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.
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.
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.
I contemplate the merits of becoming a human tragedy.
But think the better of it.
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.
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.
I turn one year older while back in London after six days in watercolor paradise, snorkeling in wetsuits holding the hands of friends.
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.
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.
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.
I go to Hamburg. It is, by all accounts, the worst trip of my life, some sort of karmic punishment.
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.
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.
I meet some guy on Halloween. He matters for five minutes.
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.