Friday, December 7, 2007

'Cause Breakin' Up is Hard To Do...

"It isn't enough for your heart to break because everybody's heart is broken now."

-Allen Ginsberg

I just got all ready for bed- shower, pajamas, skin regimen, brushed, flossed, checked my e-mail one last time & then went into my fridge, took out some leftover chicken Pad Thai from last night, poured mounds of peanut sauce over it, nuked it in the micro for one minute & housed it down in about 3 minutes. Its 1:30 in the morning, I’m still awake, and the only thing I can think to do is eat. It was actually kind of a desperate hunger & I cannot lie and say I have quite satiated that hunger at this point, even after the Pad Thai- so, sadly, I am now eating- with a fork right out of the baking pan sitting next to me on the couch-a funfetti cake Greg and I decided to bake, on a whim, earlier this week. So I guess, the question I should be asking myself is- what's really on my mind tonight? That is- besides broken hearts and sticky rice noodles?

Well, truth be told- its cigarettes.

Let's be honest...the need to be housing down massive amounts of leftovers in the middle of the night is usually code for something else- a bigger issue. In the movies when the main character makes their way into the kitchen in the middle of the night to gorge themselves on cookies and cakes and milk straight from the carton it's usually because they had a fight with their significant other, they lost a job, someone they loved died or pretty much because of any average variation of the age old broken heart.

I can still remember the pain of my first real broken heart, mostly because I'm not one to forget moments like those. Okay, maybe it wasn't my very first broken heart- cause it also sucked pretty bad when the summer love of my life left for college without saying goodbye or when I found my prom date in bed with someone else the next morning- but it is perhaps one of my most poignant broken-hearted moments because it was the last day of my freshman year in college. And we all know that's a pretty big deal in the average American college student's life.

So, as I was saying- it's the last day of my first year of college and that guy, yeah, THAT GUY- the one who turned me upside down that year while I was laughing and dumped little pieces of my soul onto the cold upstate New York pavement, like change from my pockets, during his little silly game, only to return me to the ground dizzy in more places then my mind and perpetually in tears- was giving me his goodbyes.

We stood in the circle outside the dorm we had shared that year and I felt hopelessly lost- standing next to the bags I had piled on the curb- waiting for a car that would whisk me off to the airport. I remember swallowing the saliva collecting in my throat like big huge lumps of coal.
There were so many things left unsaid, so many things I wanted him to say, and so many things I wanted to say myself. What would happen next year when our dorms were a whole street length apart? What would happen over the summer when he went back to his glamorous life in California and I was stuck in suburban Connecticut? Would he call me? Write? Text? Think of me...ever?

We stood there, shuffled our feet, felt awkward, hands in our pockets, eyes darting in every other direction than into each other's...and just as I gathered the courage to look up into his steely blues and begin to speak, he reached over and wrapped his arms around me, but not in the kind of way that makes you feel relieved. Not in the kind of way I needed, the kind of way where you suddenly feel connected on this other worldly level and you both suddenly understand each other and everything that should have happened- and possibly will happen in the future- perfectly. No, it was more of a courtesy hug, a goodbye not only for the semester, but maybe for good.

"Stay healthy." he said.

...and then he turned and walked away.

He just turned around, crossed the courtyard, went down the steps and back into the building. Swiftly. I could barely respond in my own brain before I lost sight of him skipping- yes skipping- down the steps. Stay healthy? STAY HEALTHY?? What did that even MEAN?? I could practically hear my heart breaking in my chest in that moment a thousand times over. I could hear the shattered pieces clanking against my rib cage and rattling around inside like shattered Christmas ornaments.

That goodbye, the buildup, the way I had pictured it, talked about it with my roommate before we fell asleep each night, played it over and over again in my head-where we would stand, what I would say, what he might say- and all it amounted to was: "Stay healthy"? I mean, for a kid like me- all hormone filled, dramatic and scene driven- well, I just needed a whole lot more than "stay healthy" on the last day of my first year of college. I mean- I was born to have a thing for last words, last moments, last looks, dramatic scenes. It was like the DVR cutting out before the last three minutes of the season finale!

Damn, I must have analyzed that goodbye message all summer. Bathed in self-loathing and anxious regret while lying in bed staring at the ceiling. Taken every and any chance to bring up the situation to anyone that would listen. Sat on rocks-cliché style (I’m damn good at that) - while staring out at the ocean, restlessly. Seething, uncomfortable, agitated, sweaty and hopeful. Agonizingly hopeful.

The following season - like all good CW11 Drama's- we picked up, more or less, right where we had left off- despite a summer of zero contact. We collided the first night back over plastic red solo cups and one too many dips into the jungle juice bin. Things were good again, then really good, then confusing, then bad again, then terrible, then tragically good for a second- then over.

I guess you could say it was kind of a pattern with us, one that seems quite comical in retrospect, mostly because why the hell did we put up with each other for so long? But- when things were good I did end up asking him what he meant by his freshman year goodbye message of "stay healthy". Now, I wince at the response.

He hated my cigarette smoking. Mostly because he hated the smell but also, I think, because my asthma terrified him. It disgusted him that someone with asthma would ever even dream of picking up a cigarette.

I saw his point. So, instead of quitting, I tried not to do it around him most of the time. If I entered his room or tried to kiss him with so much as the remnants of nicotine clinging to my skin he would send me away immediately. It turned into a great weapon for me- or so I liked to think. Every time we fought I would defiantly sit on the picnic benches outside his dorm and chain smoke entire packs, blowing the foggy blue smoke into the cool night air as if I was making some grand point. HA. At least it made me feel better.

I suppose I was hoping he would come down out of his dorm room, see me smoking right there in front of his eyes and cry for me to stop- or at the very least, be angry because I was directly defying him, proving I could care less what he thought. But the truth is, the thing that was so infuriating about him is that he rarely displayed any anger-only indifference and irritation- which obviously forced me to try to push his buttons even more. Poor kid.

He never did come outside and catch me smoking-not once. However, I did come away with so many fond memories from those picnic benches outside of his dorm and the cigarettes I grew intimate with there, waiting for him to come outside-that it was kind of worth it.

It's funny how one relationship can remind you of another one entirely different and separate from itself. Despite his hatred for my smoking addiction, THAT guy actually brought me and my little white sticks closer together- and, I guess, in the interim, brought me closer to myself- should I thank him for that?

Those quiet moments with me, myself and my cigarettes were just a part of the very fabric of my eleven year love affair with smoke. Like one individual square in a vast patchwork quilt, the moments on that bench have their own unique story to tell that makes up a much greater whole. When I look back over the years of my relationship to smoke, the moments I spent with those little white sticks make up a vast and beautiful quilt that I could wrap around myself a thousand times (one that may eventually give me lung cancer- which I choose not to think about- but a beautiful quilt all the same).

You see, His dorm was built into the side of a steep hill that looked down over our college campus, and the view from the top was nothing less than spectacular. At sunset you could revel in the glory of the campus being bathed in deep orange sunlight, twinkling off specs of glitter in the pavement and casting beautiful deep gray shadows across the sweeping lawns. At night, the lights of the city twinkled in unison with the stars popping up just over the purple hills beyond the city- and the effect was magical.

The wind up there was menacing though, and it hurt to sit up there on those picnic tables for too long, but almost in a good way. The burning wind acted like a mental pain killer, I was so focused on the burning, I forgot to care about HIM. Sucking down my cigarettes was the equivalent of sucking in the moment, taking my surroundings into my body and digesting them in order to make them mine. I was the sunset, I felt the warm splash of orange deep in my gut, I smelled the snow and felt the twinkling lights deep in what was really my lungs, but felt like my heart. Cigarettes allowed me to connect to the world and to the moment I was living in better than just sitting and looking around did.

I owned the view from those picnic benches and the view owned me- it was inside of me and there it remains. Today, over 4 years later, those images are still burned into my mind and I allow myself to revisit them any time I like.

After a while up on that hill I would walk back to my dorm with chapped cheeks that burned more than my aching heart, lungs full of smoke & teary eyes I could blame on the wind….

Turns out, by using "stay healthy" as his parting words, he literally meant, "stay healthy". True, I was sick quite often that year. I generally have a low immune system and I caught every flu bug or cold germ that wandered through those dorm room halls. I even had wicked bouts of asthma that he never knew how to respond to, generally staying away from all things germy or medical. He said "stay healthy" because that made sense to him- he was wishing me well, not wanting me to get sick, hoping I would quit smoking.

Quit smoking.

I think I hear Christmas ornaments shattering somewhere....

You see, I quit last Thursday. Queue, broken heart.

I know I should be happy about this; proud of myself and all that jazz- but the thing about smoking's my best friend. It's the longest relationship I've ever been able to sustain without any interruption. I mean, those things have been with me almost every single day since I was 15 years old. That's 8 years- 8 years! Not to mention, my first smoke being eleven years ago. That’s 11 years of friendship, love memories, deep talks, quiet moments, defiant behavior, let downs, celebration, crying sessions, laughing fits and of course, top-of-the-hill-burning-cheeks-orange-splashed-sunset-memories....truth is, me and Mr. Camel just go well together!

He is the only man that will sit with me through all of my favorite bad reality TV shows without going crazy, withstand my terrible singing in the car, the radio channel surfing until I find one of the top 5 pop songs playing, my terrible writing, endless crying sessions, long drawn out ramblings, and the only man I can truly trust to be there for me, no matter what- even if I act like a bitch- (okay, so Greg's a close second but he's only been around for 3 years)! Me and my cigarettes just click, we make sense.

Yes, yes, I know they are giving me cancer & that being an asthmatic it raises my risk for all sorts of other diseases...but it can't stop me from loving them. Did the fact that half of my boyfriends were selfish slobs infecting me with depression and evil boy poison stop me from loving them? NO, it didn't. It doesn't matter how many times someone tells you someone is bad for you, you're going to keep going back to them until....well, until you don't.

The day HE told me he knew he didn't love me was the same day we went to see Love Actually together in Carousel Mall Theatre for the third time. As we rode down the escalator to the food court I told him he was "a habit worse than cigarettes" and he asked "to whom?" and when I rolled my eyes he smiled mischievously and vented for the next hour about the absurdity of capitalism over greasy Chinese food amidst a sea of green Formica tables. I wanted to kill him but also marry him in the same moment. Later that night, he dropped the I- don’t-love-you-bomb and I thought I would never recover.

Eventually, one day- amidst college life, cigarettes, classes, drinking, friends, roommates, papers, all nighters, random make out sessions, crazy dance parties, snow storms, long drives, sinks full of dirty dishes, Mac and cheese making, sorority party planning, long talks, mix CD’s and general discovering yourself stuff- I woke up, recovered.

And like magic- even though I knew pretty much the moment we met- when he pushed me away from him over an elevator shaft and then pulled me back into him before the doors could close completely- that he was bad for me- I was finally done. No desire to go back. I didn’t desire him, his attention, his acceptance, his love, his glances across a crowded room, his anything. My recovery met head to head with the cure of my addiction to him. Miraculously, I stopped going back.

I compare the kind of infatuation I had for him to the kind of infatuation I continue to have for cigarettes. I guess I was wrong when I told him he was a habit worse than cigarettes, because even when I gave him up, my Camels stayed by my side. I knew they were bad for me right from the start, I hate the way they make me smell, the reputation they give me in front of potential employers, my parents friends and babies... but I also have always loved them way too much to give them up. They satiate me like sticky noodles and funfetti cake NEVER could.

Just like that first broken heart, I can still remember that first cigarette like it was yesterday. It was the summer I turned thirteen, only my thirteenth birthday was a few weeks away, so I was still twelve. My best friend Erica's parents had taken us up to the Sagamore resort in Lake George, New York for the week. We couldn't be more thrilled to have our very own little hotel cabin room right on the lake. Our very first own hotel room! Of course, Erica's parents were directly next door, but this did not concern us. The summer going into eighth grade, we still had very little to hide.

Erica and I had dreams of spending the week swimming, jet skiing, parasailing and sunbathing. Unfortunately, there was a cold front that came through upstate New York that July, and the light summer sweaters we packed hardly hid our exposed skin from the gloomy haze that hung over our resort, complete with misty dew filled air and cold bursts of wind. So, plan B entailed wandering the resort grounds, renting bikes to ride into the clumsy little town of gift shops and fisheries and of course, for Erica -a year older at almost 14- flirting with boys.

The lake was beautiful and expansive, like nothing I have ever known a lake to be while growing up on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. The lake water was dark and murky, but not in a menacing way. In the early morning mist it looked like pure glass, reflecting the mountain ridges that sprouted from its shores. The mountains were some of the biggest I had ever seen to that date and their tips stretched into the sky, like they were reaching for the clouds. They were covered in lush, verdant trees that often made the lake appear forest green.

We met Dylan down by the resorts docks one night after dinner. We went for a walk just to feel independent and found ourselves at the waterfront where we could see the orange tips of the cigarettes floating through the dark sky from 100 yards away. We must have looked silly to those 16 year old boys, sauntering up as if we were not twelve and asking for a smoke.

Dylan was gorgeous at 16, dark shaggy hair and piercing blue eyes. I decided we were meant to be because his name was Dylan, and there was no musician I loved more. I asked him if he was named after Bob Dylan and he said he didn't know. Erica decided she was meant to be with him because, naturally, she was older and it made more sense. A twelve year old can't date a 16 year old but an almost- 14- year- old seemed just fine. She flirted with him adeptly while I hung back and lurked in the shadows. He let her take a chug of his bud light and when she passed the can to me I shook my head shyly. I doubt I said a word the whole night.

We didn't want the group of boys to know we were amateur smokers so we said thanks when Dylan handed Erica a long, thing, white stick from his pocket and ran off giggling wildly. We were actually going to smoke a cigarette! Given to us by THE Dylan!

We collected the matches from the bedside table in our hotel room and wandered over the resorts’ playground to sit on the swings in the dark night air, filled with beads of moisture, and attempted to light a match. After several tries, there we were- sitting in a playground, in the middle of upstate New York, swinging back in forth in time to an inaudible tandem rhythm in our adolescent brains and passing that little white stick back and forth between us. I barely remember how the cigarette tasted or even how I reacted when I took that first drag...all I remember, naturally for me, is the moment. And boy was it sweet.

Little did I know that within the next few years those little sticks would become a big part of my life- the patchwork quilt that started with that foggy night on the swings in Lake George would soon be big enough to cover my whole body, and then some. The moments stretch for miles, from the shores of Lake George, to Carly Swanberg’s flat roof when her parents weren’t home, to behind the big oak tree on the corner, to the alleyway behind main street, to the Mobil parking lot, to the roof of Henry Lamborn’s old house, to the back of Dave Konover's cherry red Jeep Wrangler, To the Sea wall, to the roof of my parents house, To the X5, to the tips of sand dunes in Nantucket, to the snow draped dumpsters outside my freshman dorm, to the Dellplain picnic tables, to my sorority's courting porch or the side door during all night study sessions, my boyfriend's loft bed in the fraternity house after making love for hours on end, to the snowy walks across campus when the world is quiet, to the steps of Watson, to the porch of my first house, to Euclid Avenue in the big comfy bowl chair, to the back alley of Castle Court looking out over desolate parking lots, to the roof of the parking garage, to the Marshall Street strolls and to my New York City apartment....leaning out the window and sucking in the bright lights of the luminescent towers....feeling alive.

The thing is, is that even though I have quit I still don’t feel like this relationship is totally over. The loss hurts like the worst heartbreak I have ever had. I don’t think I have quite reached that miraculous moment where you wake up and suddenly, it’s over in your heart.

It’s not that easy this time, mostly because it didn’t happen so gradually. Two weeks ago I had a near fatal asthma attack. It was the day of my niece’s birthday- the actual day she was born. It’s a day I don’t choose to write about here because, well, I don’t want to cheapen it in any way whatsoever. It was one of the absolute best days of my life even though it was difficult for me to breathe the whole day. I wasn’t sure why, but by the next morning I could hardly walk. As I wobbled into my asthma specialist’s office, my wheeze had become audible with each stumble & the nurses rushed me into the back right away to put me on nebulizer treatments, oral steroids and check my oxygen levels. Apparently, my oxygen level was so low that I could have died. That kind of hit a little close to home.

I mean, a Life Junkie can’t die, ya know? What was I thinking, letting myself get to this point? I never wanted to feel like that again. The natural decision was to quit smoking, if only because it took me about a week to even breathe properly again.

Painful as it is to say after such a terrifying health issue, I don’t think I am going to be able to let go of this love that easy. I mean- I have yet to have the oh-so-necessary “breakup sex”- otherwise known as, one last drag to see if the magic has truly died- but I fear if I go there I will discover the magic has not yet died and it’s not my time to let go.

I loved cigarettes for more than the way they tasted- I loved them for the moment they perfected, for the vein they satiated, for the drama they created- I pulled out a cigarette every time I was going for that perfect scene. Smoking cigarettes, just the action of it alone- elated me, made me feel alive, liberated me and granted me supreme independence. Whenever I am alone and I slide open my big front window, lean out over the city scape and take in a deep, sharp, drag I feel more alive then I have ever felt in my life.

Now I watch as all my friends follow each other out of bars and parties, wrapping their scarves around their necks and flicking their lighters- laughing, talking, sharing warm and cozy cigarette filled moments while huddling in the cold...and I just stand there, holding the seats, watching the purses. I am out of the club. Exiled- by myself. I was part of a club that I loved being a part of more than any club I had ever been a part of- and I kicked myself out! When my friends file back inside the dark bar I ask to sniff their hair, bury my face in the arms of their catching a whiff of some ex’s cologne in a crowded bar- it brings me right back.

Just like with the worst broken hearts- it's always hard to admit this is it- but I'm not original. Everyone suffers from a broken heart at some point- if not several points in their lives- they stain the chambers of our hearts like the crazy tattoos we get on a whim when we turn 18.

The scars may fade over time, but they will always be there, etched into the very pattern of our souls, even if only visible to our own naked eye.

I fear that without my cigarettes I won't ever be able to drive my car the same, won’t be able to write the same, won't be able to think the same, dream the same, walk down a New York City street the same, create and perfect a moment the same....but these are the same worries we have whenever we have to walk away from anything we once loved...

…there are belongings to return, Entire CD's, sometimes entire music groups or music types to disregard, quotes to forget, scents to separate from, places to avoid, fragments of ourselves to’s funny to think there was a time I though I would never get over that first broken heart, never be able to drive my car the same without him, or drink a certain type of drink, listen to a certain song…

...but you know what? I think it's time for me to suck it up because... isn't really enough for my heart to break, because everyone's heart is broken now-and in the end- whenever that end may be- we always recover.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Want To Wake Up In A City That Never Sleeps...

"And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it's not some place you can look for, 'cause it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life when you're a part of something, and if you find that lasts forever..."

-Alex Garland, The Beach.

I just had, indisputably, the most epic New York City week I have had in a very long time. And by epic, I mean great- just great. One of those weeks that kind of makes you just stop, take the crisp autumn air into the deepest part of your lungs and breathe it back into the air with utmost respect for whatever forces are creating this thing around us that we call the world, and of course, utmost respect for whatever forces chose to place me in it. The kind of breath that causes all resentment, all regrets, all anguish, all sadness to just melt away from the layers of your skin like hot candle wax sliding through your loose fingers. I picture it is red candle wax. I picture it vanishes when it drips to the floor. I picture it peels off of the inside of my knuckles easily, like banana strings. It is a seething and soaring, magnificent feeling.

It began on Monday. My cousin, James, and his friend, Lee, arrived in New York from London, Heathrow airport late Sunday night. A long anticipated visit, as I had not seen my British cousin in about 4 years. Aside from just being fun, I realized that the boys' visit served several much needed purposes for me: the rebirth of my larynx and it's ability to withstand hours of uncontrollable laughter, the revival of the person hidden inside of me that enjoys being constantly surrounded with entertaining and engaging people and of course, the reuniting of me, with my city.

The uncontrollable laughter came from having the opportunity to hang out with a couple of Brits for hours on end- their language, their accents, their views on the world- all unique from my own and highly entertaining. From Lee and James' sheer city "greenness", gaining cheap thrills from examining other people in their apartments from my living room window, to Lee singing his own rendition of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" at the top of his lungs, while showering- it was truly a soul warming experience. The laughter came easy and true and flowed through my veins like medicine. They mocked me, in a brotherly kind of way, commenting on the ease for which I let chuckles escapes my lips- but what they didn't know was that it hadn't always been like that these days. I admit, in overview, that I may have laughed too often, at things that were hardly as funny as my aching belly indicated, but it became something different. You see, I was not only laughing at the actual humorous events that were taking place, my laughter sustained long after the moment remained funny because I was so happy to be feeling my throat vibrating again, so happy to feel my belly aching in that way again, so happy that I was laughing simply because the of the happiness that I had found in the ability to laugh at such simple things again. It was truly intoxicating.

"I want to visit an authentic American diner!" were the first words out of Lee's mouth on Monday morning (okay, afternoon) when I woke up. He had something with soda fountains and roller skates imagined- but he settled for all I knew around here- Duke's. It is the kind of place that has dented license plates from every state nailed to the walls, colorful plastic booths and shiny metal plated tables, college team flags taped to the ceiling, empty BBQ sauce bottles decorating shelving units, and an old 50's style 7UP machine in the corner. We gorged on burgers and mac and Cheese and pigs in blankets, washed it down with pints of Blue Moon beer and lay across the plastic surfaces in stomach- expanded pain. Blissful pain. That night we met up with Greg after work and continued the indulgence- "American indulgence"- they called it, with loaded nachos and more beer at a local watering hole known for its long dark wooded bar and expansive flat screens. Perched on our bar stools we talked football and life-it felt like I wasn't just dreaming that I was living anymore.

Before I knew it we were speeding across town in a yellow taxicab, the wind blowing my hair back- the store fronts, restaurants and bars speeding past my eyes the way they only can when in a New York City taxicab. I wanted to suck them all in like wet noodles through saucy lips. We were on our way to the West Village to meet up with my sister at her local watering hole - it was late enough that we probably should not have been venturing to another part of town on a week night but early enough that Greg could dismiss thoughts of his morning commute for another hour while I could put off stressing about the interview I had the following day at 3:00. We were living for the moment, and it felt damn good.

I recognized the bar as soon as we got there, although i had never been there with my sister, never connected the two. It was a bar I frequented in the days of my summer internship at a popular glossy lifestyle magazine, the days when I hung out with the much older, mostly male, editorial staff because they made me feel more alive than I had ever felt. This bar, this street, was the birthplace of my first taste of a love affair with New York City. I was nineteen when i first came here- more ripe than a red peach, more naive than a virgin and more in love with life than I have ever - and probably will ever be. It was such a passionate time- I was doing what I loved, living alone for the first time in my life, meeting new people on my own for the first time in my life - without the common bonds of high school classes or college dormitories- this was living. So naturally, i felt alive the moment we arrived.

My sister- beautiful but tainted, fragile but unbreakable, restless and poetic, met us in the street- cigaretted finger, waving. She looked glorious, flushed and happy. My heart soared. We hugged and danced and smoked and drank and loved all night long. The bar was mostly empty, except for a few nerdy but village-esque-cool looking types milling about in the dark corner of the back on the bar, and my sister- straight backed and casual, in the center of them-glowing. They were all writers of some sort, not originally from New York, but bound to it because it had become them. Their roots had sprouted long ago, the moment they set foot on the island, not by choice, but by chance. The roots were now long and poisonous looking, stretching into the earth like mangled tentacles- because in truth, before anyone chooses New York, it chooses them. It's a love/ hate relationship that travels in the same vein as ex-sex, cigarette smoking and cocaine addiction. It corrupts you a little bit every day, but when it's good-oh man, it's soooo good. If you try to stay away, it will always draw you back again, somehow.

These were my people. I felt it. In a lot of ways, no. I usually wear eye makeup when i leave the house, enjoy getting dressed up in designer duds on a Saturday night and read gossip columns like it's my job- all personal characteristics I'm pretty sure you would never find any of their girlfriends possessing- but it felt realer than anything had in a long time. We talked literature and editing and life- but not in any sort of superficial way. They asked me questions and waited to hear the answers. They prodded me for answers even. They picked my brain, and let me pick theirs. They had executive jobs, or none at all, they didn't have computers or only communicated by computer- they were everything i needed that night.

I left drunk, and happy and feeling almost as in love with the city as I had that summer, the summer i was nineteen, the summer i followed around a handsome 34 year old man who often wore the same clothes to work that he wore the night before, who got me into every bar sans-fake ID , who confused me with his constant trips to the toilet stall for a "fix", who bought me a dozen back to back plays on the jukebox of Eddie's Money's "Take Me Home Tonight" and talked to me on street corners, three inches from my face.

I flew home in the taxicab that night with thoughts of infinity in my head.

The next day, I woke earlier than usual, nursing a half-hangover and preparing for my interview at a big publishing company. This is it, i thought, grabbing my pseudo-briefcase and buttoning my suit jacket. I still felt invincible. Then I got there.

Still car sick from the cab ride I arrived sweaty and nauseous, greeted by an obnoxious receptionist and was told to fill out an application. I just wasn't prepared for this. Nor was i prepared for the mechanical, robotic-like interview with a characterless HR person. She asked me questions that all seemed to require the same answer, and i felt the sweat collecting in my armpit crevice by the second, dripping down my side and soaking the top of my Spanx (which were suffocating me, but very necessary in my only clean suit-since the past few months of pretty intentional weight gain had altered my size a bit). I do well in the kind of interviews where my future employer is talking to me, conversational style. The kind of interviews where my personality can pop out through the haze of skill listing and hypothetical situation analyzing. This insipid HR woman, was NOT having it.

I practically ran out, stripping off my suit coat and wishing i wore a tank top underneath. The day was gray in an October kind of way, non-oppressive, non-depressive, just in a slightly cool and slightly brooding type of way. Unfamiliar with the part of the West Village that I was in, and unable to see any cabs with a yellow light aglow, i walked. I wanted to anyway. I would have walked to whole way home if i weren't wearing sling back heels. It felt good. I explored the surrounding side streets, coming upon a brownstone lined, cobblestone, twisty type street- it was picturesque in the delightful gloom. The architecture of the buildings outlined the scene, and i noticed, on this street, for the first time this year- the changing of leaves from green to orange and yellow and brown. Felt them crunching under my feet, saw them falling at the most pristine moments. I could have walked into a fairytale, or the scene of a romantic movie. I was pensive, yet, not unhappy. I was discovering something new in my city, I was accepting my defeat, gracefully. I was wishing someone were with me to see this perfect New York City scene. I was happy to enjoy it in the silence of myself. I was just happy to have fallen upon it, to let it fall upon me.

Back at my apartment I lay in pajama-ed bliss on the air mattress I had brought out for my cousin to sleep on- contemplating my next step. I had some anxiety, but not enough to ruin the moment I was having with the throes of life as a twenty-something. The boys came home after site-seeing a bit- ready to cheer me up and help exercise that laughing muscle again. We lounged around, in a way I have not lounged since my favorite afternoons in college- talking of nothing and everything over and over again. We had Thai food that night - my adult comfort food- since I just can't get mom's mashed potatoes right for myself. Then I sucked back my urge to be sluggish and tired, the urge to stay home and watch re-runs of Jon and Kate Plus 8. i threw on jeans and a t-shirt and set out to show the boys a good night. They wanted to see The Village, the part of Manhattan that their British friends that had come to visit talked about. Luckily, i knew that part well.

The corner of Bleecker and MacDougal, the birthplace of Bohemia- a surging atmosphere of artists and tourist, college kids and poets- a corner that feels more New York to me than most. You can almost feel something surging through your veins there it's so musically, poetically, drunkenly electric. I lived on Bleecker Street between Thompson and Sullivan the summer of 2006. Greg and I had a dark, tiny studio apartment with tiled floors, stucco walls and a mice infestation problem. You could hear them scampering across the floors at night while you lay in bed trying to sleep, could hear them scratching the wall, begging to get in, could see their creepy little tails twitching underneath the refrigerator. At night, while we fell asleep, the sounds of the street below turned into an electric lullaby for us - yelling, laughing, drunken catcalls, comedy club advertisers drawing in customers, the vibrations of live music, the ticks of the ancient building we called home for such a short period of time. You could hardly leave home or come home without craving a beer, a dark bar and a good time. This i where I took the Brits.

We bar hopped all night, drinking nothing but Blue Moons and licorice-flavored shots that burned as they slid down your throat. We sat at bars, stooled tables, on plush velvet couches, on the sides of pool tables. We watched soccer games on big screens, played Foosball, watched flip cup tournaments, swayed to the sounds of a live band covering David Gray songs, we danced, we shouted, we brooded over karaoke song lists, we made friends with random people, we drank more beers, took more shots, took lots of pictures, made lots of memories. We went home at 3:30 A.M., the air was damp, threatening rain that had been spitting on us all night, the air felt heavy - not only with moisture but with hopefulness.... because I was a part of something, i was a part of this city, i was a part of a family that included my fabulous heart-warming cousin, i was a part of a friendship, i was a part of this world. It was like someone had woken me from a dream. The haze cleared, so to speak.

James and Lee left on Thursday morning, and I reluctantly bid them adieu- although I had some reading to catch up on. I basked in my rainy day alone-ness- cleaning the house, doing the laundry, reading my book, catching up on missed television, until a call from some old high school friends that had just moved down the street came through at 4:00- did i want to go to happy hour? Well, I had a load of laundry in and was deep in the throes of Oprah so I would have to finish all of those things first. Eventually, I made it down to their new apartment which they had gone back to in order to recharge their batteries- so to speak- and play video games. It was a lovely evening of trekking through the puddled, drippy streets in flips-flops and a sweatshirt (is it weird that i kind of like the feeling of being huddled under an umbrella- reminiscent of the rainy day-forts i made with tarps and rock boulders on the beach as a child?), lounging on their old couch, drinking glasses full of Jim Beam and Coke, just catching up on old times, new times, and everything in between.

Do you have those kind of friends that can make you just slip back into a person you used to be, and always liked, but can't always find anymore? That's what these friends are to me. We met when we were young, middle schoolers- ten, maybe eleven years old? We have seen each other through some of the best times in our lives and some of the rockiest times in our lives. We have seen each other acne faced and gangly, shy and awkward, wasted and ugly and felt the same way about each other through the skin glowing, beautiful and confident times. We have traveled together, grown up together, explored life together. They not only make me remember the place I came from, but they help me remember the person I grew from. It is a special gift to still have them in my life. Sometimes, better than any night out on the town is just an evening, wasting time in their presence. There doesn't have to be any particularly stimulating conversation, or even any conversation at all- it is simply enough to exist in their company for it feel like I am alive.

I left them in the pouring rain on the street corner below their new apartment, they were buying umbrella's to walk to a bar and I was heading home to settle in for the evening on my couch with Greg- another one of those irresistibly sacred pastimes. I felt flushed from the warmth of the Jim Beam & a little buzzed, just enough to almost have gone without the umbrella. We exchanged kisses and "love yous" like we had a million times before, like we were all stitches of thread in the same old shirt, now thinned and worn, but still an old faithful favorite. I walked home in the sideways rain, the wind forcing my umbrella inside out, my flip-flopped feet soaking in seemingly bottomless dirty puddles, feeling- well, warm inside. A part of something. Nothing was stealing my moment.

Needless to say, my stormy night in with Greg was one of our much-needed, intertwined on the couch, endless conversation / love, Grey's Anatomy obsessing kind of nights. We had a blissful, dreamless, sleep full night and awoke to a perfect lazy Saturday- it was still gray and rainy (i was loving it!) ans the clouds in the sky moved across the Chrysler building like a work of art, sometimes fully shadowing it, and others times floating in strips as in a Batman movie. We snuggled in and discussed the plans for laundry and reading and movies-discussing tentative plans like the day would go on forever. We ended up in Union Square, with Amanda- my favorite third wheel- walking the rainy streets in search of the perfect Halloween costume and waiting for the movie "Across the Universe" to start.

Okay, lets just say, the movie was amazing. I could spend half this blog analyzing it- but I'll spare you. Just go see it. It was simply the icing on the proverbial cake for the splendid New York City week of spectacular moments. Before that, we just wandered the streets, talking, laughing, strolling. Wearing nothing but Solow pants, Uggs and a North Face (my college uniform) I felt once again, the need to just stop, take in a deep breath and remember what it feels like to be happy to be alive. The streets were puddled and the people were damp and I was feeling kind of sweaty in my fleece, but nothing could really bother me- not even Greg silently complaining for food with his grumpy pout as he dragged his heels beside me. It was the perfect New York City afternoon - we even rode the Subway! A rarity for me, I have to admit. It felt very New York. Just strolling the city with my boyfriend and my best friend, no thick agenda weighing us down- only the possibilities for what the Halloweeny night ahead would hold. One dark theatre, one Blue Moon at an Irish Pub and a few costume stores later, Amanda and I were curling our hair & gluing on false eyelashes, getting ready for a night on the town as gangster girls. A far cry from my night with the writers in the West Village- but still, well- Me.

Anyway, I could go on and on- because really, the moments go on an on. But I just realized, hey, this stuff probably is not THAT interesting to read about and I need to get to the point. Remember my first post- when I say that being seventeen, driving in the car with the right song playing is the closest to infinite you are ever going to feel? Well I still think that, only I also believe that if you pause to smell the cliche roses every now and again you might be able to find the moment of paradise that the infinite feeling once created.

I felt a little infinite this week,but mostly, i felt a lot grateful for the things, the people and the places that weave together to form the fabric of my life. I don't know if this feeling will last forver, but what I do know for sure is that Alex Garland was on to something- paradise is not a place you look for. It doesen't have to have sandy white beaches or swaying palm trees, nor do you need a steel drum band to complete it (althought those things can help! HA). Really, some good friends, some good feeling, and a good 'ol New York City street will do just fine.

and when you find the moment when all of those things collide, when you realize, no matter how big or small- you are a part of something- you have carved out your own little slice of paradise... i think it really might last forever.

...if only in your mind.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Beauty In The Breakdown...

"...So let go, jump in.
oh well, whatcha waiting for?
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown
oh, it's so amazing here..."

-Frou Frou

Okay, so my attitude has shifted a little this week. I am still living off of English Muffins and peanut butter, only leaving my apartment if I have to and not bothering to get dressed- but, I am waking up earlier, cleaning my house obsessively again and generally just not wallowing in misery that doesn't really exist. I have sort of made the switch in mind frame that mirrors a certain mind frame I have been in before, one I adopted back in my early college days, the scene of my first "breakdown".

In those days, it had a lot to do with a boy, which seems trivial now, but it was real then. These days, my problems feel a little more weighty, but I have found solace in realizing that in several years (if not sooner) I will probably laugh at this so called "dark" period. In retrospect - and there is always retrospect- some of those moments you once believed to be your darkest are actually the most beautiful ones.

In college, everything kind of came together for me at the start of my Junior year. I moved off campus to an adorable little house with three roommates. Two of them were previous roommates and friends from the beginning of college, the other girl was a friend of a friend who needed a place to live. It's funny how you can get to points in your life where you believe you have already made all of the long lasting friendships you are ever going to have or experienced that feeling of truly getting to know someone for the last time. It's funny because we are usually wrong, the ability to do this is always inside of us, and the opportunity is always there. It's funny because, at nineteen, the year I met Lee, I thought I had reached that place.

Lucky for me, I hadn't even gotten close to reaching that place. Without Lee entering into my life, I often wonder if I ever would have fully developed beyond the person I had shriveled into after my sophomore year. I smile whenever I think how reluctant I was to let a new person in - to have a roommate that wasn't already an established friend. I met her the day I moved in to our new house - my other roommates were not yet in sight and Lee had already moved into the room right next door to mine. It was late afternoon as my mother and I began lugging my belongings up the stairs to my bedroom from our car outside. Lee stood in the hallway, teetering in heels and a mini skirt, preparing to head out for happy hour.

It kills me that this is the first place I ever met her, not only because Lee's insatiable love of happy hour defines her socially-in a comical way- to this day, but also because teetering heels and a mini skirt are exactly the last thing I would think of to describe the Lee I now know and love.

We were also meeting in a very strange moment, I was sweaty and tired, she was sexy and energetic- we had a moment of "Hi, this is awkward-now I live with you and we are going to have to force ourselves to be friends whether we like it or not." It was the precursor to the next two years of fabulousness I spent living with Lee- cultivating a friendship through the kind of bonds sisters might have. You don't necessarily have the same friends, the same outlook on life, the same tastes or the same hangouts- but you get you each other, possibly better than anyone else. It is a bond formed by sharing the same bathroom, the same stash of condoms, the same bills, the same favorite spot on the couch, the same Tuesday night TV regime, the same kitchen knives, and for me and Lee, the same broken heart.

Lee taught me many things during our two years under the same roof, things that have nothing to do with college or boys or sharing a bathroom with 5 women - and I'm sure I taught Lee some things too- mostly because we were learning and growing together. However, the moments that often stand out the most for me are the ones in which we were learning that the beauty in life is, in actuality, in the breakdown.

Of course, it was the year Garden State came out and Lee dragged me to the local independent community theatre with her friend, Mackenzie, to go see it. We weren't yet best friends, but one day, I would have the honor of giving that title to both Lee and Mackenzie (however that sparks a much longer story!). The three of us sat practically alone in the tiny old fashioned theatre, being polite, sharing popcorn and shooting the breeze about mostly surface level topics- because we barley knew each other yet. When the lights went off and the picture began rolling, we were relieved to get lost in the movie.

That movie kind of changed our lives that day, as few movies have ever done for me. I know, however, that I am not alone in that claim. Garden State was a craze that year- the soundtrack blasted out of cars on ever street corner, Zach Braff fan clubs sprouted everywhere, everyone wanted to prove that the movie absolutely meant the most to them- and we believed it meant the most to us too.

Oh, the nights we spent that autumn in that little house discussing life and blasting the Garden State soundtrack- allowing the smell of freshly lit fires and falling leaves to drift in through the windows, giving us bursts of inspiration. I had found a new way to love life - and those words- So let go, jump in, whatcha waiting for?- I wasn't waiting for anything anymore, i let go and let the pain wash over me, I jumped into it -and it eventually turned to joy.

I think back on that time and picture me and little Lee, holed up in the dark and drafty enclosed porch that connected to her bedroom, one little yellow lamp burning in the corner and our long-johned legs leaning against the wall as we lay on the floor listening to that song, talking deep into the night, sharing secrets, desires, fears, stories, painful memories, joyful memories, just getting to know each other-allowing for beauty in the breakdown- and when I think of that, my whole body feels warm.

I may not have Lee anymore, or any of the dozen or so roommates I enjoyed throughout my years in college- but Frou Frou was definitely onto something when they wrote that song-and I can still "let go" and "jump in" the same way becoming friends with Lee taught me to do. I have gone from clawing at my eyes in anxiousness, begging for a life to find me, to accepting whatever it is I am going through right now, trusting I will eventually have an answer, but for right now, this is alright. I feel like a proverbial weight has been lifted off of my shoulders in just remembering that eventually, there will be retrospect, and just like with the retrospect of the enclosed porch nights with Lee- i want it to be beautiful.

I will let go, i will jump in, i will embrace the beauty in the breakdown- because I am young and alive and free and even if it isn't always clear right now- it's so amazing here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Examining My Skin.

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons
that oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes

-Emily Dickinson

An excerpt from one of my most favorite Dickinson poems. It often pops into my head at random times, mostly when things are oppressive...or whenever I notice a certain slant of light. Okay, so it's not exactly winter- far from it, actually. This year, thanks to probably a bigger picture we are choosing to quietly ignore (global warming) we have had one of the longest Indian Summer's in the history of weather.

Every morning I get up, open my windows and stick my arm out into the city sky hoping for the least bit of chill. Every morning I convince myself that because it is October, jeans and perhaps a light sweater will be fine. Every morning, I am mistaken. The nights are still reminiscent of the balmy beginnings of July, when you breathe a sigh of relief to shed as many layers as possible and prance around the streets in short shorts and tank tops, the humidity blanketing your skin. Sweat still forms on my brow whenever I walk more than 3 blocks, and at night, the air heavy with heat, the streets still smell like the garbage that has been cooking in the sun on the curb all day.

Instead of embracing the sunny days and blanket warm nights I usually yearn for from January to June, I have taken quite a different attitude. I have kind of just stopped getting ready for anything in the morning (some may call this depression, i call it protestation).

Like today, I wandered around the city in this weird sort of state where I felt sort of like I was floating, enjoying my surroundings for the most part, but feeling a little detached I guess you could say. I had stayed up until 4:30 am the night before, so when my alarm went off at noon, reminding me of the doctors appointment I had in an hour, I was feeling a bit groggy and lot a irritated.

Like all mornings, I checked the official weather using the arm out the window test and examined the sky looming over the Chrysler building. Looked cloudy, possibly rainy & I swear I felt a chill.

I jumped in the shower, applied my Proactiv acne treatment (my breakouts have been heinous lately), threw on baggy jeans that I fished out of the dirty laundry pile along with a ratty sweatshirt (reasoning that rain also meant cold) and ran out the door clad in wet hair and a shiny, non-makeuped face.

After my appointment I couldn't find a cab. Typical. Also, miraculously, the sun had come out and my jeans and sweatshirt no longer made the statement that I hoped they would when I left the house. I was going for: natural beauty who just doesn't care what other people think and doesn't have to. What it turned into: weird girl with greasy, zitty face and a heavy sweatshirt on in 80 degree weather.

Trying not to think about this fact, I walked from Broadway to 5th where I knew there was a glorious two story Barnes & Noble and I wouldn't have to stress while sweating on street corners trying to catch a cab. Ahhh, my sanctuary.

Even if I hadn't bought anything I would have enjoyed my time there. Just smelling all of those books together in one place is enough to turn my day around. After an hour I bought a book I found -of all embarrassing places- on the "Self-Help" table. It caught my eye because the cover is red- i have always had an affinity for red- and it is entitled " What Should I Do with My Life". Also, the author looked hot.

As a person, standing there in a Barnes and Noble of 45th and 5th on an idle Wednesday doing nothing but killing time in dirty jeans, a ratty sweatshirt and half-wet scraggly, too-long hair, sweat on my brow despite the air conditioning...I was pretty sure this was a question i could use a little help in answering. So i picked it up quickly and then slowly stepped away from the giant sign that advertised me, picking up a book in the self-help section.

I bought it, putting it face down on the counter in front of the sales clerk, as not to be judged. i really didn't need to be judged today.

Pleased with myself, and eager to get home and begin reading, I walked back into the desert that is Manhattan and tried for another cab. No luck. I would have to walk another avenue.

When I made it to Madison, there it was- J. Crew! The second most desirable place to my inner psyche. I figured I could go in, check out the new fall line & possibly pick up a new sweater. Then my day would be complete so it wouldn't matter if I had walked all of the 13 blocks and 4 avenues home in a heavy sweatshirt, I would have a new sweater & a new book (I am a strong advocate of retail therapy if you couldn't tell!)

I must admit, I walked in feeling kind of self conscious. I felt imaginary eyes on the weird disoriented girl in the grubby clothes pretending she fit in among the cute preppy argyles. I heard the looming voices of Stacy and Clinton from my fav TLC's "What Not To Wear" dissecting my clothing and the attitude that accompanied them. "I swear i fit in here!" I wanted to yell.

Get a grip I thought, throwing several of the cashmere argyles over my arm, you don't care what other people think - remember? This is New York City - nobody cares anyway!

and then, out of nowhere, I hear in the most casual voice possible "Hey Ali".


It wasn't too bad, but not what I needed at alllll. Some old acquaintance from high school, someone I hadn't seen since before I even wore makeup or cute clothes or had a sexy boyfriend who happened to be cuter than the one she was toting around! I guess when you run into people like that you just hope you'll look a little better than the way I looked, perhaps at least a little bronzer on will be on your cheeks and you will be able to say you have a job. Even more hopefully, a glamorous one.

Instead: I started sweating like a mad woman. Suddenly, someone turned off the air conditioning and the mountain of cashmere thrown over my arm became like a insidious tumor. I could feel the fluorescent overhead lights glowing of my glistening skin, pointing, as with arrows, to the lovely spraying of red dots along the left side of my nose.

My voice in answer to inevitable question: "Actually, I'm in between jobs right now" (Damn you honest mouth!! Why couldn't you have at least said you were working on a novel!)
Her rebuttal: "Oh, well that's okay"
My thoughts: yes! I know this is okay! I don't need you to say it!
My subconscious: not it is not okay and I am self conscious about it so I really didn't need you to say that bitch!

Seriously, she was harmless. I really should not have been so bent out of shape. Clearly, I have issues. I retreated to the dressing room shortly thereafter, if only to strip myself of the jeans- which were now sticking to my clammy skin- and the sweatshirt-which was now suffocating my rib cage. Ahhh, relief by dressing room.

I tried on everything. Nothing looked good. Have I gained weight or have J. Crew's sizes been altered this season? I decide it is a little bit of both and leave the dressing room with one sweater in my hand (a sweater I do not want, but take anyway, just in case the lady helping me is waiting outside the door to ask how I liked everything.) Yes, that is correct, I would actually go through with buying a sweater i do not particularly want just as not to offend the lady who started my fitting room. I mean, would she seriously be offended? Probably not.

Thank god, she was not outside. So I ditch the sweater on a random table and bolt out of the doors, just in time for ex- acquaintance girl to call goodbye to me before strolling away with her suit-clad boyfriend. Fabulous.

When I get home and look in the mirror, it is worse than I thought. There is this certain slant of light flooding through my kitchen window and it hits me in all of the wrong places. I strip myself of the weighty clothing standing right in front of the mirror. I note my pale, clammy face and puffy red eyes. To my knowledge, I had not been crying. Allergies? They didn't feel itchy. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?? I USED TO BE PRETTY WITHOUT MAKEUP!

The slant of light becomes more oppressive with each glint off my face. I am forced to get up close and personal with the mirror, examining my skin. Things have changed. I am sure of it. Blackheads cover the bridge of my nose like a dirty disease and the pores on my cheeks stand out like the craters on the moon. Of course, there is the lovely splash of red zits across the left side of my face, but even worse are the bumpy reddish purple areas underneath my eyes along with the faint- but very there- wrinkles.

I remember my mother telling me she bought her first jar of wrinkle cream when she was 25. Would I have to be 23?? Oh, the wrongness of it all! Talk about the oppressive weight of cathedral tunes! Stop the clock! I'm not ready for this! My inner psyche squealed.

Immediately, more Proactiv. Immediately, pajamas. Immediately, blanket. Immediately, the new book. Ahhhh, bliss.

Okay so, I know this is not exactly the weight of the world. My skin probably doesn't even look that bad. Actually, I'm pretty sure i still look damn cute when I get all done up. Not to mention, there are certainly a bazillion more weights I could find in this world to bring me down than the one brought on by a certain slant of light. I mean, people are dying, people are starving, people are disease infested and suffering while I get all bent out of shape about a couple of zits and some bumpy skin.

I could even find some deeper things within my own life to suffer about, like my own poor health or the deteriorating mind of my grandmother. Instead, I am freaking out in J. Crew over nothing and examining my bumpy skin like I have aged 100 years overnight. There has to be a reason for this imbalance.

Quite possibly, this is what makes the world turn. In reality, what did the author of my favorite poem have weighing on her shoulders? She was a loner who stayed in her house all day and never experienced any sort of real life. She wrote glorious poetry about pain and angst and love and life, she spoke to numerous people on numerous levels from numerous generations and did it all from the confines of her bedroom walls!

Perhaps i should take a lesson from good old Emily...some of the best (and by best and my worst) suffering can be done right inside the confines of your own 4 walls, when no one, no concrete thing, other than your mind is weighing you down.

The other kind of suffering, the one with reason, well, that, you can heal from in time. The other kind, just makes for really fascinating insanity and really great writers.

So from now on, I think will welcome the cathedral tunes. After all, they force you to examine your own skin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Mad Ones.

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

-Jack Kerouac

Okay, so I know what you are thinking - what's with this girl and her obsession for madness and burning? I must admit my infatuation - but really, what is life without madness and burning? I know I'm getting a little holier than though philosophical here, but it comes with the terribly cheesy territory of being a Life Junkie.

I am a breed of person addicted to the feeling of being alive, addicted to the analysis of it, addicted to the examination of it - if only through the simplest moments. I love literature because it documents life, crystallizes moments in glass cases, unpacks the stages of human existence. I am not only addicted to the perfect car ride with the perfect company and the perfect song, I am also a junkie for dead-end feelings and hopeless despair.

I am junkie for the person one becomes when faced with either situation, obsessed with the multiple transformations one mind can endure.

I read this Kerouac quote for the first time one long night when I decided to read "On The Road" cover to cover in one sitting. I felt it fitting considering that according to the legend, Kerouac himself wrote the novel in only 3 weeks on one continuous scroll. I underlined many quotes in that book, the book would become a sort of bible to me, but that quote stuck out the most. I knew I had heard it before, reading it in the place it originated only stirred it's revival from the chambers of my mind.

Oh, how I wanted to be one of those people. The ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but in harsh reality, I yawned all of the time. I even yawned when I was enjoying myself. Commonplace things were my specialty along with politeness and half-assed passions. Sometimes I like to sit on the couch for 3 days straight and do nothing. I was pretty sure that counted me out of being desirous of everything at the same time.

So I came to terms with the fact that being desirous of everything at the same time only 50 percent of the time was the most I was going to get out myself, and that that would have to be okay. At least my heart was in the right place. I didn't really think I would ever know one of those yellow roman candle people - until I met Jamie.

As the now over told and mildly cliche story goes, Jamie and I met outside of the library during our first weekend of college. We were set up on a sort of blind friendship date by a mutual friend who promised us we would love each other. I thought she was weird. She thought I was boring.

Needless to say, eventually, the tables turned. It was the best lesson I ever got on not judging a book by its cover. Eventually, the very reasons I had for being put off by her became the very reasons I love and embrace her.

She has several visible piercings, and one secret one. She changes her hair color every chance she gets. She wears whatever she wants, always. No matter if it is in style. She has three tattoos and always wants more. She falls in love way too easily, with women, and with men. She has the loudest voice I have ever heard and is lying when she apologizes for it.

She has an insatiable, irresistible and infectious smile. She is passionate about everything from feminism to facebook. Whenever she does anything, she does it all the way...and with fire in her eyes. She has the ability to infect passion to the people she touches. She has an innocent naivety that cannot be wiped away, no matter how much she goes through. She has the ability to talk for hours on end about one minute detail of one minute moment, even if it has nothing to do with her life. She is the most loyal friend I have ever had.

She is, without a doubt, mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. She yawns a lot, seldom says a commonplace thing, and boy does she burn,burn,burn. She is one of the world's fabulous yellow roman candles.

Our senior year we lived in a big house with 7 bedrooms and 5 other girls. We both chose to live on the ground floor. She tacked the greeting card with the Kerouac quote onto the outside of her bedroom door. I looked at it every day for a whole school year, associating her with those very words. In the end, she became the words.

I can look back on my four years of college and count more fabulous friendships than I have fingers. I can count more magnificent life changing moments than I can stars in the sky. I can think of more outrageously fun memories from those four years than I can from my whole life. A lot of the best ones, were with Jamie.

Like me, she is a life junkie. Addicted to the moments and feelings and stages of the bumpy road. She has walked me through countless depressions, been by my side during countless good times, she has listened to me talk until the sun rises, she has picked me up off of the floor more times than i can count, held my hair back more times than i would like, told me the truth even if it hurt more than the lie, told me a lie if she knew it was what i wanted to hear, she has mastered the art of knowing when i want to talk and when I just need a cigarette and cold dark night wrapped in blankets on the porch.

Unlike me, she does not need to stop and analyze, she lives in every moment for that moment- something I have yet to master without pausing to write a sentence about the moment in my mind. She does not stop to think about what other will think of her, she does not feel the need to explain herself to those she does not love.

With her, the parts of me that are not all that likable dissipate a little. I forget to analyze so much and remember to live in the moment more. I am a flawless junkie of life. With her, I also become a fabulous yellow roman candle- together we explode like spiders across the stars.

Today, Jamie and I rarely make time to chat on the phone for hours on end, nor do we see each other on a regular basis. We lead busy and separate lives that are not ever sure of crossing again quite the way they did when we were both holed up in a small city in upstate New York.

However, it if comforting to know if I ever need to explode like a spider across the stars...she's there.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Heavenly Connections...No Starry Dynamo Necessary

"I don't want to live... I want to love first, and live incidentally"
- Zelda Fitzgerald

To be honest, I was wrong in my last post when I implied that I don't burn for anything. At the risk of sounding too completely sentimental, I do feel more than a little burning when the subject of love is introduced - namely because of the aforementioned man in my life.

Originally, I never really saw myself falling deeply in love until I had lived a solid decade as a crazy young and free (and probably loose) twenty-something, glamorously dancing on tables and hooking pinkies with my equally crazy young and free girlfriends while spilling pink liquors on devastatingly handsome investment bankers (Most likely the backlash from our own Sex and the City infatuated Generation).

On second thought, maybe I shouldn't say "originally" because, if you really want to get technical about it, originally, (as in circa 1995) I was a desperate, hopeless romantic who chased the same boy for 4 years. I spent the better half of my pre-pubescent time conjuring images of marriage and children while sighing deeply and throwing myself dramatically onto couches whenever my best friend, Carly, would "coincidentally" set the CD player to Sheryl Crow's "Are You Strong Enough To Be My Man."

Truth be told, the poor boy I was chasing was only eleven years old and didn't know I existed outside of being his neighbor's best friend and the girl he had vicious snowball fights and went sledding with. Like all one sided childhood romances, it had to end.

Due to my undying devotion to the poor eleven year old boy who endured my love notes and desperate crank calls for 4 years while he just tried to be a skinned knees type of kid, my developing love life suffered well into puberty and I didn't even experience my first kiss on the lips until the age of 14. I was mortified, considering all of my girlfriends had lost their kiss-inity in middle school, and here it was, second semester freshman year of high school and I still wore elastic gap jeans with over sized sweatshirts.

Finally, my time came. It was an anti-climactic moment in my childhood bedroom roughly 4 minutes before my current boyfriend of 2 days had to run out the door. A girlfriend I can hardly remember the name of was making out with her new boyfriend on one side of my bed while we and said boy sat on the other. Bush's "Glycerine" was playing on my five disc changer stereo as he leaned over me, and I vividly remember the smell of Nautica Competition cologne mixed with winter fresh gum and BenGay.

I'll spare you from the rest of my sexual developmental gory details, but lets just say I developed rather quickly after the long awaited loss of my kiss-inity. The rest of my high school experience was dotted with one serious boyfriend, several causal ones, and many, many flings I either remember fondly through a Bud Light and Captain Morgan's induced haze, or not at all.

Somehow, by the end of high school I gained the reputation of being a little racy and lot knowledgeable when it came to the world of boys and dating, thus I began to think of myself as the female version of a "player". I enjoyed boys, pretty much any boy, and I enjoyed any mind game I could play with one. I raced my car around town blasting Big Pun's "I'm not a playa' I just crush a lot", flipping my long blond locks in the wind. I had broken several hearts and although I thought mine had been broken by a couple of those boys, I am pretty sure I had never really tasted the true bittersweet pain of heartache until my college days.

I went to college believing that I would have a few fun flings before settling down with the man of my dreams, just like my older sister who found her future husband right inside her freshman dorm. What really happened became exactly the reason I lost all imminent desire to meet mister right, and convinced my self that the single- dancing-on-tables life was far more desirable.

I met a boy. We slept with the window open to smell the snow. We made up secret games. We slow danced when there was no music. We had picnics under fire orange trees. I fell in love.

We drove through the mountains with the sun roof open to let in the night sky. We went on hikes through nature trails linked arm in arm. We watched 3 movies in a row just for an excuse to be next to each other. We stayed up into the wee small hours, just talking. I was in love.

One night, in a dark dorm room, lit only by the fluorescent sickliness of a laptop screen, he told me that he knew love was going to feel like flying, like being able to jump over a ten foot fence, effortlessly. I told him I felt like I was flying. He told me he didn't feel like he was flying with me.
Inevitably, my heart broke. I was nineteen. Deeply infatuated. Deeply desperate. Deeply ashamed. Deeply embarrassed. Deeply scarred.

Despite the pain I can never deny having, suffering from a broken heart was possibly the greatest experience of my life.

I learned to truly lean on my self, and only my self. I learned sometimes, most times, that is all you have. I learned the difference between love and obsession or infatuation. I learned that even in one's deepest moments of despair you can find laughter. I learned that no pain is silly if you are really feeling it. I learned that making your away message the same series of desperate quotes for 6 months straight does not win your boyfriend back. Nor does an away message boasting the (fake) great time you are having. I learned that mother's don't always have the answer, especially at 3AM. I learned that no matter how much someone emotionally damages you it is never okay to ruin their life too- plus, it doesn't ease the pain any. I learned not to interpret anything, always know for sure if you want to be safe. I learned that with matters of the heart, you always want to be safe. I learned independence in the greatest sense of the word. I learned who my true friends were and how to really use their shoulders to cry on. I learned to look within my self for strength.

The aftermath of that quiet conversation in the laptop lit room was long and painstaking. I never knew I had it inside of me to be so weak. It took a lot of getting used to, a lot of tears, a lot of long talk, a lot of dating and a lot of sleeping around (eeek!).

Greg appeared when I had stopped.

I had stopped crying, stopped feeling desperate, stopped looking for opportunities to make that boy change his mind. I had stopped blaming myself for him not being able to love me. I had stopped looking for my self.

He was in the driveway between my sorority and his fraternity wearing a red beat up Polo hat, an over sized sweatshirt and ratty sweatpants. He had a 3 day old beard and greasy hair. It was love at first sight.

I won't get into logistics, but minus the 6 months he went back and forth between me and another girl (that's right, he broke my heart a little too), plus the four month hiatus last winter during my quarter life crisis, Greg and I will have been together for 3 years this January. It has been better than flying.

Perhaps Ms. Zelda Fitzgerald was onto something when she said she wanted to love first and then to live incidentally. I must say, these days, it seems like I am not doing much living, but that the living I do is most purely exceptional in the presence of Greg. Maybe Zelda has the secret, if we could just find love first, life will eventually take its course.

My passion, my burning, is felt in the little things. When Greg takes it upon himself to spread peanut butter on my English muffin. When he passes me a napkin before I realize I need one. When he lets me watch my favorite TV show despite the fact that he hates it. When we inevitably have the same desire at the same moment - whether it is the desire to go for a walk or the desire to gorge ourselves on several pints of Ben & Jerry's. Usually, I find myself incidentally living through my love.

Despite what I can only call some of the best luck I have ever had (finding Greg),I still do desire a little more. Call me selfish, but I still value my learned independence and sometimes I still think I need to burn for something that is only mine, like a job or following or a project.

I do burn though, I burn every day for Greg to get home from work just so I can be in his presence, I burn for his arm to cuddle in the night when we decide to sleep at our own places, I burn every time he hands me a napkin.

It is a true heavenly connection, no starry dynamo necessary-just napkins.

So what if I'm not following the original plan of sequined mini skirts and pink drinks, I get to drink beer on Sundays inside dark pubs while Greg teaches me the ins and outs of football, my mouth burning from buffalo wing sauce-and Greg, handing me napkins. And , I must say, it is truly heavenly.

When I feel my connection to these moments, and to Greg, it is a burning so explosive that saying "i love you" almost cheapens it. I don't know what could sound cornier than that, nor do I know what could sound better than that.

Perhaps I am missing the point. Perhaps the napkin is the starry dynamo.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Follow My Inner....What?

"Follow Your Inner Moonlight; Don't hide the Madness." - Allen Ginsberg

I hear you Allen, I really do, and believe me, if I had some inner moonlight these days I'd sure as hell be following it! Madness? I wish I had some to hide, not that I would be hiding it...I mean seriously, I could use a little madness these days. In fact, I CRAVE madness, NEED it even. You know, the kind that makes one be "starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets and dawn... burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night". I'd do anything to burn for something.

Problem is...I spent 90 percent of the first two days of this week sleeping and the other 10 percent lying on the couch watching DVR'd episodes of TLC's "What Not To Wear" and "10 Years Younger".

This does not exactly make me the " next writing /novelist / journalistic / editorial genius of the world" material I have been conjuring in my head since pre-adolescence. I might even be more exciting if I dropped some acid (Allen Ginsberg style) and watched "What Not To Wear" . Alas, I once made a strict drug rule for my self that goes : if I didn't try it in college than it's too late to try it in the real world. Call it limiting my creativity, I call it saving myself from a downward spiral I have probably never been too far away from falling into (stems from all of that never resist the unfamiliar crap).

Anyway, sometime late last night my boyfriend pulled me off the couch (but not before I could watch The Hills! (SIGH, what quality!)) and pointed out the filth I had been living in -which included my own mascara encrusted tear ducts - and prompted me to get my act together.

So I cleaned. My apartment and my self. I even ran the dishwasher and separated the laundry. Today I did all of that laundry, folded it nicely, made it to the dry cleaner and I even cleaned my closet of clothes I no longer wear so I could bring them to Salvo (wow, impressive!).

So now, with my literal and figurative corners cleared of cobwebs, why the hell does this self-proclaimed "Life Junkie" still find herself, well, lifeless?

I guess, in truth, I lost my moonlight sometime last winter.. and try as I might, it's been kind of hard to find ever since. I was 22, fresh out of college, eager to move to New York City and start the whole REAL LIFE thing everyone had been hyping (okay maybe that was just me).

I found myself a job the fall before I graduated, spent my last semester of college feeling like my growth was being stunted (It was an extra semester due to embracing the madness a little too much back in the day), and even said bon voyage to my binge drinking/sorority girl ways by breaking up with my college sweetheart.

I left him, and everything else behind in upstate New York just as the last of the brilliant orange foliage fell to the floor and the snow plows got the salt ready for the long winter ahead. I was on to bigger and better things....right?

My job was great at first. I liked my co-workers, I liked my boss, I enjoyed what I was doing for the most part and I wasn't too bad at it either. I missed my ex-boyfriend but told myself this was for the best, we would be together again when the time was right. Then the daily grind set in, followed by an office attitude change. The atmosphere went from light and pleasant to back- stabbing and brutish.

I went home every night and cried myself to sleep in my beautiful apartment with a view of the Chrysler building, a designer rug and a mattress on the floor (yep, everything was still so fresh my furniture hadn't even arrived from the warehouse). I couldn't believe the switch - was I creating it in my head?

Day after day I faced cold answers to my bubbly "Good morning!", irritated sideways glances and barking orders from behind shielded cubicle walls. On top of everything, my boss told me he knew I "didn't like to be told what to do". Me? Little old me? The same girl who was too scared to leave school with the other seniors on annual Senior Skip Day? The same girl who can still be frozen solid in fear with one evil eye from her mother? Was he serious?

The days that followed were a haze of endless episodes of American Idol through bleary tear filled eyes, mind numbing headaches and fatty Chinese food lunches to band-aid the angst. I know, I'm a baby, what can I say? I can't stand being pegged, especially when it's not true. I just wanted to disappear.

So, one day, I quit.

My parents had been bugging me to do so for weeks but my pride told me it would be a bad idea. Then, one rainy Tuesday I took a deep breath and asked my boss if I could speak with him privately. I don't even think I knew what I was going to do for sure.

Feeling a little nauseous and a lot shaky, I cried through my whole confession. I told him how unhappy I was and that I had come to the realization that this career path was just not for me. He prodded and poked and the longer we stayed behind closed doors the more I spilled. This was not in my original plan.

I left feeling, well, a little raped of my soul, and completely stripped of my dignity. I ran out of his office and into the elevator shivering with my proverbial tail between my legs, blotchy faced and trying not to sob under the broken umbrella in the street when I called my ex-boyfriend for support.

When the lady behind the counter at my corner bodega asked if I was okay when I tried to buy a bottle of water to calm myself, I thought: Oh Great, now everyone in the world is witness to my deterioration and I still had to face my doorman. I lied to both of them about something really absurd, like a death in the family. I know they couldn't not ask, I mean - I looked like a bruised tomato shining in the sun, but what was I supposed to say?: "Oh, Sorry, It's just...I thought I was going to rule the world a month ago and now I am crying on rainy street corners wishing I never fought to move away from home or broke up with my ex?"

My big plans for the future had been a little more than trumped. There I stood, starving hysterical naked. And not in a good way.

I wish I could say I spent the next 3 months of summer gallivanting around the city in sequined miniskirts, victoriously throwing my head back in care-free laughter, winking at strange cute men across crowded rooms and drinking glorious pink and lime green liquids out of martini glasses while dancing on table tops in the latest Jimmy Choos.

What really happened is as follows:

I got back together with the ex-boyfriend who subsequently obtained a job close to NYC and moved in with me (somewhat temporarily).
Spent the days watching: "What I Like About You" and "What Not To Wear" until I watched every season multiple times.
Attempted and failed: 2 novels, a dozen short stories and one freelance writing career. Accomplished: Two creative writing classes at NYU, a nice trip to Nantucket & one to California as well as the glorious obtainment of a self diagnosed anxiety disorder coupled with a bazillion new-found insecurities about my self as a person and the path of life I have chosen.

Which leads me to September.

The month was spent applying to exactly 100 jobs after I decided it was time to get my act together, and I probably could never get into grad-school since I had completely forgotten everything Math related and figured that knowledge was kind of a must for the GRE. I went on a total of three interviews. One I rejected due to it's internship status, and two which rejected me. Well, one didn't even call me back, so I guess I assumed the answer to "did they like me?" ended in the letter "o".

I dealt with these rejections in a very mature way. I spent the weekend at a Sheraton Hotel in upstate New York, clearing bongs on dirty fraternity porches, streaking through parks in the middle of the night, sharing beds with multiple people and huddling over toilet seats in early morning desperation. It was glorious.

Hence, the past two days of dirty, sleeping, depression bliss. So I ask, just like Peter Pan could lose his shadow when he flew down to the real world from Never-Never Land, do you think it is possible I have just momentarily misplaced my moonlight?

So much for sucking in the experience...WELP, until next time, you can find me attempting to burn for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night....sounds exciting, doesn't it?