hello to all that.


(omglessthan) Three Weeks

I get the email first. I roll out of bed that morning, up early to meet the lovely miss Emily Joy for breakfast pre-826 and there is another “Peace Corps has updated your application status” email. I’m sort of sleepily puzzled, more than anything. I  just got one of these, some maybe promising, slightly inscrutable blip about my placement review being completed. I log in, just as I have to nod in agreement with many small checkmarked milestones before, and there it is, and my whole nervous system goes BAOOOOGA and I gasp. I slap my hand to my mouth because the screen says something about Congratulations! You’ve been invited to serve and shiminyywhoblahomgwhatwhatwhat. That’s all it will tell me, though, that I’ve been invited, that a packet is in the mail. I tell Emily and no one else until it tumbles out before Kortney and make our customary split at the corner of 5th and 9th that afternoon. It’s managed to fall into the background of the day’s routine and it feels a little like huh Peace Corps invited me isn’t that kind of funny?

I shop for game night treats ingredients, wander the TJ’s aisles in no hurry, sip free sample coffee and hunt around Atlantic Ave. for cream of tartar. It’s raining a little, and I’m calm. It’s out of my head in a way my one-track mind isn’t used to.

When I get back to Greenpoint I have to run to catch the B48 back to my apartment and I get on, unsteady in soaked shoes, heavy bags in each hand. There’s an older, scruffy man sitting towards the front of the bus and he puts out his arms to sort of spot me, makes sure I have a seat. His arms are wide, bracing. I ran no more than half a block but my heart hasn’t stopped pounding. It’s back. I try to rehearse what will happen in the next few minutes, when I get home. I’ll put the groceries away, sit on my bed, and calmly open it. But with every beat and breath and bump its Africa, Africa, Africa. The trees in McGoldrick have never been greener as they blur past and the sun is out now, a little, Africa, Africa, Africa. We get to my block and it feels like the ground is unsteady and the street is now very open but tunnel visioned, turning in on itself, my door is eluding me, I can’t walk fast enough, it’s there in a FedEx envelope (3 lbs!) and I grab it, run upstairs, tear that fucker open.

I’m barely breathing when I see the letter and the “Congratulations,” yank out the Assignment Description and say it aloud for the first time, “Sierra Leone”, my shaking, rain smudged fingers over my mouth again as the quick tears come and I leap to Google, dig hungrily through the rest of the packet and repeat it over and over again, Sierra Leone. I have thought about the word “sierra” recently, how I would some day like to live or at least spend awhile in a place called Sierra ___. In the same way months ago, I rolled the word “fiance” around on my tongue and in my brain after overhearing a girl on the 4 platform say it, and when I got above ground my phone rang. It was Emily calling to tell me she was engaged.

The “June 2-3” part of it all sticks out like an exclamation point and it’s all so soon and sudden and utterly incomprehensible but my god it all feels a little right. And this is what I tell my parents after I wait, pacing and anxious and frustrated for them to call me back when they were distracted, my dad yelling in the background the first time I called them. We all calm down and they let me talk, and I cry and cry and tell them that it’s not because I’m scared even though I am it’s because I think it’s what I need to do and it is.

(The groceries, for the record? Stayed bagged, sweated it out on the kitchen table for a goooood while that night.)

It was three weeks yesterday that the Big Blue Envelope came, and three weeks from the day before that I’m on a plane to DC, where I’ll be for staging and orientation for two days before we’re Africa-bound. The weeks between then and now, between now and then, are their own stories. I’ve been tripping around between excitement and fear, between more complicated stories of wrestling with my relationship to the moment, to my final days (for now) in this city. New York is a difficult place to be in transition. It’s whole schtick, it’s whole lure, its reliable flirtatious works-every-time magic relies on possibility, the keep your head down and work for it and bam, it will deliver, the “making it” part of it all. This is a place for discovery, inside and out, for whatever it’s worth. So it’s harder than ever to find my footing lately, because the conversations that brought me back down when New York left me flailing, the new corners and quiet moments that become only and suddenly mine, these stir me differently now. I’m leaving, this much is known. I don’t have enough of a routine here to enjoy a goodbye at a slow burn. Until my (bittersweet)  final days in the places that have nurtured me most here, I’m still ambling around in a place that is at once still new, and one I am, in many ways, ready to leave. I’m a little antsy now, in conversations with newer people, because the inevitability of my leaving weighs heavy, pushes down on the potential that keeps those conversations feeling warm.

Nina pointed it out so well a couple weeks back, when I told her I swore I had things to tell her but couldn’t at all remember them. She nodded. “It keeps happening to me too. It’s cause you’re leaving. Loose ends.” It hasn’t stopped since. I’ve had the same sensation with nearly every person I’m close to. I’m unspooled, somehow transient, unsure of where to direct my heart. I’m ready, I think, for a little closure. Goodbye parties and packed boxes. I’m ready for Buffalo. (Remind me of this, will you? When I have to say these actual goodbyes, leave the little families I’ve become a part of here, when I’m falling apart at the goddamn seams? Ah New York, in my heart you are nothing if not your contradictions. Looking forward to what nostalgia dreams you up as. Will report back.)

I did 400 repeats with NBR the other night, reaffirming that my love for sprinting in running is consistent with that in swimming (amount of love: LOW). I met a girl who’s headed all over Africa for close to a year working with the WHO, and she talked about her PCV friend in Ghana, caught her breath while I gobbled up her steady monologue about the “bonding” between expats, let her metered, pre-med way of speaking, her easy smile, root me to the spot, send me running home glowing. Earlier, when we were rounding the last corner on one of the toughest 400s, I could see the whole other side of the park, a wash of bodies amid the green, the dusk setting the whole thing ablaze in late April orange and the same nameless voice that says run. go. faster. come on. said simply: remember this. Africa, Africa, Africa.

*For those of you following along with my shamefully intermittent ramblings, I’ll be keeping this blog when I’m in SL rather than making any kind of new PC-specific incarnation. It just feels tedious, mostly, and it’s not like I’ve been so utterly prolific here that I need to start a WHOLE NEW BLOGGITY BLOG to match mah new adventures. So, yup. A blog with a url in neither English nor Krio to chronicle my life in Sierra Leone.  Internet access will be shoddy at best, but I’m looking forward to all the indulgent reading/writing time, and hope to put a few brain dumps here whenever possible–a peek back into the blog world to keep myself good and narcissistic while in the bush, if you will. Also, pls to note the new legal jargon up there in the top left. Fancy!



Tell me.
March 11, 2010, 4:17 am
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Kate of Sweet Salty makes me want to write. That is nothing new. Her writing is the kind I live for, the kind that beats and breathes a truth that makes you want to run circles around the room yelling “Yes yes yes EXACTLY!” I just sit there nodding like a fool while she dumps the contents of my brain out into a post whose path feels well worn and rhythmic and then: always surprising, lit-up and dazzling with that Kate-brand magic. Her words are the kind I want to crawl into, press into the palms of my friends. She is not unlike Sarah in that way.

So today. Another beautiful post, one that ended with this:

Please do this instead. Tell me memories of your mothers. Doesn’t matter if they’re still here, or if they’re estranged. Tell me stories of ghosts and cloud biscuits. Tell me the opposite of arbitrary. Tell me what you’ll always remember so that I’ll know, and my mother too, that motherhood, as nutty as it makes us, endures through everything.

Even death.

The second I began the telling, I realized it was more of a invitation, a prompt, than I’d ever realized. I left it on the post anyway, just for the embarrassment of having the comments section read: comment, comment, GIANT FRIGGIN ESSAY OMG, comment, comment. but! Decided I’d re-post it here too. There’s so much more I’ve been hand-wringingly meaning to write and haven’t (so it goes, so it paralyzes, so I need to fucking get over this fear or this whatEVER), but this will be a good place-holder for now.

***

I will tell you that she is the kindest woman I know. I will tell you that when I was just barely 14, she had an ovarian cyst removed and I waited for her to come home from the surgery tucked alone in a corner of my suddenly very large room. My sister was away at college and my dad was at the hospital. We didn’t know for certain yet that the cyst was benign. I will tell you that what her goneness would mean was suddenly there in that room, huge and crushing, enough to stop my heart. I was terrified and told know one, could not place the words to something so utterly unthinkable. I will tell you how I watched from the window above the driveway as my dad carefully walked her to our door, her steps so tiny and so slow, and I wanted so badly to know that she was going to be OK, but face on the glass I knew only that I loved her, and that it hurt.

I will tell you how she is absentminded and always late, the latter a trait I have inherited and loathe and resent, every time. I will tell you that she always orders dessert, that she is so very aware of the wrongs and the hurt and the work of life, but that she is childlike and curious, joyful and always watching, discovering, thrusting her face towards the sun and saying thank you. I will tell you about 3 weeks ago, when she slept in my twin bed in the small room of my first post-college apartment. She stayed for three days and once while we were shopping a small thing became a large thing, and I got angry and ranted at her, got irrational and obstinate like a teenager. We stepped out into the street and there are two people fighting, one hurling “fuck!”s at the slick sidewalk and sending cruel words down the avenue suddenly quiet in their wake. I can only see them from the side but she is older and might be his mother, and in this way they are parallel because New York has a way of thrusting the inside out, right up close. I will tell you that after this I breathed and started to apologize in a very small voice. She has let me do this so many times over, let me flail outside myself until i come back, where she waits nodding with love. I will tell you that during that visit she looked at me, closed her eyes tight, titled her face up and scrunched it, opened them with an “mmmm” sound and said “happy place.” We walked arm in arm and leaned into eachother, and she came with me to yoga and pushed her uncoordinated self into breathless difficult poses but pushed pushed pushed, and did it, and neither of us could stop beaming over breakfast, both of us so proud. I will tell you that I prepared myself before the class to be a little self-conscious, having her there, and I was, and allowed it and moved on, because look at my mother, look at her strength, look how I don’t even know the half of it, want to drink it in and sit by her feet and live in her light and learn. I will tell you that we had a cheese and cracker picnic on my bed and then read these http://bit.ly/38UyuU together and laughed until messy tears fell down our cheeks. When I put her on a bus back to the airport her mouth bent and her eyes–identical to mine—shined. I will tell you that she does not cry.

I will tell you what my dad told me as he drove me to Brooklyn six months ago, against all of the reservations any pragmatic, caring parent stacks up when their 21 year old daughter moves to a new city for an unpaid position. I will tell you that I had not heard of how he told my mother her father was dead until that car ride. She was only 28. Twenty eight. How had I not been able to consider the size of that, to hold it, awed and careful in my hands, until now, feet planted in the decade? He tells me that when he appeared there so unexpectedly in her office that day she said “Hello!” with “that little smile. oh, you know that little smile of hers? Oh my god.” and that when he tells her she said “No,” with casual certainty. And then, “No, no, no, no, no.” My legs shake beneath my clasped hands and I am stunned to see a sign for a service area sixteen miles away. Nothing exists to me beyond the space the two of us share. That little smile. Of course. Of course. Gratitude is something that comes running up to you around the age I am now, and you want to race after it, chase it through the streets of your years yelling and for this! and this! and this and this! Thank you! So I will tell you I am grateful for my mother, more and more every year, every day. I will tell you that “grateful” seems a cruel summary for the woman, the impossibly sweet and hopeful and clumsy woman I want to thank for my every flaw, for pressing down so hard, so heavy on my heart, for making me light.



Yes.
February 3, 2010, 6:52 am
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This should be required reading for anyone who suffers from a severe case of perfectionism by way of procrastination that gives way to paralysis.  For anyone who gets twitchy when writers, of any kind, talking about writing—the act. The part that too much of the time, is the hardest.

No more.

“The only thing we can do in the end is be brave. No one can escape being disliked, and no one can escape being loved. Go for it.”



Messy mishmoshed montage on another word that starts with M

I had one class with her, “American Woman Writers.” I’m not sure that I ever even spoke to her more than twice, but she had long hair and bright eyes, and the kind of gait and long skirts and ideas that invite. That spring I went to New Orleans to visit the sisterbear, and there she was, we passed wordless on the street. A half second too long to be strangers, too short to turn my sudden awe into hello. Three years later I walk through Union Square and she passes, unmistakable. We both see eachother this time, and I try to collect myself from my sip of cider and post-run tangle of sweat and frizz enough to say “Hey!” She returns it, and in her smile there is warmth, and less surprise than my own. There is something like knowing. Her name is Esperanza, hope, and this is no coincidence.

***

I make my maiden voyage to Baked after making their spicy brownies (via Smitten Kitch), over-chipotle powdering them and crying over this because it was finals week, and yeah–need I say more? and re-making a correct batch to stellar results. I set my sights on Red Hook, and on Baked, soon after moving and after the action-packed day off I’d hoped for gets whittled away by delays and waiting and Life, Lauren, Francisco and I finally end up there just before closing. I soak up the adorableness, the being-here, the baller pumpkin whoopee pie and salty brownie and coffee. But on our way out I stop, gasp:

These are my plates, the plates. I selected them carefully from a little sale display at Room, doubtless the only thing I could afford in the entire store. It was the end of the summer right before junior year, when I would move off campus. You need mugs in a dorm, tumblers that will crust over and get recycled come August. A set of plates from a local store, designed by SCAD students in coordinating, but not matchy matchy patterns that are square and unique and dare I say “innovayytive”? Those go in a house. I bought the small orange and green one, and went back before senior year for the larger orange one on the bottom (and another green, not pictured.) I have never even seen a suggestion of them anywhere else, ever. As I look around, flailing and camera phoning and unable to say little more than “The PLATES! Lauren! Our house!” at this point, I realize the whole motif of the bakery is designed around them, around the deer silhouette.

They’re plates, I realize. Plates. But out of all the plates and the paths and the hours and the clicks and the choices and the months and the cities and the boroughs, I ended up here. Standing in a space designed around an object which had become a small, important part of a life I was slowly building, in part for and by myself. “Out of all the–!” I said it into the walls, into the cold snap of air back in the street, but I couldn’t even. I was breathless and beating with it; the lightness, the weight.

***

After yoga one night I sit next to fellow mat-carrier while waiting for the L. “Did you have a good practice?” he asks. He smiles and we both read our books–both red– and get on the train. We sit across from each other and I fumble to turn pages and hide my stares. When I get off, I look down to meet his own upward half-smile, both red. In them there is no possibility, but there is magic in the meeting.

***

It’s one of the coldest nights of the winter so far, and I’ve somehow forced myself out the door and on to the McCarren track. I was expecting a smaller crowd, sure, but tonight the park is barren. Until a few bundled up and brave dog walkers join me, I am the lone person on the track, period. I’m listening to Regina’s “Far” and nothing but, and as long as I keep going, around and around and around, I don’t get freaked out by this, and don’t notice the hiss of my breath in the icy wind. It’s one of those runs, common to a crude and heartening and familiar cycle. Whole days can stretch into one fog. I wear and eat the same things, do not read or write or run enough and all is as finite and unmovable like the very limits of my body have grown tired of their daily reach and fingertips and eyes and nose retreat back, into a coiled dark, big as the world. A customer says “how are things?” at the exact, right moment. A card from Sarah comes in the mail. I connect with somebody–a loved-somebody, anybody–and they get it. I put on my sneakers and remember again (and again, and again, again) that I love. To. Run. Remember It. And so I work my way back. I’m getting there tonight with every stride, and my right foot hits the ground right on top of a small white square. I pick it up to find it’s a tea bag tag, inscribed with a quote, as seems to be their wont lately (much to my delight–two for you Yogi tea). “And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared—Homer” I have embarrassingly read not a lick of Homer. But “great thoughts” play out like daydreams on my runs, and live there a little too comfortably, a light that wanes.

I love this city for its contradictions, for what one block gives and one corner takes each day. This may be the only way I can live, right now. There is still so much I haven’t yet dared. In between the long gazes, the dark places, there is possibility; magic in the meeting.



The following are the contents of my head NOT currently occupied by WTF just happened with that Kanye/Spike Jonze situation (a SIZEABLE space)

NPR is warming our living room and leaking through my door, as is its wont on coze weekday nights around here. During some report or another, Brooklyn was mentioned, and Jonathan said “Brooklyn!” as I was crouching in front of the oven, checking the status of my sweet potato fries, the air hot on my face and smelling like a perfect precarious mix of something melting and rosemary.  We had ourselves a little mock “hayyy, represent!” moment and for the first time, it didn’t feel like someone else’s Brooklyn, someone else’s New York. On so many Sundays here I’ve crossed the floor again and again with empty water glasses and fresh mugs of tea, my progress marked by “It’s 2:37pm and 65 degrees in Central Park” and the two never connected, this place and that place and my place in it. They’re starting to, in their own way. There’s a lot of image and an armour of romanticism to get through here before the notion that it can hold any part of your roots can even be dreamed.

But more importantly, can we get back to those fries, and give it up for fall veggies? Way to only require an oven, olive oil, and minimal seasoning to rock out with your savory out, kids. Sliced up yam, with a garlic/rosemary corner and a chipotle powered corner, to leave the rest of the cookie sheet with nothing but sea salt and a readiness for a good slog through lots of honey? Was perfection tonight. I ate them with what I’ve been eating for a not insignificant portion of the past few weeks: some variation of brown rice with black beans and an assortment of tomatoes, peppers and onions. It is simple and ridiculously easy and reflective of my broke-ass lifestyle but I have not tired of it. I eek out as many meals as possibly from each pot of rice but when I eat it I feel rich and pleased and satisfied. I could live on the ol’ R&B, is the real truth. (I didn’t even realize what happened there, but to clarify: both the beans-and-rice kind AND the music kind.) My heart aches for famdin and ambitious cooking though. Big pots of root vegetable-laden soup are on the horizon for sure.

Oof. There is so much to say. About right now, and last week, and the past month, and how it feels like–not that things are falling into place, because that is not, of course, what things do. They scatter and surprise and delight and crush and slip and fall from edges and light up without any warning. They have no place in which to go, not for long, not now. But it feels like the right choices are being made, and that ones that were made have weathered the necessary sacrifice to end up here, almost functioning. It feels good. Most of the time lately, I feel content in a way have not in a very long time. In one minute I turn 22, and I feel good about this. I feel worlds better than I remember feeling on the eve of my 21st birthday, which just may be what now marks a solid year of uncertainty and quiet panic and a total lack of center where once thered been what I thought to be my core: contentment and a settled peace I had no idea could become so frighteningly detached.

I’ve been daunted by the task of needing to fill a space with part of you since I was handed a blank paged book with a hard white cover on the first day of fifth grade and told that this was my science journal. I stared at it and freeeekt, wondering how I would ever fill it, unable to imagine the rational, sane pattern of assignments that would follow. I felt the same way when I got here, and sat on the bare mattress of this little room, suddenly scared of it all, and unable to unpack or process until I closed my eyes, fell asleep and woke up a little while later, still addled, but able to move. It happened again with graduation, only it was you know, life. Here you go, it’s yours! We’ve handed things out and dropped you off and we’re already on the way home, but you’ve got what you need now, so see you later! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how I reacted, and how long I took to begin to settle and to move again and to heal, given the scale. I guess I’m at my best when I’m actively filling these things, whatever they may be, moving too much to notice until one day I am changing the paper towel roll and baking potatoes. And on my way out the door I turn to find a made bed,with shoes lined up underneath and pictures on the wall and a table with sundry receipts and menus and a tea bag drying in a mug, and veritable evidence of a life.

And so here I am. In the past two months or so I’ve felt the change in my bones. I’ve given myself over to this city and its contradictions, and the things it hides from me so carefully, insisting on the discovery that keeps me in motion each day, red cheeked and breathing hope. And then for three days I escaped it for New Paltz, for the inimitable comfort and reaffirmation of a team, for the perfect and ridiculous and so damn heartfelt girly bursts of pride and excitement for a milestone, for people I want to grab and say I live better when you’re here, for apples and ridges and hilltops and cheers and Bravo and chlorine and singing along as HARD as my lungs will allow to this and this.

When we had fires in Eva’s backyard this summer, my favorite part was watching everyone’s faces, the way they seemed to glow infinite, one after another in an invincible circle. I’ve been looking at all my friends that way lately, including the ones I can’t see. We have no idea where were headed, but nobody is going anywhere. Look how we move, look how we live.

This nasty chest cold has kept me from running for over a week, but that ends tomorrow, no matter what state my lungs wake up in. This needs to start right. I’m turning twenty two grateful.  Thank you.



On neighborhoods.
October 19, 2009, 7:22 am
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There’s something that’s been stuck in my head since before I moved here, but the other night it came back and settled into the pit of my stomach when a glass and a half of wine gave me the courage to fight for it a little, but not enough. And it feels like something needs to be put to bed, or at least needs to be a read a story before I shut the door, hold my  breath for a second, and hope for the best, for now.

One of my last pre-Brooklyn days in the Buff, I spent a couple hours helping Whit canvass on Massachusetts and it was that time of day. The time I can’t write about or talk about or gulp down enough. “Magic hour:” the end of a summer evening when the sun leans back and says Here, you there, take it. Look around. It’s yours. Right where it should be.

We wandered down opposite sides of the block to tell people about PUSH’s tree planting and I was nervous at first, to amble right up strangers’ walks and knock on their doors with no pretense but the little orange flyer in my hand. But like I have so many times before, I found my footing in Whitney’s. I watched her gait, any hesitance squashed by confidence, and her smile, with no beginning or end. So too I found my groove. And so we walked and we walked and some of the porches sagged and the wrought iron railings of front steps leaned to one side like a laugh that requires more than your mouth. Sometimes the houses were empty, windowless, and inside clouded windows you could see dried paint cans and so you shrugged, turned, kept going. And when you did  there was too much life in the way too remember the empty rooms.

Here people sit in little staggered pyramids, spilling out from the porch to the lawn, braiding hair and eating bowls of pasta and shrieking with laughter and drinking from beer cans dwarfed by so many hands. The playgrounds are full and so are the doorways. Everyone wants to know who we are, why we are there, and in exchange we always get a little of them. And it only takes a little of this to start to feel grounded in a kind of mutual knowing that feels comfortably weathered, easy. Whit and I make a lot promises as white teeth and hat brims tilt towards us to see if each of us are going to the event that weekend. “But what about you? You gonna be there?” We get smiles and questions and handshakes and we get very hungry. So we head into Allentown and devour grilled sandwiches served to us on thick wood boards and drink draft beers and one part of the night slides into another, drifting like only September days do.

I do not think what I did–what we, though Whit gets to go on baller West Side adventures all the time–should be seen as strange or brave or noteworthy, but there were certain truths I could not ignore that day, truths that reveal themselves over and over.  That the list of those who would not willingly spend two hours that way is long, that I would get more raised eyebrows than informed questions or even small talk-level interest if I told anyone I spent part of the afternoon wandering Massachusetts Avenue. Most would insist that that day was some kind of exception, and I’m sick at the thought of to what? Because when it became certain I was moving to Brooklyn, I was grilled by everyone—oh how the experts REVEAL themselves when you make a LifeChoice!–on which neighborhood, where. Two words are used there:

Good.

Bad.

Oh good, they say. That’s a good neighborhood. And Can you imagine? Thank god you didn’t end up there. Everyone squishes their mouth around to fit the weight of it, We were living in a BAD neighborhood then, remember? The goal is to always get out of the bad and into the good. If you are moving or running or lost. The answer is always to face your back to the street, and leave. The cop pulls up, looks at you over sunglasses in which you see yourself, only smaller, and says What are you doing HERE anyway? Listen, just don’t ever come back this way, and you’ll be fine, OK? And you are relieved, and run into the long arms of blocks with storefronts selling coffee and flowers and live to tell the tale. Who is immune to it, the story that ends in we ended up in a BAD part of town? It’s a common trope; an accepted, celebrated one that embraces the teller back into the good. What is left never matters.

It’s the “bad” part that gets me. That the “neighborhood” is what is bad. There are bad circumstances, bad structures, bad policies, bad cycles and habits and choices and chances and no I will not say bad people. (Call it naivete, but I’m going with it.) But if there is a place somewhere: where the doors spill out into a sidewalk because doors are for people to enter and leave in a way that pushes them into one another, that backs up their stories like the lawn into the driveway where folding chairs are circled on Sundays sometimes, if there is a line of long-legged kids who run past and yell into open windows and know the corners that mark the borders of their worlds, if you can hear, on warm nights, the murmur of the lives next to you if only for proof that they are there, breathing, and if you know what the people across the street look like only by their eyes because when the snow came they stuck their shovels under your car until the icy yowl of your tires stopped, then this is not what is bad. This will never be bad.

“But if you, OK, if you had them, if you had crime statistics for a list of neighborhoods, wouldn’t you choose to live in the one with less?” He says. He’s wearing my estate sale-d floral apron, and what’s supposed to be the waistline stretches over the top of his growing beer gut, and he’s smirking, as if he’s already arrived at the punch line, already won.

See the thing is, those aren’t the only numbers that work for me. They’ll never work like the ones on the front of a house that glow when the streetlights go on just to say, We’re still here. You can’t know those numbers when you live in blank houses, on inscrutable dead end streets that end in sparse trees, planted three years ago, five years after the woods went down. So you cut whole places off of your maps until you one day you are lost. “Let’s go home,” you say. And you park you car on a dark street, never knowing.



a run, a margarita, a panacea
September 24, 2009, 7:19 pm
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There was something in the air at the Willamsburgh (yes, they do insist upon that h, apparently) library yesterday afternoon that turned most of the kids at drop-in into these little obstinate crankypantses who made frequent and frustrating use of the phrase “I don’t know.” They were whiny, distracted, tearful, tired. They are normally the needier bunch, and this does not make trips out ot W-burg any worse of better, just different, and more challenging. I really love the back and forth. I love listening to their mothers’ Spanish, surprising them with my own, I love the simple understanding there, in even a little bit of shared language. I really just love drop-in. But days like that make my eyes and head pound and I leave a little deflated. And then I want to see my friends, explore, go somewhere. But they a short list, here, and they are on teachery schedules that wake them up when it is still dark so they are very understandably out of commission on most weekday nights.

So I walk towards home feeling what is undeniably lonely. There’s an odd sort of comfort in that kind of loneliness, in any emotion that is so readily defined and categorized. No dark stretches of heavy ambiguity, no dull and humid shrouds of meh. It’s the kind of loneliness during which you can take pleasure in slowly meandering through the grocery store aisles to select the remaining ingredients for a quesadilla you will prepare for yourself. In the cold air of the aisles, and the feel of red peppers against your careful fingertips, and the brush of the arms and carts of the other shoppers, it is safe.

I got back to my apartment at around 6:45, and knew that if I were to attempt to run with the seemingly awesome running group I’d discovered (on the track at McCarren Park two nights ago at the same time I discovered it is a downright RUNNING PARTAY after dark, and a JOY, omg) I’d have to leave soonish. I felt sticky and unmotivated and slothful and stood in the kitchen dipping half a cracker into peanut butter at the point that all runs or not-runs reach right before a decision is made. And man was this a decisive moment, almost cinematically so. I ran through the worst case scenarios in my head: they’d be speed demon jerks who left me the dust, wandering lost and weeping through the streets of Greenpoint, I would never even find them at the track, leaving me to amble through a half assed ipodless run, maybe also weeping. I decided either was better then moping around doing who knows whatthefuck else instead of something that at least had clarity going for it: if I didn’t do it, I was certain I’d regret it.

So I put on my sneakers, and go. “Are you guys, the um, ___?” (not putting the name here, I fear the google!) And they are. And they are smiley. And full of “the more the merrier”s and steady introductions. And we split off into pace groups and I swallow and let my legs do the thinking. We run in a glorious clump, and have the sort of moments the midnight bike ride is prone to, the whoooops were a big group of humans so we’re just gonna snatch the right of way sry! There is a mysterious bus painted sort of like this and dogs poke out its windows and its bass-heavy music pushes against us mingled with rusty citysmells and we run and we run and we run. I talk half marathons and new places with girls who set a quick pace and want to know my story and I theirs and run through streets I do not know and am a little awed. We run across the Pulaski Bridge to a place called Gantry State Plaza, a little pier on the Queens waterfront where the Manhattan skyline is so close it seems like you can reach forward and grab at it, and we stop, panting and gulping a new breeze foreign to the humid night. We stretch and make sure we know everyone’s name, and I agree with Oriana, a girl I’ve run most of the way here with that this is the best way to get to know a city and my god, the beauty.

I am happy to move up in the pack on the way back, happy to comfort a girl who is admittedly not feeling it with about a mile to go. We sprawl out in a corner of the track for core work and my sweat-soaked body gets covered in hard little trackbits and my elbows are aching and stinging from doing planks this way but I am grinning and one of the last to leave. There’s a gumby-like twinkly eyed British dude whose smile is an open window and he is sure to get my name before I leave because he “never likes anyone to not feel welcome!” More grinning. “It was great to run with you!” says Oriana, here eyes bright in the stretches of track-light that lean against the trees here.

And when I head up the stairs to my apartment, elbows a little raw and shirt dirty and stinking, a door on the 2nd floor is open and a red-headed girl pops out. “Hey! Do you live here ?!” She just moved in about a week ago too, and we shake hands and talk in that rapid way of people who connect instantly, if only for seconds, and she readjusts the bag on her shoulder with a quick shrug, and gestures towards the phone in her hand “I’m just on the phone with the bro, but…” her smile is apologetic, but ends in hope. “If you ever need an egg or sugar!” she calls as I bound up the stairs.

My roommate who rarely speaks or leaves her room has her boyfriend over and he has a warm face and shirtless charm and we talk easily, the three of us making small circles around the kitchen amidst the sound of chopping and sauteing that is all too absent here.

They make margaritas and there is a knock at my door and he is there to ask “salt or no salt?” and I stand in our small hot kitchen, right hip leaning against the counter, drinking the perfect margarita from a mug from a set Brink’s was getting rid of on one of my last days there that I’ve had an irrational love for ever since. I lick the salt off its rim, squeeze in a quarter of lime and feel distinct about things again. Only this time, the thing tethering me to the spot feels more like possibility.