My office smells delicious. This is partly because I am drinking really delicious coffee, partly because my little sister sent an enormous bouquet of roses for my birthday, and partly because I bought myself a perfume redolent of a lover, a fireplace, a whiskey, and very dark chocolate.
This is not the only thing I bought for my birthday. I also bought a bright red lipstick, a bright yellow ladder, and a bright orange cup—all things I needed or wanted very much and assumed no one else would provide for me. I mention this because of my long-held belief that if there’s something that I want, it is on me to obtain it. This is why I went missing for the last four days, both on this blog and in real life. Experience has taught me that the best way to turn a new age is to disappear into the wild and attune with forces bigger and more ancient than those normally that drive you. If I’m being more honest—and this year I intend to practice that kind of conscious vulnerability—I also disappear to gird against disappointment.
A disappearance seemed especially wise after the recent ugliness with Mr. Oyster. So this year I headed for the hills—upstate, actually, which is a region I’ve avoided since the months after September 11, 2001. I’d intended to spend a few days at the beach but thought releasing my old antipathy would set a better tone for this new year. 2016 is all about breaking internal glass ceilings.
Overall, it was a good call. I holed up in an empty inn—this refurbished Victorian house whose caretakers lived next door. There were five fireplaces and Turkish rugs and distant train whistles and an enormous bathtub with clawfeet and plenty of hot water and a host of comfortable velvet couches. I was staying in Hudson, New York, which was very cold and very quiet, and which I had visited 15 years before. Back then, I’d found the town melancholy and compelling: a mostly shuttered time capsule of an early 1950s in which bolts of the 1800s still could be found in its admixture of boutiques teetering on bankruptcy and five and dimes covered with furry layers of dust. Now it was different–like a new-school Brooklyn with more sky, more artisans, and significantly less racial integration.
I ate in a too-expensive farm-to-table restaurant, and caught myself longing for the buyers’ market that is the NYC dining scene. I drank a hot toddy in a self-conscious tavern, and let a handsome beet farmer buy me another. It felt great until it made me sad, at which point I retreated to the empty inn, wrote things that were just for me, and wondered if Mr. Oyster had any regrets.
Overall, my escape worked. On my birthday proper I drank pots of tea and an amber tumbler of rye and peeled clementines as I wrote more. I took long walks through the woods and by the river, and ate more overpriced earnest fare and talked to more friendly people. When the sun began to drop, I drove back to the city, relishing the violet and orange purling through the sky.
I felt happy and also unhappy, which is a state so crucial to adulthood but so un-American that only other countries have words to describe it. In my heart of hearts, I had known I would not hear from Mr. Oyster, and it weighed upon me that in this area, if in few others, he was predictable. I had known that by naming his fuckwittery along with his charms, by summoning the courage and self-love to expect more than his crumbs, I’d not only shown him the door but made room, finally, for the rest of my life.
Back on the grid, I was surprised and grateful to find my entryway and mailbox and iPhone stuffed with love. Cards, texts, flowers, boxes even. A gentleman on whom I’ve had a crush forever wished me happy birthday with unexpected ardor. Other friends scheduled birthday-fortnight drinks, dinners, plays. I dropped my bags, hugged a certain permakitten who harbors abandonment issues of her own, and slid on a dress you only can wear in New York City’s overheated interiors this time of year. I was home, and for the first time since I’d let that man back in, there was nowhere else I wished to be.
Now it’s time to open to everything else.