This is the rewrite.
Monday, October 28, 2013
The first time we had sex it was morning and the September Sunday sun was shining brightly through your blinds. The first time we had sex with the lights off, your face came towards mine and I saw his face and it felt like my breath was caught in my throat. I wasn’t with you anymore – or you weren’t you anymore. You were him and your bed was his bed and I was suffocating under an invisible pillow of fear and all I could see was bright eyes and the outline of a head above mine in the dark. Then the head pressed its cheek against my cheek and I could no longer see eyes. I could see nothing. But I could feel the difference -- your skin on mine and your breathing and the way you took my hand and linked your fingers with mine. You were you again and I wanted to cry. I squinted my eyes against the feeling. I was supposed to be fine. There had never been any bruises and I had never even cried. Months had gone by and I had thought I was fine and then I had met you and I was even happy. And then, there it was: the first real proof that I was not fine. I listened to the sound of your breath against my ear and I placed the palm of my hand on the back of your neck. I memorized the details like a prayer. Your body began to feel like a blanket over me and I wrapped myself up in the feeling.
*The title is from a Joan Didion's essay "The White Album"
Thursday, October 24, 2013
It’s 2a.m. and I am almost-drunk on tequila shots and whatever kind of obscure craft beer the man standing in front of me in the aesthetically artful bar on the Lower Eastside has bought for me. We have been talking about art and he is asking me what I like about Jackson Pollock. I don’t like anything about Pollock, except maybe his drinking problem -- but I don’t say that. I transition the conversation to Marc Chagall, who I really do like, and I say, “I like Chagall because he says – and I first learned it when I was studying art history in France so I just have to say it in French now – ‘La seul couleur avec que je peins c’est la couleur de l’amour.’ It means, ‘The only color I paint with is the color of love.’” I am probably misquoting slightly and my French is definitely rusty, but my drunkenness helps me get the accent right. This quote is not why I like Chagall, but it is my version of a pick-up line. The man smiles and starts talking about something artsy or intellectual but I am not listening. It’s too easy. I shouldn’t have used my Chagall line. I am drunk and bored. I look around the bar. My grandmother would like it there. She likes to wear flannel too. I wonder if they use grass-fed cow cheese when they make a grilled cheese sandwich. I get lucky; the friend I came with is bored too, so we ditch my Pollock and head to Midtown.
Now we are in Joshua Tree. As Budweiser is king of beers, so Joshua Tree is king of bro bars. It is 3a.m. and the bar is a frothy sea of late 20-something men wearing button-down Ralph Lauren shirts, chinos, and boat shoes. It is late enough into the night that they are all drunk on Bud Light Platinum and college memories. In New York, these are the kind of men that pass for bros. After a year in New York, I have come to learn that I like this kind of man best when I’m drunk and when he’s drunk and – most importantly – when we’re both single. Under those circumstances we are lot of fun together. These men – these bros – make wonderfully enthusiastic dancers. They will spin me and dip me and twirl me and they will not feel the need to pursue a real conversation with me. They are not crippled by the obnoxious self-awareness that too often seems to plague artistic and intellectual men. And they are not ashamed of the fact that they love Kanye as much as Kanye loves Kanye. And they like Jay-Z because they too are all money, cash, hoes. If I kiss a bro, I can be sure that he doesn’t care if it means anything. Some nights, that’s all I want in a man.
Maybe it’s like the old Groucho Marx saying, maybe I don’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.
The next night, my friend and I are out again. This time we start the night in Williamsburg but soon seek refuge from the unpleasant fusion of flannel, PRB, and Bon Iver songs at a sports bar turned dance party on 82nd Street and 3rd Avenue back in Manhattan. As we approach the bar to order two Jack and Cokes, there standing in front of me, holding a shiny blue bottle of Bud Light, wearing a gray J.Crew sweater that is just risqué enough to let a few of his chest hairs peak out above the collar, is my bro. To put it mildly, we used to date. Now we are both drunk and single. I order my drink and stand beside him, watching him sip his beer. The light from the TV screen overhead casts a New York Yankee colored glow on his cheekbones. I remember how he used to sing Tupac songs to me in bed. I remember the pictures of rappers like Biggie and Common and Nas that decorate his bedroom walls. I hear him order another beer in his Irish Catholic loud Boston accent. I think of how he can’t handle wine and how he gave me my first Corona and how we once danced together on tables in Murray Hill. And then, instead of trying to start a conversation, I kiss him, right there, at the bar. And in this case it means something. He kisses me back, his fingers running through my long multi-color streaked hair. And now there is a Jay-Z song on. I’m asking him to dance.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I am Facebook picture happy. I asked you why you don’t like my Facebook pictures. You said you do like them, you just don’t like them.
What’s your status? Mine is always changing. What’s on your mind?
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I don't have an Instagram. Does that mean everything takes me longer?
I don't have an Instagram. Does that mean everything takes me longer?
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Sometimes, when I left your apartment, I liked to leave you notes and poems. I can’t know for sure what these small acts meant to you but I can only hope they meant to you what they would have meant to me: a lot. I do know that you kept the notes and poems. I know because I would sometimes find them sitting atop your dresser, sometimes on the floor, sometimes tucked in your drawers between your clothes along with the journal I gave you when you told me you wanted to get back to writing. You only ever wrote on the first two pages. When I asked you about this, you said you realized that that part of your life – the writing life – is over.
I used to awaken in the middle of the night, startled by the sound of you shouting somewhat incoherently about forms and contracts and accounts. I would shake you awake. I would tell you your work was giving you night terrors. I would tell you to breathe. And you always seemed angry with me but I told myself that maybe you were embarrassed. And I wondered what it is like to feel so stressed and so stubbornly alone in the stress while believing that the writing part of your life is behind you. I wonder what else there is.
Monday, October 21, 2013
His name was Harrison. He was an investment banker from Southern California and I didn’t even hate him. I didn’t like him either. He was just there the way the rickety red metal chairs were there at the tables outside the sidewalk café where we sat on a Sunday in the East Village. It was what would be a first and last date but really it was less than that.
Within the first couple minutes of our hour and a half together, Harrison told me he had never had sex sober. I had not asked. And I was not drunk and I was glad I wasn’t.
He added, “I’ve probably been slapped by more women than most men.” I wondered if most men have ever been slapped and I asked him if he had ever read Emily Post. He had not.
I should have known from his earlier text messages that this would not go well. He had used phrases like, “def” and “da bros.” However, my friends had insisted that a date would be a good idea for me and I had figured it couldn’t be as bad as the last date that I had thought would be a good idea. And it was not as bad. It was worse.
He was neither funny nor interesting and I was not sure he was entirely human. He didn’t like sad things or sad people and he didn’t believe it was possible to be mean or selfish – that’s what he said at great inarticulate lengths. He also said vague, empty things like, “People are just people, man. Ya know?” Then he called Breaking Bad his worldview. I wasn’t sure how a TV show could be anyone’s worldview but I didn’t care to ask. He, however, cared to go on and say that he disagreed with Woody Allen’s “Whole worldview, man. He’s so depressed, it’s just like sad.” I chose this moment to quote from Annie Hall, “I feel that life is divided into two categories: the horrible and the miserable. The horrible are the terminal cases, the blind, the crippled. And the miserable is everyone else.” I was paraphrasing. Then I added, “I feel lucky to be miserable.” And I was miserable, but I was also lucky.
My two best friends met me after my date and we went to a dive bar down the street where the beer was cheap and the shots were all doubles and the jukebox was all ours. And then I wasn’t miserable at all. I was happy with my friends, my beer, and my favorite Sonny and Cher song. And I have been happy in love before. I have been miserable in love before too. And until I’m miserably happy in love again, I don’t need a date. I need a drink, a dance, and good friends. And I need to remember that even when I’m miserable, I’m still pretty damn lucky.
I think taxis are romantic. To Woody Allen, New York might be a city that exists forever in black and white, but to me New York City is forever bright like the lights that blur and blend together outside a taxi window. To me, the city is the FRD Drive between 96th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge Expressway, where – from the backseat of a taxi – I can see Queens and Brooklyn and the best of the Manhattan skyline. New York is the rush of the breeze off the East River when I roll the window down as a taxi takes me home on a Saturday night; I like the thrill of the rush. I love kissing in the back of a taxi. I like the way the rush of the car’s movement mingles with the rush of my blood and a man’s hands on my waist and in my hair and the thrill of lips on lips. I like seeing the bright lights of the city slightly obscured by a face against mine. I like when a kiss feels as bright and hopeful and thrilling as the city looks. And I don’t intend to settle for anything less than that rush. That’s why I live in New York, after all. I want to romanticize life all out of proportion. And I want a life and a love that can measure up.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
He liked the way I drank a martini and the way I cursed and the way I talked about god. He called me a contradiction and he sang to me on the phone when I called him crying one night. He told me I smelled like Bloomingdales when he kissed my neck. I wondered what he was shopping for. He said, “Don’t write about me. Swear.” I told him I wouldn’t and he told me a secret and I called him mine. Writers are always selling someone out. I was the one who would pay the price.
Friday, October 4, 2013
I always trust the fall. Time of year and time of feeling. Life burning gold. I like touching the pretty passion fire, because it always proves hot. And I don’t mind the burns, the scars, the dark flecks on my winter white skin. Trustworthy proof of a time and a feeling. I feel safe falling in love in the fall. Free falling as I please. There will be snow to cushion and numb me when I hit the ground. So kiss me like 6:30p.m. sunlight on the trees before I grow another ring.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
It was the summer before life started. Or, at least, that’s what we thought then, when we were still so young that we thought life begins at a particularly well-timed intersection of choices and dreams. My best friend and I were lying with our stomachs flat on the pavement of an empty parking lot. The ground was still warm in spite of the fact that it hadn’t seen the sun for hours. Outside the parking lot, trees and hills climbed up the sky, towards the moon and the stars -- we didn't believe in heaven. We were talking about everything that might happen once I moved to Chicago, but really we were writing fairy tales. And, really, after I left that parking lot, the best stories I would ever write would carry the hard heat of that pavement in their words. And really, everything I would ever love, I would love in stubborn opposition to that place that I had climbed up and out from, like those trees that had climbed up to touch the stars. And I realize that I wasn’t trying to climb away from where I was from, but what had happened to me there and I realize that bad things can happen anywhere – and they did. Now, six years later in New York, I don’t see stars at night; the city’s tallest buildings just scrape the blank slate black sky.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
I used to experience love like a hotel bed. It was the only place I had to sleep, but I was restless because it wasn’t mine and there were other hotel beds I could sleep in. And sex used to be easy because love was just a hotel bed – a place to lay my head for a while before moving on, temporary, surreal. But I always wanted a home.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Sometimes, on my morning walk to the subway, I find myself still tasting the bad, burnt yet overly sweet coffee you used bring me every morning. I imagine I still feel the glaze of all those cheese danishes stick to my finger nails and slide into my stomach, where it is probably still residing. On my happiest mornings, when the sun touches my cheeks and I finally feel at home, I miss the feel of your white comforter on my bare skin and the way the sun came through cracks in the blinds and the way I shielded my eyes with the curve of your arm. I miss being naïve enough to think that the simple things are the easiest to hang on to. I miss being young enough not to fear the delicate simplicity of waking up beside someone and not rushing out door.
I have kissed men just for the story of it. I have woken up in strange places after chasing the fleeting feeling of adventure. I have left people and places just to have a sense of movement. I have left looked for myself in other people’s bed sheets. And I never even wanted to change. But I did. I learned the best stories are the ones I don’t have to chase and sometimes the greatest adventure is waking up in a familiar place. And the best place to look for myself is in my own sheets.