Archive | City Matters

Painting at Audre’s: Part II

This is the second and final installment of an essay that I began earlier this spring. It is a window into my book, to which I’ve been slowly returning as the world is too rapidly opening back up.
—————-

NYC has opened back up, and the smell of fresh paint suffuses every block, a top note to the concentration of garbage piling up on sidewalks, weed clouding every corner. For every person fleeing their Covid cave for fresher air and wider horizons, another is claiming a new base for big-city dreams, 16 months delayed.

It all involves an awful lot of fresh paint.

Some associate this scent with toxicity—chemicals, ill health, colonization. For me, it’s a gateway to an autumn four decades ago, when Audre resurfaced and the world first opened up.

Really, it was simple. One day Audre called up, and the following Friday, without disclosing any of the long-awaited details of their conversation, my mother whisked Jennie and me into Cambridge, where Audre had rented a long apartment on a tree-lined block between Central and Inman Square. It didn’t occur to any of us to bring my father because he never strayed from his Friday routine: popcorn, tea, computer manuals, sports radio, and bed at 8:30. Of course now substitute poetry for manuals and 70s film for sports radio and my routine is not that far off, but back then his diurnal rhythms seemed the ultimate in passive domination.

Continue Reading →

Beeswax and Other Urban Myths

Sitting on my stoop, I watch a young woman hurry by.

I call the practice of people-watching “stoop-snooping,” I guess because I’ve done it most while lolling on stoops. My schoolmates recall me watching them from the library stairs, even. (I called that library-stairing.) Watching the world walk by is hands-down one of my favorite activities but since things have opened back up, it’s more charged. I suppose everything has after months of fearing and missing each other in equal parts. Constant life-and-death stakes are not just wearying. They are deteriorating.

Earlier today, my block was abuzz as it has been every day since the café next door re-opened. People drinking espressos, wolfing piadini, cooing over each other’s pets, chattering and clattering over the Italian pop pouring out of the speakers. Now, in what approximates magic hour in these apocalyptic times, the heat is just beginning to abate as the handsome baristas speed off for the night, the last stragglers move into their next NYC dream.

So it’s just the two of us on the street right now–this girl with places to go, and me. She is narrow-framed, long-legged, straight-backed. Wearing no airbuds, wielding no phone. Eyes locked straight ahead, fingers hooked onto the backpack slung over both shoulders, spotless Keds shooting out from neatly creased shorts. She is moving rapidly into her horizon. Continue Reading →

I Do Not Dervish Well (Morning Regrets)

last night

It is an absolutely lovely Sunday morning and I am find myself reflective in a way that would be better suited to a real essay but I have a kitchen to clean and a greenmarket to visit before the best spinach sells out. So I’ll just write this out in a few messy overlong paragraphs, perhaps most fitting for my fugue.

It’s just that never before have I been so aware that human joy and connection is fleeting. More than that: fragile. And never before have I felt so stricken by this fact. This last week has been more social than the 15 months before it, and I have been constantly overstimulated, giddy, and anxious. How to find a center in this whirling dervish of everyone and everything after the cozy claustrophobia of covid incubation tanks. This morning my cuticles are bleeding, my guts are a mess, and I am obsessively running over the dumb things I said and did in every social event I attended–the myriad ways I failed to listen well, hold space for others, breath before opening my big trap. Not to mention the small and big hurts I glossed over in everyone around me, including how they were clocking me (how embarrassing). I of course am an extroverted introvert; I naturally replenish energy reserves alone rather than around others, who drain me even when I adore them (especially then) because I always clock everything they’re thinking and feeling even as I am prattling on a topic of my own (especially then). Worse, it means I am someone who dominates and performs when nervous–so much so that you can tell I actually trust you when I got silent.

this morning

After 15 months of nearly zero socialization I have lost my mechanisms of self-regulation, meaning that I get so overstimulated by the energy of people around me that I keep turning into That Lady–the oxygen-sucker with mentionitus, which is what I call the pathology of using everything someone says as an opportunity to jump in with a comment of your own. AKA the worst. There’s not much to add to this and in fact it’s the kind of post that I normally leave up for 15 minutes and then delete. But for now I’m pressing send just in case anyone else is feeling this particular overwhelm. A sense of being so grateful to be back in this world. To still be alive. To love so much. But also a sense of not living up to any of it when trying to live within it.

My dreams–well, my dreams have been a mess.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy