Thursday, July 25, 2013


I remember the night before Thanksgiving.  I was wearing the black and white dress and pearl earrings that I save for days that I anticipate being important because you and I were going to go shopping for the Thanksgiving dinner that we were going to have the next day, just the two of us, in your apartment.  That evening, after work I had x-rays taken of my spine.  Looking at the results with the doctor, I could see that my spine curved like a very narrow “S”.  The doctor told me that it – or I – had arthritis.  Time was suddenly tangible.  It was there in the x-ray and it was in the lower back pain that had sent me to the doctor in the first place.  I felt old and scared. 
After my appointment you picked me up in your car and we drove around looking for a grocery store that wasn’t too crowded because I didn’t want to have to spend too much time standing in a check-out line.  We settled on a small, rundown, little grocery store wedged between bars and t-shirt shops near Astor Place.   Instantly, I loved its cracked dirty linoleum floors and cramped aisles.  Other people might have been shopping at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods but this little store was ours.  Together we picked out a pumpkin pie from the store’s bakery.  It was the one thing we both felt we absolutely needed to make it a real Thanksgiving.  Everything else we were willing to make up as we went along.  The store didn’t have any turkeys so you picked out pre-cut and packaged turkey lunch meat and a can of cranberry sauce.  You insisted that it be the kind that plops right out of the can, still holding that grooved metal can shape as it jiggles in the bowl.  I picked out all the necessary ingredients for making guacamole and a couple potatoes for making mashed potatoes.  As we left the store, you walked ahead of me, carrying our shopping bag.  I lagged behind, holding the pie box in my arms, making a point of memorizing everything about the store and the feeling.  Time was tangible.  Again, I felt old but this time I wasn’t scared.   From the doorway you looked back at me, “You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?” 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bare Walls

I’ve lived in my new apartment for just over a month but I still haven’t hung my pictures on the walls.  Yet, there you are.  You and me.  That night.  After everything.  I liked the way you told me to stand up.  You knew just what to do but you’d never done it all those months.  But then, finally – And now, when I lie in bed alone, I look at the bare white walls and I see my hand, your fingers between mine.  I feel my fingernails scrape against the paint.  I feel your hand in my hair, pulling – just a little.  And I feel my body on the white and your body on mine.  I smell your sweat and the paint, still fresh.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Difference

I found a picture that you took of me on Valentine’s Day, long after dinner and margaritas and a cosmopolitan that I had wanted to drink because it was pink and the champagne truffles that we ate in bed.  In the picture my back is turned and I’m smiling at you over my bare shoulder.  The back of my dress hangs slightly open at the top.  It’s my little black dress that I wear for all those big hopeful days.  It wasn’t until I found that picture that I realized that I have a different smile for you than I do for anyone else.  You asked me how I could be so certain that I wanted to be with you.  I told you that I wasn’t always, but one day I noticed the difference between you and me and all the other possibilities.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Best

One of the best things about being together was not being together.  Because when we weren’t together I got to feel how much I loved you.  I felt it in my toes that wiggled under my desk at work while I listened to all my favorite happy songs.  I felt it in my stomach as it danced to the music.  I felt it in the veins of my arms; my blood rushing the way I wished the hours would rush by until I saw you next, and my arms were my vein’s awkward vehicles, swinging back and forth -- forward towards the hope of you at my side.  And I felt the wiggle come up my legs from my toes.  And I felt the dance twist and twirl down from my stomach.  And I felt the blood rush from my arms – down, down.  And there it was, one of my favorite things about being together: not being together, so that we could come together again.  And then I’d see your face across the street on a cold winter evening and I couldn’t have told you what the best part about being together was because everything was wonderful, so maybe I complained about the cold or the fact that you were late or maybe I told you about the bad day I’d had at work, but I was only saying that because I couldn’t tell you what I loved about you because I loved everything and I didn’t know how to say it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Story Potential

It was the perfect Chicago summer night and it was merely hours before my flight back to New York City.  The air was warm but the lake breeze was cool and strong enough to reach the streets of the South Loop.  The noise of the “L” was more of a feeling than a sound, and it was in me, the way it rattles into all its lovers.  I was just sobering up from an afternoon of Champagne and white wine and cigarettes and friends that had become an evening of margaritas and Mexican food when I ran into the man who had been sitting next to my friends and I at an otherwise empty wine bar in Wicker Park earlier that same day.  We smiled and said “hello” and quickly learned that we had gone to the same college and earned the same degree but we had never met.  Or else we did but we were both introverts who preferred watching people and inventing who they were to really getting to know them. 
Continuing on our common ground, I joined him in a round of drinks and French fries at a bar that we had probably drank at on the same night on more than one occasion, without knowing it.  Maybe he had seen me drink Coke while my friend drank rounds of vodka tonics every Tuesday night when I was just nineteen.  Or maybe I had seen him lean up against the bar as he ordered a whiskey ginger back when I wasn’t yet able to stomach the stuff.  Maybe I had bumped into him as we squeezed between the tables and the bar on our way to the bathroom.
Sitting together at a table by the bar, we looked across the street to the university dorms and then we raised our glasses and toasted to all the sex we hadn’t yet had when we were that young.  As we talked I noticed he carried a heavily marked up copy of the short story he was working on in his back pocket.  From time to time he would take it out and set it on the table like it was a security blanket or childhood stuffed animal who's presence assured him that everything would be okay.  I liked him for that.  And I liked him for asking me what saved me.  And we both liked the way it sounded when I replied, “My writing, or at least the idea I have of it.”  And then we had both agreed that nights like this also saved us.  We liked the story potential – which might be why we didn’t exchange numbers or last names: we wanted to stick to the possibilities.
Later we stood outside the bar, looking across the street down Printers’ Row.  I took him in: his careful smile, his short dark hair, his thin black rimmed glasses and his pale blue button down shirt with a pen tucked into the pocket.  He wasn’t particularly handsome but he was interesting.  Maybe the best part was that he didn’t expect me to kiss him.  He was just looking for a story, the way I was just looking for a story, and I would have given it to even if he hadn’t bought me the gin and tonic that I had drank like it was the cure to my drunk-sick stomach and every bad night I been having in New York.   
I thought about asking him to walk around the corner of Polk and Dearborn with me so I could kiss him there against the old Dearborn Station.  And I meant to do it.  I looked at him and I almost opened my mouth and I was almost once again the girl who walked into another dark haired writer’s bedroom, sat atop his desk, and told him she could think of an interesting way to pass the time.  But I didn’t say anything.  And finally he stuck out his hand and thanked me for having a drink with him.  I thanked him too and I watched him walk away down Polk, and I wondered if I looked like that these days in New York: sad and strong and alone.  And I thought about what it means to grow up.  And I thought about Chicago.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Big One

Suddenly I realized that New York was my real life.  I wasn't Joan Didion or Carrie Bradshaw or Holly Golightly but I was Molly Shea Kruser having my second double gin and tonic at a JFK airport bar.  I had a couple friends, half a master's degree, a job, a room with a bed and books and just the right kinds of clothes that a young woman needs to get by in the city.  I was tough and manic.  I was functionally dysfunctional.  I enjoyed Christmas shopping with my boyfriend at Bloomingdale's instead of buying myself dishes or anything else remotely practical.  I thought taxis were sexy.  I preferred eating at a bar to cooking in my kitchen.  I preferred dancing to sleeping.  And I preferred brunch to any other meal.  And while I did not prefer being alone, New York seemed like the kind of place in which I wouldn't really have to be for long.  

And later, after my flight left New York and I arrived in the Midwest and in the presence of the family I hadn't seen in almost a year, I remembered an early September evening spent in Brooklyn.  The air was still warm and the sky was tinged with the golden purple hues of autumn.  It was a third date in what would soon become a relationship.  My date and I sat on a bench in Brooklyn Bridge Park, looking out at the Manhattan skyline.  He had called the city a knockout and I had wished he was referring to me. He told me he couldn't live anywhere other than New York because New York was the center of the world and that's where he needed to be. I had thought I had understood what he meant as I watched his eyes move between the skyline and my face.  He seemed larger than life to me then; strikingly tall, smart, loud, and surprisingly handsome.  The immensity of the hope and determination he had for life seemed too big to be able to exist anywhere other than that sparkling, noisy, expensive, smelly, glamorous city.  But maybe what I was actually seeing wasn't who he was, but who I was already beginning to love.  Or maybe that's how we all look -- all of us who move to New York because we are madly in love with possibilities.  But now, ten months later, I have a better understanding of what he meant then because now I would say the same thing:  I belong in New York because I wouldn't be content to belong anywhere else.