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Entries in new york (28)

Friday
Dec282012

In Which We Meet Someone New And Ill-Advised

The Weight of What Happened

by LUCY MORRIS

I began 2012 with a literal lump in my throat.

The doctors at the Duane Reade clinic I went to did not know how to remedy it. They gave me horse pill antibiotics and steroids to take on a staggered schedule but nothing stopped the swelling. “Call 911 if you can’t breathe,” one concerned doctor said, but how I was supposed to make the call if I couldn’t breathe he did not explain. For weeks my fever soared, eventually getting so high I hallucinated several extra characters into the short story collection I was reading. Late on those early February nights, a guy across the country sent me drunken texts I could barely decipher but in my haze I answered them anyway, surprised, in the morning, to see what dialogue we had in each of our respective stupors produced.

On Valentine’s Day a doctor stuck a needle in my throat and drained what had turned out to be an abscess. Afterward I sat in the Hot & Crusty on First Avenue, my hands shaking from dehydration and in relief, while I downed bottles of Vitamin Water. When I got home my first grad school acceptance was waiting.

I knew by March that I’d be leaving New York in the fall. I treated the departure as imminent, pacing up and down Fourteenth Street counting every step, every sentence. That whole spring I hovered mentally somewhere above Ohio, equidistant between where I was and where I was supposed to be going.

2012 was the first year since I was a teenager that I didn’t have a boyfriend but I had something better, I had my friend Jeanne. One, two, three nights a week, she’d come over after work with a bottle of wine and groceries and we’d cook dinner together and curl up on the couch with our plates and glasses to talk through the minutiae of the last 24, 48, 72 hours. It was a routine I’d shared with several boyfriends but I didn’t remember it feeling as complete as this for so sustained a period, the full bellies, full hearts, and full conviction that no one, anywhere else on the island of Manhattan and beyond, was having as much fun as we were.

For a long time I had assumed that the people who got you through the night and brought you breakfast the next morning were the people you dated, because for a long time for me they were, but this year, for the first time since romantic relationships became a possibility, I began to understand the inadequacies and limitations of that particular arrangement. Now it seems to me that there are people who sustain you and people who sleep with you and often those are one and the same, but just as often, maybe even more often, they are not. I confess that it is these latter love stories, the platonic ones, that interest me now more than any other.

Summer came absurdly early, a series 80 degree days in March, a sweaty April and dead hot May. Everything was a blur of Keds and whiskey and the acute sense that time was running out, even though there were still months left. I did crunches and squats in my living room, imagining that physical strength would insulate me from the changes I dreaded. In the evenings I carried six-packs down Metropolitan to my friends’ backyard, doing bicep curls with the bottles, as if that made a dent in the damage I was doing, physically and otherwise.

Some late afternoons between jobs, I sat on the steps of a statue in Washington Square Park, sweat dripping down the open back of my dress, texting with that guy, typing out things we didn’t really mean. Each message from him was a present I was slightly frightened to open. He asked me to meet him in Barcelona. I didn’t have the money but I was buzzed on premature summer, on pre-emptive nostalgia, on all that was before me, so I entertained the idea for a while. We each were deeply compelled toward some part of each other but it was not a complete feeling and even I, even then, was aware of that.

I spent most of June on jury duty down at 80 Centre Street. On lunch breaks I ate hard-boiled eggs and gchatted the boy I did like in a complete way, the one who walked me home when I was sidewalk-wavering drunk and bought me breakfast in the morning. “Just because someone doesn't adore you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't adore you with all they have,” he typed at me, and it took me a while to understand the unspoken part of that sentence, which was: “But that still might not be enough.”

In early August I drove to Iowa with three suitcases and two lamps. Moving to a new place is the pits. But there are moments when the misery starts to crack and something good shines through: certain fall strolls up tree-lined Summit Street, those first conversations with people when you finally get to the meat of things, the routines you learn to construct for yourself. At the beginning I called Ellen “My Iowa best friend,” but after a couple months I dropped the “Iowa” part.

For months I was deeply, viscerally, hair-tearingly lonely there but I knew I wouldn’t leave, that this loneliness was a productive and necessary one. When you are alone, as I am, there is fundamentally no choice but to keep yourself going, to put on your sneakers and run, to soak the beans and cook dinner, to go to the coffee shop and work. This confirms a conviction I have long had that, with a few specific exceptions, the things you are most afraid of are the things that are actually best for you.

All fall, my dad called me every Saturday, like he used to when I was in college, and I’d always be at a coffee shop reading, like I was in college. The anthology I was often reading from was one I’d owned for seven years. Reading your old marginalia is like talking to an old boyfriend––you see how your way of thinking has changed since you were last acquainted. Incidentally, the narratives of real life are often more interesting than the narratives of fiction, although in 2012, for reasons obvious and abstract, it was hard for me not to believe that all narratives were fundamentally fictive.

By this time I no longer gchatted much with the boy who bought me breakfast. The guy with the texts had temporarily quit drinking and stopped messaging, but he e-mailed me every time there was a tragedy in New York. There seemed to be a lot of those just then. The week I finally got around to framing and hanging a photo of my friends and I in the Rockaways, taken in June, was the same one the very beach we laid out on was washed away.

Around Thanksgiving I told the texting guy he had to stop drinking for good. “I’m never going to be able to do it again, am I?” he asked me, as I walked him up and down the cold early winter sidewalk, after I’d pulled him out of a bar down by the river. “No,” I said, “And you’re going to feel much better.” But how did I know that? How did I know anything, and how had I gotten here, into this role? I was realizing, about then, that when you spend time with people who drink a lot more than you, as I had been for the last few years, you alone carry the burden of remembering: they will not recall the things that were said or proposed, the plans that were made and the ones that were abandoned; those will instead sit solely on your shoulders. This hadn’t before bothered me, but sometime lately it had begun to feel heavy, that weight of what happened, and bearing it by myself.

He bought me a pizza with French fries on it for my troubles but eating it felt like the end, and it was in fact the last meal we shared. He was fine because he didn’t remember anything. I spent a week under the covers, trying to figure it all out.

I emerged around my birthday. There was a clarity to the Iowa air that day and a clarity to my thoughts, too: if my early twenties had been characterized by a harried sense of caring — maybe a little too much— about everything, it seemed I had now entered a phase of caring a great deal, but only about one thing. Bars held much less interest to me now than what went on at my keyboard. There were boys —there would always be boys, this I finally understood with some mix of excitement and apprehension —but they had receded into the background, into the occasional phone call. The blurry moments before sleep that I had previously spent thinking about them were now occupied with thoughts of essays I had yet to write, of books I was reading, of what I would do when I sat down at my computer the following morning. My dreams took place at the keyboard; I awoke with sentences fully formed.

There are moments, still, when I miss three whiskeys on a weeknight, the chaos of someone new and ill advised, but not all that much. The metrics I employ now to judge my days are radically different. When I read things I wrote earlier in 2012, it feels suspiciously like foreshadowing for what was to come, just as this bears, no doubt, some sign of what’s ahead.

I write now back in New York, from an apartment high in Prospect Heights with views of Manhattan. The Empire State Building, gleaming red and green, is so small and remote that it disappears when I bring my finger in front of my face. New York is unchanged in a way I had not anticipated — and that makes me laugh; what had I expected would happen? — but to my surprise and some pleasure, I find that I am not.

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about living alone.

"Super Bien Total" - Sade (mp3)

"Paradise (Ronin remix)" - Sade (mp3)

Saturday
Nov032012

In Which We Vow To Stop This Immediately

You can find an archive of our Saturday fiction series here.

Red Portrait no. 2, Adam Neate

Things I Will Never Do In My Writing Again

by LOIS EHRENREICH

Finish in the place that I started.

Have a protagonist reassure another, even in jest.

Create a victim of any accident, unless it is the breaking of a fingernail or burning of a house.

Ring a doorbell.

Reveal a detailed background on how anything received its name except a boat.

Use water as a metaphor for rebirth; e.g. feeling better after a hot shower.

Force one character to respond to another by saying, "Yes."

Imply a married woman is tormented by an abusive or compelling relationship from her past.

Someone is a moment too late flipping off the safety of a gun.

End with a man opening or closing his arms.

Pray.

Unveil sex that concludes when someone leaves without saying a word.

Suggest stairs that only last for one flight.

Let my people imagine they cannot leave the world in which they live.

Have anything hinge on the gesture of someone giving away their money, whether it be a nickel or a billion dollars.

Pretend e-mail and cell phones never existed.

Speak to the dead.

Give a personal history of a character that includes the sentence, "After graduating from Columbia..."

Detail the appearance of the ocean or the power of the weather.

Describe disgust as if it were not also a kind of pleasure.

Play with the ring on her finger.

Divine any political point more complicated than hinting that poverty is degrading.

Give a blessing.

Sing a song.

Make any reference, no matter how oblique, to him.

Lois Ehrenreich is a writer living in New York.

Paintings by Adam Neate.

"Hunting For You" - Robbie Williams (mp3)

"Different" - Robbie Williams (mp3)


Wednesday
Oct102012

In Which We Reassure Ourselves Of Something

Philadelphia

by HANSON O'HAVER

Twice in my life, the second time only a few months after the first, I found myself standing before huge piles of chairs. In both cases the chairs were identical and black and resembled nothing so much as mass graves. They weren't folding chairs and they weren't arranged; they were just standard restaurant chairs, with a back and a rubber cushion in the middle of the seat. Some were upside down and some were right-side up and most were somewhat sideways. I took pictures of both piles. I'm not trying to imply that seeing them had any deeper meaning. I think I just thought that it was weird, and then even weirder to see the same thing again so soon and then never again after that. 

The second time (which, for whatever reason, feels more distant in my mind) was when I was living in Bed-Stuy. I wasn't really doing anything at the time. On Saturdays I would wake up late, after my girlfriend left for work, get an iced coffee, and walk to the Salvation Army. I never really bought anything there, but I had this idea in my mind that its proximity to an art school meant that it'd be filled with good clothes. On this day the door to the warehouse happened to be open and inside I saw a pile of chairs that seemed absurd and unexplainable, even though I'm sure some company had donated them. This was when I was still taking photos. I mostly forgot about the picture, besides probably posting it on my old website. I'm not even sure why I remembered it just now; I can't even find it anymore.

The first time was in Philadelphia. I'd lived with a group of Philly kids in Williamsburg, in a two bedroom loft that someone turned into a three bedroom before we built the fourth room (mine) out of particle board. It was kind of a bad place. Everyone who lived there (except me) had to rent out their room for part of the year because of reasons. There were birds in the apartment, that's the main thing visitors noticed. They had been in cages, of course, but then one of the Cooper kids let them out during a party and they returned to their cage. So we decided to keep the door open, but then we could never trap them back inside. Everyone wondered how we'd get them back when we gave up the lease on the apartment, but one of them flew away and then the other, the male, died shortly after, so it wasn't an issue. Everyone also asked about the shit, but they always shit in the same spot, onto an empty shelf that was above eye level and we just threw the shelf away when the birds died.

By the end of summer the roommates had all moved back home. Someone was throwing a birthday party for one, and another's band was going to play it, and so they told me and my girlfriend to come. We took the Chinatown bus, it was only $10 and three hours, and it let us off in Chinatown. No one was able to pick us up from the station so we walked the three miles to the house. On the walk we talked about how, on the East Coast, we couldn't tell good neighborhoods from bad neighborhoods because all the houses looked old and elegant (marble stairs, brick, columns, etc.) to people from newer parts of the country. It's like that in Bed-Stuy too, and in Baltimore and Connecticut, especially at night. We ate at a semi-upscale brunch place and I overheard the older couple next to us speculate that our waitress's "I Heart Bacon" shirt was aggressively anti-semitic. 

The party was fine and I remember drinking a lot of beer but not really being affected, in the way that sometimes happens when you start drinking early in the day. I think at one point I left the party to walk to a gas station to buy chips and an energy drink. I didn't talk to anyone I wouldn't have talked to at a New York party, though, and I felt like maybe I wasn't as good of friends with everyone as I had thought. The house was really big, with unfinished rooms cluttered with power tools and plastic buckets and art supplies and bikes and old furniture. At one point the bathroom line was too long so I walked to the side yard to pee. There was a shed (but really more like a standalone garage) and when I opened the door I could sort of see (it was dark) that it was filled with chairs. I took a picture with the flash on and forgot about it. When I got the film developed weeks later there was a picture of dozens of mangled chairs, legs bent and cushions ripped, all piled on top of each other. They looked totally ridiculous. There was actually a good explanation for all the chairs, but it's not important. 

When it came time to go to bed, every couch/bed/carpeted floor had been promised to someone else. My girlfriend and I shared a sleeping bag and slept on the flat roof, with our shirts as pillows. It wasn't romantic; other people slept on the roof too and anyway we'd been dating too long for that kind of thing to be romantic. The next day we walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was nice. Mostly I remember eyeing this cute girl I had seen at the party (and at parties in New York), even though she was with her boyfriend. Months later I read that she was hit by a truck on her bike and nearly died. I read that her boyfriend stayed with her at the hospital the whole time. I've tried to figure out if she ever recovered but her donation website hasn't been updated in a long time. 

We walked through Philadelphia and these two guys who didn't look like tourists asked us to take their picture with their camera. I thought they were going to do one of those scams where they drop the camera, blame it on us, and demand money, but they didn't. We saw a group of families riding Segways and the LOVE Park sign that I'd recognized from skate videos. We just missed the bus to New York, so we had to kill two hours in the mall before the next one came. We didn't buy anything. It was a disappointing weekend in a way that really stuck with me. Afterwards I was an embarrassing kind of sick for a long time.

Hanson O'Haver is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. He twitters here and tumbls here.  


"There's Money In New Wave" - A.C. Newman (mp3)

"Hostages" - A.C. Newman (mp3)

The new album from A.C. Newman is called Shut Down The Streets.