Field Trip

Check out my piece on the Flip today.  Click through image below.

“He’s here.”

Carey has rounded the corner and is facing me with her tan skin and her beautiful hair, her lips that are always perfectly glossed and her milk white teeth.  She’s not smiling.  My stomach falls through to my horribly pink feet, viciously pained from walking in faux leather heels that do not stretch.

I walk straight to my purse and unzip my ugly purple makeup bag, my mother’s Lancôme gift-with-purchase that she then gifted to me.  I pull out a Vicodin I stuck in there that morning.  Last year it was Xanax, which would be a more appropriate chemical compound given the current circumstances, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Anything to disconnect me from reality, anything to make the details feel soft and benign as a pilled cashmere sweater…

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Home for the Holidays

We pass wet roofs and flying birds.  Construction workers wait for trains in big boots while an Armageddon sunrise, blue and pink, washes over JFK.  I’m going home for Christmas.  Going home to what, I don’t know.  My brother just told me he’s staying in Colorado with his friend’s family.  My dad is going to camp in Death Valley with Carl, his friend from the 2nd grade.  My nice grandparents died out a long time ago and the last one who didn’t matter that much anyway died three Christmases ago.

This is Christmas now.

The airport is filled with parents herding children.  Teenagers drag their feet against marble floors reflecting morning light, their faces marred with that appropriately sullen and irritated look that will blight them until the hormones balance out when they graduate high school.

There are holiday wreaths and plastic garlands, a token menorah plugged into an electrical outlet and hidden behind a Christmas tree for good measure.  Some Taylor Swift rip-off sings “Merry Christmas” while I try to find a bag of salted pistachios.  My dad used to eat pistachios.  The floor of his diesel F150 was littered with shells, next to lost Jujubes and strings of chewing tobacco.

The stupid things you remember.

“Jennifer Bahn.”

I’m sitting in the familiar discomfort of a black vinyl chair.  They mispronounce my name.  “Bahn” like ban.  “Bahn” like book ban or smoking ban.  I look up at the screen where half of my name is listed under the cleared list.  I feel myself primed to make a small scene.  Cleared?  I already have a ticket.  Why would I need to be cleared?  I brace myself for the worst: an oversold flight, some dry-toothed American Airlines agent asking me if I would like to forfeit my ticket for a $5 in-flight drink coupon.

“I’m Jennifer Bahn,” I say.  “I already have a ticket.”  And I pass her my carbon-copy-thin piece of paper.

“Well, we’ve changed your seating assignment.”

I stand at the ready.  She passes me a business class hardcopy on blue paper with black letters.

“Merry Christmas.”

There is a God.

I board the plane and organize my things.  A flight attendant takes my coat right as I’m about to cram it above my luggage in the overhead compartment.  “Would you like me to hang this up for you?” she asks.  I’m used to sleeping it over my head, creating a wheezing-cough-free-bubble from the masses crammed around me in steerage.

The disgusting things you’d rather forget.

I am handed a menu for Business Class Brunch.  I didn’t even know they served brunch on planes.  I can choose from a selection of corned beef hash with cream cheese and chives, a seasonal fruit appetizer, or cereal with fruit and berries.  Later on in my in-flight service, I am to be offered a light refreshment paired with freshly baked on-board cookies.  Oh, that’s what that torturous delicious smell is that wafts back towards row 27 right after my ill thought out snacks have been all but depleted.

The plane boards and the people sit down and I am not nervous about crashing because when I am in business class, I feel important and invincible.  Nothing bad happens to people in business class – we get brunch and cookies and fresh hot towels.  Planes don’t crash when I am in business class.  Oh, no, not today they don’t.

Over the course of five hours, I eat food that isn’t that good and movies that are equally unappealing but my legs can stretch into the generous abyss in front of me.  I have a thick blanket made of something other than old red felt and access to a bathroom used by only 5% of the plane’s in-flight population.  And in that space and time of relative comfort, I forget that I wish I had a real family with drunk uncles and cousins I may or may not like, I forget about wanting to marry into a gigantic family with 25-person dinners and weird histories and bad recipes, I forget that Christmas is just going to be me and my mom at a dinner table, eating by ourselves.  I look over at the mother next to me with her well behaved child and think, I can’t wait for my brother to accidentally have one of those, just so we can have Christmas again.

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Field Trip

Check out my piece on The Flip today.  Click through image below.

 

I’m taking half pills of Dominican Xanax to sleep through the next seven uncomfortable hours of my life, crammed in between a plastic wall and a sea of strangers. My brain grinds to a halt while Daphne Whatever-her-name-is stares at me from the cover of Love magazine — sixteen and bleached blonde and with one lazy eye. The engines rev and the passengers take their seats and I leave my most meaningless trip to Paris behind me…

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little kids

I spend my last day reclaiming Paris, walking through the sweet monochrome of the Marais, into bookstores and little designer shops.  I’m tired from a restless night under thin sheets.  It was too cold in the apartment and my wet hair kept me up like a boyfriend stealing the covers.

Frantic French teens run along the Rue de Perche, yelling things I cannot understand but a hostility I can feel.  In the center of the fray are two red-faced boys, both scrappy and twelve and utterly terrified, waiting to throw punches.  The uninvolved goad them on, finding an easiness on the periphery.  Passing them with an unaffected calm, a man with white hair cradling a black poodle in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

The boys continue to holler.

Most of the children here are quiet, peaceful.  Young boys and girls walk through morning streets with their parents, holding each other’s hands while they travel over cobblestone.  Sometimes I fear I would be too serious with my child – were I to ever  have one.  I fear that I would too often try to impress upon them the importance of each moment.  I fear that I would force them to notice the changing colors in every sunset, to see the endless nuance of life.  I fear he or she or they would hate me for it, shrugging me off like a child tired of their mother’s suffocating kisses.  “Mooooommmm,” they’d say, “I don’t caaaarreeeeeee.”  And a decade later they would rebel against me, choosing instead to see nothing, choosing to fly through life in a forcefully ignorant haze.  They would become one of the people who surround themselves with things, bury their lives in noise so they never have to confront themselves.  Everything keeps moving so you don’t have to think about how pointless your existence is sometimes.  Everything keeps moving so you can convince yourself you’re not just another lab rat on a hamster wheel.

I walk around the small neighborhood I’ve called home for the last ten days, wondering how I feel about Paris anymore.  Without love or infatuation or whatever it is I once felt here, Paris is just this empty, gray place with narrow streets and people in nice clothes.  The reflection of lights on the Seine makes you sad.  The sparking Eiffel tower on the horizon makes you feel alone.  This city laughs at your loneliness.

Just when I’m sure I hate this place, I come upon a courtyard, breezy and cold, filled with a few straggling tourists and an appropriately nosy security guard.  Gravel crunches underfoot.  There is a tactile nature to this place – a seeing and feeling and hearing that the quietness brings.  I find comfort in the silence of this time.  I sit on a damp bench and note how my hair catches in the breeze, fried bits of blonde straw over my pink nose.  My skin prickles against the cold.

I feel myself well up with tears because why, oh why would anyone ever want to take this away from me – this life that I have – knowing how much I care for it, even when imperfectly alone in perfect Paris.  I would die for the possibility of living forever, if that were even logically achievable.  I want to yell and scream and tear fistfuls of grass from wet soil, red-faced and tear-stained, an impossible American child missing her toy before its even been taken away.

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from november

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I wait on the subway platform, the air too cold to ride my bike now.  It sits on the street, affixed to a pole while it prays silently to not be stripped of its wheels once again by some crackhead in need of twenty dollars.

A cold wind whips through my hair and chills me from the inside out.  What I have dreaded has returned: the darkness-induced malaise, the need to cuddle up to someone, that indescribable something.  My appetite for quieter things has returned, the hedonistic summer having overwhelmed, the heat having drained.

I need a break.

The G train arrives in the distance, flickering at the end of the tunnel like a freshly struck match, bits of trash incinerating between the wheel and the rail.  Here it comes, the watching again, the observance of everything because winter forces slowness.  I eye the other platform under my black hood in my black tights, listening to my music on shuffle – songs that remind me of dark times because there were so many.  Icy blue days on my icy blue walls, the familiar hissing of my radiator and the cold that stuck to the windows like dust.

Damien Jurado.  James Blake.  Kurt Vile.  Mother fucking winter of 2011.

My knuckles are ruddy from the cold, pale in the spaces in between.  I wait in the stillness that winter brings, its cold chills and goose bumps, the way my muscles ratchet against the bone.

Everyone on the subway looks charming in their button-up coats and their well-worn boots.  Kids playing dress-up.  I stand in the train behind a man reading some badly written newspaper with headlines like “SMARTEN UP, O.”

Michelle is home, organizing the spartan contents of her massive loft that she never spends any time in.  She sits at her large wooden table with the glass top that slides back and forth like water over driftwood, painting her nails some fashionable shade of dead corpse.

“Every New Years, I think about where I will be this time next year,” she says.  We never thought she would be here, living in New York, painting her nails in this beautiful empty space with 1.5 bathrooms and a crystal chandelier.  Then again, I’ve never prophesized my own life in any real way.  I’m supposed to be the editor of a magazine by now, living in some shitty apartment and wearing nice shoes, going to business dinners and paying off monthly installments of student loans.

I walk over to her giant bay of windows that looks onto a tableau of the giant windows of others.  We spy on her shirtless neighbor across the street.

“He’s always home,” Michelle says.  “And he’s got so many goddamn chairs.”

We watch him take something out of the oven while we contemplate his sexual orientation.  “I like him,” I say, “so he must be gay.”  He disappears towards the back.

We lay on her bed, The Beatles playing fifteen hundred square feet away, the radiator roasting us horribly because she hasn’t figured out that there are knobs to turn it down yet.  I laugh because I still feel like a kid even though I’m twenty-seven.  I laugh because Michelle is living in a loft in Tribeca and it all feels so surreal – being older, paying for things, crossing the street without having to hold someone’s hand.  Just another girl playing dress-up, practicing for her future life as an adult.

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Here we go again…

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