2012, In Songs

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Foster the People “Helena Beat”

It’s noon or one or two. Sometime on January 1st, 2012. We woke up late, had breakfast, said goodbye. Me, back to Brooklyn. Jake, back to Los Angeles. I’m standing on the subway platform in a party dress and heeled boots, the painted ceiling of the station blistered and puckering, reaching away like trapped butterflies, brown and blue. The train pushes a frigid wind towards me, lights up the tunnel. For the first time in forever, I feel good.

Sleigh Bells “Born to Lose”

That good feeling lasts about a week.

Elliott Smith “No Name #2”

And so I lay in bed at night, feeling quite sorry for myself.

Rebecca & Fiona “Bullets”

It’s been a year since I slipped Daniel my phone number while working in a showroom, two weeks from a year since that trip to Paris, four weeks from me sobbing into my coat on Great Jones Street. And here we are again, in the same white room, less than strangers. The dressers put me in tight, beautiful things. I walk around the room with my hair down. I rely on Xanax to get me through hour after hour until its effects begin to wane. He stays for seven hours – seven hours of parading silently around a room of tables and chairs and $4,200 cocktail dresses. When he leaves without saying goodbye I feel as though I have just run an emotional marathon and never made it to the finish line. Nikki and I are the only models left. It’s dark outside. We dance in the tiny closet with the filthy floors, hopping around like exhausted lunatics, waiting for someone to come in and say they’re done with us.

Father John Misty “Hollywood Forever Cemetery”

I contemplate the merits of becoming a human tragedy.

Porcelain Raft “Unless You Speak from Your Heart”

But think the better of it.

Races “Big Broom”

Aliona and I are in Paris. It’s freezing cold, gray as concrete. We have a two-bedroom apartment on a cul-de-sac in the Marais. It has high ceilings and crown molding, wooden floors and a tiny mural of a French bulldog at the end of the hallway, near the floor. Every morning, at the same time, we get up and shuffle down the carpeted staircase, passing the shiny blue lacquer doors of unseen neighbors. Every evening, after the sun has gone down, we return. Aliona sits at the table in the living room, eating yogurt with a spoon while I sit on the sofa watching dubbed-over reruns of Beverly Hills 90210: The New Class and Dawson’s Creek.

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Lotus Plaza “Strangers”

Jason and Karen are getting married in the Maldives. I don’t have a date so I fly alone to London, where I am hosted by my good friend Barnaby for 20 hours before the next leg of my journey. He lives in a modern house at the top of a hill, across from a park with green grass. Have a shower. Take a nap. Drink this. Barnaby is my custodian and I listen to him. We go to a pub. We go to another pub. Barnaby and I eat falafels on the street at 3 a.m. while someone punches his friend on the sidewalk. A drunk redhead wipes the blood away with a wool scarf. I wake up the next morning wearing my clothes from the night before, the girl next to me muttering in her sleep. Barnaby is nowhere to be found.

NazcarNation “Beeswax (Star Sling-er Remix)”

I turn one year older while back in London after six days in watercolor paradise, snorkeling in wetsuits holding the hands of friends.

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Purity Ring “Fineshrine”

The perfume was a gift I had been given and then avoided. I throw the bottle away in a garbage can filled with banana peels and coffee grounds, plastic cups from the restaurant down the street. I inhale deeply one last time. I haven’t worn it in over a year; it’s been sitting behind a mountain of half-empty shampoo bottles and Swiffer refills. I look at it – really look at it – for the first time. Now it looks cheap and silly in a way I never bothered to see before… just a purple bottle with Parfum Sacre written on a cheap, gold-plated charm. I throw it in, push it beneath other garbage, bury a year and a half of feelings.

Big Black Delta “Huggin’ and Kissin’”

I’m back in Paris for the third time this year, this time with a girl named Monika. Our apartment is on the edges of the Marais. We hate it. The guy who owns it is strange and bumbling. There are gnats floating around the kitchen every time we come home and blister packets for French Propecia on his bookshelves, along with stacks of Ray Bans and books about Middle Eastern music. My room is a dusty lofted office with ceilings only 3 feet high. My mattress rests on the floor, next to two desks covered in crap and a tiny little window. I have to lie on my back to get dressed in the morning. Still, on our day off, we walk along the Seine and sit in the Tuilieries, talking about ex-boyfriends and feeling extremely fortunate.

A$AP Rocky “Wassup”

Jonas picks me up from the airport. He points at buildings and statues, Berlin talking points. We meet his hung-over friends and eat bowls full of hummus at a place called City Chicken, then walk over to a grocery store to buy food for the week I’ll be staying with him. Coffee, peaches, German bread as heavy as a brick. Rain starts pouring down outside, rivers of water running north to south. Jonas runs to get the car. Our twenty-foot sprint to meet him out front leaves us drenched as though we’ve dived headlong into a pool. Every time I get into a car, this song is playing through blown-out speakers. I love Berlin, unequivocally.

Fiona Apple “Werewolf”

I go to Hamburg. It is, by all accounts, the worst trip of my life, some sort of karmic punishment.

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Talking Heads “Born Under Punches”

There is some sort of turning point that happens, though I couldn’t tell you exactly when. It is a build-up that has taken nearly a year and a half to get to — to start feeling regularly normal. This is after another brutal winter, after vowing to give up writing and then crying in a car on my way to the beach, after knowing that was impossible and starting writing again after only three days off, after giving up on being sad and dedicating myself to being good – if not dryly – humored.

Clams Casino “I’m God (Instrumental)”

It’s September. Everyone is going to Paris. I’m going to South Africa. The flight takes 14 some-odd hours. Africa, as it turns out, is fucking far. I eat more meat than I have all year. Biltong, beef tongue, venison in berry sauce. I drink booze and socialize with rowdy winemakers. I walk through townships filled with little children and bored-looking parents. I get back on a plane and go back home.

Mo – “Maiden”

I meet some guy on Halloween. He matters for five minutes.

Calvin Harris – “Sweet Nothing”

The trees thin out and the temperature drops. I spend more times indoors, writing on my bed, writing on my couch, writing on a beanbag, sometimes writing at my desk. I finish projects, start new ones. I think I’m getting a hang of all this finally… this wonderfully horrible being-an-adult thing.

 

(Photos: Uncredited)

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12 Days of Christmas: Day 2

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Creature of bad habit that I am, I text Jake : “What are you doing?” “Sitting at home, watching the news,” he writes. “Depressed.” Thinking it’s the normal bout of self-consuming sad-story narcissism, I tell him I won’t open the blinds or try to cheer him up. That’s our deal: Just be there. Until he finds something or someone worth occupying his time – a blockbuster movie or a drug-addled B-rate model who barely got her GED – everything and everyone serves as knowing placeholders for the Bigger Better Deal, myself included.

“I’ve got time to kill,” I write, also a prerequisite for our hanging out – me having to be somewhere else. The expectation of having to entertain me for an undefined period of time would be unfathomable to suggest, although I did just the other week, stupidly, when I said maybe, if we weren’t doing anything else, we could go on some tropical vacation. Traveling with the devil you know instead of the devil you don’t (I’ve done that before, trust me). This suggestion was not enthusiastically embraced. More often than not I feel like one of those emotionally challenged kids wearing a helmet and banging my head against a wall like a metronome.

Back to depressed TV sesh.

“Haven’t you been watching the news?” he asks, and then he tells me that some whackjob just shot up an elementary school in Connecticut. Twenty some-odd kids, most of them around six years old.

“No, I’m working. We don’t have TVs.”

“Okay, come over.”

It takes me an hour to get there. When he opens the door he is out of breath, a jump rope in his hands. “I didn’t have time to go the gym,” he says. I still have a vision of him doing handstand pushups in the corner of his hotel room last December, back when I thought he was something else.

“I haven’t done coke since New York!” he says, expecting my praise, which he both respects and resents.

“Ah, I don’t give a shit what you do,” I say, waving my hands and looking away. “Everyone gets fucked up. Who cares?”

Who cares? I care. I care and he knows it. Immediately after it comes out of my mouth, and then more later on, I regret it – the trying to be the cool girl who doesn’t give a shit if he dies or not. But I do care. I do care if he dies.

I sit on the sofa, knees tucked into my chest. We watch the news until it becomes too depressing and repetitive. Too many speculations and images of young children standing outside of the school, hands pressed to their eyes. Aerial shots from helicopters hovering over police cars, SWAT teams, single story buildings, cracks in cement. Jake changes the channel. Puts on a comedy. Some movie I haven’t seen in awhile.

He talks about God knows what for awhile, his voice booming around the room at a volume more appropriate for a cocktail party. He blames this habit on being alone all the time, as though coming out from a coma and no longer being aware of social cues.

Pat shows up. He pulls out a box of Margiela sneakers and says “Look what I got.” Jake’s wearing the same ones. Now they’ve got matching shoes. We talk about holidays and what everyone is doing. Jake’s leaving Tuesday, which is good because whenever we’re in the same city I end up getting depressed in the way that made me pack up my things three years ago and move 3,000 miles away from Poinsettia Street and my ex-boyfriend.

“I’m going to head out,” I say, already feeling as though I’ve overspent my welcome by five minutes. “Wait for Adam to get here,” he says. “I want you to meet Adam.” The only reason I can think he wants me to stay is so that Adam can see me, so he can put a face to a story. Jenny, that decent-looking girl I’ve kept in my back pocket for a whole year. There’s a difference between approval and bragging, and the difference is that it doesn’t matter if Adam likes me as a person or not; Jake already made that clear last January. Jake and I are on different pages, but too often in the same room.

(Photo: Courtesy of Image Spark)

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Twelve Days of Christmas: 1.1

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One

People fall asleep over Kindles and Macy’s bags filled with Christmas presents. I’m using the big luggage — the sporty one a friend of a friend left at his apartment two years ago, filled with size 43 golf pants and men’s dress socks. He chucked the clothes and gave me the bag. I aired it out for two weeks. Just in case.

I’m sweating in my coat. It’s always the same thing – leaving twenty minutes late and running for the train, standing in front of my luggage, back aching under the weight of iPads, iPods, copies of The New Yorker. L Train to E Train to Air Train. JFK to LAX.

Waiting on the platform, I had this random flash, a thought that heated up and spread through every cell like wildfire, a feeling of this parallel reality, something that could have been had I not made a certain choice a few years ago, standing on a street in the middle of frozen February. And in that thought, I wasn’t going home to Los Angeles for Christmas; I was going to London. I felt everything within seconds: the tired familiarity of inconvenience, the dulled enthusiasm knowing that whatever was waiting for me at the other end was going to take me eight hours to get to, the realities of some long distance relationship that never happened.

Five dollars for an AirTrain card and I’m sitting next to two traveling salesmen in their late 30s, talking about their holiday plans. “Chillaxin’” the one guy says. Twice. He talks loud enough for me to hear. I turn sideways, praying to not be somehow invited into this conversation. We slides through Brooklyn neighborhoods with their thinned out trees, traffic on the highway cut into immovable veins of red and white. My reflection is an opaque thing on the glass in front of me, wrinkleless and ethereal, reality minus ten or fifteen years.

“When’d you get married?” the one guy asks the other.

“Twenty-nine.”

“See, I got married at twenty-five and it was a real eye-opener. The bills started coming in. I mean… that was reality.”

There is a pause here, where the other guy – the one sitting next to me who says things like “chillax” – does not know what to say, how to empathize or contribute or generally make his friend feel as though he’s not the only one in the world who has ever felt this way. After six seconds of silence, he simply fills the void with “What was your first sales job?”

It must be hard being a man sometimes, running towards and away from feelings, in denial of things that are clearly there. Or maybe they’re not there. Who knows. I’m not a man, and after dating in New York for three years, I’m vaguely convinced they have no feelings, no heart. That’s the bitterness creeping in.

The airport isn’t busy yet because I’m leaving a week earlier than everyone else. One of the TSA employees talks to me while I pull back on my jackets and boots on the other end of the security screening. “So tell me,” he asks, “are you still modeling?” Yeah yeah yeah, I say, and then I mention my writing. “Good for you,” he says. Then he says how he can spot the girls – these models – a mile away. “They’re like unicorns,” he says. They’re always the same: tall, happily disheveled, little to no makeup. It’s good to know there are other people wandering around the airport looking like genetically gifted homeless people.

“None of that stuff matters anyway,” he says. “When you get to be my age, all you want is a girl who can make you a good cup of coffee. You understand what I mean?”

I do, sort of. The part of me that sort of doesn’t makes a joke about putting my French press in the fridge overnight.

“You come to just want a friend,” he says.

“When does that happen?” I ask.

“Around forty… fifty years old.”

“Oh, good,” I joke. “I only have to wait ten to twenty more years.”

And then I jam my laptop into my carry-on, wish him happy holidays, and head towards my gate. I feel like I am always having these conversations in airports or with cab drivers — pulling my shoes on, wiping sleep out of my eyes, juggling baggage, saying “uh huh, uh huh” while someone tries to kindly impress upon me some meaning of life.

(Photo: Courtesy of Tandem Research)

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