Last pool day of Summer 2014.
Lifeguard: Everyone out of the water!
Woman: Why? It’s not even time.
Lifeguard: It’s too cloudy.
Woman: (looking up) It doesn’t even look like it’s going to rain!
Me: I don’t think he’s talking about the sky.
by William Logan
News of the world lay in the rain.
Maple leaves fell, pre-foxed,
as if stored for decades on library shelves.
The horse chestnuts had been oiled,
their waxy polish glowing
like the Madonna in the Portuguese church
up the harbor. Immaculate, without sin,
by winter they burned with mildew.
Father in his armchair with an icy dry Martini,
his fedora and trenchcoat damp in the closet,
quarrelled with the rose-trellised wallpaper.
Mother stood locked in the kitchen—
the terra cognita of canned vegetables,
pearly slabs of swordfish, the heaving
paper sack in which two ill-tempered lobsters
brooded over their death sentence.
It is really weird to read about yourself in someone else’s story.
Also, why is it that I remember more about my interactions with this person, which require no more than my fingers to count, than I can about the great loves of my life (said with ironic quotation marks), with whom I’ve passed years?
Despite its prime location around the corner from the pretzel croissants at City Bakery and down the street from the babka at Breads Bakery, I had never noticed Xavier High School until the Sunday afternoon I arrived to volunteer at goalball. (That sentence could not get more limousine liberal-ier.) Goalball, I learned, is a sport originally designed for athletes with visual impairments - though anyone can play since all the players wear blacked out goggles - in which two teams of three players attempt to roll a ball into their opponents’ goal while blocking their opponents from doing the same. And so it involves boundaries laid down with rope and duct tape, a rubber ball filled with sleigh bells, and a crowd quiet enough to attend Wimbledon. While Wil ran to fetch errant balls, his sneakers squeaking against the gym floor, I kept time and succeeded at not being too distracted by the guide dogs lolling by the bleachers, tails wagging in ecstasy as people rubbed their bellies. At halftime I ran to the ladies room, which was morgue-quiet and whose floor was as smooth as a newly-made bed, except for the quarter and dead cockroach who had, like the dogs, gone belly up.
Also, I resolve to write more frequently, like I always do, except this time I mean it, like I always do.
One of the benefits of living in Harlem is that you can use the express trains to “teleport,” as Rodd-ames calls it, between 59th Street and 125th Street, an uninterrupted stretch of time of about 7 minutes. All the fun stuff - impromptu jam between ukelele woman and bongo man, the cast of The Lion King on Broadway singing Circle of Life - happens on the A train. On the D train today’s main attraction was the man sitting across from me and thoughtfully, thoroughly picking his nose, then inspecting each booger as if it were a nugget in a gold pan.
Central Park at night: not like Central Park in the daylight. Eerier, wilder, ghostlier, haunted by rollerbladers who travel in packs; a chiseled performance artist undressing in front of floodlights, his bare torso floating pale and dismembered in the dark; Stevie Nicks’ soul sister, all flowing hemlines, bright-lipped beatific smile, crown of flowers in her hair, playing Bach’s cello suites under a Minton tile ceiling; and, best of all, fireflies, gleaming green like algae, soft like stars, rising like campfire licks in the gloaming, in a glade of towering elms.
by A.E. Housman
How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.
To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
i never kept before.
Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.
On Worth Street, which serves as a kind of border between Chinatown and the courthouses and government offices of Civic Center (a neighborhood I had never heard of until I looked it up on Google Maps just now), someone has taken the care to plant a small but dear garden in Columbus Park. The killer part: the handwritten tags naming every bush, flowers, and shrub. I was disappointed to find that the dahlias were all done for the season but pleased to meet the black-eyed susans and other, stranger flowers whose names I don’t remember; I had to hurry if I wanted to pick up dinner before class. Dinner was eleven dumplings and a free noodle-making show for $3 from Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle; class, a free lecture on bike maintenance basics taught by a Japanese man in a bucket hat and on a BMX; dessert, a $1 egg tart and the lambent midsummer twilight, my heart floating up, up, away.
On average, San Francisco receives less than an inch of rain during the summer months, which was as good a reason as any to sign up for the marathon. It had been three years since my last visit, an interval of time long enough for friends to have babies - yes, plural - and the rental market to go completely barmy. Evidently twentysomething app-developers now pay $2,000/month to live in the Tenderloin (!!!!!). I landed on Friday in time to catch a typically dreamy sunset, the sky soft and smudgy with pastels, then shuddered in the evening chill and wrapped my cardigan tighter. I twice waited in the Ferry Building Blue Bottle line over the weekend, once before the race expo and then after the race. I ate outside, except when I was carbo-loading at Cotogna, in which case I ate with my back to the spit rotating slowly above the wooded fire. I ran the marathon. It was dark when we started and searingly bright at the finish. I underestimated the hills but I felt strong racing down the final chute. I sang my ex-boyfriend’s infant to sleep, taught a few words of French to his trilingual daughter, bumped a knee against his under the dinner table. I had a sit-down dance party with my friends on the floor of our hotel room. I sat and drank wine and laughed myself sick around the dinner table with my relatives, people who barely know me but for some reason unconditionally love me. And I decided I never, ever want to live here. This city of dry summers and perfect stone fruits, ice cream parlors and wilding Pacific, this city of memories, dreams, and ghosts, sweet laced with bitter.
Today is the best day of my professional life (so far).
My coworker: “I can’t believe it. It’s like the eighth day of Hanukkah. It’s a miracle!”
Me: “In this moment I don’t even care how underpaid I am!”
Cab, night, skyline, NYC, drunk. Probably how I’ll remember what it was like to be young.
I’ve been sick and it’s such a drag: on my routine, my philosophy, my energy levels, my spirits. But not every week gets bookended by the brother, or the beach, or expertly battered fish tacos, or eating expertly battered fish tacos with the brother on the beach - on opposite coasts! And it’s not every week that you hear from two ex’s in the span of two days, even if the first is the FaceTime equivalent of the butt-dial, when the second writes to say I probably wanted too much from you, and what I’ve realized is you can’t ask anyone to fix you. What. Do I even say to that.