Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We know god is dead, they told us, but listening to you I wasn't sure.

He was old and when I kissed him he tasted even older.  And I was an old soul with a timeless, restless heart that beat like shoes running on pavement.  My favorite thing about him was that I didn’t have to sleep alone.  He slept clinging onto my body, his tiny hands grasping at any part of me he could reach, as if he thought I was too good to be true, as if he was afraid that I wasn’t – true, that is.  And I wasn’t. 

Somewhere beyond his bedroom window the sun was rising and I was rising with it.  I lifted his thin, sweaty arm off me and slid my body away from his.  I willed myself to be quiet and graceful as my feet touched the floor and I made my way through his apartment.  I took a couple blank pieces of paper from his printer and pulled a pen from my purse before returning to sit on the floor at the foot of his bed.  The carpet scratched against my bare skin and I could see snow falling outside the window and hear the faint rattle of the “L” as it went to and from the Loop.   

Naked on his bedroom floor, on that snowy Sunday morning, on what would turn out to be my last winter in Chicago, I wrote about brightness.  I wrote that I was afraid that I would never feel clean or light or fresh or bright again.  I wrote about how the night before it had been too warm to snow so it has rained instead and the streetlights had made the raindrops glitter silver and gold upon the black city streets and he and I had run together down the sidewalks of Lincoln Park.  I had held a rose in my hand but I wouldn’t hold his.  And it may have been a beautiful night but it wasn’t.  It wasn’t beautiful.  And I could tell that he loved me but I didn’t. 

A couple months later, in France, I wrote about brightness again.  I wrote about it every day.  In France everything felt clean and light and fresh and bright and possible.  And in Cannes the sea air was easy to breathe and anything bad that had ever been was made beautiful under streetlights and stars as waves broke against sand and cement.  Even the breaking was beautiful. 

But I don’t live in France.  And so I love like I live – entirely in the moment.  I used to have a couple theories about love and happiness – and I even had some on that snowy Sunday morning – but they all relied on a belief in the brightness and the only thing I believe in now is that brightness fades.  And it is always possible to awaken in the dark beside a sleeping body and think and write and be someone that they don’t realize they don’t know.  All we can have of one another is an idea – some are just better than others.

And so I look for a moment with a man who can listen to a song with me and know it by heart the way I know it by heart even if we can’t know each other as well as we think we do.  And if the song that saved me from a bad day and a worse feeling can save him too and we can be momentarily saved together, then maybe we can share an idea of angels and god and brightness.  

***The title of this post is taken from "An Almost Made Up Poem" by Charles Bukowski

Monday, October 1, 2012

New York was his town, and it always would be.

Dear Readers,

These days I have a growing collection of emails and Facebook messages and texts, all yet unanswered and all asking me the same thing: how is life in New York?  And then the question is usually followed by something akin to, “I’ve been reading your blog.  When are you going to post more about New York?”  I leave these messages unanswered, not because I don’t care about the people who send them but because I don’t know what to say.  That’s the trouble with being a writer, I always want to say just the right thing and if I can’t be sure what that is then I don’t write.  I experience writer’s block even when it comes to Facebook messages. 

So I want you to know that I am writing this for you, my dear readers.  I am writing this for you, my friends and my family, who send me birthday cards and kind words from around the world and who are always there with me – on the phone or just online – whenever something goes wrong for me. I am writing this for the people I care about and the people who care enough to read this blog – and for a new reader that I happen to care a lot about. I am writing this to tell you how my life in New York so far.

In the past five weeks I have often found myself imagining what I would write as possible responses to those unanswered emails and messages and texts as I go about my day, as I walk down the street or as I eat bad food that I would never have pretended to like in Chicago or Cannes or Canterbury or Platteville.  And then today I found myself wanting to text everyone who’s messages I had left unanswered with just the simple statement that I am wonderfully, happy.  Yes, wonderfully, happy.  But I didn’t do that because that isn’t always how New York is for me.  At least four days out of the week I am usually terribly lonely and frustrated and disappointed.  So far I haven’t made many friends and my M.F.A. program is a let-down and I still prefer the atmosphere of Chicago to that of New York.  And I haven’t found many little things that I love yet.  I don’t have a favorite café or restaurant or take-out place or street.  And I often worry that I will never have these things, while I constantly idealize my favorite little things about Chicago – my favorite walks to take, my places to eat, my favorite café to sit and have a conversation – all of which I loved because they became part of my routine to the point that when I think of Chicago, I am thinking of walking down Fullerton Avenue and seeing brownstone urban splendor and I am thinking of eating Mexican food so hot I could scarcely breathe as I sit on the edge of Lake Michigan, watching the pink evening sky’s rippling reflection languish on the water’s surface as night flows in. 

And so, you see, I never return any messages because I feel like I don’t have the right stories to tell you.  But tonight, as I walked home from class the refrain from my memoir-in-progress struck me once again as relevant: we become each other’s stories.  And I realized that I do have a story about my life thus far in New York.  I have a boyfriend.  Surely, many of you know me as the ever-hopeful romantic but this time is different.  This time is what I was hoping for.

I met him on my fourth night in the city.  I remember thinking he sounded like a real New Yorker when he first told me his name.  As it turned out, he was from Boston.  I was just so new to New York when I met him that I didn’t really know what a New Yorker sounded like.  

When I first arrived, New York had felt like just another place but from the very beginning he didn’t feel like just another man.  He was tall and he possessed a caring, carful charm.  He had the kind of eyes that I had only ever read about, had never seen in real life.  Nonetheless, when I opened my eyes in the midst of kissing him on the night of our second date and saw his blue eyes looking back at me I knew that he had what the books told of; he had smiling eyes.  That night, as I lay beside him, staring up at his bedroom ceiling as I waited for sleep to find me, I noticed his smiling eyes watching me and I saw in them the hesitant look that I am sure has been in my own eyes many nights in the past years.  It was the look that said that he would rather stay up late talking to me than do just about anything else.  And so we did.  And so we do.

A week later, as evening lay itself down upon the soft bed of night, he kissed my shoulder while streetlight spilled through his bedroom window, kissing the rest of me with warm September-gold lips and I found myself wishing that I had never said “I love you” to anyone before because already I liked him more than I had ever loved anyone I had ever said those words to.

I realize, of course, that you might wonder why I am writing this here, but I told you – I am writing this for you and for him.  After all, how often do I write happy stories?  So since I now have one to tell I really ought to write it and be damn proud of it.  And so I am.

Those of you who know me well or who have just been reading my writing over the past several years know that I have written about the places I have lived and traveled to, as well as the people I’ve known and the men I’ve been with.  But I haven’t ever really written a happy story.  I’ve written melancholy tales of how love wasn’t what I thought it would be and restless recounts of places I’ve been.  And whether you realized it for not, the subtext was always that I was discontented and dissatisfied.  I was always wondering if there was something – someone – better out there, but always worrying that this – the particular man of the moment – might be as good as it gets.

So now I must tell you that I have a new boyfriend because in my daily life in New York I work on my memoir, which is about how we become each other’s stories and he is a good story – a happy story.

We become each other’s stories.  When I tell you that I have a boyfriend I am telling you the story of how I learned to never settle for anything less than I once dared hope for when I was too young to know all the kinds of disappointing the world can be.  I am telling you the story of how, finally, I have found someone who not just loves what I love but who loves the way I love it.  I am telling you the story of how I learned to have a little faith in people. 

And now let me close with that last story.

I told you that I don’t yet have many little things that I love about New York, but there are some big things that I have loved so far.  I loved my whole birthday weekend and I loved going on dates at The Museum of the City of New York and The Met. And I loved going on a date to see Woody Allen’s Manhattan at a vintage theater in Brooklyn – I may have loved that most.

On our first date my boyfriend told me that he thought Woody Allen was a truly great actor because he ended Manhattan  not with a great last line but with a great smile.  In the final scene of the movie Woody Allen’s character learns that the woman he loves is leaving to spend six months in London.  He tells her that doesn’t want her to go because he is worried that she might lose “that little thing” that he loves about her.  She tells him that he has to learn to have a little faith in people.  His response to this statement is a slow, sweet smile.  I always thought that was his character’s way of agreeing to have a little faith.

The day after we saw Manhattan in Brooklyn my boyfriend suggested that we write each other stories, so we agreed to each write our own version of that date.  Ever the dedicated writer, I finished my story within the week.  He still hasn’t written his so he hasn’t read mine but the point of the story that I wrote for him was that, when I smile at him, I am agreeing to have a little faith.  And I think that is a really nice story.

As always, Dear Readers, thank you for reading.

Yours Truly,
Molly Shea Kruser

***The title for this post is taken from Woody Allen's opening monologue in Manhattan.