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Entries in new york (29)

Tuesday
Jul232013

In Which We Cultivate A Brand Of Sadness

19 to Present

by LAURA HOOBERMAN

1. During my college years, I cultivated a brand of sadness that was lithe, trivial and mixed with boredom, which I found shameful. Most of my internal life centered upon the relentless process of apologizing to myself for myself. In some instances, I recognized this tendency in strangers, and to them I either opened up excessively or not at all. 

2. I was once told by a man I loved desperately that he loved me, too, just not in the way that he needed to see me all of the time.

3. I once kissed a boy with green eyes and a sort of whimpering, pouting quality of mouth to which I tended to be impossibly drawn. He was drawn to me, too, but he couldn’t take me seriously. We spoke about Europe and Jung in the darkness of his sweat-ridden apartment, and though the blackest of blacknesses, he sought to puncture our intimacy. Our tense touching harbored the impression of anonymity; our unseen forms made contact and then released. For days after, I reflected upon the way his mouth formed the soft phrase, “I’m not going anywhere.” I wondered if he’d meant it, or if he’d already grown tired of me.

4. As a young person with literary ambitions and an irrevocable, cerebral bent, I immersed myself in the solipsistic examination of infinite dynamics of self to self. To this end, I drank profusely, read Infinite Jest, and generally felt kind of sorry for myself. 

5. I attended lectures taught by professors of a certain renown who, in the early morning, to a sea of soft faces, whispered. I attended a class where I was the only one who wanted to discuss the queer slant to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I was taught by a professor who drank seltzer with ice in a tumbler at nine in the morning and wore a fedora around the literary department of New York University. No matter what I wrote, he marked my papers with B+’s. I once scheduled a meeting with him to tell him that this wasn’t normal for me.

6. At the crux of my freshman year, I walked in an unfamiliar daze suffering what felt like tiny heart palpitations and the onset of insanity. I listened to “Karen” by The National on repeat, which seemed to capture the strange disconnect between heart, head and hands that my body had suddenly inflicted upon itself. I texted my mother to ask her if it was possible for me to be dying from an amphetamine overdose. Twenty minutes later she responded, “Not really.”

7. The complexities of my relationship with Casey confounded the two of us but bored or distressed all my friends. Harbingers of doom presented themselves with brazenness and profound frequency. We were on the floor of his shower discussing things when he told me, “I don’t know how to interact with you outside of this realm.” The evening withered and beckoned us into its dissolution. When we finally fully broke from one another, I told him, “Ending is hard, but it’s easier than loving you.” “Okay, that sucks,” he said.

8. We met for lunch in the sterile light of a basement cafeteria at a campus dormitory. He told me that my shoes made me look like a Dutch prostitute and that he’d started dating someone who was “sexually illiterate.” His interest in her was cultivated, it seemed, by her interest in him and a set of preternatural good looks. I hoped. I fingered haphazardly and anxiously the insane display of off-colored, lukewarm food that I had, in my nervousness, assembled. We suffered through requisite, bloated lapses in conversation and held deliberate eye contact. As we parted ways, he gave me a long hug and whispered, “let’s not do this again.”

9. Thinking got me intro trouble. Doing got me into trouble. Feeling got me into trouble more than anything else.

10. I have lived, thus far, for five years in New York City, which, as necessitated by the nature of its mythology, rarely exemplifies the nature of its mythology. In order for any of its potential ecstasies to find themselves felt, one must suffer, in equal or greater portion, shades of despair and desolation. And as extremes rarely manifest, the day-to-day sense of triviality and frustration was pronounced, diffuse. I tried to mediate this quality of ordinary life by getting drunk and texting ex-boyfriends. I wanted desperately to be affected by people. As I get older, to most of my urges and inclinations, I mutter, “No. Take a walk around the block. Put yourself to bed.” 

11. Incapable of discerning good influences from bad, I regarded people indiscriminately for what new sentiments they could stimulate in me. All the dudes I dated shared a slightly cruel bent and the ability to debilitate, in some manner, my already shaking sense of self. None of these men struck me as particularly happy, but I am fairly certain that at least two will become famous.

12. My sense of guilt established itself paramount and manifested in diverse ways. I kept track of the damage I had done to myself. I wrote relentlessly, and, perhaps exclusively, poorly. Kafka’s The Metamorphosis exposed to me the possibility of perfect writing and simultaneous redemption, and as I was capable of neither, my profound swell of inadequacy arose. Guilt lingered about my flesh and inched the fat from my bones. My body seemed to me to harbor the imprints of some slight, unnatural disaster, which made it all the more surprising to me when I realized that people found me pretty. 

13. Petty boundaries presented themselves ripe for the breaking. Kerrie and I once flirted shamelessly with the opening act at a Yoni Wolf concert and then retold the story fondly, as though we hadn’t basically humiliated ourselves. We did things, I think, simply because we didn’t know what else to do. For awhile, I was waking up regularly in a famous filmmaker’s house in Brooklyn and suffering tiny spasms of confusion and nausea. A sense of inconsequentiality permeated as experiments in intimacy and camaraderie mounted, diffused, and pittered into absence. The world was loud and transient, and we did confused things within it.

14. I developed insufferable habits. I alternated ordering cappucinos and bellinis at cafes while trying and failing to write things. I got drunk and wrote lines from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" on the bathroom walls of the exclusively gross bars I frequented. I became familiar with insomnia and hangovers. I settled into a mode of existing that straddled awkwardly some barrier between neuroticism and nihilism, which proved unsustainable.

15. My interest in moralizing subsided when it seemed to become impossible to justify any of my impulses to myself at any time by any logic whatsoever. My institution of self knowledge sort of came to rest on the Myers Briggs test and episodes of Mad Men, which have both been vastly valuable resources for me.

16. Exhausted by Manhattan, I made the misguided move to North Williamsburg, which proved emphatically to be not far enough.

17. In Williamsburg, everyone looked at everyone. The act of looking and of being seen created a reciprocal composite that plastered itself over the experience of existing in an infinitely public realm. The neighborhood and its cameras craved spectacle, and even at its outskirts, one felt compelled to consider deeply the appearance of self. On a date, I blithely mentioned that my bangs were so integral to my appearance that people often told me that they didn’t think they’d recognize me without them. “What other problems you got?” he asked.

18. On Bedford Avenue, I ran into a man I’d dated years prior and felt satisfied that his new movie had come out to sort of shit reviews. He looked pale and strung-out and dirty, but he was doing exceptionally well in his new job at Vice. At a piano bar in Greenpoint, we connected in a forced, dull way. Remembering more of him than he had of me, I reveled in the opportunity to suppress all my habits he’d found irritating and adopt the affects of someone slightly more to his liking. It was an experiment in utilizing my neuroses so as to suffocate my neuroses, which I found intriguing. Later that night, in a brief moment of comfortable intimacy, I accidentally mislabeled James Blake James Blunt and sort of understood why he’d broken up with me.

19. I attended parties in Bushwick where people spoke casually but compulsively about Kubrick and Heidegger. On rooftops and fire escapes, drunk kids made slurred, personal revelations and went home with one another. Typed amateur screenplays on old wooden desks fluttered in stray wind. My preferred party game was guessing peoples’ Myers Briggs types. Though I was almost always correct, I managed to endear myself to precisely no one.

20. After a night of drinking at Night of Joy, I texted Luke, “I’m making bad decisions for everyone.” “Tell me about your bad decisions,” he responded. 

21. I befriended beautiful and intelligent girls who, without exception, felt that they had something to prove. One balanced her time maintaining a 4.0 GPA and blowing pungent pot smoke out the window of our dorm room in a weird effort to lift herself from the oppression of cliché. Another occupied herself by finding increasingly elaborate methods of masking a long-term eating disorder. Still another shouted at me, during a discussion of a disappointing break-up, “but I’m so smart, Laura. You have no idea how smart I am.”

22. Between 2008 and 2013, my historic fear of aloneness evolved into such a profound reliance on my solitude that I could sustain myself for days on end on my thoughts alone.  The compulsive need I felt for silence made my choice to live here seem bizarre, rooted only in impossible abstraction. I tried to leave New York once, but it didn’t take.

23. As time passed, we all kind of started to grow up and practice settling down. I watched one of my best friends fall for and engage in serious relations with a dude that I had once unceremoniously but fervently referred to as a shithead. For whatever reason, I took this as an omen of audulthood.

24. Where I had once craved laceration and sublimation in equal amounts, I began to hanker for consistency and control. I satisfied myself, in this respect, by habitually making my bed. If I was feeling reckless or indulgent, I practiced prolonged eye contact with strangers in the street. I started reading a lot of George Saunders and cultivated a healthy terror of things to come.

25. There is a sense of profound discomfort that arises from existing in spaces made familiar by occurrences that have long since ceased to feel familiar. A tangential rationale explains why I have lost contact with most of the people I knew in college. What exists between me and the people I used to know is not bad blood, per se, but blood still comes to mind. I cannot fathom how much of myself I unwittingly lost to others when I hadn’t the slightest sense of what I was made of.

26. I want relationships, lately, without the hassle of cultivating or participating in them.

27. I moved into a windowless bedroom in Greenpoint, which expanded upon my personal, thematic divide of internal versus external. I once walked unknowing into an erratic storm in March that sent snowflakes jittering stupidly toward the sun. The air went soft for a moment. There was a rush of wind, a soft moan in the cavern of my ear, and then came the hurricane.

Laura Hooberman is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Greenpoint. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her website here.

Photographs by Sabine Wild.

"The Color of Industry" - Radiation City (mp3)

"Babies" - Radiation City (mp3)


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)