboat out on the lake in Central Park. Lily rowed with the awkward old oars, while across from her Tasnim and I joked and took pictures and teased. We had been waiting in line for an hour, and by the time we got a boat, the sun was going down, turning the water gold and bright in places, sweeping down sparkling through the trees and illuminating the towering, turreted buildings in the distance.
On the banks of the water, couples posed for wedding photos, arms clasped around each other, or bending back in an old-fashioned tango dip. The women swept their heavy dresses up in their arms as they walked to keep their hemlines out of the dirt. On the bridge, tourists gathered and shouted things at the boaters making their unwieldy way under the stone arch. Bethesda Fountain was like a painting in the distance, or like a prop in a play. The lake water was a deep olive green.
Tasnim and Lily are just as beautiful in person as they are in photographs, and I felt self-conscious and heavy in this wobbling piece of metal with them. There should be a word for the occasional mortification of remembering yourself suddenly. It’s so inconvenient, the way it drags you out of the moment.
Across the water at the Boathouse, the ceiling fans turned lazily above couples drinking white wine and mojitos from sweating glasses, as if it were August rather than mid-October. A man on shore told Lily that he loved her and Lily called back “I get that a lot!”
Tasnim posed, long-limbed and graceful beside me while I tried vainly to capture the moment with my camera. Some things are difficult to see so close up. But had you been standing on the banks, under the windswept branches of a langourous willow tree at dusk, you might have seen the three of us there, gliding along the algae-dyed water - Lily laughing at her own inexpert rowing, Tasnim bent double in giddy hysterics, and me with my scarf and tangled hair, committing everything to memory. You might have understood just how it was.
Yesterday we put everything back.
It’s been three weeks since we cleaned and bagged everything we own, in an effort to rid our apartment of bed bugs. Three weeks of rubbermaid containers, of tripping and climbing over piles of bags, of scraping knees on the bed frame, and falling trying to hit the light switch, and occasionally just saying “Fuck this. Fuck this.”
It didn’t take that long to put everything away. About 6 hours to get the brunt of it done. I kept thinking that it was like unpacking after a move, except we hadn’t gone anywhere, but really it was more like packing up at the end of vacation when you can’t figure out how you got everything in your suitcase in the first place. How things fit, but not exactly. How zippers stick and a certain amount of squashing and hefting is required.
I couldn’t breathe or write for the last 3 weeks. Coming home at night to the mess was tiring, so I stayed out as often as possible. I went out dancing with Lily and Ben, wearing blood red lipstick and gold earrings, got gin drunk, and stumbled into my favorite little taco place for enchiladas in a foil container. I went to see Lindsay Faye talk about her new book at The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca, while her husband served up a sweet cider-colored punch over ice in clear plastic cups. I breathed in that old and new book smell. I bought a copy and she signed it in gold ink.
I went to a drawing party with Eleanor, where the girls were all real artists, accustomed to taking off their clothes. I felt out of place and embarrassed and shy and my drawings were terrible, but everything was so pretty I almost didn’t mind. Candles and crackers and mason jars of wine, a friendly cat, a pile of charcoal pencils and drawing paper on the floor, and girl after girl with bright, bare skin, sketching earnestly into the evening. Me in my suede dress and tights, hiding my sketches by folding them into my purse.
I drank prosecco at a picnic table in Prospect Heights, and whiskey sours at a picnic table in South Slope. Movies in the East Village, diners in the West Village, walks around Cobble Hill, pointing out pretty restaurants with twinkly lights. The first day that felt like true fall I spent walking all the way to Brooklyn Heights, drinking hot chocolate, listening to Lorde’s album. It was cool and sunny, like September ought to be all the time, and the cafes were crowded.
One Tuesday night, Ben and I ate swiss fondue at a hidden little restaurant that looked like a log cabin, tucked in amid the warehouses and car lots in the ugliest part of Gowanus. Inside, the place was golden-lit and warm. There was a fireplace in the back and old blues music playing. We sipped red wine and ate cheeses and tarts, and afterward we lingered by the front gate and kissed in the dark.
What a pretty little life I’ve stumbled upon while trying to escape my own.
And yet, I cannot describe to you how good it feels to put things back into place. To slide the sofa back against the wall and run my fingers over the spines in the bookcase. When everything was unpacked, we hung a new picture on the living room wall like a monument and ordered Chinese food and sighed, deeply. And the sigh was gratitude and it was exhaustion. It was thank goodness we made it through that silly, awful thing. It was fingers crossed hopeful. I kept thinking “our home, our home,” like an incantation, like a two word poem, like a prayer.
I have a tendency to conserve my celebrating. I horde happiness like it’s something finite, worried I’ll run out. Ben got a new job and I thought, well, what are you waiting for? On the way home from work, I stopped at a bodega for flowers. Then I went to Dean and Deluca and stood at the bakery, hemming and hawing over the pretty desserts - apple tarts and chocolate cakes and butter cookies with key lime filling. Everyone in line at the bakery counter is delighted to be there. I let a British woman buy her oatmeal cookie ahead of me and she thanked me three times, while I grinned. Leaving the store, with my pretty cake box and bouquet, I suddenly thought how easily I could be mistaken for the girl I had always imagined I’d be one day. Then I remembered how I spent half the morning with the sticky L L L running down the length of my dress. I’m still me, I suppose. I came home with a fat bouquet of orange fairy roses and the prettiest little carrot cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate filigree. We clinked glasses full of cheap cava. To you! To us! To cheap cava!
I’ve been up to so many things. I’ve been walking and reading and lying in parks. I’ve been eating pan dolce stuffed with swiss cheese and buried in maple syrup. I’ve been jogging down 5th avenue at night. I bought a mod black dress with long white floaty sleeves. I finished writing my first short story.
At work, to pass the time, we pitch ideas for fake musicals back and forth. Clueless, the College Years. The Fast and the Furious, but set in the 50s. Cronuts!: The Musical. Something about The Cosby’s.
I fall in love with a cat at one of those pathetic sidewalk animal sales. Her name is Button and she’s slow and plump. Grey with a white belly. Could I be someone with a cat?
Avi and I plan an adventure. We are going to sleep on a riverboat in Connecticut in 2 weeks. No running water. Mountains of books. Amenities include electricity and 2 rocking chairs. Really.
I took the ferry out to Governor’s Island, where the buildings are brick, Colonial style and the houses are old and Victorian with porches and garrets and working shutters. There are blue bicycles everywhere, ice cream carts, french carnival rides with pedals and swings. Two carousels. There is an abundance of grass. There are long stretches of ocean view, the southern tip of Manhattan glittering in the sunlight, and Lady Liberty toasting us in the distance. There are playgrounds and sculptures and playgrounds made of sculptures. There are french fries in a greasy wax paper bag and glass bottles of sparkling water. There are lemonade chambord cocktails and so much wide, blue sky. There are trees and accordion music and an old stone church. Governor’s Island is a small town, outside of time. You can only arrive by boat. This city is an amazement.