Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: cities, coincidence? i most often think not, i<3humans, love letters to endorphins, moments, new york, quotables, strangers, subway, the emotional souffle that is me
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.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: brooklyn, gratitude, i<3humans, moments, the emotional souffle that is me, yum in the tum
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.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: dranking, i<3humans, love letters to endorphins, moments, roommate, strangers
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.