Posts tagged writing
Posts tagged writing
I think I tend to have this look about me of being perpetually windblown. No matter where I am, I always look like I’ve rushed to get there, even when I’m just sitting in my chair at work. My hair is tangled, my bangs mussed unattractively, my skirt is always twisted slightly to one side. I look like I put on my makeup on the subway, but the truth is I just don’t have the patience or skill for crafting perfect angles of eyeliner. All my work clothes look worn out, ill-fitting, and cheap, because they are all of those things.
I often think of myself as the pre-makeover character in your typical Hollywood romcom - awkward and interny, even at 26, with black tights and worn out heels. I see myself almost as an outsider looking on, while I take a sip from my plastic bottle of diet pepsi, accidentally spilling some of it down my chin and onto the ends of my hair and the front of my dress. I stop drinking and absently pat at my Pepsi-dampened hair, never taking my eyes from the computer screen.
I am something of a mess.
I wish I could harness this carelessness with my appearance and put it into other areas of my life. I wish I could care less about almost everything - people and my job and stupid little slights and embarrassments. I almost don’t know who I’d be without anxiety. I can’t imagine myself without the overlay of rampant self-consciousness.
The elevators at work smell like cigarettes because everyone in the building is constantly taking cigarette breaks and I’m still confused about people who smoke in 2013 like it’s normal. Sometimes I almost stare, like I’m still in 9th grade and all agog at the seniors with their cigarettes and cell phones, while I fiddle nervously with my bagged lunch. This sensation is heightened by the fact that I’ve been a bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a little plastic baggie almost every day for the past week for lunch. It’s cheap and easy and painfully unglamorous. The glamorous office girls have salads or sushi or tabouli (which I still haven’t really figured out yet). Or they go to the cafeteria at the hotel, pick at a plateful of food for 30 minutes and then throw the whole thing away.
When I leave for the day, I have to pass a large group of pot-bellied middle-aged men on the way to the subway. They appear to be construction workers, but it’s never clear what they’re working on or where. They wear matching pale blue shirts and outdated facial hair and sometimes they shout things at me. Sometimes they ignore me. It depends what I’m wearing; the red coat gets attention.
Nearby are the Aveda girls. They leave work at the same time I do. They are hairstylists or beauty students and they all wear black, too-tight pants of various styles. They smoke a lot and their hair is over-dyed, and over-highlighted and sometimes there’s a crowd of them, blocking the entire sidewalk. They seem tired but in no hurry to get home.
I am always rushing down the steps of the ACE, trying not to twist an ankle in my worn out shoes. Most days, I swipe my card just as the E train pulls up. The Es are newer, brighter trains, with the automated voice and electronic stop list. Stand clear of the closing doors please, says a man with a jolly, professory voice. And even after a long day of doing what I’m told, I comply. There’s nothing else to do but get out of the way.
I was up late last night. I couldn’t sleep because my intestines were twisting themselves in knots, cramping and squeezing, for no apparent reason. “I’m going to spend some time in the bathroom,” I said and I brought my book in with me like someone’s dad, and I kept saying to Ben “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being gross.”
For 20 minutes or so at a time, the pain would subside to a dull ache that I could mostly ignore, and I would feel grateful to have an excuse to stay up with my book. I had just started John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and I couldn’t stand to put it down. It reads a little like teen lit, but the kind for very smart teenagers who enjoy poetry and philosophy and humorously contemplating their own deaths. It’s an easy book to read, and if it weren’t for the extreme intermittent pain in my abdomen, I would have felt particularly blissful, curled up on the sofa with my pillow and quilt, up past midnight on a Saturday, with all of Sunday still stretched out before me.
I was up long after Ben went to sleep, and sometime around two I felt the pain worsen and the blood drain from my face and a wave of nausea and I started to worry, because you can’t read a book about teenagers with cancer without wondering what the fuck is wrong with your own fragile, disgusting, throbbing body. Both the book and the cramps seemed to be telling me the same thing: you are vulnerable and no one knows what’s going on inside you and if your body decides it wants to give out mid-sentence, well then that’s what your body will do.
I hobbled into the bedroom, doubled over in pain, and curled up beside Ben, crying quietly and saying his name over and over until he woke up. I thought I should probably go see a doctor, but I was just too tired, and it felt kind of ok, or less urgently awful anyway, if I lay on my stomach and didn’t move. So I did that until I fell asleep.
I woke up feeling sore, like the muscles in my abdomen were exhausted, but otherwise ok. For weeks, Ben and I had been planning a margarita crawl for Cinco de Mayo, and I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute, so against my better judgment we went out for lunch and I ate half a torta and some tortilla soup and sipped a mango margarita.
We walked up to the park and it was sunny, but cold, not even 60 degrees, and I kept tugging at my tshirt, feeling the exposed space where my sweatshirt didn’t quite meet my jeans. My next mistake was stopping at a food truck for hot chocolate. It seemed like an alright idea at the time. I felt chilly, but fine, and we spread a blanket out on the grass in the sun and I sipped my hot chocolate and read more of my book. And suddenly, I did not feel fine. I felt sick, because of course I did. I was nauseated and overheated and I kept feeling the sun beating down on the backs of my thighs, absorbed hotly into my black jeans, and my eyes swam in the too-colorful picnic blanket, and the park felt like this inescapable expanse and I couldn’t stand. I cursed my shitty eating habits, and my body for not just rolling with the punches, and the sun for always being too hot or not hot enough and John Green for writing this book I couldn’t put down no matter how awful I felt.
We moved into the shade. Presently, I recovered.
We decided to postpone the rest of the crawl in favor of a nap because we are adults and we do what we want. We walked home with our sweatshirts zipped all the way up. Back in the apartment, we climbed into bed and I wanted to sleep, but I wanted to finish my book more. Ben lay with his head on my shoulder, which he never does, because I don’t normally like to cuddle that much, and when I do, I prefer to be the one lying on shoulders and not the other way around. But today it felt particularly comforting, and as the book continued, and got sadder, I felt desperate not to wake him. I tried to turn the pages very quietly. And then I started to cry because the book was breaking my heart, and I kept reading with tears streaming down my face and Ben breathing heavily on my shoulder and the light from outside starting to fade. I was crying because I missed my parents and because I felt so full of love and because death is scary and unthinkable and because Sundays are inherently bittersweet and because I’m tired of being tired.
And I hope John Green reads this. I hope he knows that I took his book into the bathroom with me when I felt sick and that I read it in the park under an unrelenting sun and that I finished it and cried while my boyfriend slept soundly beside me. Because there is a line in the book that made me sob which says “You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet.” And here I was, doing just that.
I was deep in a sangria-induced nap, my head resting somewhat uncomfortably on Ben’s thighs, dirt clinging to my jeans, when a little boy’s shout pulled me back into reality. I was lying in a grassy, semi-secluded shady spot we had found in the mid-afternoon in Prospect Park.
“THE BEST STICKS. ARE OVER HERE.”
This is what he was saying.
He was soon followed by other very small, very shouty humans, one of whom literally leapt over my stretched out legs on his way to the patch of not-quite-forest.
“I FOUND THE BIGGEST STICK OF THEM ALL. LET’S MAKE A PILE FOR OUR FORT RIGHT HERE.”
Right here happened to be about two feet from where we had been lounging, quite placidly until now, with our books and our alcohol daze. I looked at Ben. Ben looked at me. We started laughing and couldn’t stop.
We were laughing about the way our little oasis had been so easily and noisily penetrated, but also about the leaping and the shouting and the marvelous, unbridled oblivious joy of being 8 years old and finding the BIGGEST STICK OF THEM ALL.
On our way home, we stopped at the antiques and junk sale at 7th ave. and 1st st. and found an almost perfect TV stand for $75. We paid cash and called a cab and brought that baby home. We left our two mismatched end tables and Ben’s giant speakers on the sidewalk to make room for this new piece of furniture - the first one we’ve bought together. We cleaned up the dusty floor and lovingly placed our DVDs inside and spent the rest of the evening watching TV, eating Thai takeout on the couch, and mentioning every 30 minutes or so how lovely our new TV stand looked.
Some Sundays you have to go looking for treasure. You have to leap and run and scramble into the woods and tell everyone about it. Some Sundays, the treasure will find you. It will be sitting at an antique market in the sunshine and you will stroke its surface carefully with the palm of your hand. Or it will be standing, lonely and awkward on the sidewalk, something that someone else had to leave behind to make room for something new. And you will marvel, with unbridled, oblivious joy at your fantastic luck.
Ben makes hash in his cast iron skillet - potatoes and bacon and onions, and I can smell it cooking from the bedroom. I pad into the kitchen in my bare feet and button down shirt, make toast and spread it with caramel apple butter. I garnish our plates with fresh strawberries and pour us pineapple-orange mimosas. We eat on the sofa with our legs curled underneath us.
If you were to peer into our lives with the strongest set of binoculars and a polaroid camera, these are the snapshots you would keep, the things that stick: Ben coming home with yellow lilies in hand, the way he steals the coconut shampoo suds from my hair and rubs it into his own, how we make the bed together, tucking in the sheets just so, tackling the changing of the duvet cover as a team.
He has been teaching me patience with myself. I have been teaching him patience with inanimate objects. We study the shelves in Manhattan bookstores. We hum along with the ice cream truck’s tinkling song. We watch the police lights on the ceiling at night. We point out the best dogs on the street. He lifts my laundry bag - the one I used to drag on a cumbersome cart - with one arm. With the other, he holds my hand.
The sidewalks of Brooklyn are lined with white flowering trees that smell like old semen. This, too, is lovely and funny and ridiculous, like us. “We have a dream life,” Ben says to me. And I say, with all sincerity, “Yeah, we do.”
I soak in an almond-oil bath, reading This is How You Lose Her, occasionally calling out to Ben to translate the Spanish bits I can’t make out. I hate the parts of my body that rise above the water’s surface and I keep adding more water, hotter and hotter, to cover them up.
We go to the premiere of Therese Desqueroux at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I am in the second row. Audrey Tautou is there in person to answer questions and she perches on a stool, mere feet from me and she is so impossibly tiny, all pixie cut and dimples, and I can’t stop staring at her ankles. She looks breakable and darling and doll-like. And I hate myself for thinking all of these things about her, for fixating on her body with such intensity that I almost can’t hear what she’s saying. Everyone in the audience is taking pictures of her on their cellphones and she stares up at the ceiling and her eyes water. Maybe it’s all the flashes, or perhaps she is moved by the director’s widow, who is speaking about her late husband’s childhood. Maybe she feels my eyes on her ankles, the way I know, without even looking, when men leer at me on the subway.
I’ve gained weight and all of my clothes are too tight. I keep wearing the same four skirts to work. I’m in better shape than I have been in years - I can run for 20 minutes without wanting to die, when six months ago I couldn’t run for 2. I eat berries for breakfast. I’ve stopped drinking so much wine. I write down everything I eat for months. Each week, less and less. And still, my jeans are too tight, my tshirts rise up to show a layer of white flesh. What is there to do but go to the gym five days a week, avoid mirrors, and have a good cry once in a while before work? This is being twenty-six, so far.
I remember age sixteen - 10 years and 35 pounds ago, performing double pirouettes on pointe, doing situp after situp on the hardwood floor. Even then, I thought my shoulders were too broad, hated the way my bra cut into my back. I want to tell my sixteen year old self - You are not fat. You’ve just spent too much time in a leotard and pink tights, staring into the mirror. It’s an easy mistake to make.
I have always hated having my hair cut because I don’t like looking in the mirror for 40 minutes straight while a girl with a thick Queens accent and highlights lectures me about my split ends and not blowdrying so much and how long as it been since I had a haircut? Forever, I want to say, and this is why. On Monday, I went to the cheap salon near the subway, let an older, Eastern European woman with kind hands work a deep conditioner into my broken hair, and stared at my round, wet head in the mirror. I blinked away the bits of my bangs as she trimmed. A $60 haircut is what passes for cheap in Brooklyn.
On the weekends and to bed, I wear Ben’s tshirts and button-downs. They smell good, like him, and they make me feel smaller and less exposed. I’m tired of girl clothes. I’m tired of straps and tights and cinch-at-the-waist belts and two sports bras at the gym. I want clothes I can hide inside of. Clothes I can sleep in that don’t itch or pinch. Ben’s like that for me. He’s the place I bury my head when I’m tired or teary or can’t stop laughing. I put on his tshirts and feel all of the muscles in my back release.
Sometimes I feel like Alice, growing larger and larger while everything else stays tiny, all my limbs sticking out of my house at odd angles. An uncontainable thing. Is that so bad really? To burst at all the seams. To punch your way out of the windows. To tear every pair of stockings in the drawer. I’ve been grinding down the heels of my shoes jogging up the subway stairs. I’ve been coming home shaky and hungry and beat, guzzling seltzer and lemon juice from the bottle. Sometimes I think I’ll go insane if I have to have another conversation about calories and “being good” and green tea and carbs and taking the stairs and paleo and and and.
Would you like to know a secret? We are required to wear heels at work, but every once in while, I show up in ballet flats. Because my legs are tired from going to the gym at 6 AM. Because I can’t always bear gripping the pole during the 40 minute lurching subway ride while I teeter in my shoes. Because I can move faster, and I trip less often, and my ankles don’t hurt when I get home at 6 at night. And above all, I am trying to spend less time being hard on this body that carries me around and runs when I ask it to and squeezes my boyfriend’s hand when I don’t have the words to say thank you.
The first secret place was beside our house, between two lilac bushes. Their leaves could be parted like the curtained entryway to a tiny, grassy room. You had to bow your head and crawl to enter. I shared this place with my sister and we called it the Hiding Spot, although there was never anything to hide from in that sprawling Pennsylvania yard, except maybe a couple of grey rabbits. Nearby, affixed to the white-washed wall, there was some sort of vent for the dryer that pumped out warm air that smelled of clean clothes. Even this seemed like magic at the time.
The second secret place was hardly a secret. I was seven when we moved to New York and the basement of the new house had a room under the stairs, with tiny, child-sized doors on either side, painted blue and white. Inside, there was nothing but a few dead spiders and a wooden shelf, but I was wild about it. I lined the floor with baby blankets and set my dolls on the shelf inside. Sometimes I would crouch there for hours, pretending all kinds of reasons why we - my children and I - had to be there. We were hiding from Nazis. We were traveling in the back of the carriage while Rhett Butler drove us to safety. We were very poor and our apartment was very small and dark (I was training to share a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn without even knowing it). I was learning how to be by myself, happily. I liked that you could enter on one side of the tiny cupboard room and come out on the other. That was magic, too.
The third place was the woods behind the church down the street. It was, or seemed at the time, like a giant forest, with two large ravines where odd, old-fashioned garbage collected under dead leaves. There was a dirt path that circled the woods that I vowed to explore until I knew it by heart. I had watched Pocahontas more than a few times. I took off my shoes and ran around it, leaping over roots and rocks, humming Colors of the Wind to myself. The neighbor’s children and I made forts by dragging hefty branches and tall logs to a tree with a sloping arm. I stole a wire hand broom from our garage to smooth out the dirt floor, and an old date book of my father’s, and called role at the first and only meeting of our club. After that, we couldn’t come up with anything to do, and the club was soon abandoned for water guns and garage sales and swing sets. Sometimes, though, I would come back alone. The poorly constructed fort had fallen apart and the logs were too heavy to move on my own. Years later, they expanded a housing development and the woods behind the church were cut down. This was the beginning of the end of the magic.
The fourth place didn’t show up until much later. It was the roof of the house I shared with four friends in college. One night, I took the screen out of my window and climbed out over the ledge with my books. It was dark, so I brought a lamp, stretching the cord from the outlet in my bedroom, but I was much too delighted with myself and this little setup to concentrate on studying. This place was not exactly a secret, either - my friends and I all climbed out that window together sometimes on sunny summer afternoons - but it felt secret in the same way that the others had been. It is magic to climb out your window at age nineteen and look up at the sky in Canada and feel very far away from your parents.
The last place was no secret at all. It was a crowded craft fair on a blistering day in Brooklyn. But I couldn’t find it for the life of me. It was the summer before my junior year of college and I was living in an NYU dorm in Soho at the time, working at a production company in midtown. I was lonely and lost all the time and the air conditioning didn’t work. I knew how to get from my dorm to my job to the cafeteria and back home. Every now and then I ventured to Broadway and gazed at the things I couldn’t afford to buy. The receptionist at the production company was a chatty 20-something who favored tight, snarky sloganed t-shirts and promptly looked me up on facebook and made fun of my party-girl college pictures (and how disparate they were from the shy, awkward intern I was), but it was she who recommended I go to Brooklyn for the first time to see the Renegade Craft Fair. (She did not suggest we go together, of course.) I had literally nothing else to do that weekend so I printed out the directions from HopStop and took the train out of Manhattan.
The only person I knew in the city was the other half of my on/off love/hate casual/sexual relationship and he was busy with other girls whom I found threatening and inaccessible, so I went alone. I was feeling acutely sorry for myself, as you do when you are involved in an on/off love/hate casual/sexual relationship and it suddenly seemed very important that I do this myself. I got off the train and tried to get my bearings. The sidewalks of Williamsburg felt empty and frightening to a very timid twenty year old from Fayetteville. I asked for directions in the Bodega, and being incapable of following them, remained lost for fifteen more minutes. Just when I was sure that I would get heat stroke and die, alone and unloved, in Brooklyn of all places, I heard music. I followed the music to a giant drained outdoor pool, where vendors selling $50 screen prints and homemade button jewelry welcomed me with friendly faces. I bought a cold can of soda and held it to my sweating head while I walked. I tried on a purple hand-dyed vintage slip in a tiny tent. I bought a cameo necklace. I smiled for the first time in days. To me, Brooklyn was a secret place. Of course it wasn’t a secret, any more than the others had been. But I felt, amid the massive crowds of people at this craft fair, that I had discovered something. Looking back, it wasn’t even a new discovery for me. It was the same thing I had learned under the basement stairs and beneath the branches in the woods behind the church. I was relearning, for the umpteenth time in my life, how to be alone, and how to revel in the aloneness. It’s marvelous to slip out of the life you know and explore. It’s magic to do it alone.
I know the blog’s been heavy on reblogs lately, and I’m sorry if pictures of pretty interiors and attractive women and interesting ensembles are not your thing. Sometimes it’s hard to strike a balance on this tumblr, to keep it a place that still feels reflective of me. If I could fill it with writing every day, I would.
The truth is, I write less often now because Ben’s around and I can’t write unless I’m alone. And I write less often now because I’m happy more often now. And it was easier before, when I was single or in a long distance relationship or living in my mother’s basement to carve out time to write. Now I work 9-5 and I go to the gym and I cook dinner and go to bed early and it all sounds very boring, but I haven’t been this calm in years. What I’m trying to say is that I miss writing, but I don’t miss being crazy and lonely and constantly on the verge of an emotional breakdown, and it doesn’t seem fair that I have to choose between them - the writing and the contentment - but if I do, I’d choose this every time.
It’s a cold, sunny day in New York and I am in Chinatown, standing outside of a bakery, while Ben buys us desserts - his: a chewy sesame ball, mine: a walnut tart - although we’re still full from a lunch of chicken soup and spring rolls and noodles with pork. We eat our pastries as we walk up Canal street, peeking into gift shops full of jade figurines and gold charms, and the dirty windows of the Asian liquor stores where we guess at what might be in each bottle.
There’s no wind, and I’m wearing my heavy winter coat with the new zipper. Ben wears the soft, blue plaid scarf I gave him for Christmas. We can’t stop grinning at each other and neither of us is thinking about the doctor’s appointment we left behind in Brooklyn. We hold hands and swing our arms and point out apartments nestled over shops. Lately, I try to imagine us everywhere. I try to imagine calling a new neighborhood home. I try on boroughs for size. My lease is up in April and I haven’t decided whether I’ll go or stay. All I know is I won’t leave New York.
It’s a Sunday, and the discount clothing stores on Broadway are packed with exhausted girls in line for the dressing rooms. On the street corners, women call to me - “Handbag? Designer bag! Tiffany jewelry!” We wander into a furniture store and I open desk drawers and turn over price tags and pull Ben down onto sofas with me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have the money for new things. I still slide open a TV credenza, inspect wine glasses, point out throw pillows and dessert plates. Ben humors me, lets me play house. It’s bright and we’re young and full and living in New York City, paycheck to paycheck, bottle of cheap wine to bottle of cheap wine, and it feels good.
Three hours later and it’s dark. I never get used to how quickly it gets dark in the winter. One minute you’re racing up the subway steps and breathing in the smell of roasted nuts on the sunny sidewalk, dreaming of dim sum and wingback chairs, and the next minute it’s dark and the vendors are packing up their things and we’ve had a fight and the garbage clings to the sides of the buildings. I feel hot and desperate. I duck into Dean and Deluca and buy a lemon soda, guzzle it outside the doorway. My head is pounding. The headaches creep in as quietly as the dark these days. Some Sundays you blink, and everything changes, like a cartoon where a disembodied hand pulls down a screen to change everything from day to night - snap.
Back in Brooklyn, I take two pills for my head and make us a dinner of whatever’s left in the shelves - half a can of peaches, crackers with sweet onions and microwave melted cheese, whiskey and ginger ale with lime. I drink mine and half of his. We put something trashy on TV and make fun of the cheesy characters and I lie my head in Ben’s lap. I feel anxious and unpredictable, like the city. I don’t know anything. All I know is I won’t leave New York.
There is something I’d like to tell you about.
I don’t know why I’m often compelled to write about my personal life here, but the blogging world has nearly always been kind to me. Whenever I am able to give of myself, to write and to share and to open my chest for you, I have been met with kindness, empathy, suggestions, and commiseration. I show you my scars and you show me yours. We meet in the places where we are all broken. So let me tell you a secret. Let me give this to you because I cannot hold it anymore.
Here it is: I am exhausted.
I have eluded to it here and there, but never outright explained. The exhaustion is like a cave I wandered into one day and never found my way out of. It devours my life. I dread waking. I sleep like the dead.
When I was in high school, I was very unhappy. I slept away the unhappiness and sleeping became like a drug to me. I didn’t go out. I rarely saw friends. I never took driver’s ed. After dancing for 15 years, I quit in my final year of high school because I simply could not get out of bed after school. I wrote a letter to my ballet teacher, apologizing. One morning, on some new prescription, I tried to walk from my bedroom to the bathroom and found that I had to crawl. I couldn’t lift the hairdryer. I called out to my mother in tears. I think of this moment often, the way it felt to kneel on all fours on the bathroom floor, weak and ashamed of myself.
In college, the exhaustion was manageable. Sometimes I slept instead of going to class, but who didn’t? Sometimes I slept for 12 hours at a time, but so did my friends. I didn’t worry. I felt better, more alive. I stopped taking any kind of medication. After college, things improved further. I moved to New York. I worked long hours. I exercised and partied and lived exuberantly. I felt good. I felt rested, mostly.
Now, again, this strange ghost haunts me. These days, my life is mostly happy, mostly content. I don’t feel like the same girl who sought sleep as a refuge. But now sleep seeks me and I can’t escape it. I go to bed earlier and earlier. I lose the energy to go to the gym and the motivation to see friends. I’ve gained weight. I sleep through plans with my boyfriend. Over Christmas week, I napped constantly at home in Saratoga. I couldn’t stay up for cocoa and Christmas movies. I was in bed by 8 o’clock each night. I watched my mother’s face fall. Some nights, I couldn’t bear to say goodnight to everyone, so I simply disappeared into the bedroom.
Last night, I missed New Year’s Eve. Despite caffeinated teas and redbull and plenty of sleep the night before, I was asleep on the subway on the way home from dinner. I was out for the night by 9:30. When I woke to the sound of fireworks, I felt guilty and like a failure. I had disappointed my boyfriend and myself. Sleep had won.
Today I made an appointment to see a doctor. I am desperate to fix this. I am desperate to climb out from under this thing. I am afraid and ashamed and I want to tell you because I believe deeply in the support system of kind readers and writers and diary scribblers here. I believe in your words and your reassurance. It’s a new year and I believe there is a way out of this. I have to believe it.
On Christmas night, with a migraine flashing in my dark bedroom, I think that what I really should have given everyone was a list of apologies, general and specific, with a big red bow at the top.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it would read. I’m sorry for crying at Wendy’s when we talked about Dad. I’m sorry for headaches and stomachaches and staying in my room all the time. I’m sorry for googling “can introverts get physically sick from being around people?” I’m sorry for taking seconds at dinner when no one else did and for being too full for dessert. I’m sorry for wearing a low cut lace dress to church and for not kneeling because I was lazy and bored and for the way I tear up whenever we hug, even when there’s nothing to be sad about.
I’m sorry about being so sad.
I’m sorry for becoming a meaner version of myself whenever I’m home, for snapping and for whining, and for hiding behind closed doors. I’m sorry for looking like a daughter who has begun to let herself go, for these too long bangs that get greasy half way through the day. I’m sorry for the nail polish you think is too dark and I’m sorry for the holes in my jeans that you hate. I’m sorry for worrying you. I’m sorry I never bought renter’s insurance or grout for my tub. I’m sorry my apartment is too hot for you to visit, even when the windows are open. I’m sorry for all of this self-pity. I’m sorry for swallowing your love whole.
I could fill a book with apologies and hide it in your shelves. I could fill a life with regrets and hide them in my ribcage and throat. I could tell you over text message that I love you, and never feel like it’s enough. (Because it’s not, it’s not.)
At one time or another, my great need to be alone has hurt everyone that I love. For that, I am sorry down to my skin, but not sorry enough to change. I need to be alone down to my bones. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
It’s snowing now, but with such sparse, light flakes that the wind keeps blowing them upwards and I feel like I’m inside of a snow globe that has been turned upside down.
I’m in my mom’s bed, under a green quilt, watching the grey light out the window. Despite the snow, it looks more like November outside. Brown leaves still cling to the trees. The pines wave at me lazily. I would like to paint a picture for you of the way the pale hydrangea colored walls in this room look on a cloudy winter morning. Downstairs, my grandmother does the dishes. The TV is always on in the living room - usually the news or a show about houses or weddings. Martha stands on the armchair and barks when anyone drives into our cul de sac. Sometimes she lies outside my door with her nose under the edge, sniffing loudly, desperately for me.
There isn’t much to write, but it’s so much easier here than in Brooklyn. I think it’s all the quiet. I feel undistracted and calm, though still things tick at the back of my brain. The way the bathroom needs cleaning, the fear of looking forward to things too much, setting unreasonable expectations for the holidays. There is always something to be worried about, no matter where you are. Maybe the worry is home. It is certainly the place to which I always find myself returning.
No hot water this morning.
My life is an endless loop of putting heavy books in my falling apart purse, reading them for 4 minute intervals on the train, putting them back in my purse, and emptying them out at home.
I have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. Ihavetoomuchstuff.
I want more stuff.
I love Christmas music and my portable steamer and $2 tacos and Netflix instant and the way you look when I tease you and you pretend to be shocked.
Should I move or just rearrange my furniture? Why are all of my shoes uncomfortable? Will I ever feel truly satisfied after eating a salad?
I put my dry clean only clothes in the laundry bag. Fuck it.
I am resistant to change and resistant to fixing things and resistant to improving myself and resistant to compliments and resistant to criticism and resistant to getting out of bed in the morning.
The living room lights keep flickering like a horror movie.
I don’t actually have a living room. I have a To The Right Of The Kitchen.
I also don’t have a kitchen table or a bathroom cabinet or a linen closet or a foyer or dishwasher or a TV stand or a rug or matching furniture. But I do have a bar right across the street that serves cocktails with fancy names in tiny glasses and $5 empanadas with a jukebox and most days that’s enough.
It’s almost December and I want to somehow document the way things are these days, though I feel like I can’t get my hands around it.
I am in a constant state of craving red wine and milk chocolate. None of my clothes fit. I fought with my mom over Thanksgiving about our family and my perpetually hurt feelings and I said “fucking” and she was shocked. I am serving on jury duty this week and all next week and I am getting comfortable with the whitewashed deliberation room walls and its window’s view of downtown Brooklyn. I have been thinking about moving. I have been thinking about throwing things away. I have too many things, too many shoes, too few bookcases, too many pairs of falling apart lace underwear that are too small for my ass. I got gum on my black wool coat. I spent too much on Christmas gifts already. I worry about paying my rent. I worry about stepsiblings and replying to emails and did I mention my carbon monoxide detector went off in the middle of the night and I called 911 and we’re fine, I’m fine, but I haven’t replaced it yet and I worry about that, too? Mostly I worry that I am lazy and tired and that I have no self-control and that all of my problems stem from these things. I worry that I will become a hoarder and I will putter away at my computer from behind a pile of laundry so tall it topples one day and smothers me in H&M cardigans and Forever21 tank tops.
I get hot at night and open the bedroom window and wake up freezing. My back aches. I forget to shave my legs. I haven’t ordered new contacts, so I wear my glasses all the time. The glasses cause me to imagine that I am wearing a mask, so I’ve stopped wearing any makeup. It doesn’t seem worthwhile. Everyone keeps talking about simplifying but nobody tells you how to part with all of the things in your life. Instead I fill my amazon.com basket with books, and I hem and haw and I check Chase online banking again.
I cook now. I use the oven and the stove. I make salads and soups and simple mexican dishes. I cook for Ben and he cooks for me. We argue. We each pull the blankets to our side of the bed. I push him off my pillow. I curl into his arms. He tells me stories in Spanish. I answer back using the only phrases I remember. He asks me how short he should cut his hair. I ask him if my boots make me look like a prostitute. I like knowing he has a set of keys to my apartment. I like hearing him open the door.
Mostly, it seems that there is never enough money to be the person I am trying to pretend to be. I need to save. I need to hold back. I cannot hold back. I want everything. I want to give you everything you want. I want to be the person you remembered me being. But I’m not. I’m a girl whose pants don’t fit, who says “fucking” and doesn’t finish her books. I am an argument and a torn up page and an ellipsis, which means I hope.
I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things and it’s mostly what’s carried me through today. I start to cry in front of my computer at work and I thank god for the cubicle wall I face, in the cubicle alcove I share. I thank god for the phone not ringing. I thank god for my long hair. Yesterday, two co-workers tried to give me some hair styling tips and I simply nodded because there’s no use explaining that your hair is long because it’s something to hide behind. Short hair is for brave girls, or ones who never cry staring into their computer screens at work.
I read Cheryl Strayed’s words and wonder what would Dear Sugar advise? What heartbreaking true story would she tell to lift me up out of my life and see clearly again? She would say You know better than this. She would remind me that the reason I know better is that I’ve been through worse. I’ve felt worse, hit rockier bottoms. I’ve climbed out of uglier days. She would say You know better, sweet pea, and you are better, and all the angry text messages to your friends about other people who make you feel small will not make you feel any bigger or braver. I think she would tell me to own my mistakes, and then to love them, for teaching me to be better.
Cheryl Stayed will take you down a notch, but she’ll hold your hand while she does it. That’s the way I want the voice in my head to be - reminding me to be more humble, but kindly, gently, carefully. Sugar’s words are the most careful and most kind. Wouldn’t it be nice if the inside of our heads were all like that?
Sugar would say It is possible to beat yourself up until you beat yourself to death. It is possible to think yourself into a knot of anxiety and self-loathing, like a twisted gold necklace with the tiniest links. It also possible to untangle that knot. It takes patience, sweet pea. It takes effort and time, but untangling your pain is worthwhile. Persist. Work at that knot with your two tiny hands. Follow the links like a path and let the knot show you how to work out the snarl. And when you have unraveled it, clasp it around your neck and remember, remember. You’ve hit rockier bottoms than this.
The light that colors my bedroom at 7:30 on a Saturday morning in October is grey-blue. Everything looks filtered, hazy, slate-tinted, reflected by the dusty aquamarine headboard, the faded cerulean and rose print quilt. I have a new lamp on the bedside table, with a smooth, white, bulbous base, and a bright white shade that almost seems to glow in this light, despite being turned off. The white paper butterfly mobile in the corner is tangled from months of the A/C’s steady blast, and the bookshelf is overrun with books, piles stacked double.
I am the sort of person who would be content to spend nearly all my time in bed. I’d make a lovely invalid. It annoys my mother, who once told me over the phone to get out of the apartment before I became just like John and Yoko. I just laughed and enjoyed the comparison of my laziness to a peaceful protest. I like the idea of being a shut in, letting my hair grow long and uneven, drinking tea and reading books and admiring the grey light every morning.
I love the high ceilings in this place but I don’t love the way everything always seems to be breaking. The radiator in the kitchen hisses and spits. I didn’t grow up with radiators and I don’t know if this is alright. Very old apartments are never really clean. There is always dirt on the windowsills and in the corners. The dirt becomes a part of the structure of the place. The walls always need repainting. My apartment is charming but not beautiful. There is mold under the grout around the tub and a spidery crack in the kitchen ceiling. The stove always seems to be filthy, though I rarely use it.
Outside, the clatter of recycled bottles on the sidewalk. Last night was the first really cold night of fall and I wore a pair of heavy knit tights to bed. My only goal for today is to make a list of all the things I need and want, order it by priority, and then figure out what I can afford, although I know the answer is almost none of it. I worry myself back to sleep, dream of renter’s insurance and eye exams. It’s interminable - this needing and saving and brooding over money. I feel younger than I am and continually surprised by how difficult it is to take care of myself. I am just poor enough to appreciate the luxuries of croissants for a dollar on the street corner before work, apple cider warmed up in the microwave, and grey-blue Saturday mornings in bed with a whole day ahead to to try, again, to sort out this life.