Olivia’s wrists ached under the weight of a five-pound apple pie, a treat her mother had taught her to make when she was still small and could be taught things. She wished her parents had pushed her harder during those malleable years – force-feeding her Spanish and French lessons, throwing her in front of a piano or a guitar or anything that she could use to channel her occasional malaise. Instead she had turned twenty-five and was just another useless, ignorant American, speaking English and going to concerts, not performing in them, making pies for holiday parties she didn’t really want to go to anyway.
As an adult she had found herself more reluctant in the acquisition of new knowledge. Knowing too much made her feel small and insignificant; the more she knew about one singular topic, more subtopics would spring up around them like relentless weeds begging to be pulled, though when those were pulled new ones just grew up in their place. Knowledge was an infinite void. Stella never felt satisfied because there could be no satisfaction in the infinite.
Olivia should have taken a car. Her pack was heavy with two bottles of wine and a festive homemade trail mix of dried cherries and pistachios, less obvious shades of the holiday season. Instead, she was left to awkwardly negotiate the pie in her hands with the subway turnstile, onto a platform filled with the only other idiots in New York City willing to endure a similar hassle.
The voice of the robotic subway announcer – a sexless woman always telling Olivia when her Manhattan bound train was arriving – echoed around the filthy tiled halls, absorbed into nothing and no one the same way her apartment did.
She had been in her place five months already and hadn’t bothered to invest in any furniture save for a mattress, two forks, and a knife. She had nested before, inspired by a boy and the concept of home. She knew what it was like to spend weekends at flea markets, finding trinkets that accurately expressed her personality in brass and porcelain. “I’m like this,” the chandelier in her dining room proudly stated, shining down over the faces of her beautiful friends in a beautiful kaleidoscope of light. That time was beautiful. Their apartment was beautiful. They were beautiful and then they were over.
Olivia found an apartment far enough away from that place so she never had to walk past it. He didn’t live there anymore but she couldn’t be bothered reliving times that had already passed. There was no point in looking back; life was about charging relentlessly forward. Forward and away. Inventing new parts of yourself so you could forget about the old.
Her new place was not as beautiful as the last, in part because she couldn’t afford what they had been able to afford as a couple, but also because she just didn’t care. It was a newer building, without crown molding or high ceilings. Her neighbors were twenty-somethings who dressed like people who didn’t understand aesthetics. It felt a bit like a prefabricated cave with that fake wooden flooring that gave underfoot. An apartment was just an apartment. It lacked all of the things that Olivia had always associated with home and that was precisely the point; if it was perfect, if she made it perfect, she would get attached, and when the day came that she had to leave it, it would be that much more difficult.
When she moved, she vowed not to repeat the mistakes of her past. Everything was temporary and everyone was transient. Everything about New York City was a constant reminder of that fact: the internationals who came and went, the weather that changed by the hour, the constant flood of new things that indicated a forcing out of the old. She knew all of this and she spent her time and money accordingly: sparsely and with a hesitant hand.