June 17, 2012
The room is white and it glows with life as the sun’s rays pour through the skylights. Everything is soft, subtle, warm, weak, wanton, wet, umm… Maybe it is just me but for the first time in a very long time, I feel as though everything is as exactly as it should be. I am on my own, I am living free. I do not have a job for the first time since I was fourteen.
I have left it all behind to pursue my dream, to write the Great American Novel, to be the Edith Wharton of our era. Not that I am interested in the lives of the rich and miserable so much as I am interested in the relationship between men and women in the most relentless city on earth, New York, that is. I am third generation; this city is in my blood, all the way down my bones, inside the marrow from which it comes. It is everywhere, in everything that this energy vibrates, up from the sewers and through concrete as it enters my body through the soles of my feet. It is osmosis, it is in the air that I breathe. It is wired into my nervous system, this overwhelming intensity.
It is ambition. And it is pride. It is fight til the finish. It is do or die. It is not real life. It is all a dream. But that’s the thing about New York, it is smoke and mirrors of the most substantial kind. It is a kind of vapor that is absorbed through my pores, a kind of pressure that propels me upward and onward, back and forth. It is my very nature, it is seen in the way that I walk these streets. My walk, like my accent, is a manifestation of this energy, and it comes from a place deep inside.
And though I am a New Yorker, no one can quite place me. I live in Brooklyn now. Formerly Manhattan. Originally the Bronx. Lawd stop me before I hit Queens. Don’t bury me in Staten Island. Toss my ashes from the Brooklyn Bridge and then smoke a spliff and have a drink. Because where ever I am, it seems I am outside of the frame. I am a woman without ties to any community of sort; I’ll never make bail on a murder charge.
It is late afternoon in early autumn and everything around me is beginning to die; the languorous summer heat has cooled and no longer do I lie upon my roof catching rays, deepening the golden tones of my skin and softening the reds in my hair. It is now the leaves, once vibrant and green, that change color and curl at the ends as they float through the sky and drift without care. Their time has come and now it has gone and such is the cycle each and every year.
The mornings have a chill that echo in the eve and the darkness falls earlier with each passing day. But it is not dark yet, it is perhaps four in the afternoon and the sky is blue as it ever was. Blue like my eyes, sparkling and clear, blue like the eyes in the mirror that I trace with a pencil of jade green. I smudge the strokes until they are hazy and vague, shadows of what has already come and what I have yet to see.
With the tip of my finger I take a little gloss and erase most of my work until you can hardly see a thing and I smile at the natural look. My lips are full and rosy and require no makeup at all. They hold a smile so fresh and so elusive it is like a single bud in a glass vase set against a white background. New and nubile and not yet ready for the world, the smile slips away as mysteriously as it arrived. I return to the task at hand. Taking a wand to my lashes, I darken them with a few strokes until they flutter as free as the birds that summered in the garden below my bedroom window.
Every morning, the birds would arise with the sun and sing a song of sixpence or whatever the going rate has become. They sang little ditties, the poetry of a time and a place that comes but once a year. They sing to each other as though each day were a blessing and they would remind me of this, and it is because I had finally found what I didn’t even know I needed and I possessed a humble kind of gratitude I never knew before and in my heart every morning I would cry for all that I had and all that I lost.
Can you believe it? No one knows, not even him. But he will soon enough, when I publish this book.
This was the first summer of my life that I did not work since I went to sleepaway camp. It had been that long since I have taken a vacation. Imagine that the last time I took some time off I was thirteen years old. But not working is not quite a vacation, though. Because I am writing, crying, drunk and high every day, trying not to feel when it is surfacing. Abuse. Lies. Delusions. Denial. I have been alone for so long that I have come to live in a fantasy world and it has been killing me to break up with my imaginary boyfriend.
But I get ahead of myself here. I, light sleeper and morning person, arose with the birds every morning until the birds left town, and more often than not, I fell asleep as the sun set at nine in the evening. And when I awoke at five am, I was the only one, for the sounds of Brooklyn had not yet begun to stir and only The Cat could testify to what she saw. It was me, only me, me alone writing in my journal, writing page after page just like the night I found God. But no matter how much I wrote and no matter how much I prayed, I could not stop the torment and the deluge of pain. I was awake, wired with adrenalin. No longer was I sleeping well, not that I ever did.
I was awaking at two, three, four am, night after night after night. I needed to drink just to stop the thoughts from keeping me awake for hours on end. I had slept through the entire night perhaps once or twice in the past three years. And when I awoke I was haunted by visions I could not accept. I saw him so often and so much that he cut out the middleman and began talking to me while I slept. And what he told me was so beautiful, so incredible and profound that I became convinced that he was speaking to me from the other side of Brooklyn.
But he is gone. I banished him. I mean, I melted down into a puddle of insanity. And when I did, he just walked away and that’s what I wanted because I thought, out of sight, out of mind, but I could never be free. So I did what I always do when my heart is in pain; I rebounded. On to the next one like my name was Jay Z. And I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to find him and I didn’t mean to see what I saw. I didn’t mean to discover beauty in his essence and allow that beauty into my heart.
I’m high as the sky that opens to a Universe untold. I’m floating through clouds like a jet, planes soaring by on their way to LaGuardia Airport, their engines but a gentle roar. Like the sound of the surf pounding on the shore, they reach the beach time and again and sometimes I think to myself of all those lives being lived, of the people embarking on an adventure or returning to the place they left, as the plane rolls to a standstill and the seatbelts unlock and the cell phones come out. And they have arrived and they are ready to begin and so am I. This evening has been a long time coming.
It has been a year since I started and now I have quit. And it is killing me. It hurts in a way I cannot understand. And even though I have met someone else, the pain surfaces over and over again.
But at this moment, I keep the pain at bay as my heart is keeping time with the beat of another drum, a conga played happily, slapped and pounded with love. Something has come over me, me overcome, and I take a photograph of this moment so I can share it with him. He who I have never met whose name is like home. How could it be that this time has come?
I stand before a mirror, lining liquid blue eyes in jade green and I smudge the strokes until they are hazy and vague, then I take a wand to my lashes and darken them until they flutter like the birds in the garden downstairs. Adding just a touch of rose to my lips, I cover them in gloss because nothing makes me feel calmer than to press my lips to each other and feel them them glide across.
Everything is done, everything but the shoes. I’m all in black because this is New York and that’s how it goes. It’s dark, dirty, dank, drab. It is a city without sky and a city without air. Black is the uniform of the city’s self-professed elite, those garbed in perpetual mourning of their individuality. Samey same same, it is always the same holding to the fantasy that this time, it is different.