I was having one of those glorious Brooklyn Saturday mornings. I was all gussied up in my Brooklyn Saturday morning finest: a floor-length geometric Meg skirt; an enormous blue-beaded Senegalese necklace; sloppy silver Birkenstock knockoffs (Birkenstockoffs); dirty hair piled high with blue extensions and an orange zinnia; and a bright purple bra visible through my cropped tee. It was a punk-rock homage to the ’70s moms I’d wished were my own–the kind of outfit I really can’t wear to film screenings or Talking Pictures tapings or Ruby Intuition sessions. The kind of outfit in which I feel most myself.
So was I ever feeling grand as I buzzed through my Brooklyn Saturday morning routine. It had been a week of good, hard work in this Summer of Reckoning, and I was relishing a rare day off. I drank Americanos with my Muppet Critics; fetched produce and flowers at the Greenmarket; fed the birds and myself over at Red Hook Fairway; read my book about ’60s directors by the water. I drove the long way home, following the river with my left arm dangling out the window, Biggie and early Mariah pouring into the air. At a red light, I said—Admit it. You love your friends to bits but you are your best friend. You trust yourself. You always want to do the same things as you, you find the same things funny, you have the same values, you like the same music, and you want to be quiet at the same times. You may be impatient and messy and even occasionally imperious but you dig you. It was an odd but not unpleasant revelation. Knee-deep in my early-middle age, I finally appreciated my own company enough that I’d avoid others before I’d ever avoid myself.
To cement the moment, I smiled cheekily in the rearview mirror–hey, good-lookin’!–only to notice I was wearing a crazy-lady, half-lipsticked grin. The universe’s sense of humor being what it is, the world’s most beautiful man picked that moment to bike by, and as he gave me the world’s most beautiful eye-fucking, the light changed. Flustered, I stalled my car, and everyone behind me began honking. I had to laugh. I knew that, as my best friend, it was now my duty to make fun of myself–pride do goeth before a fall! I didn’t mind. I knew I still liked me.
Checking my phone tonight on a rush-hour train, I discovered an unwanted email from an ex with whom I still have an unhappily charged dynamic. I did what I always do with messages from him these days–I deleted it–but not before his brief email walloped me in the chest. Surrounded by people in the packed sardine can of the subway car, I couldn’t shake the shock of the unsolicited reminder of everything I (we) had lost, couldn’t exhale as deeply as I needed to without making a scene, couldn’t just curse the heavens. So I froze, silently imploring the tears in my eyes not to run down my cheeks, and felt lonely in a way I never feel when actually alone. A hand tapped my shoulder then, and I looked up to see a young woman in full Muslim garb and orange high-tops smiling gently at me. “It’s ok,” she mouthed, and my eyes widened at her vigilant kindness, as well as the palpable warmth of all the other commuters regarding me with concern. This, during a week marked by sorrows on every level, too.
But that’s just another day on the IRT, as they used to say. Really, it amazes me that visitors ever accuse this city of harshness. From the minute that I moved here, New York has been my truest, steadiest heart. I cannot count the times that its denizens have matter-of-factly shored my grief.