Newsletters from Manhattan — the entire story
His Instagram bio says Eliot Scott. SCI C1-C4 EDS, Chiari, Craniocervical Fusion & Tethered Cord. Release April 2021. Wheelchair user. Nuerodiverse. Queer Nerd.
He also has a connective tissue disorder and celiac disease. Plus sleep apnea and some kind of heart thing. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something. Oh, and he doesn’t eat sugar. Eliot is sick. He’s not someone with a disability, he is the disability. Being sick is literally part of who he’s become, it’s who he is.
We used to live across the hall from each other at Milepost 5. I used his wifi in exchange for walking his dog on Sundays. One summer when it was unbearably hot we fashioned an air conditioner for him out of a styrofoam cooler, a fan, some regular ice and a chunk of dry ice. Well I fashioned it, Eliot just gave suggestions from bed where he had been confined for the past almost 2 years. We felt very scientific.
He had been waiting to see some special neurosurgeon who was the only person in the world who could fix his neck and now he was in New York healing from two major spine surgeries that would eventually allow him to walk again. His parents live in Connecticut but had basically abandoned him as he was about to get out of the hospital after a two month stay. He found an apartment in Manhattan just blocks from where he would be going to outpatient physical therapy but he needed someone to live with and take care of him until he could get his insurance to cover a health care aid for 12 hours a day. I had known Eliot for over a year and had often answered his call for help when a care worker from some agency didn’t show up. Now he was texting me asking if I wanted to come live a block away from Central Park for a couple of months. Maybe longer. I would be there to take care of his basic needs. To dress and undress him. To help him bathe and shit and piss. To cook for him to clean up after him. To let his dog sleep with me and take her for walks and pick up her shit. I said I could commit to two months.
I don’t even remember what I expected it to be like, it all happened so fast. All I knew was that Eliot had said he could pay more of the rent if I helped with his care when he was released from the hospital. I didn’t know if I would be getting paid and I had no idea how much rent was in New York City. The pandemic had turned everything upside down. I lost my job as a nanny to a little girl who was just turning four. I had known her since she was 7 months old. Her parents had stopped communicating with me and I had no idea if I would go back to work for them again or if I would ever see Josie again. I had just fallen out of an odd relationship with an artist 25 years older than me. His name was Mike and he was barely hanging on to being married for 20 years. He was the only person I interacted with in the same physical space at the beginning of Covid. We couldn’t touch or be too near one another but we made banners and images to project and came up with brilliant ideas to change the world inside of a huge empty warehouse. At night we had sex with each other texting back and forth from our separate bedrooms across town. After part of a year of that he of course had to drop out and go figure out what he was doing with his life. I was still broken hearted.
The summer of the George Floyd protests had passed and I wasn’t really making any art anymore. I lived in an affordable housing shithole building for artists except it was more like living in a halfway house. I was collecting unemployment and had quit paying my rent.
I had been in the same place for so long it had become to seem like it was impossible to move beyond the borders of the space this town took up in my mind. So on May 27th 2021 I hopped on a jet plane with my black cat Pirate and flew to New York City. I was there for 72 days. Whenever someone asks me how it was I can’t help but take a deep breath and say “It was a lot of things.”
Newsletters from Manhattan
I’ve never been good at journals. Off and on when I was younger I would keep them a bit. It was always horribly depressing writing. I was horribly depressed. Manhattan urges me to write things down. Maybe because things will never be like this again. I will never feel the shock and surprise in my body in this space that I am new to. I am in New York City and no one else will ever have this particular constellation of experiences. And after a while I won’t see things like this anymore.
The following are short chapters from my time here, Newsletters from Manhattan.
The Spanish Harlem
The very first thing I did when I got to the apartment was take off all my clothes and walk around looking at everything in an excited awe. Pirate was still airplane sick and didn’t know what to think. Eliot’s mom had somewhat furnished the place with necessary things like soap and dishes and some breakfast cereal for me. It felt like a hotel without the beds, just empty hardwood floors, shiny kitchen appliances and white towels folded on the back of the toilets. She had placed boxes of kleenex everywhere. On the kitchen counter, the bathroom counters, every single window sill. I could build a kleenex castle. My bedroom is the biggest with a small bathroom and a twin size air mattress on the floor that has since begun its slow decline. It was lonely at first. And it rained and I had no one to talk to inside the apartment.
Eliot’s stay at the hospital kept being extended. First he had a rough couple of days and then his medical equipment and bed hadn’t been delivered to the apartment so he couldn’t leave. So for the first two weeks I mostly took walks in Central Park. It’s like every park in Portland shuffled together in one. Parts remind me of Laurelhurst with its winding paths and lit up lanterns posted along the way. Other parts are like the secret woody trails through Mt Tabor. There’s a pond you can fish in and a big empty swimming pool in one section and little creeks with bridges across in others. The park is much much bigger than this small northern corner I took two weeks to explore and it comes with the voices of a million birds singing as a soundtrack. The birds are so loud they fill up the thoughts in my head when I listen quietly enough.
There is a squall outside on the balcony. It started with a ferocious warm wind and then the rain. The rain turned into hail and then back again. Now I can hear sirens.
I’ve taken a break from Eliot. From helping him take a shit while sitting on a shower chair into a bucket on the floor. I have to put it underneath him in just the right place where I think his poop will land. The bowel routine. I have to take a break from his ceaseless monologue regarding his very own self and everything that is specially wrong with him and no one else. Ever. How very soon it will be senior dinner time because it’s almost five thirty and that’s what time they ate every evening in the hospital. Even though he’s not a senior. He’s only 33. I think he wishes he was still in the hospital. I do enjoy his company mostly. I can be myself like we’ve known each other forever. And it doesn’t matter what comes out of my mouth at all. I don’t have to be careful or afraid he’ll hate me, think I’m stupid or treat me any differently because sometimes I fuck up. We have fun and laugh. We talk things right out of the day and then find we have to start over. It feels incredibly natural that I am here having answered his call for assistance only this time I’ve come all the way to New York City.
Everything is older here and the raindrops are fatter. I feel like I’m in the movies because I’ve only ever seen New York in places like Seinfeld and NYPD Blue or Die Hard. There are Delis on every corner, sometimes two. But they’re not really Delis, they’re more like corner stores with different things to buy in each one. But then there’s a corner store on every block too. Sometimes three. I always want one of those sandwiches or plates of halal they advertise on the windows like a colorful giant lunch menu. I thought that’s what you got inside a deli. Nope. You can buy the ingredients and make it yourself. But they’re usually sold out of most of them.
I try to look mean when I walk down the street so nobody fucks with me. Eliot’s dad told me not to look people in the eye because that would make me seem vulnerable. And I wasn’t supposed to look up because then everyone would know I was a tourist. People are mostly nice I guess. I stick out because I’m white. The sidewalks are much more interesting and loud here and sometimes, huge, almost block long piles of trash are stacked in black bags along the curbs. Rats run like leaves skimming the sidewalks and no one seems to notice, or care. I met the boyz in the hood the other day. They hangout outside the laundromat next door or the barbershop around the corner. Sully introduced himself, short for last his name Sullivan, he was in his mid fifties probably. His first name was Cornelious but most people on the street called him Coke. A couple of the younger boyz offered to find me any drug I wanted. A complete list. It was kinda funny and I told them I don’t even really do drugs, none on their list anyway. They were all sweet and promised to protect me, and Eliot too. Sully told me “If anyone fucks with you just say ‘You know Coke from the east side?’ Ok? Just say that.”
First Times Square
Times Square was the first place I thought of going. Getting off of the subway train I blindly followed blue and read dots, numbers and letters. Going up meant street level. All of the sudden I felt like I was in the Mall. A subway mall. There were sandwich shops and novelty shops and — — and a starbucks. I’ve never liked starbucks. I remember vividly when they exploded in Portland in the early 90s, taking over all of our old school grunge era coffee hangouts. But for three years I took Josie to a Starbucks, sometimes almost every morning because neither of us were morning people. It was her mom’s idea. We would walk to one from their old house near 28th and Burnside and when they moved I pulled her in a wagon. We grew to love this ritual. Molly eventually quit paying for my Ice T when she wasn’t making money. Or very much money. We would laze about in the same chairs we sat at every time. Josie would have her baba and I my tea. And usually a doughnut. And later when we fed Josie anything we could get her to eat, which wasn’t much she’d decided she wanted, she’d have the bagel bites. She’d scream for them. We were regulars and we sprawled out with blue bunny and baba and talk of this and that and you probably shouldn’t stand on the table. I mean I totally think you should but the majority of the people here think you shouldn’t for reasons that are valid and important to them (and stupid society). At times we would just exist in silence. Sleepy stares out windows and at the walls. Long glances at each other. I, sometimes checking my email, sometimes looking up definitions of volcanoes and pictures of molten lava for Josie.
Back to the subway Starbucks. I dared myself to go in and order my tea the same way I always did. Half black half green. And if there was still an old fashioned doughnut I’d have that too. And the smells and taste of that tea…the only tea that held that exact memory …. The tears started welling and I backed away for a second but then made myself go and look into the display case. I think they were closing for the day. Well that would make things easier. I ordered tea but they were out of one half of it. So I got passion fruit for the other half. I don’t even like it, I don’t know why I went ahead and bought it. I walked off trying to find my way to the streets of time square, tears in my eyes trying to not let them fall. They are falling as I write this. I want all of those things to happen again. They never will though. A pandemic stole them from us midstride. Taking care of Eliot reminds me of taking care of Josie. How I never got good at tying her shoes quickly and effortlessly like her mom. How I always forgot something. How we would sit sometimes in silence sometimes not, and talk about things that were really really important. Things that made the most sense. How her poopy diapers sometimes made me gag.
I had forgotten it was Memorial Day and there was a giant sea of people moving through the streets. It was shoulder to shoulder traffic and I didn’t know where everyone was headed but I tried to keep up and looked around in overwhelming wonder. The buildings seem limitless in height, every side was covered in vivid bright flashy hypnotizing advertisements. I couldn’t see the sky unless I looked straight up and everything sat in the shade. I’ll go back another day. I’ve heard It’s where a lot of the marches and protests happen. Yesterday I was wearing my FUCK ICE T-shirt and a black lady yelled out as we passed in the street “I LOVE YOUR SHIRT I WANT THAT SHIRT” then a few steps further she turned around and yelled again “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT T-SHIRT I NEED ONE THAT IS MY HUSBANDS NAME AND HE IS IN THE GUTTER RIGHT NOW.” I about died laughing. I told her I made it.
I ordered two gobos that arrived today. Eliot’s van with my projectors in it has already been delivered. We just have to wait for his mom to drive it into the city. That’s what it’s called here in Manhattan. And nobody ever likes to come to “the city” apparently. Probably like how people don’t wanna drive in downtown Portland. Because they don’t know how to or they’re afraid it’s on fire. Anyway I’m excited to project somewhere. One gobo is a cutout of Palestine and the other says COVID STILL EXISTS. Hopefully I can afford to get a few more. I don’t have to pay rent while I’m here….thankfully because it’s fucking three thousand dollars.
I still miss something. Maybe it’s my attachment to places or spaces or the sameness that I had grown accustomed to. It’s a bit better now. I’ve hung blue lights across my room and I got some catnip for Pirate. I should unpack the short stack of books I brought to keep me company. When all of my favorite things in the van get here I’ll play my keyboard for Eliot and dream up art to make for New York City.
There’s this heaviness that I’ve brought with me though, a heartbreak that I wish I had had the courage to leave behind. I feel like I am on a rollercoaster sometimes filled with emotions ruled by someone else. Stolen and power filled ups and downs. Not by every person in my day to day existence, most times I could give a fuck less. It’s the men that can do it. The ones who’ve blocked my number or who’ve said we can’t fuck anymore but we still work together. It’s those times I’ve sent an email that doesn’t get opened and my number is still blocked or they don’t care or both. If it does get opened and they unblocked my number, the thoughts in my head turn magical again….even though they never ever respond. What if I do forget about him? What if it doesn’t bother me anymore or what if I just stop sending him messages? What will happen then? It feels like something will break. And what if I miss it shatter? I’m tired of this taking up so much space in my head. I’m tired of trying to analyse what is a fantasy and what is not. Or trying to convince myself/mike that I am actually real. The ideas in our heads are real. I’m not a fantasy. But I think I’m wrong, and I don’t want to admit it. I’ve done this a million times before. I hate it. Not all of it, it just never ceases to break my heart…. men who make me love them and then change their minds.
I started taking 300 mg of Lamotrigine instead of 200 last night. As an experiment. I’m trying to fix my thoughts. I am tired of thinking so much. Tired of being sad. Tired of thinking the same things over and over again. Tired of being in my head all of the time. But here’s the thing….every time this happens, every time I go a little more crazy for a bit — I feel more vicious and intent and driven towards the very center of life, the part that feels more real. I pay attention to the poetry around me. And then as soon as I start taking more meds or different ones, that all disappears. Two weeks from now I won’t even remember this feeling. I won’t remember what it was that was so important to me. I won’t be able to keep doing this because I will have forgotten how. I’ll feel like nothing. Everything will be blasé.
But goodnight for now. I have to get up at 5 am to help Eliot with his bowel routine.
I’m still tired. And sad. Always sad. Today I abruptly stopped what I was doing, left Eliot to do things for himself for once and went to my room. I listened to Damien Rice and cried. The last heartbreak soundtrack album had been Lana del Ray’s Norman Fucking Rockwell. That boy can double go fuck himself. Why do I need, even sometimes beg for their attentions? Just one man made of mistakes will do and I’ll watch him magically disappear all of the memories of the one before him. Why am I always so desperate to want to talk to someone who is a waste of everything? All of my breaths, all of my thoughts, every ounce of energy. And why always why? No one ever answers. Eventually I started singing along to the words (i can’t take my mind off of you, my mind, till i find someone new) and went back to my charge.
I’m not so charmed by the streets today. I haven’t looked beyond my feet on the sidewalks, always having to imagine ways to make Eliot’s life easier. Trying to be aware, to listen, to breathe for him. I think I might be dying because I can’t make art. Because I can’t be allowed to speak my ideas out loud for fear that they aren’t as important as Eliot’s needs and need for control. I think I’m being grouchy. It isn’t all bad. It’s just that my spirit is dull and dying and I need to be myself and have my own thoughts.
I hate TV. I mostly always have. Here I am waiting for Eliot in a doctors office where we had to take a wheelchair lift to get to and I’m being held hostage by the voice of a judge’s loud dramatic rant mediating cases on People’s Court. Ugh.
Elliot’s mom is here. I’m usually really good at parents but I don’t feel like it right now. I’m hiding out in my blue hued room with my cat and the sounds of warm rain falling outside. A flash of lighting and the loudest rumble of thunder I think I have ever heard just clapped at my window. I’m bored but not bored. My neck hurts from sitting for hours waiting. I have nothing interesting to say. I am bleeding to death and have the worst cramps ever due to being tear gassed all last summer.
It’s not quite midnight but I guess it might as well be. Tuesday Wednesday? who gives a fuck. Has there EVER been a night that I don’t go to bed and immediately begin thinking of someone I can’t stop thinking about? Someone who very obviously does not think of me. Maybe it’s just a game. Maybe I just want to capture him all of the way and after I do I won’t want him anymore. I’ll break his heart. And I won’t care. It will be brutal. I do have that super power of discarding people like dropping a pin in a silent room. Does he deserve that? No.
So everyday in NYC I’ll be thinking these same fucking thoughts. This is what I get for my boredom. I should bet myself whether or not I can lose them by the time I go home. Leave them right here in Manhattan. And later, months or maybe years later, I’ll read this and roll my eyes. I probably won’t even be able to remember the deadly depths of my obsession.
I walked something like 4 miles today for a wifi router. For air. For things like Twitter and Instagram and emails that don’t cost so much to send that you can’t send them anymore.
I bought a 65 dollar pair of flip flops. If i’m gonna walk so much I’ll need better shoes.
There are more white people on Broadway than on 125th. Maybe because it’s fancier. The sidewalks are sometimes just as crowded as the busy streets next to them. Bobbing and weaving. Slamming on the breaks making wide turns. I’m always noticing the sounds of the honking horns. A sing-song ballad that I have to imagine in my head since I am not the one hitting the steering wheels. It’s such a common sound that maybe the people driving have ceased to hear them. I wonder how long it will take until I cease to hear them too.
A care nurse was here from 9–5 again today. It was nice. I got some free time. I will have to start making myself stay up after Eliot’s morning poop ordeal so I can actually get to do something before 5pm. Today I slept till 2, went to the Duane Reeds and got some black fingernail polish and then made Eliot curry lentils and chicken for dinner. The whole time listening to him explain every single thing that happened with his body today. Everything. Like I don’t already know it’s fairly fucked up. Next topic please.
P.S. I ditched the extra med tactic. I tried it for 3 or 4 days and it’s just not my style. I mean maybe it’s more of my style, and I don’t like it. I already really don’t give a fuck and it just makes me give less fucks. So, it’s off to the races again.
Fathers and Queens
(update: Father’s day is actually next weekend)
Tomorrow is Father’s day. I think. I don’t really keep track because I never had one. Last night while I was making dinner the conversation led to the incredible story of my birth — age 17ish. I never got around to telling it in the year I’ve known Eliot. Everything is very present with him, kind of has to be, although I guess I do tell a lot of stories. I’m a pretty good storyteller. Or I try to be. I remember when I was 18 or so my very best friend James who was from south africa would tell the most captivating stories. I loved them and I always told him so. He said it was important to tell good stories so that people will listen to you. I made it my lifetime goal to become a great storyteller. Anyway, this one’s a monster of a story. Here’s the condensed version — I don’t know who my real dad is. I was given up at birth and named Lori Marie. I was given back to my birth mom at age 2 and renamed Aimee Sitarz. Less than a year later we got into a bad car accident. I hit my head on a bowling ball in the backseat and was in a coma for 2 weeks. My mother, half sister and brother were killed. Around a year later my maternal grandmother kidnapped me and I had to live with her till I graduated high school. So there goes mothers day and fathers day.
Eliot’s parents suck. The other day on the phone Eliot is trying to get his dad to understand that I need (deserve) a better bed than the twin sized air mattress that has already sprung a leak. Eliot needs a new mattress as well because his hospital bed one tortures him. He’s telling his dad that I have neck issues too and am in real pain sometimes and a better mattress would really help. His dad says, “Well if Aimee can’t handle it then maybe she should just go home.” He eventually proceeds to grandiosely express that “For the last two months I have…”……click. Eliot hangs up. Look sir, I fucking dropped everything at the last minute and flew to NYC to help your son. You didn’t drop shit. You didn’t even come and meet him at the new apartment the day he got out of the hospital you went glam camping. In fact the last two months are the only time you have financially supported or even seen the condition Eliot was in for two years before he got here. So why don’t you go home you fucking asshole. Fuck Fathers Day.
I took a lyft to a Costco in Queens and got two memory foam mattresses. Me and Eliot split the cost.
I’m depressed. Still.
This day is perfectly gray. The sky is evenly grey. The air is grey. My breath is gray. The temperature is grey. My shiny New York seems to be losing its glow. I’ve been here since May 27th. The inside of this apartment and the grocery store across the street are mostly the only parts of the city I have seen since Eliot moved in. In fact my biggest adventure today was to the market and I considered not putting on a bra. I bought two pints of ice cream. I’ve been mostly eating ice cream while I’ve been here. I’ve bought a record number of pints in a short amount of time. To my delight there are ice cream carts on every sidewalk and the other day I had the New York version of a snow cone from a cart on the corner. Snow cones are one of my favorite things in the summertime. This one was amazing. Different. Like the difference between regular ice cream and soft serve. It was a little more classy than the ones on the west coast. For one, it was in an actual cup and it came with a tiny spoon. And the flavor colors were deep and set in. I’ve decided I love them both equally. I’m sure I am supposed to like this one more but I just can’t unlove the trashy chunks of ice and color flavored sugar water that starts to drip out the bottom of the paper cone before you can even finish it, but you can still drink up what gets left like a fast shot of tequila.
I took Eliot to Central Park yesterday. We strolled and rolled around a pretty little loop. When we passed one of the fountains I said out loud, “I wonder what the policy is here on people getting into the fountains during the summer when it’s hot?” I should have kept my mouth shut. Eliot proceeded to tell me that people probably did, especially the hotter it was. If there were rules they could probably be bent and most likely were. But maybe only for certain fountains, like not the ones with the statues in them.
I didn’t fucking ask if people did or not I wondered what the policy was. That’s it. Today at lunch as I heated up some leftover lentils for him I licked some off my finger and said that they tasted extra gingery. I got told that things often have more flavor the next day, especially things like curry. He keeps saying shit like that. Answering me mid sentence explaining what I already know. Mansplaining. I need to stop dumbing myself down around men. Pretty soon my “I know” replies are gonna turn into something like, “Eliot in my almost 46 years of life I have had a lot of experiences. Including cooking for people. I need you to stop treating me like I haven’t.” And quit on all the other subjects as well. I don’t wanna have to pull an I’m 13 years older than you card. That’s just not nice.
I told him this morning I wanted three days off in a row when his care schedule gets all figured out. I could tell it was a lot to process.
I erased the words I just wrote. ‘I’m depressed. Still.’ Maybe I’m only depressed for moments at a time. Long moments sometimes. Yesterday I was. I don’t feel so sad right now. Today is Sunday. I am lying here painting my fingernails black while Eliot virtually attends his mom’s ordination as a pastor. I can hear church music coming from the other room. I have time to myself and I know that it is a certain amount of time. I can lay here in my daylit room for probably another hour and a half for sure. I’ll finish painting my nails and then maybe practice Beethoven on my keyboard.
It’s flag day. 3:41pm. I feel that it is my duty to steal an American flag today.
I walked up to Fort Cannon in Central Park and confirmed all I needed was a knife to cut down the American flag that flew at the top of the hill. I went back home for the knife.
I cut through the cotton ropes and old glory came flailing down, ringing it’s alarm against the metal pole. It landed with the wind in a grand splash. I quickly ran to cut it free and stuff it into the reusable grocery bag I had brought with me. There was a black guy that had gotten to the top of the hill about the same time as me. He was eating a bag of chips, walking lazily looking bored. He watched my thievery with amusement and asked if I was crazy. Definitely crazy. “Now what? You’re gonna go home and hang it on your wall?” He spread his hands widely across an invisible wall.
“No.” I said. “I’m going to burn it.”
The Big Apple Blues
I wanna go home. I miss being depressed in Portland. Being depressed in New York is more depressing. It’s a bigger lonely. I’m always stuck inside the apartment, like stuck inside because of Eliot, stuck inside of Eliot and also stuck like I can’t get myself out even when I can. I’ve thought of contacting a local activist group I’ve checked out on Instagram but I’m too chicken. I want to say hi to an immigration attorney I know here but the thought of calling him paralyzes me because I’m sure he’ll think i’m stupid. I want to project onto the Statue of Liberty but it’s lit up at night so it wouldn’t work anyway.
I did a crazy thing the other day. I mean super crazy. I emailed Mike. Then I replied to my own email 3 times with the idea that he should come to New York for a couple days to make some art with me. Then I messaged him on Signal. A message I probably shouldn’t have sent but it was ok to last year so? I think he saw it but I really have no way of knowing or if he’s blocked my number. Later I message something generic just to see if it goes through i guess. I get only the one check mark. I am mother fucking furious. This means he has uninstalled signal again. (It could just mean his phone is off but I’m convinced it’s not.) So I start sending the most immature and mean text messages to his phone and through the signal app and I even email him to say how much I hate his guts and what an extra piece of shit he is. I am livid. The reason this is extra insane is because he has not replied to even one of my text messages for months. My number has been blocked off and on and when it’s not I’ll see that he has received and read the message but still, silence. The next morning I write out a paragraph of words I must remember when I call and leave him a scolding voicemail. I do tone it down a bit and actually am aware that writing them in the first place is probably enough, but of course I follow through with my super crap plan anyway. A little while later I noticed my signal messages have gone through. So his phone had been turned off. I still don’t know if he actually saw the messages. If he did he most fucking definitely blocked my number again.
Moses or “Mo” is the new 9–5er. He gets here after I’ve already gotten up with Eliot and waited while he takes his shit into the bucket that I then empty into the toilet. But the bowel routine starts at 7:30 now and afterwards I have to wait for Mo to ring so I can buzz him up because Eliot usually has me put him back in his bed for the morning. I prop the door open so I don’t have to wait for him to get upstairs too. Every single day I will have just fallen back to sleep when I hear the ring. I hate it. I hate mornings.
Mo is from Puerto Rico and speaks with a thick Bronx accent. He’s smooth and laid back and good with Eliot. He’s easy to be around. Some days I roll out of my room with bed head and stumble sleepily to the refrigerator. He’s cleaning the bathroom and rapping with Eliot about things. I’ll open the door and then shut it again and go lay on the couch to wake up a little bit more. He doesn’t seem to mind and has the good sense not to talk to me for a bit. Eliot told me after Mo’s first day that he seemed like a really, really good person. He said that he was pretty into Jesus though. I asked if I should try saying Fuck less often and Eliot kind of shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know.”
“Yeah fuck it.” I said.
Yesterday, sometime between 9 and 5, I walked past an old guy on 5th avenue sitting on the sidewalk leaning against a storefront, he says, “How you doing honey? Come give me a kiss.” I halfway turned back to see if he was really serious. Sometimes I’ll be passing the laundromat next door and some guys will be throwing jive my way. I usually don’t realize it’s meant for me at first and when I finally do I’m already a few steps past and I just ignore them. Most often it’s pretty lude stuff that I can totally handle but I’m too depressed and I just don’t feel like throwing it back. Maybe later. The most worn out pickup line on the streets of Harlem is “Hey baby, you married, I can cook?” This one guy, I see him yelling about his girl’s smelly vagina and across the block she’s swearing back at him. When I pass he slows his roll and steps in stride with me. He’s got a full grill. “You married? I love redheads, can I cook for you? Maybe a nice salad and some wine?” I laughed, shaking my head. The next day from across sidewalks he remembered my name and shouted hello with a smile full of gold.
There is music everywhere here. Modern day boom boxes attached to bicycles, mopeds, backpacks, cars parked with doors open blaring beats I’ve never heard before and can’t be sick of yet. It’s very lively and loud and it fits right in with the constant block party feel. One of these days I’m gonna pull out a lawn chair and post up on the sidewalk too. Maybe I’ll take my keyboard down and blast some Mozart.
On June nineteenth I walked up to Central Park.
I was hanging a pair of bronzed shoes I had made from a light pole near the bathrooms.
Suddenly a broom out of nowhere struck at them angrily and they pitched in a wide circle. I turned to see a black youth maybe 13 or 14. He said something I didn’t really hear. A second later I watched him swat an elder asian lady with the same broom in the shoulder as she passed by. She turned and glared at him. I was glaring at him too. He was with three other young kids, two girls and a boy all about the same age. He glared back and lunged with his broom.
“Do you want to fight an adult?” I asked. My blood was boiling and strangely in that moment I scanned my body to feel out my strength while at the same time imaging my body parts, my limbs beating the crap out of the kid. Right then I knew that I wouldn’t. He was a kid. But it didn’t register for some reason. I had always beat up my cousins when we were growing up. I was the oldest and we wrestled and I won every time. We never really hurt each other though. I didn’t even think it was weird that I would have wrestled this kid until I was retelling the story and my friend said
“But he was just a kid.”
In that moment he wasn’t a kid to me, or maybe I am still that kid.
He said yes and lunged forward with the broom stabbing at me then half threw half dropped it and ran back to his gang. They jeered at me “Pussy!” And he joined in “Yeah Pussy!”
“You’re the one that dropped your broom and ran away.” I said. I picked it up and began walking down the path looking for a different spot to hang the shoes. I heard him yell behind me, “SHE’S RACIST SHE’S RACIST!” I turned around and saw him smirk at me as his accusation rang through the park. I was (shocked?) I don’t know what I was. But I realized I was the only white person in a park full of people who had been oppressed for generations and generations by whiteness. It was scary and he kept yelling louder, smiling and looking around for an audience. I turned walking quicker, dragging the broom with me. Next I heard, “She called me a nigger, she called me a nigger!” I spun around and said, “I did not you fucking punk ass kid!”
A group of older girls, maybe later teens, maybe older I couldn’t tell, stood up from their blanket in the grass and one of them sneered in a loud voice “Well she didn’t say she didn’t, she never said she didn’t!” She hadn’t heard me, or maybe she had. This was insane. It was scary but no one else around seemed to notice or care. The bolder of the girls with the younger group came up a short ways behind me and said in a sweet voice, “Can we at least have our broom back Miss?” I looked back to see her standing ever so politely with her hands folded in front of her. Then she quickly turned around loudly whispering, “Here!” She shoved her phone at the bully boy telling him to record and then turned back smiling waiting for my reaction.
I decided to just throw the broom at them and walk away.
It was Junteenth and they didn’t have any other white people to yell at.
I met a woman I only know from Instagram in Chinatown today. I can’t remember when she started following me but she admires my work and cares deeply for the kids at the border being caged by ICE. Honeybee22274 is her online name and she was dressed in a grey pinstripe business suit jacket. She really wasn’t very businesslike though. At first she talked kind of like a high school cheerleader, flipping her head with her eyes halfway closed and speaking in exaggerated, hip abbreviations that I don’t even have the code for. She works in the foster care system and has lived in New York for 11 years. She said she had always considered herself a (liberal) democrat until Covid joined the race. I wanted to hear so badly how her mind had been changed, what parts made her radically aware of the inequalities of this capitalistic and racist system that we have all been bred to embody. I leaned forward eager to listen but she turned her head and gazed into the distance……Everyone I know is already hip to the game and I must find someone who wasn’t and find out what they learned and how the pandemic taught it to them.
We were going to have soup dumplings and met at a restaurant in Chinatown on her lunch break. I had never ever heard of them. Before I could lift a chopstick Honeybee said “Go ahead and make a mess, it’s ok they’re messy.” and she gave me detailed instructions on how to eat them. They were like little coin purses filled with soup and just one tiny pork meatball inside. I picked one up with the chopsticks and bit off the tippy top to let the steam out. Now it looked like a miniature volcano. I tried to keep the soup from spilling but couldn’t. I was trying to be polite but next time maybe I’ll try putting the whole thing in my mouth at once. They were delightful and I know I won’t be able to live without having them again.
Afterwards I set off to get lost. Little Italy was just down the street squished up against the edge of Chinatown. They shared their last and first blocks together. The sidewalks were like conveyor belts. I couldn’t stop without getting eaten by the edges. I couldn’t even get off unless I were to quickly slip inside a cafe or market but I felt like it was moving too fast and I couldn’t read the signs.
I wanted cannoli but I had no idea where it would be. I hoped there would be a huge sign on the storefront like a neon flashing light. There wasn’t. I wandered through the crowded streets. Color saturated vegetables, cherries, grapes, handmade clothing, tiny fish stacked in neat little rows. Everything in multiples and perfectly placed. An asian woman held out a purse as I passed by and whispered “Gucci money money.” I barely glanced.
I was too paralyzed with hesitance to take photographs. I wanted to, there were so many colors and patterns and people, but it was ok I guess. They say that when you take so many photographs you aren’t actually experiencing the moment. You are trying to save the present with your pictures, but when you look back at them the memory will be a lie.
All of those pictures have probably been taken by someone else already anyway. I eventually found my way to a subway station and hopped on the 6 to Uptown and The Bronx.
I took two trains to Brighton Beach being careful to pay attention to the stops along the way because I had just almost gotten onto the B train going in the wrong direction. The beach was at the end of the line and when I stepped off I followed a couple that were carrying towels and a cooler. It was a safe bet. When I hit the boardwalk I gazed anxiously over the sand that was covered with a blanket of brightly colored umbrellas. People were crammed onto the beach but sat just far enough away from each other to be distant. It was like trying to find Waldo. The sand was too hot at first. Then I heard my name shouted and followed its sound to Honeybee22274 and her friend. This many people on a beach in Oregon would be awful. I’m not sure exactly why but it would.
I had bought a ten dollar green and white striped beach umbrella and started to stab it into the sand but Honeybee said it might not work. I probably wouldn’t be able to get it deep enough and then the wind would surely grab it away. “And what, poke somebody in the eyeball?” I asked and we laughed and kept shoving it deeper. I was glad for its shade. Then we all proudly listed what snacks we had brought. My list was shorter than theirs but I had Cheese-Its.
Someone with an Ice Cream cart pulled by and I almost jumped up with excitement but then remembered I’m cut off from ice cream. I am allergic to dairy but I ate so much of it anyway when I first got to New York that now I look like a spotted leper and I have to quit. A minute later a darkly tanned Mexican man rolled through the masses with a cooler full of cold beers. Honeybees’ friend decided a cold Corona at the beach would be good and I agreed. She bought two and handed me one and it was perfectly cold. How could he keep them that cold when it felt like we were baking in an oven? I used the sand as a cupholder and then didn’t drink mine fast enough so the last half was warm.
There was a muscle man who came out of the ocean and did vigorous push ups in the sand and then went back into the water. Repeat.
There was another man dressed in black with a black Rottweiler on a black leash wandering through the tides. Sometimes the water rushed over the dog’s head but it never seemed to mind.
There was loud music right behind us. After a while someone else a little further down turned up their beats and the couple behind respectfully took their turn to turn theirs down. I wondered if anything could annoy me being on this beach. It seemed like it should, the loud music, the people everywhere, the crowded water. But all of it belonged here and I liked it.
The ocean was extra salty. And filled with humans. Hordes of them standing among the greenish blue waves that swept to and fro under the water’s silky surface. It was cold at first like water always is. It felt like the Clackamas river in July. All I had to do was dive straight in, get it over with and I would be used to it. I did. The waves rolled and comforted me. My body became limp and the water carried me on its back. I gave myself away to its dangerously unknown tows, trusting that it would let me down safely. It is the most magical thing to swim around in the ocean’s body, if only at its edges. My body is made up of half water. I am sharing space with another body of water that covers over half of the earth’s surface.
In my dreams I can breathe underwater.
There was a sailboat out in the sea somewhere between the horizon and land. It was beautiful and I kept my eye on it. It moved slowly at first. It was always there when I decided to get into the water. Its tall bulged and pointed sail proudly sliced its way through the sky and water, a perfect sight and I thought I’d take its picture the next time after this that I got in the water. But I watched it moving just a little bit quicker and a little quicker and I knew it would land on the Jersey shore soon and its grace would be lost. I was torn, should I run back to grab my phone or could I wait? Or did it matter, it had already lost its perfection. What if I hurried? I didn’t. I decided to just float and watch it leave the horizon’s edge and I actually saw the sail come down. So now I hold the memory of its lovely and lazy journey instead of a photograph of its memory.
I am Eliot
I am Eliot. I am his arms and legs. I move, I bend, I reach, I stand up for him. I am his mind. I think straight for him. You know those toys where when you press all the way down on the base the character standing on top falls, crumbles at every joint like a bag of broken sticks? Sometimes a horse or a cow or Pee Wee Herman. I am a character standing on top of that cheap plastic box. Eliot squeezes the bottom and I pick up what he dropped. I hand him a glass of water. I open his pill bottles. I fix his clock and hang it on the wall. I stand up. I walk.
Eliot is always measuring worry. He must worry or he’ll worry why he’s not worried. He needs worry because that’s how he controls things. If he doesn’t worry everything will fall apart. It won’t of course, well maybe it will but for him it is very real that it might. It’s my job to unworry him like unraveling a ball of yarn. His future is uncertain and dependent. He has to rely on strangers for his basic human needs. And right now his long term care is up in the air until Medicare makes a decision on what they will cover. He thinks they’re gonna give him the bare minimum of hours. He had an evaluation yesterday so he’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Dude you’ll get 24 hour care. People can tell. You can’t even poop and pee on your own.
My future is tangled up in his. But It’s mine. I get to decide how long I want to be here. Some days I imagine having someone just pack up my apartment in Portland. That lease is up and I could just stay in New York for the rest of this apartment’s year long lease. Then other days I don’t think I can. I feel responsible to the people in that building I live with. I don’t know why. Almost every single one of them has called me since I’ve been here. One person called to say there was a homeless guy sleeping in the hallway and he wouldn’t leave. It’s nice to feel needed I guess. But if I stay in Manhattan with Eliot I have to be able to find space away from his needs and his endless spewing knowledge of everything or I am going to straight quit. I’ll go broke to fly home today and there will still be a month of 24 hour care left that someone’s gonna have to cover.
Greenwich Village, Part 1
I made myself go out today. I mean I made myself. I felt like I was covered in tar, in a pool of tar trying to stretch myself out onto a sidewalk made of tar.
Anxiety hit me in the gut as I was trying to leave the apartment again and I recognized the edges of panic. I thought back to a time I had a full blown panic attack and how it felt, mentally measuring how far away this one was. It sucked. I didn’t want to stay inside and freak out in my room while Mo and Eliot were out there yucking it up. I had a valium I had stolen and I broke it in half and then in half again and ate that tiny slice of the pie. It’s so weird how I have to take the maximum dosage of adderall to function but give me more than a sliver of a downer and I’ll pass the fuck out like Sleeping Beauty. Or barf. Or both.
So I slipped out the door leaving bits of tar on the door handle. I struggled to unstick my hands and drudged my feet along the tar painted hallway to the elevator doors. I was going to the Village. I had been trying to get myself there for days.
I had to reload my metrocard at the station because it read insufficient funds on my first swipe. The subway keeps eating my money. The very first time I rode the train I hopped the gates. I had swiped my card over and over and kept pushing the metal turnstyle at the wrong time so I kept being stuck on the wrong side. Luckily nobody saw me. There’s no How to Ride The Subway 101 and I didn’t have anyone to ask what the skinny was when I got here. I had finally figured out where to buy the flimsy card you use to pay the fare but apparently when you slide your card you sometimes have to slide it again. But not at all of the stations so don’t do it everytime or you’ll go broke quick. After you swipe it displays how much you just paid and what your balance is in front of the strip. You have to know where to look fast because the metal structure is very undistinguished and the readout is displayed in little green robot letters and numbers like on an old Apple II E computer. There’s no big screen or flashing light. The turnstyle doesn’t start moving to clue you in that your payment went through and welcome to the underground. And actually you can only push the inner metal rung if you want to rotate through to the other side. It’s not like the automatic doors at the airport, they don’t keep revolving. You get one chance and if you fuck it up you have to swipe your metro card again. It’s 2.75 each time. I used the vending machine once to reload it for 11 bucks and I lost that like the unlucky gambler in two train rides. At least I still had the fare left to take the second one home. Another way to lose a fortune is to accidentally take the express train to 148th street and you meant to get off at 110th. But the train didn’t stop. So you have to crawl out from one dark subway hole and down into another and swipe your metrocard again.
I got off the train at Union Station and promptly headed in the wrong direction then walked around the block so no one would notice I was actually lost. Eventually I made my way past Union Square and kept going towards the Hudson River. A lukewarm rainy mist began to fall. Then the valium kicked in. I was suddenly and somewhat pleasantly wading through sidewalks made of tar soup. I looked around and around wondering where all the parts of Greenwich Village were that were supposed to be so cool. There were a lot of trees, that’s always cool. A lot of color. Old red brownstone buildings. The big gay ice cream shop with a giant rainbow swirl cone in the window. Fancy lettering named all of the awnings. I wanted to find someplace to sit down. Someplace with caffeine. I passed a coffee shop whose entrance went down steps lower than the sidewalk to underneath the world. Joe’s something, maybe? I could hide in a dark corner booth and drink tea to clear my tar filled head. I already loved it. But for some reason I just kept walking. I didn’t have a whole lot of time and I thought I should dive deeper into the coolness of this historically famous neighborhood and I couldn’t tell if I was there yet. I passed thrift shops that I promised myself I’d go into. The creatively covid outdoor dining areas were hogging up the sidewalks on every block. I kept peering inside of the enclosed seating areas looking for just the right one I could hide in and maybe order a pastry and some tea and sit and gaze sleepily at everything in the small cozy space. But I just kept walking. At some point the buildings started getting taller and quit looking as cool. The trees thinned out and the streets turned modern. I decided to turn around and find Joe’s coffee shop hidden underground on my way back to the subway station. I wandered around trying to recognize the streets. Had it been on my left or on my right? At some point I knew I wasn’t going to find it in time to be able to properly hang out so I checked my transit app to see where to catch the train home. I wanted to go back to Union Square though. I could sit on a bench in the big concrete space for a while and stare at the pigeons. Even though the valium was starting to wear off I walked right past it of course and had to turn around and retrace my steps. Now the square was filled with a giant farmers market. Yay at least I finally found something cool today.
I don’t even wanna go into how fucking lost I got as I left, ripping chunks off of my fresh baguette and stuffing them in my mouth, walking up and down the longest blocks I’ve ever walked. A million steps in wrong directions, trying to find my way to the subway train that would take me home.
I haven’t messaged Mike for a whole week. Well I haven’t messaged him anything crazy irrational. I did send one tiny message on Wednesday about the State of Emergencies. I don’t think I even really knew what a state of emergency was before COVID. I mean on a national level sure but I didn’t know states could declare them too. I did so much research when Kate Brown called it. I knew every little power she could invoke. She’s had to call a record number recently, pandemic state of emergencies, wildfire state of emergencies, heat state of emergencies, winter weather state of emergencies ……something is seeming to add up and add up more quickly as they are declared. A Climate state of emergency. It’s getting real fast. Pretty soon the state of emergency declaration will be a permanent one. Call in the national guard.
Anyway that’s basically what I said in my message. Mike is a committed climate activist. And an artist even though he doesn’t admit it. I have learned gargantuous amounts from him about both things. He already knows the whole truth about the linking state of emergencies, It just was a duh moment for me that day. I’m grateful for him. But he really is an asshole. I’m proud of myself for not contacting him even if it hasn’t been very long. It feels like it has been months but time is so weird, especially in matters of the heart.
Oh I totally forgot. I did send an email to both him and the other Mike. Neither of them opened it. Meaning Mike number one probably blocked me again and Mike number two is butt hurt because I fell for the other Mike instead of him.
I sent it to myself and bcc’d them. It was just a story about the beach.
The next day. (scratch that record for no messaging from yesterday)
Ok so I have this thing where if I know my number is blocked because I’ve just done something banana shit crazy I’ll be a little extra down. That roller coaster thing. But if Mike opens an email then I’m happy again and my world is exciting. But it never fails that I will start texting him random bits about the state of the world or ideas I have about art. Then I’ll get bored and send a naked selfie. Then usually something snaps again.
So I decided to see if I wrote him an email that had a personal note in the subject line, instead of something generic that sounds like it’s a mass email, if he would open it. (a strategy I have used often in the past) Therefore I could know if he has really blocked me or not since he won’t open the other ones. I actually came up with some really brilliant guerilla theater ideas around climate change activism that I know he’d probably be into. I threw it all together and added a relevant photo I’d taken and sent it off. The time difference between NY and Portland makes it so that I have to wait for hours for him to see it. I know he usually checks his email before he goes to bed and right when he wakes up in the morning. The waiting part sucks and I always imagine a million different impossibly horrible scenarios in my head in the meantime.
When I woke up this morning I was delighted to discover that he had opened it. Weeeee yay how lovely. Ok now what I have to make myself do is to not message him forever. That would be the best plan. He’ll never reply to the email and he’ll never reply to a text message anyway so I should just quit while I am emotionally ahead. Fingers crossed.
I BOUGHT MY PLANE TICKET BACK TO PORTLAND!!
And I was going to burn the flag I stole from Central Park today but I never got around to it. My stomach hurt from all the pepper jelly I ate last night on the rest of my baguette.
I want so badly to text Josie’s mom and share an itunes link “Here’s a song for Josie,” like I used to when I’d hear a new song I knew she would like.
It’s called Cloudy Day and it’s by Tones and I. She just put out a new album and we used to listen to her first one over and over and over in the car when Josie was around 2. The song “Jimmy” was the very first song she knew all of the words to and she would yell sing it in the backseat. And in the bathtub. Her mom hated it.
It’s a really depressing song.
I had started making a poster for myself to remember Eliot’s bedtime routine.
Instead of just a list of tasks I drew pictures of them. A pile of Ice Cubes that said Ice Packs (and abolish ice in the melted part) A phone and laptop with a giant cord plugging into an outlet. A remote with a question mark. A med bottle with little pills inside. A CPAP mask. A big bottle of Miralax with the poop emoji on the front.
Grab some Ice Packs
Where’s the remote? (for his adjustable bed)
Take nighttime meds
Check water in CPAP machine and turn on
Two capfuls of Miralax for a nightcap
The whole time Eliot thought it was for him. Of course, because everything is for him. He kept trying to add things and micromanage the list. I should add ‘Put pajamas on’. Dude I don’t need to be reminded to put your pajamas on, YOU KNOW you have to put them on when you go to bed. In a little whiny voice he said “But sometimes I forget?”. NO YOU DON’T. I told him the poster was for me and whatever other home care person might need it and he for real said, “Not for confused Eliot?”
I was getting serious about the poster. Like ADHD serious. It had to be perfect. I had already started over once and had markers strewn all over the floor. Eliot was doing something administrative or obsessive at the table. There were neon sticky notes everywhere. I got out my bluetooth speaker and started playing Frazey Ford from downloads on my phone. I’m on Sam and Molly’s Apple family plan so I get unlimited songs. Someday I suppose they might cut me off. When Josie was probably 1 we used to listen to Frazey Ford in the mornings and draw our separate pictures on the floor. I think I played her first album every morning for a week or two straight. Josie liked it too and it fit our sleepy morning atmosphere.
Those memories played back in my head while I colored in the half moon that took the place of the D in Bedtime.
*After I finished writing this I sent the text message. I ended it with “I hope you all are well.” and a heart emoji. Today I got a reply from Molly that said, “Thanks for sending the song. Will play for Jo.” Then I got an email from Apple saying YOU ARE NO LONGER PARTICIPATING IN FAMILY SHARING. Your family organizer has removed you from the family group.
A storm given the name Elsa busied herself outside the balcony window. I caught a glimpse of a silver blue flash through the blinds and at almost the same time heard a clap of thunder that sounded like the air was splitting the earth open. I swear I felt the building shake in fear. I remembered the rule. Count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the rumble of the thunder. That’s how to tell how close the storm was. Well they were about to collide with each other outside and the second I realized it I ran out the door and up the stairs to the roof. A warm heavy rain was falling. I stepped out onto the concrete terrace and tilted my head back to feel it splash onto my forehead. I was almost immediately drenched. I smiled. The sky was a dirty grey and it floated in between the distant buildings. The trees below waved vigorously back and forth.
I held up my phone to see if I could record a souvenir of at least one stripe of lightning. The sky lit up and not a second later the thunder began its roll like a hand swinging back before it smacked the electric air. I listened with my ear to the sky so I could hear that in between moment. It sounded distant and close at the same time. I was happy to be able to feel the rain. To not have to put my hood up and hurry away from it.
I watched the sky through my phone, lining up the window lit buildings and the distances between them for the perfect composition to welcome the silver zig zags of light. All I managed to save were sounds of the rain beginning to flood the streets, the wind rushing about and sometimes the sky being lit up like a rock concert in the distance.
The elevator was still out so I climbed excitedly back down the stairs to the apartment. It was muggy and too safe inside. The storm’s energy dripped from my hair. I never changed out of my wet clothes, I just waited for them to get dry.
I was still thrilled but no one seemed to care about the outside. Eliot was in the bathroom cathing. Mo said something I didn’t really hear and kept his head down. He almost never makes eye contact. Ever. It was frustrating at first but now I think I’ve given up trying to have an actual conversation with him. We just throw snippets of language back and forth.
The next day there were photos of people wading through flooded subway swamps and news of major highways drenched in water. We’ve been warned to stay safe and to not go out unless absolutely necessary. Do not be touched by her wind and rain. Just stay inside.
I had experienced the storm. But I hadn’t experienced New York experiencing the Storm. I guess it could be possible to just ignore Elsa as she passed through. That’s the experience Eliot will have. He won’t even notice the rain. He could be in an apartment anywhere in the world with a storm outside. Any storm.
Elsa came back again on friday. I dashed up to my familiar lookout to greet her and watched as the lighting moved around me. Quiet thunder followed behind it. The rain was softer.
I had to change my flight today. I found out there was already a zoo on the plane and Pirate couldn’t be accommodated. I panicked. I immediately started imagining what it would feel like to leave Pirate behind. How he would feel being left behind. Both of us would be devastated. And what if I did have to leave him, would that be some kind of premonition of my future in New York City? I didn’t want to have to come back for him.
I’m not familiar with booking flights, I’ve barely flown anywhere. After what seemed like hours of holding back anxious tears I had the flight changed and Pirate on board with me. For some reason the site wouldn’t let me put in my credit card info so I hesitantly hit pay with PayPal. I was pretty sure my account was suspended. But all of a sudden I was getting a million text notifications and confirmation emails. Bing bing bing. First a receipt from Venmo for 264 dollars, then a notification saying the transaction had been declined. I knew I didn’t have that much money in the account anyway. Then I got an email with my new itinerary from JetBlue and then all of a sudden a notice saying PayPal paid 264 dollars for a total of five hundred and something. Fuck. I guess I did owe them some money. I checked my Venmo balance and it was at a flat zero. Fuck. I couldn’t even sign in to PayPal, it said I had tried too many times? Well at least my sweet prince and I would be traveling home together.
I needed to get out of the apartment. The first half of the day I justified staying inside because of the storm. I thought it must surely still be out there. But now it was bright and muggy and I headed towards Central Park with the determined intention to hit the ice cream truck on the corner. I got a caramel sundae soft serve waffle cone. My fingers immediately began to stick to the thin napkin wrapped around the bottom of the cone where the ice cream had already started to escape and was dripping onto my knees as I walked. I heard salsa music everywhere. I walked up to a small crowd at the pond’s edge watching as a beautiful lady with golden hair down to her waist shook her bootie at a young man next to her. She lip synced the words to a song in Spanish that was playing loudly. It was over the top dramatic like daytime soap operas. She twirled and leapt in the face of her scorned lover teasing and scolding him all at the same time. He in turn pleaded and pouted and dramatically danced away in mock heartbreak. The sun was reflecting off the bright golden bangles she wore as she flashed her hands and her lover kept coming back for more. They were being filmed of course, maybe it was for a music video. A few more people had stopped to watch. I was just wishing they weren’t there so I could go wash my sticky hands in the pond water.
I sat cross legged in the middle of a bench under the archway overgrown with whatever kind of viney tree that is. It shadowed the slate walkway and people stopped and took photos of each other in front of the fountain below. A bride in mega extreme puffed up tuling and her groom posed, looking tired for the camera. They moved closer together and the groom smiled uncomfortably.
I watched couples walk past me and played the game of ‘Guess how much sex they have?’ to myself. Couple number 1. had probably just met and had hot sex in the bathrooms 5 minutes ago.
Couple number 2. strolled by not looking at each other but not really looking at anything else either. They’ve fallen for the comfortable lazy almost never sex life. They don’t even really like each other anymore.
Couple number 3. Those two fuck a lot. Like a lot, but nobody knows it except their neighbors.
Couple number 4. That guy is cheating on her in his mind…
I got a sudden text from Eliot asking how far away I was. He said he had gotten himself into a stupid situation.
Me: I’m at the park
Can be back real quick where are you?
Elliot: I’m stuck in the grass outside on the sidewalk (he had been trying to pick up his dogs shit by himself)
Me: Outside our building?
I’m walking back ow
Eliot: Yeah. The care worker and some guy tried to help me but no luck. She called the fire dept.
Me: At least it’s a nice day?
When I finally got there a couple of cops were yanking his chair with him in it out of the tiny plot of grass in the sidewalk. I hurried to take a photo and some crazy lady yelled “Hey! What do you think you’re doing!?”
“I live with him!” and I pointed at Eliot. Then I turned to the weekend care worker and said, “I’ve just never seen the cops actually doing something so I had to get a picture.” We both laughed. When everyone started to part ways she yelled out “Well at least we know we need the fire department!” #acab
Holes in the ground
I had finally gotten through to Eliot that he needs to take his adderall the way it is prescribed and be consistent or his whole mindset could go to shit. And it had been. They fucked up his meds at the hospital so he was just now getting caught back up on his mood stabilizer. Dude. Please kick in. I am so tired of all of the negativity. But today he sends me this very obviously adderall induced text message, in the middle of the day when I am not responsible for him,
“I’m making it a goal for today to totally clear the living room table & stop using it to store stuff. I also thinking I might put my calendar in my room!!
I am feeling like I can start to visualize/imagine ways to set things up and do them where I can do more stuff independently. Thank you for what you’ve been doing to help me get to that point, there are a lot of things you’ve said & done that have helped me get onto a better track with that. SUPER grateful!
Re-doing my calendar right now while Alyssa goes and gets lunch, so gonna try and focus.”
It’s great. But don’t talk to me in the middle of the day about your shit. This is my time and I don’t want to have to think about your well being.
Battery Park was only a half hour away on transit. Might as well go. I needed to get out and wasn’t moving fast enough for someplace that was an hour and a half away.
I crawled out of the underground and decided to just start walking in any direction. I definitely wanted to spot Lady Liberty. I thought I was walking in the direction of water, it smelled that way. I had forgotten my sunglasses again and it was bright. All along the sidewalk there were tables set up offering things like mini statues of liberty, ashtrays, masks, and sure enough sunglasses. I bought a five dollar pair of cop sunglasses with the mirrors. I realized as I put them on that I might look kind of creepy wearing my NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL t shirt and an accessory that looked like I was the law. Well the stereotypical law anyway. I felt weird but at least now I could see where I was going. I could smell the ocean and I followed it to the edge of Manhattan where low and behold out in the sea/river stood Lady Liberty. There was a light breeze that felt pleasant and I sat down on one of the benches to stare out at Ellis island. It was cool. I saw a ferry ferrying folks out there. It didn’t look like it would take very long and I wanted to go. I’m going to go tomorrow maybe and take that flag with me. I’ll paint the words THE FLAG IS A LIE on it and see if I can hang it over her arm or something.
Then I started wandering around the streets not really knowing what was where but totally fine with it. I was so used to getting lost that it didn’t matter anymore. There would always be a subway somewhere to take me home. So I’m walking along and I look up and am pretty positive I’m seeing the new twin tower except now it’s an only child. It looks just like all the other tall buildings really. Tall and pointy and made of glass mirrors. That shit has got to be expensive. I didn’t need to see it up close so I just kept walking in the same direction I was heading. I see part of a sculpture poking out up ahead and I seriously think it’s Hank Willis Thomas’s 25 foot afro pick.
I jump, skip and am stoked. Sweet this is waaaaay better than the new single twin tower building. I follow the poky pick poking out and as I get closer I start to realize that it’s probably not. It would be upside down if it was. It totally isn’t. I don’t know what it is but that sucks. It’s some other new weird building I think. I keep on wandering and hear the sounds of rushing water and I see people looking over the edge of a four-sided waterfall. It’s hot and I wonder if you can get into the fountains and if that’s what they’re looking at, kids playing in the fountains or something. I walk closer. It’s a huge square dug into the ground and the water is flowing down the inside edges. It’s framed by a wide metal platform about chest high that lists name after name….I walk closer. Inside the center of the concrete square is another square cut deeper into the earth. The water flows down into it from the upper level. I don’t remember the moment I realized it was the 9/11 memorial. I don’t know what I thought the memorial would be. For some reason I was picturing a huge wall with an unending list of names….but that was a different memorial. This was the actual foundation of one the twin towers. Ground zero. And looking down into its abyss was …i don’t know. People had died in there, the actual hole in the ground where the building stood and fell. It was like the downward motion your head had to make to look into its depths was the downward motion of the building collapsing. Like my gaze itself was the building collapsing into dust and rubble. I took in a sharp breath. Whoa. I backed away and looked at it from where I stood. It was huge. It really was the size of the outline of a building. I quickly took pictures but I knew that they wouldn’t come close to holding the awe and grandiosity of the thing itself. I know I had heard about some reflecting pools being built, I vaguely remember reading about the artist but I had completely forgotten it even existed. I turned around a little stunned and walked toward the white winged building that had so cleverly made me think it was something else. I think it was the world trade center. (it wasn’t) It looked cool. I looked back behind me and saw the square fountain again. But it was in exactly the same spot and I had walked diagonally away from it. I swear I had just been standing at that very corner. I started walking back towards it. Then I realized it was the second one. Oh. The other tower. Whoa. I mean duh there had been two that’s why they called them the twin towers. I stood and looked again taking in the expansive emptiness of their absences, and their empty secrets.
I was standing at a corner somewhere around all of those buildings, half built and missing buildings and a guy tried to hand me a magazine. I barely looked at it. No thanks I said. I was looking at my phone for directions to Wall Street.
“Look at how nice it is, see this is what it will look like when they are done.” He opened the cover to reveal a gorgeous spread showing four towering glass skyscrapers mirroring the skies around them.
It was a well made magazine. I looked up “No thanks, I don’t care about that.”
“You are from New York?” he asks like it’s an inside joke.
“No, I’m from Portland Oregon.”
“Oh!” he says, “Portland Oregooon” “Well don’t you want to take one home to your friends? Look this is what they will look like” and he opens the cover again to show me.
“No, I don’t care about it.”
“Why don’t you care about it, look they are going to be beautiful?”
“It’s a waste of money. And a waste of space.”
“Oh.” he chuckled and turned away smiling, “Ok then, you have a nice day.”
I looked up from my phone and crossed the street.
I walked past the Merrill Lynch Wall Street Bull. The fierce bronze creature was flanked on every side by layers of humans taking turns climbing on top of it’s head with glee. I thought about what I could add to the statue to make it a little more…..i don’t know, but all of those people would get in the way.
I had to pee so bad. But also I wanted a hot dog. And I had to catch the subway back home soon. I love hot dogs and I have been trying to find the best hot dog since I got to NY. I saw a cart on the sidewalk that had pictures of hot dogs all over the sides of it. I looked at every single one. Should I wait for the guy to get over here and sell me a dog, or should I look for a place to pee or should I just jump on the train and head home? The guy took too long so I turned and headed towards the subway.
When I got home I thought about telling Eliot about my adventure and what I had seen. But everytime I imagine telling him things about my day or what I think about the world outside I can only imagine him just kind of staring and then going on about himself, his day or asking me to do something for him. That’s usually how it goes.
There isn’t room for my stories anymore.
I’m wearing the necklace I bought months ago for Josie. I think maybe I am the one it’s really for now. It’s bigger than I remembered. I had been meaning to go by their house and give it to her or leave it on the doorstep as I had done so many times with little gifts throughout the year of the virus. Then I was going to make sure I went before I came to New York. I didn’t, I don’t remember why. Maybe so I’d have a reason to go when I got back. I had my friend Kendall send it to me the day I got dumped from family Itunes.
It’s an Erstwilder necklace. It has two stegosauruses one big and one little hanging around the chain. I used to always call Josie my littlest friend. She called me momma. Until she was like three anyway when she finally got it that she only had one real mom. She had asked me once if I was her mom before she even called her own mother mom. When I shook my head no she had tears in her eyes.
One day I don’t remember exactly when, but it was towards the end of our time together, we were at Starbucks sitting across from each other and she asks again,
“Aimee are you my momma?” How many times would I have to answer this question?
“Yes I am,” I said. “and you are my little Josie bean.”
She smiled proudly to herself and sort of hugged her shoulders together with her hands clasped in her lap and kicked her feet out from the bench. I mean I’m pretty sure she knew I wasn’t, but now she could just pretend.
The last time I saw her was on her fourth birthday. I stole a fifty dollar teddy bear from Fred Meyers on my way to her house. It was almost as big as me. Nobody knew I was coming. It was the end of the day, almost time for her to go to bed. The stars were starting to peek out of the darkening sky and her mom and dad, her mom’s twin brother and girlfriend were all sitting around the fancy fireplace in the driveway. I gave Josie her gifts and stayed for a little while. We had a perfect time together talking about venus fly traps and drawing them and other magical things on the basement window with a pink chalk marker I had brought. I drew a tree. I always drew trees.
“It’s a tree,” she said. “Now draw a smaller tree next to it.” I did as I was told.
“It’s a little baby tree.”
I am so depressed. I woke up today and decided I was tired of the pile of clothes I brought with me. I wanted to go to a thrift store. It was either that or the Park. I really hate shopping but I am addicted to clothes. I just don’t want to have to look very hard for them. So I went into a vintage thrift shop called Beacon’s Closet in The Village. It was a little bit insane. I guess I really haven’t been inside of a store besides the grocery market since Covid. There were enough people in there that I had to say ‘excuse me’ a few times and walk around a rack the opposite way because someone was coming round the other direction. Kinda creepy even though I was wearing a mask.
I had no idea how stuff was separated. By color? Sizes? I just started going through a rack close to the door that seemed to have various shades of reds in it. I don’t really wear red but whatever. I found three dresses my size pretty damn quick. Red yellow and skin colored. I kept moving towards the back of the store, t shirts pants shorts. But I was done after like another half of two racks. I couldn’t take it anymore and I anxiously looked for the dressing rooms. All three dresses fit perfectly.
Well that was nice enough. I left and walked through the streets just staring at nothing. Kind of noticing stuff but not really caring about it. Realizing that I had no idea where I was going or no real destination in mind. Also realizing that this wasn’t the cool stuff people did when they came to visit New York. I think the cool things are on the insides. I haven’t been going to the insides, just the outsides. I’m supposed to be in the Museums right now, and then more Museums. When I get home people will ask “OMG did you go see the…..?” whatever the fuck is famous and I’ll say no. I remember walking past a park and I thought to myself, that’s really pretty. A lady sat on a bench right in the middle of a miniature hedge maze and just stared out at traffic. As I walked past another park I thought to myself ‘There really are a shit ton of parks in New York.’ I usually start my day thinking about which park I will go to next or I just end up in one when I’m lost in the city. It’s nice that there are so many parks because if you get tired of walking so much you can just go sit down in that park across the street.
I needed to take a crap. There aren’t many places to go to the bathroom in Manhattan I noticed. The public restrooms in Washington Park were closed. I’d have to find a cafe or something, a coffee shop where I didn’t have to commit to too much just to use the Jon. I had to buy an iced tea, then a lemonade and another lemonade before I found a bathroom that was open that I could use. It was annoying because each time I tried another place I’d have to chug my drink from the place before, before going in. Finally, a Chipotle’s let me in. I had to buy another bottle of lemonade so I could get a receipt that would have the secret code to the bathroom on it. I remembered I had a giant sharpie in my backpack and I wrote ‘Free Britney’ on the wall while I sat on the toilet. But also free Palestine too.
I was going to be late catching the train because of all of this shit but I didn’t care. Because as I said earlier I didn’t really care about anything. I didn’t care how many steps I took or how long it took to take them. I’m not even trying anymore. I should probably just get my shit together and try harder.
My birthday is in ten days
Emotions must exist somewhere. Not in the clouds or water in a stream. In my body. In my fingernails and my gut and the bottoms of my feet. Mine are buried deep inside of my bones.
Millions of them. I am either filled with them, or they are impossible to find.
These stories live in my blood. They have lived in my blood for almost 46 years.
I’m tired of these stories. I am tired of my own voice. I have been in Manhattan for 52 days now. I have 23 more days left to be here. Who would have thought I’d be begging to leave NY? When I left Portland everyone said I’d never come back.
It’s raining outside and very grey. Yesterday it was blazing hot and I swam in a bowl of ocean. Did you know there is free sunscreen at the beach? It’s in huge dispensers like bathroom soap dispensers or hand sanitizer stations. I am very white and covered in freckles and I wish I would have known about this before I parked on the beach and couldn’t get my umbrella to stay stuck in the sand. I have a theory that you can’t get as sunburnt in New York because all the layers of pollution block the sun’s dangerous rays. It works for me and my pasty white body when I forget to bring sunscreen to the beach.
That sailboat was gliding along the horizon again but this time it was missing it’s sail.
Rosevelt Island reminds me of Portland. Because you’re walking along the edge of it looking across the water at a city. With bridges. That’s what the waterfront looks like in P-town. Except more trees. And the buildings aren’t quite as tall in the west. These sidewalks were blinding and bare of shade. It was hot. I was looking for the Cat Sanctuary. That was the main reason I had come to the island.
There was a Sabrett stand right outside of the tram entrance and a dozen little kids in yellow tshirts surrounded it yelling for corn dogs and orange sodas. I didn’t see any adults except the sweaty stressed out guy inside the truck. I looked at all of the regular food pictures on the side. Hot dog, hot sausage, italian sausage, Philly cheesesteak. He had gyros too and a few other dishes. For some reason I skipped the hot dog and decided I wanted a philly cheesesteak. It was a gamble judging by the photo but it had cheese on it. Then I looked at the screaming children and realized I would probably have to wait forever. I started to walk away but the guy inside the truck yelled at me, “Hey mam, hey miss come over here!” He gestured in a stressful but secretive way. I hesitantly walked back. I really didn’t want to wait forever in the hot sun so I started to wander off again.
“Hey miss!” He yelled, sounding a little pissed that I had almost decided to leave again.
He beckoned me to the kitchen side of his truck. I said I’d take the philly cheesesteak.
“You want the philly cheesesteak?” he asked. I nodded but at the same time I was looking at a stack of sausages that looked like they had cheese poking out of their butt ends.
“Hey is that a cheese dog!?”
“You want an Italian sausage too?”
Bummer. I shook my head no and said I’d just take the sandwich. After I waited for a bit as the guy spun around in circles flipping dogs in the fryer, I realized I would have to have cash to pay. Shit. I started to walk away toward the tram thinking there would be an atm there.
“Hey miss, come over here!”
I turned around and held up my Venmo card, “I have to get cash.” He looked more bummed than I did when I realized the italian sausages weren’t cheese dogs. I could see my cheesesteak on the grill ready to go up. I started to turn around again but then realized I did have some cash in my backpack. Bonus.
The sandwich wasn’t a sandwich. It was wrapped in pita and I’m pretty sure it was lamb inside. Tomatoes, lettuce mustard. Melted American cheese. It was really really good though.
The Cat Sanctuary wasn’t wild. The cats were caged inside a fence under the trees with a couple of posh cat clubhouses and big honking geese circling around like stalkers. The old smallpox hospital looked cool but all you could do was point your camera at it from a safe distance. The ivy covered stone building wasn’t stable, a sign warned.
It wasn’t at all like I had imagined it. I imagined myself sitting near the crumbling building catching glances of wild cats in the grasses and silently trying to lure one closer so I could pet it.
So I walked by dismissing the whole thing to the very tippy top end of the island and found (drumroll) A park!! Freedom something park with more cement sidewalk and a tower of cement stairs but then the most lovely long green lawn lined with trees on either side. This would be the picnic park next time I came with my friend Jenny. It felt picnicky.
By this time I was on the edge of too much heat. I had filled my soda bottle with water at the fountain back there and I poured it on the back of my neck. As I walked back I hit every single tiny bit of shade there was to walk in and kept pouring water on my head. I hopped the tram and when I got off on the Manhattan side I immediately started walking in the wrong direction. After a few blocks I rolled my eyes and turned myself back around the right way towards the subway.
The Heart Doctor
I’m in the waiting area at some kind of Cardiovascular Institute waiting with Eliot for his appointment. We took the short ride here on the bus because it is hot as fuck outside. I’m reading. I don’t want to talk to Eliot. It’s uncomfortable. I think he’s trying to punish me, he asked me to come into the Dr. appointment with him. I have no idea what the appointment is for and he doesn’t say. I’ve never gone into an appointment with him before. He doesn’t offer any more information except asking me to go with him. And gives me a strange penetrating stare. I’m obviously not allowed to say no. He doesn’t seem to be in distress. Maybe he just wants me to find out that there’s something extra fucked up about his heart? Idk I’m pretty sure he’s being manipulative but here I am.
He’s just setting up new care doctors here in NY that can deal with his many many conditions and this is the heart guy. He didn’t tell me that I found out when we were in the doctor’s office.
Cholesterol. That’s what this is about. The doctor asks him how the last LIPIDS he had done had read. Eliot looks it up on his mychart record on his phone. The numbers are all pretty normal and the doc nods. Eliot says, “Yeah but this was back in Oregon and the doctors there are a little…..” and he makes some weird sound that comes from halfway between his throat and his cheeks.
Oh he’s rubbing his smooth rock now. Is it a show? He really gets off answering the doctors questions about himself. He loves the attention so I can’t tell if he’s really in distress or not.
He wants something to be more wrong than it is and I think that’s what worries him. That it isn’t. One doctor in Oregon said he didn’t have whatever it is this doctor is asking him about but he doesn’t believe them. Surely he must have it and have it really bad. He wants his family’s health history to be related and bad too but none of them have had heart problems. He says he doesn’t know for sure though and blames it on the fact that they don’t communicate well. I’m pretty sure you would know if your mom or dad had had a heart attack. Just answer the questions honestly and quit trying to make shit up to sound worse off than you are.
He’s wearing his bone stimulator around his neck. (It’s kind of like a tens unit.) It’s like wearing your headgear during the day for attention when you have braces instead of at night. I’m sure he wishes the doctor would ask him what it is.
I’m tired. Fucking Christ. Has he had scans of his heart done? Has he ever had a stroke or a heart attack? He says I don’t think so. You would fucking know. Just say no.
“Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine yet?” the doctor asks.
Oh dear lawrd here we go. He doesn’t want to get the vaccine until he has full time care locked in. Except he does. He has me and Mo for every hour of the day. But apparently we don’t count. He thinks something extra awful will happen when he gets the vaccine and that he will need extra care. And Medicaid long term care has better home care workers than Medicare and me? He thinks it could make him really sick. Yea dude it makes a lot of people sick. But it’s temporary. People don’t die from the vaccines, they die from Covid.
The doctor says he’ll put in an order for an echocardiogram and before he can even finish the sentence Eliot eagerly says Ok. Doc suggests he take aspirin. And guess what? Since then Eliot hasn’t bothered to get any. He doesn’t want to take the doctor’s advice yet at the same time he seems to be extra worried that there is something absolutely wrong with his heart. Maybe I’ll start taking aspirin.
We leave and outside Eliot asks if we are going to catch the bus. It’s cooled down quite a bit.
“Sure,” I said “it’s up to you I don’t care.”
He looks up at me and says “Well I’m just checking in with you?”
I actually raised my voice, “Eliot this isn’t my decision it’s yours. I am not going to choose something that will make it uncomfortable for you to get home. You have to decide. The sidewalk is pretty much smooth the rest of the way or if you are tired and don’t think your body is up for it then let’s catch the bus.” The tiniest look of shock crossed his face and he even slightly shrunk away. Then he says,
“I think I can roll.”
Ok then, let’s go.
When we are in the elevator going up to the apartment he says to me, “I’m really looking forward to seeing Cherry.” (his companion weiner dog) and gives me a sad puppy look. IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME WHAT WAS WRONG I COULD HAVE HELPED YOU. But instead you throw out these passive aggressive darts of blame. I hate him.
We get inside and he bends over to scratch Cherry’s head and says “You’re so full of life, that’s what I like.”
I can barely focus on writing. Mike opened an old email titled ‘The one person i have met in NY so far.’ at 7 oclock this morning. (I hadn’t messaged him for 11 whole days) It was the chapter about meeting Honeybee for soup dumplings. The reason I even sent that chapter in the first place is because the other Mike kept texting me saying stuff like ‘You will no doubt meet people from every direction of life. I would love to be part of those conversations’. That Mike hasn’t even opened it and I sent it like over two weeks ago.
So I sent another email with a Saturday chapter that had made Kendall die laughing, because laughing is good. He opened it in two seconds. I looked back at all of the other emails I had sent to myself but bccd the two Mikes. The other Mike doesn’t use gmail and all of them had been opened with gmail. Meaning my Mike had been the one opening them. I didn’t realize that before. 1. Why has he even unblocked me? 2. Why the fuck is he so eager to read my messages but never replies? It’s not fair. I must stop myself from messaging him for eleven hundred more days.
I’m absolutely sure no one cares about this but me.
Today I was going to go in search of a cave in Central Park. It was 2.2 miles away and I could take the bus down 5th avenue a ways or I could just walk. I had plenty of time to walk, it was only 2 o’clock.
Eliot asked me if I could take Cherry out this morning before I left. It’s Sunday. He texts me,
“Mark is the name of the guy working today. He seems pretty cool so far. Are you good with Cherry in your room for a little bit longer & taking her out after you get up? I want to try going outside to practice rolling around dogless for a little bit.”
No. It’s my weekend not yours.
Ok so on the weekends we usually don’t know who is going to show up. Cherry gets really guarddog-like around new people and barks. And barks. She’s part weiner dog part chihuahua so it’s that kind of bark. Of course it makes things awkward and stressful when the unfamiliar care worker is trying to help Eliot dress or get into his chair. She doesn’t stop. So most times I whistle for her to come into my room, or Eliot texts me asking me to take her. I usually don’t mind because it’s an awful sound at 9am and I’m trying to sleep a little longer anyway. Yesterday I stayed in the apartment all day keeping Cherry in my room most of the time. I was kind of beat from all the sun I’d had in the last couple of days and had planned to stay in anyway. But today? No. Eliot is capable of taking his dog outside with the care worker. He just doesn’t want to take her out because of the barking and because he can’t seem to respect peoples boundaries. It’s bullshit. If you can’t take care of your dog then maybe she should go back to your parents house for summer doggie camp or something. And plus he wants to go outside and practice rolling around dogless? I told him I would be going out this afternoon and he could take her out himself and then go rolling. As I’m leaving he makes sure to tell “Mark” so that I can hear him, that he doesn’t get a chance to go out for fun during the week because he always has so many appointments. It’s absolutely not true. I swear I am going to stab his ass.
I found out about this Ramble cave on a website called ‘The Atlas Obscura Guide to Manhattan. Cool hidden and unusual things to do in Manhattan.’ Caves are cool. In the history that was written about the cave it read….. “In October, 1929 the Times reported that 335 men had been arrested in the Park just that year for what they generously termed “annoying women”, with the Ramble Cave held out as a particularly popular spot.” I guess this could be dangerous.
Part way there a woman my age, maybe younger, had a little wooden tap dancing square set up and a small PA. She had a mic attached to her ear that came down in front of her mouth. She was kind of mellowly tapping and singing at the same time. It was really beautiful. She was good and she did songs like ‘Isn’t she lovely’ and ‘I’m yours’ and Bjorks ‘It’s oh so quiet’. I thought she was cool so I sat down across from her on the ground. Other people were watching but they were on bences off to the sides. I felt kinda weird. Oh well. As I was watching I got out an almost empty half pint of Johnny Walker Red that I had had forever out of my backpack. There was maybe a shot, maybe two left. Good time as any. An old couple walked past me as I sipped it from the bottle. The old lady gave me the dirtiest look and it stayed on her face as she kept walking. Her husband noticed and then noticed she was giving it to me. He didn’t seem to care as much. I guess I did kind of look like a dirty hippy with my yellow sundress on over my paint covered jeans and my curly hair in a wreck on top of my head. Fuck off both of you anyway. I dug through my backpack again and found a dollar and some change and dropped it in the dancer’s tip jar.
I finally found a big hump of stone that had to be the Cave and I snuck around it to find the entrance. It was a little muddy wet in some spots and there were wet wipes on the ground here and there. Gross. I found some stones that seemed a little like they might have once been steps but they went up instead of down. Up I went. Almost to the top and I catch glimpse of a man standing in his underwear. An old man in a white speedo actually. A couple more steps and I see another one. And another. And more sitting or laying on the ground in a half moon. They were in different versions of underwear too. It looked to me like some kind of ceremony. Another hiker, a man, had turned around up ahead of me and said “What the hell is going on up there?” I don’t think he actually thought I had the answer.
“I don’t know….”
If I hadn’t been so stunned I would have gotten my camera out sooner. A fully clothed guy came walking through the group as if he had come from a path on the other side. They didn’t seem to mind him and they hadn’t minded the guy that had retreated past me. But one of them saw me and said something to the others while frantically pulling shorts on and sat back down, slung his arm over his knee and stared at his phone as if he had always been sitting there that way. I didn’t give a fuck if they were dressed or not and I wish I hadn’t spooked them so I could at least get one good photograph. As I exited I shot from the hip with my phone but the ‘decisive moment’ had passed.
Nothing else exciting happened. I got lost of course. I bought a cheese pretzel from a grumpy guy who barely understood english, and finally made it home. Eliot was asleep. He had forgotten to take his adderall again. So I went across the street for some oregano and parsley and made some damn good gumbo soup for dinner.
Inside my head
Sweet jazz music is playing loudly from across the pond in Central Park. People really have some good sound systems around here. I’m watching a couple of guys throw their lines out and reel them slowly back in again and again. I don’t have much faith after watching them cast this long with not one bite but it would be cool to see them catch something. Probably a catfish. Yesterday I fed the turtles. A huge mama snapping turtle lives in the pond with a hundred baby snapping turtles. They poke their little heads up out of the water and stare at you as you walk by. I brought them some grapes not thinking about the fact that they would sink. The turtles looked like hungry hippos, if they were totally losing the game. I started throwing the grapes so that they bounced off of the backs of some of the turtles so the other ones had an extra second to get set to catch. Some got smart and kept their heads down just below the surface to catch the grapes when they hit but before they could sink all the way to the bottom. Turtles are so weird. How the hell do they know where our eyes are? Such intense eye contact. I mean I guess dogs and cats look us in the eye, it’s just not as creepy.
When I got home Eliot rolled to the doorway of my room and asked if dinner could be at 7 and if I wanted to hang out and do something after. Oh and also if tomorrow night I could be available to chat about stuff and planning. Cool. Sure.
So after dinner he asked if I wanted to take Cherry for a walk in the park with him. Sure! I jumped up and put my shoes on. I love the park. I love being outside. Being outside with Eliot would be better than being inside with Eliot. I took them on the trail around the pond. It’s a really pretty walk and smooth the whole way so Eliot could do it without jostling his brain in his wheelchair. I walked slowly. I like walking slow but I was walking extra slow so I would be in pace with Eliot. He kept slowing down slower and slower and slower. He would never just roll next to me, always a little bit behind. A couple of times I flat stopped to let him “catch up” but he’d stop just behind me. It was so fucking annoying. When I was a kid I would be walking down a sidewalk with my grandpa and I always walked like four or five paces behind him. He wasn’t a fast walker I just had stuff on my mind and the ground to examine. He would tell me to walk next to him, that it was rude to walk behind or in front of someone when you were walking together. So Eliot was being rude. I know this sounds made up or like I’m assuming things or whatever but there’s this weird energy in the air when Eliot’s being manipulative or passive aggressive. Weird energy aimed at me. Several times during our walk I got the impression that he was rolling a little bit behind me on purpose. So he could say later that I was the one being rude or not paying attention to his needs.
And now I feel bad because I just put him in bed and when I shut off the light he says, “It was fun walking in the park tonight.” But I also kinda feel like I’m losing my mind.
Every day I exist here I live solely with the thoughts inside of my head. Eliot is the only person I talk to and I hardly do that ever anymore. It’s like being locked away. Even when I go out to explore the city it’s just me and my head. And then I come back and write it all down here. Welcome to my head. Again.
I had a dream last night that there was a big picture window on the living room wall in the apartment. It had a bunch of small rectangular window panes and the glass was broken out of one on the bottom right corner. There were sheer curtains covering it but there was nothing beyond the window except through the one broken pane. Pirate jumped through it and when I looked through after him I saw the kitchen from the house I owned and lived in when I was married. The walls were the same avocado green. It was my house but it was inside of the apartment building where I live in Portland.
The blah Highline and me
The Highline is listed as one of the top places to visit in Manhattan so I figured I’d make it my get the fuck out of the apartment thing to do today. Only a half hour away on the subway. That’s usually good timing since I can’t seem to get myself out the door before 2pm. Always right before I head out I have the overwhelming urge to just lay back down and stay in bed the rest of the day until I have to get up and make dinner.
It was a park sort of but also an outdoor art gallery maybe? I walked along wooden platforms above the streets with nice shrubbery and fake train tracks. There was a big building called something that I can’t remember now but you couldn’t go inside. Covid probably. Outside there were several pedestals with plexiglass triangles on top. It was an art piece where you had to download an app on your phone then scan something and follow the directions. A 3D virtual kind of thing I think. It might have been cool but I didn’t have the energy since I was bleeding to death again and had almost doubling over in pain kind of cramps. I’m not even supposed to have periods. Thank you Ted Wheeler. And thank you Portland Police. I wandered around though and covered every inch of the wooden platform but what looked like the best part of the whole thing was closed off. It was a raised path with gardens that you walked on all the way around the block. It encircled an abandoned train yard with train cars packed together like matchsticks in a box. Blocks are huge in New York so it was a long path. I wished it was open so I could feel what it was like to walk around a block higher than the sidewalks. Like floating in the sky in my dreams.
There was a gigantic interactive sculpture called The Vessel sitting on the wooden platform but separate from The Highline portion of the park. It was an open air staircase shaped like a squashed square that went up and up and up almost as high as the buildings surrounding it. There was an elevator for those who wanted to take a shortcut. I used my phone camera and scanned a billboard to see how much the tickets were to go up. 10 bucks. Well that wasn’t too bad plus I could just take the elevator. I really wanted to take the stairs but I was so tired. I started filling out the online reservation form but it wouldn’t allow me to check out because I was only one person and I had to be in a group of 2 or more people. Seriously? We are still in the middle of a pandemic that is rebuilding steam and you want me to be with a bunch of people? It probably wasn’t that cool at the top anyway. It overlooked the train yard and the sky was thick with pollution. An Ice Cream truck pulled up and parked on the street right in front of me and my day got a whole lot better suddenly.
I had to remind myself to look at people. I hadn’t been seeing anything. Just gazing blindly at the inside of my head waiting for the last minute of time to pass before I’d have to jump on the subway. Everyone was taking selfies. Everyone. I saw this girl holding a five foot long selfie stick pointed at the ground, her phone stared back at her as she gave it the peace sign and blew a kiss. I muttered “oh my gawd” in disgust then I giggled because I realized I had actually said it outloud. I turned around to see a guy holding a chucky doll taking a selfie. I almost died. I hurried and turned my phone on silent so no one would hear the camera shutter sound as I snuck a photo of him. I’d been stealing pictures of people everywhere. I had a dream when I first got to New York that I was shooting all my photos from the hip and they were gorgeous. Hard to do with a camera phone really but I was getting good at it.
When I got home Eliot was asleep like he didn’t take his adderall or something. I’m waiting for him to text me back about dinner. It’s almost 8 o’clock. I feel like he’s a baby. Should I wake him up from his nap? He won’t sleep through the night If I don’t? It is so hard to care for some reason. We’re supposed to have our talk tonight about stuff.
You have to make a reservation to get into New York’s newest park, Little Island. Any time after noon anyway. I never get anywhere before noon and all the time slots were already filled when I got there. It looks pretty fucking cool except for all of the booshy people. It’s free though and I can’t wait till all the poor people find out about it.
Well screw that then. Instead I went to the Elevated Acre. It’s a park that overlooks the Hudson River and a helicopter landing pad. And the Brooklyn Bridge I think. There was a road sign above the freeway that flashed “COVID is still here. Wear a mask.” Duh. I watched like four helicopters land. I need a helicopter. For dropping mass amounts of anti facsist propaganda on top of Nazis. Maybe someday.
There was exactly one acre of fake green grass and on it sat one bald headed guy in a low lawn chair working on his laptop. He looked so tiny and distant from where I was sitting but he commanded that green acre and no one else stepped foot on it. These parks hold their beauty differently than the ones in Portland. They’re more creative and they don’t trick you into thinking you’ve gotten out of the city. I should write a book called ‘These parks don’t lie. A review.’ Or something like that. I mean I should be an expert on NYC parks by now.
I laid across a wooden bench and looked up at the sky. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold. Not too muggy. I thought about how much better I felt being there. Better than I did that morning in the apartment, but still soaked in sadness.
How sad, small, medium or large?
Medium but it feels large.
I lay there as long as I could then got up and started the trek back to the subway. I found myself on Wall Street and decided to walk down the little skinny side streets. It smelled like dead bodies. Wall Street is a trip. I felt like Alice in Wonderland after having eaten the side of the cake that would make me smaller so that now I could squeeze through the fancy alleyways. The buildings were incredibly tall and sat pinched close together and the streets looked cold like they hadn’t seen the sun since the beginning of the apocalypse.
For anyone who needs to know this, ‘Strawberry fields’ in Central Park sucks. I’m there right now. Some guy is singing with a guitar. He’s not bad but he’s no John Lennon. I’m laying on a flat rock staring up at tree branches that criss cross covering the blue sky with their green dotted leaves. Dude is singing Downtown Train and wrecking it. Someone is screaming the lyrics from the Cranberry’s song Zombie overtop of him. And there are no strawberries anywhere.
I’m starving. When I would say that as a kid my grandma would remind me that I wasn’t really starving. Children in Ethiopia were actually starving. It was true. And I imagined that if I had a million dollars I would fill a pickup truck full of food and drive it there and feed every starving child in the orphanages. I thought that was a lot of food. And that I could drive there.
I decided to walk to the taqueria place a block away from the apartment. I ordered queso fundido but then Jenny called and now the cheese has congealed and it’s cold. The food is amazing but tiny and ridiculously priced. Happy hour is from 2–7 though and everything is 8 dollars. I love it because the food is good and because I can sit l by myself and be waited on instead of waiting on someone else. Usually writing or reading. It’s comfortable and slow and private.
I’ve just cooked Eliot dinner. Steelhead trout and steamed broccoli and rice. With a lemon thyme butter sauce that I totally fucked up and the broccoli got over cooked. I didn’t do it on purpose but I don’t give a shit. Yesterday during our ‘talk’ he asked me if I wanted to stay in NY and I said I couldn’t. I said I couldn’t afford the rent and if I had to pay it I’d have to get a job and I couldn’t imagine what that would be and if I worked and took care of him I would be absolutely miserable because I would never have time to make art. I’m already halfway dead. After I said it I realized that that’s all I really had to say. I didn’t need to say I couldn’t because he’s an emotionally abusive asshole. It felt good that I had figured that out all by myself right at that moment. But I really wanted him to know how mean he had been so I also said that I couldn’t stay because I couldn’t exist in this environment with his passive aggressive choice of communication. It punches me in the gut and I freeze and I remember being 5 and 12 and 19 and forever in my grandmas toxic emotional hooks that always made me think of killing myself. I told him I wasn’t strong enough and didn’t have the skills to stick up for myself in the moment or the self confidence to bring it up later. I always question whether or not I should because maybe I’m wrong or I really don’t know how to articulate it. Plus he just makes me feel like I’m dumb if I mix up my words or forget what I was trying to say.
I didn’t actually say the last part and I didn’t need to say the part about not being strong enough because it just lets him off the hook and he gets to feel better than me still.
I really just want to go home.
The day before Monday
I walked to the hardware store this afternoon to find some kind of tool or contraption to put on the kitchen sink handle to make it easier for Eliot to grab and turn on. The guy at the store had the brilliant idea of putting air conditioning foam on it so it would be bigger and grabbier. So I got some and a small paint roller holder. I’m sure we can invent something that will work. Last night we tried to make waffles the no dairy no gluten no egg way. Eliot decided we should put some psyllium husk powder in the batter to make it stick together so I put like a quarter cup in. The stuff is absolutely disgusting but it worked. Too well. The batter started swelling out of the waffle maker but the texture came out pretty perfect. They tasted like shit. I was going to throw the rest out but Eliot wanted to keep it to maybe turn into cookies. I was trying so I shrugged my shoulders and said “Why don’t we just do it now?” I took a frozen banana out of the freezer and threw in some almond butter and raisins. Bake at 350 and then make someone else taste test them. The rest are still sitting on the counter so they must not have been that good either.
While they were cooking Eliot kept opening the refrigerator door and poking around in the crisper drawer pulling out a giant beet, celery, some lettuce. Then poked around some more. I just let him. Suddenly he says “I think that’s why I was getting into the refrigerator. I would like some real food to eat now.”
It was the way he said it. Dude if you are hungry and want me to make you something all you have to say is, “I’m still hungry, will you cook something for me?”
Later I went out with him to take Cherry for a walk and let her shit before we went to bed. I didn’t offer to take the leash because he needs to practice doing it for himself. I heard him say “Oh” in surprise I guess when I didn’t grab it but I wasn’t really paying attention anyway so maybe that’s not what he meant. We walked and rolled around a couple of blocks. He had the leash wrapped around the joystick on his chair. When Cherry did her business I waited while he used his poop scoop grabber and picked it up himself and tossed it in the trash can.
“Nice.” I said.
Afterwards on the way to the bathroom for the second bowel routine of the day, he gestures at his joystick and says it had gotten bent to the side and, “I don’t know how that happened.” In a shitty hinting voice.
YES YOU DO. The weight of Cherry pulling on her leash had done it. Prime example. He’s pissed I made him take Cherry on his own so he’s making it sound like it’s my fault his thing is broken. I said,
“Can you not get it back into place?”
He mumbled something like he’d have Mo look at it in the morning. The next time we took Cherry out he didn’t put the leash around his joystick.
I think I’m just writing this down for proof. I know it’s not that interesting.
I just sent Mike a video someone posted on Instagram from exactly one year ago today. It was shot at the Injustice Center last summer when we were projecting onto the building almost every night during the George Floyd protests. It’s a gobo I made of a stormtrooper that said Fed Cops Go Home next to it. The Darth Vader theme is playing in the background. I was pretty proud of that one. The crowd seemed to like it too. At that point I think it was Donald Trump who had sent the border patrol special forces to town. Then Kate Brown let them stay. And Ted Wheeler let them all gas us.
I didn’t need to send that video. I just get excited when I see documentation of my work and we both did that one during a really intense moment in time. I stop myself more often now from sharing stuff with him which is good. Momentary flashes of mindfulness. He feels dull today. Probably because he didn’t open the last email I sent and I’ll never know if he got the video. The next two weeks will be easier. My good friend Jenny will be here and I won’t be so bored and stewed my head. Starting tomorrow no messaging for two weeks. Pinky swear. I mean no more after that too but this is just the short game goal for now. Bleh.
Everyone said they would come visit me in New York before I left. Everyone. No one is coming except for Jenny. She’s coming the day before my birthday and we fly home on the same day. We have known each other for 30 years. I can barely wait. I have cleaned and rearranged and gotten groceries. I carefully hung my new string of blue lights along the sheer curtains that divide the room. I moved my old red lit vintage lamp to the open closet shelf I have been using as a vanity. I very shoddily hung a curtain rod up against the wall and arranged some hanging antique light bulbs as Jenny’s bedside lamp light. Then I plugged in my vintage dinosaur and set it on the floor. You have to use light to balance the space in a room. Plus I hate overhead lighting.
I actually folded my clothes and put them into two of the drawers. It won’t last long but I did it.
I’ve already made timed reservations for the Whiney and The Met for Friday and Saturday. Tomorrow I’m getting us free tickets to the Guggenheim. Finally the Museums. And all of the other places I’ve already been. It will be more fun this time. I’ll try not to make the same stories too boring.
I kind of feel like crying though. The regular sadness. So many ups and downs in one day. Every day. Or just nothing. I need tomorrow to just hurry up and get here so New York will be exciting again.
Air-trains and planes
The lady that showed up today from the home care agency only speaks spanish. Mo has the day off for some reason and I can hear Eliot in the kitchen not doing too bad of a job communicating. I’m a little jealous. My Spanish has gone straight down the shitter. I used to be able to have conversations with the guys I worked with at the cherry factory in The Dalles when I was in high school. But I was also taking Spanish class at the same time.
But by the afternoon I noticed it wasn’t going as well. I quickly downloaded a translating app on my phone and went out and gave them a tutorial. The chick is funny. I say into my phone “The sausages will take 15 minutes to cook.” The phone relays the message in Spanish and I hold it out and say, “Now you say something in spanish!”
She says, “Entendido.” and giggles. It means copy, like ‘Roger that’.
I have to leave in one hour and 15 minutes for the airport to get Jenny. I decided to take a walk to the park and hit the ice cream truck for my favorite soft vanilla ice cream waffle cone with butterscotch topping. By the way, soft serve has less dairy than Ben and Jerry’s. It has more air in it. Air is cheaper than dairy products. Today the ice cream truck had a different menu. No butterscotch. Not even caramel. Just regular cones with all different colors of sprinkles. Gross. I’m done with ice cream anyway.
I forgot to bring a book with me for the hour-long ride to JFK so I stared blankly at the concrete that flashed by the subway windows. I would be taking three different transits. The subway, the LIRR and the AirTrain. An AirTrain sounded cool. When I got off the subway I looked for the LIRR. Long Island railroad maybe? I don’t know what it stands for. A bunch of people were staring at a screen that listed train destinations and arrival and departure times all in different colors. I joined them and scanned the list to find the train to the airport. Suddenly the arrival time and gate popped up. Everyone turned and started race-walking in the same direction. I headed after them at my own anxious pace.
Well this train was fancy. It had padded seats facing forward and some were bench seats. It reminded me of an airplane. There was a shelf above where you could store your luggage if you had it. How deluxe. While I was still delighting in the first class ride an official looking gentleman came down the center aisle and started punching cards the passengers handed them. I leaned forward to try and get a glimpse of what they were. Shit. When he got to me I said, “I’m not sure what it is I am supposed to be showing you?” I started to pull out my metrocard.
“That only works on the subway. You have to buy a ticket on the platform before you board the train.”
“How much is it?” I asked. FOURTEEN DOLLARS. And that was only for one way.
I finally made it to the airport and waited outside the door people would be coming out of after they picked up their luggage. I gave a head nod to a couple different people that I thought were Jenny that weren’t. I felt kinda stupid. I really need to get my eyes checked.
Last night was Jenny’s first night in Spanish Harlem and I took her to Central Park. Sully came with us and brought a bottle of whiskey and a fancy bottle of tequila with him. He also brought us chicken nuggets and each a piece of fried chicken. It was sweet. I gave him some of my honey dew melon and he put a chunk of it in his plastic cup of whiskey and tea. We went looking for bullfrogs and rats and raccoons in the park. We laughed and drank and finally the cops kicked us out at 1am. I said we should go up on the roof of my building so we did and I brought up some brie and Ritz crackers and jalapeno hummus and cherries. Sully had never had hummus before. I very dramatically explained to him how to make it in a blender as if I were making it right there but with an invisible blender and invisible ingredients.
I woke up late on my 46th birthday. I was tired but determined to go to the beach. I always go wherever there is water for my birthday. The river, the ocean, anywhere I can swim. So I took Jenny to see the Atlantic Ocean for her very first time. (she fell in love with it too) It was extra windy this time and the top of the blue green water was covered with dimples and the waves rocked a little bit stronger. It was amazing. I love this way across over here ocean. I swam out farther than all of the crowded people and gave up every ounce of resistance to the movement of the waves. I made all of my muscles into water. I am the ocean.
We tried the beach umbrella. We really tried but twice the wind stole it from the sand and sent it flying into the lady behind us. She was nice about it. She had a much bigger umbrella with rainbow stripes. She was holding hers in the sand the entire time. When we were ready to leave I left ours behind. It was useless. On the boardwalk we took pictures of each other with the sun and coney island in the distant background. There was an ice cream truck so I had ice cream and then regretted it. We walked along the sidewalks underneath the subway and looked through all of the cheap clothing racks. Everything was a dollar or sometimes three dollars. Jenny bought a few 3 dollar pairs of underwear.
On the way home I got lost on the Subway. Well actually I forgot to get off at the stop where we could transfer to the six train. So for the next few stops I was lost inside of my head. I decided fuck it lets just get off at 72nd street. When the doors opened I knew we should just wait for the next train and get back on but I wanted to get out of the underground where I could think better about where I was. There are no landmarks underground and I have no idea yet which stops let you transfer where. When we emerged into the soft evening sunshine I realized we were at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon thing. I had just been there. Hey Jenny, this is strawberry fields. You might as well look at it while we are here. It’s stupid. There was a pretzel stand across the street and it sold cheese pretzels. I was hungry and I ordered one but it was a regular pretzel and the guy just squeezed some weird orange cheese around the top half of it. It was gross and the pretzel was stale. The cheese is supposed to be on the inside.
Every single day I have to hurry home and make dinner for Eliot around 5 or 6 oclock. The evening is my favorite part of the day and I wished we could have just walked all of the rest of the way home through the park. Jenny said she would make him dinner tonight. She cooked a sausage and some rice and chopped up a giant beet. She didn’t cook it long enough though and it was a little crunchy Eliot said. Oh well, I hate beets and it wasn’t my dinner. I laid on my mattress on the floor trying to recover from all of the afternoon beach sun and whiskey from the night before. Jenny wanted to take me out to dinner and she wanted to get dressed up and be all crazy about it. I told her it was my birthday and I didn’t feel like getting all dressed up so I wasn’t going to. I’ll do it another night. She wore gold sparkly eyeshadow anyway.
I had my palm read in Union Square today by an old gypsy woman who held a half smoked cigarette in one hand while she looked down at my dry palm and told me I had a very long life to live. I groaned. She said that people liked me and had respect for me. I would do well, be successful. And I think she said I wouldn’t have too much sorrow in the future but I can’t really remember because she said it quickly like yea there’ll be some sorrow but it won’t be a big deal and you’ll get over it. She pretended to be crying, twisting her fists in front of her eyes and then quickly stopped.
I look happy on the outside she said, everyone thinks I am happy. I laugh but I have deep sorrow inside. She held her fingers to her diaphragm and moved them in a slow circle to show me. “Why is that?”
Because I’m depressed. Always.
She said I had had a break up or split with someone,
“How long ago was that?”
Well less than a year I guess.
“This person loves you very much.” She said, “But other people just got in the way.”
She said I have negative energy all around me and I need to leave it behind when I leave New York. She wanted to give me something. She told me to close my eyes and hold out my hand. I felt her put a heavy stone in my palm. It was big, I couldn’t wrap my fingers all the way around it. I moved it from palm to palm, it had pointy triangle edges.
“Can you feel it taking the bad energy?”
I mean I guess? I opened my eyes and took in a breath, “Oh it’s so pretty!” and I was smiling. It was a deep green and black and had imperfect sides.
It would suck all the bad energy out, she said. For 250 dollars.
Jenny had her palm read too and afterwards we sat on a bench inside Union Square Park excitedly telling each other what crazy impossible truths the gypsy psychic had told us. Jenny said I should go first but I couldn’t remember anything yet so I told her to go and that when she told me I’d be able to remember mine. This old guy comes up to us while she’s telling me who her palm had told the psychic was her soulmate. I was wearing gingham bicycle shorts and had my legs crossed and the tattoos on my calves were visible. The guy had a little handheld camcorder and asked if I minded if he took pictures of my tattoos. He went on about how good they were and where did I get them done? And could I turn my calf just a little so he could see the other side? I was telling him that a student had done them and he asked how much they cost. They were free dude, a student in tattoo school did them. He asked if there was a meaning behind them. I said no, I just let the artist do whatever they wanted. They’re really not very good tattoos. People have been complimenting me on the streets but I figure it’s because no one in Harlem seems to have any and definitely none of the women do. Anyway this guy was pretty creepy and he was getting a movie length shot of my calves.
After he left Jenny says, “I bet he’s gonna go watch that now and jerk off.”
“Yea,” I said. “I bet he has a calve fettish. Or else he’s never seen tattoos before because mine really suck.”
Jenny had taken me out to an Italian dinner on my actual birthday but Eliot still wanted to do something together, me and him. Of course I didn’t really want to but I’m not that mean so I suggested we order sushi on Friday. We used to order sushi delivery back in Portland sometimes and he’d buy as a thank you for all the stuff I helped him with. It was a sweet ritual. So we looked up an online menu and all picked what we wanted. I told Jenny to Venmo him the amount for hers. It wasn’t her birthday.
I was trying to think of something we could do together so I wouldn’t be rude going to my room straight after we ate. We could play bananagrams? Eliot really liked that game but I didn’t know if I wanted to use my brain that much. My cousin had been asking me if I’d seen the new movie The Summer of Soul which was filmed in Harlem just a few blocks from where we were living. Someone had told Jenny to see it too and even a friend of Eliots had mentioned it to him. I knew Eliot would really like it if we used my video projector to project the movie onto the living room wall and watched it together. I said we could after we ate our sushi. I was too hungry to manage hooking everything up without throwing a frustrated angry fit. The food was delivered surprisingly quickly and mine was perfectly birthday delicious. Eliot had made an apple crumble with Mo that morning and we had it for dessert halfway through the movie.
The Summer of Soul ended up being the never before seen sort of black version of Woodstock. It was filled with powerful musical performances intertwined with stories of a discarded neighborhood so full of culture and brilliance. It was inspiring and reminded me of how much I have grown to love the Spanish Harlem. I love the people here and their kind spirit that hums in the air. I love their modern boombox music. I love how they all seem to know each other and the streets and sidewalks that are staged as the living rooms of the people who walk down them.
I had a gobo I made when I first got here but I still hadn’t projected it. It says Seeking Asylum Is A Legal Human Right. Most of my game had been lost by now. It’s easier to motivate myself to get out there when I’m not alone, when I can join forces with someone else excited about art and justice too. I had had such dreams of projecting all kinds of glaring truths and promises of action onto the wildly tall buildings in the city. But I had given up on screaming for justice here. I’ve crawled under the covers with a glowing laptop instead.
I should make myself go up to the roof one last time. It was easy enough to plug in the projector right there and aim the beam of light across to the empty facades of buildings nearby. I chose the perfect one that was facing the one way traffic on Madison street. I positioned the lit letters just right. I heard a car honk in support. I hurried barefoot downstairs to see if the words were visible from the street. There were a couple of guys on Madison and I heard one of them say in a grouchy voice, “Who put that up there? Do you know who put that up there?” It was this black guy I recognized from the neighborhood. He was asking another kid who just happened to be walking by,
“I don’t know who put it up there.”
I tiptoed out into the street to get a good look.
“I did.” I said.
“You did?” the black guy turned, shaking his head. “And you still don’t got your shoes on? I already told you to put your shoes on.” He swatted the air behind him as he walked away.
My Brooklyn Birthday Hotel
Jenny got a hotel for us as a birthday present in downtown Brooklyn. It was her 7th day here. She was on vacation in NY, and now I am on vacation in Brooklyn. I was messaging “Danny” on tinder. Jenny had decided we should download the app and find guys to go on a double date with the next day to Coney Island. I didn’t really want to but here I was asking Danny if he wanted to go with us. He said he and I should hang out tonight first and see if we got along. Ok but Jenny didn’t want him coming into the hotel room. I could definitely respect that. I told him we could hang out on the roof or go for a walk. He was down. At first.
I told him we were staying at The Brooklyn Hotel.
Omg that hotel is in a really dangerous area lol
Def don’t wanna walk around there. That’s for sure
We might get robbed
Going for a walk
There’s all kinds of junkies and crazies.
Be careful don’t wear jewelry when you go to walk
That’s the hood hood
Homeless shelter is a block away. You are not in a safe area
I’m from Brooklyn trust me
Me: Homeless people are not dangerous, they are people without homes.
He could go fuck himself.
I think Jenny was jealous that I had gotten likes and was talking to a guy already.
She asked if I had told Danny that I robbed people. I said I didn’t rob people, I robbed corporations. She said no the guy you stole from today wasn’t a Corp. (I stole a Statue of Liberty ashtray from one of the tables on the sidewalk near the Brooklyn bridge) I said you’re right that wasn’t the right word maybe I should say I steal from capitalism.
She kept insisting that I admit I was wrong when I said I only steal from corporations. She wouldn’t stop demanding I say that the sidewalk vendor wasn’t a corporation.
We had stopped at a cool little bar earlier on our way back to the hotel from a vintage clothes shop and hanging out in the park. I was drinking the best 15 dollar martini I have ever had. We sat outside and Jenny was brimming with exaggerated alcohol induced excitement at being in New York. She said we should definitely move here together. When she drinks she gets dreamy and it’s cool but it’s always the same dreams that she never makes come true. She gets carried away with feeling good and she can never have just one drink. She asked me if I had tried the pot chocolates she likes. I told her I had but I don’t like the 1:1 combo. She kept disbelieving me and telling me how I should feel when I ate them. I told her again I don’t like it. It was ok that I didn’t like it. But she wanted me to have the same experience she did. That was gonna be impossible.
On the walk back it rained. We both love the rain but Jenny walks fast like she’s trying to get somewhere in a hurry. I didn’t want to be in a hurry and I told her that. She says, “What, am I walking too fast?”
No. I’m just walking slower.
She takes a million selfies and asks if we should stop somewhere for another drink.
The night ended with her screaming at me that I was a cunt, that I couldn’t handle it when she spoke what was really on her mind. I started packing my things to go because I needed to remove myself from the situation. 1. I didn’t want to have a conversation with her like this 2. I was about to lose my temper and that would absolutely not help things. As I’m packing up the clothes I brought with me for our two night stay in Brooklyn she’s screaming that I’m a pussy and jeering at my decision to leave. I kept saying we could talk about this but only when she could stop screaming and calling me names. I told her I would never talk to her the way she was talking to me. Ever. She yelled something else I don’t remember what and my last thread snapped. I finally faced her and yelled, “You’re being a fucking bitch Jenny.”
Then of course she pointed out that I was the one yelling and see, I was out of control. She sneered and accused me of always being the smart one. I was sooo smart and always so calm. I did see what was happening and so I nodded and bent to pick up my backpack.
“Go fuck yourself!” she screamed.
Times Square Revisited
The next morning Jenny messaged to say she was working on changing her travel plans and would pick up her stuff the following day and drop off what I had left at the hotel. I was absolutely fine with her leaving. I didn’t want to be around her anytime soon. I don’t like mean girls. She still had another night paid for at The Brooklyn Hotel. I guess that part worked out nicely at least.
I rolled her clothes into tiny little sleeping bags and packed all of her things into her suitcase. When she texted to say she was here I took it down to her. I held the door open wide enough to push her suitcase through and she handed me a plastic bag with some clothes I had left. Thanks. Goodbye. And good luck not getting lost.
I still wanted to go to Times Square at night instead of the daytime and I realized it would be the first and last place I had visited in New York. I fed Eliot, waited for him to take a shit and transferred him to bed trying not to seem like I was in a hurry. I felt like I was about to illegally sneak out of the house. I halfway imagined buzzers and bells to go off when I crept out of the door.
After dark Times Square reminds me of the bright screen of a laptop when you’re up too late keeping your brain wired and awake even though you are actually tired but can’t sleep. I wandered around in the surrealness of the artificially lit space. Every building was lit up with their huge flashy hypnotizing ads. The glow was different than it had been in the daytime, maybe more even hypnotizing. The Square felt like it might actually be the very edge of the world because if you peeked past the blocks it encompassed it was pitch black. Maybe you would fall off of it if you walked that way. I decided not to.
Cops loitered on corners and leaned against storefront windows. I took pictures of them doing nothing and they scowled at me. I wasn’t there very long. It wasn’t as crowded as it had been on memorial day when I had first gotten to the city. I could see almost every shop selling New York shwag. Every door swung wide open like arms welcoming you in, covered with I heart New York t-shirts. There were carts on the sidewalks that sold them too. I heart NY everywhere. And more carts that sold all of the iconic New York capitalist crap that people were suckered into buying. There were Sabrett carts too. I decided to have one last hot dog to commemorate my stay. At the last minute I ordered an Italian sausage instead and it wasn’t as good. It wasn’t that perfect New York hot dog taste and it kind of ruined my delight and attempt at a perfect ending to the last chapter in the Big Apple. But when I paid the subway fare for the ride home it brought the balance on my metrocard to an even zero. Maybe that was perfect enough.
4 days early
I changed my flight today. Again. It suddenly hit me that since Jenny was gone I didn’t have to stay here until the 9th. I hadn’t wanted to anyway. I had committed till the first and the only reason I was still here was so that she could be here. The minute I realized it I looked up the JetBlue airline website and went straight to ‘manage trip’. I tried to change my ticket to leave tomorrow but then I felt bad. I could also feel the actual space between now and then. It felt short and like I was walking away with the back half of myself stretching out behind me still sticky glued to Manhattan. The next day after that would be thursday and that one would cost me 300 and some bucks. Saturday the same. I don’t think I even checked for Sunday but Friday was only 251 dollars more! I didn’t have 251 dollars but I would have it tomorrow and maybe the payment would just go through anyway. I desperately wanted to leave.
I spent almost the whole day inside the apartment obsessing over how to get a plane ticket out of New York City as fast as possible. I needed to take a break and get outside. It was already after 5 and soon I would have to be responsible for someone else’s well being. I started walking to the park. I headed in all the directions that felt right. I started crying. I sat on a bench under the weeping willow trees and wept. People walked by and my tears kept running down my cheeks. I needed that plane ticket. I messaged my “bail me out” cousin who I love not just for her bail services but sometimes especially for her bail services. I told her I would swap 200 bucks with her tomorrow if she could send it today. Of course she could. But then she said I could either pay her back tomorrow or she could just book the flight for me and put it on her card and I didn’t have to pay her back. I wanted to pay her back. Credit cards aren’t free but I couldn’t figure out which one or why. I felt like I was going to puke.
I had told Eliot I was going for a walk when I left. He had his headphones on and I heard him mumble ok. I was glad he was busy but before I had even gotten to the other side of the pond he was already texting me,
Hey there, sorry I was on my appt
Cherry is doing her serious bark at me. Will you go out with me & her when you come back from your walk?
No worries. I just needed to get out
We were kind of actual friends again. It had helped having Jenny there for a while as a buffer. I still didn’t trust him but instead of just helping with his basic needs stuff I was listening again and giving him his motivational speeches and making myself share my daily adventures and describe the city to him.
My cousin was working some kind of magic from across the nation and I had just cancelled my other flight. It was going to be ok. I walked back to the apartment and got Eliot and Cherry. We walked and rolled around the blocks. I made Eliot decide where to go and he held Cherry’s leash and picked up her poop. Every once in a while I had to answer a text from Jessica about plane ticket stuff. I wasn’t going to tell Eliot about the switch until we got back inside. It would take him a dark while to process and he would probably lose his appetite while I cooked him dinner.
Leaving on a jet plane
Two days later I packed everything I had brought with me that would fit into my suitcase. I’d have to leave my keyboard behind. And my Dinosaur lamp. I’ll have to figure that out later. I finished the things I had promised I would do but kept putting off. I took the doors off of the cupboard under the sink so Eliot could roll his wheelchair closer and reach the faucet. I painted the inside purple. I cooked up the food that Eliot can’t eat and that I don’t have time to eat anymore. I texted Sully that I would bring it down to him on Lexington street but then I got too tired and couldn’t figure out what was more important to do and what wasn’t. The last bit of time always slips away like a fast hot summer. I walked to the park to say goodbye. My arm hurt because my neck hurt. My neck hurts because it’s broken. I bought a two dollar beer from a guy selling “Cold Beer!” from a cooler on a bench while he waited for some Mexican music performers to show up. They come to play every Thursday, he said.
“I’m going to pour it into a cup for you.”
Ok. I know the rules.
I don’t even like Coors Light. I just sat and stared across the pond and at the few turtles swimming just below the surface of the water. More people started to show up and I decided I wanted to be alone with my Central Park. I got up and walked to the other side underneath the shaded trees but people were already there hogging up the benches. I walked a little further and found a bench just barely in some shade that sat below the empty flagpole on Fort Cannon hill. My neck and arm hurt so much I couldn’t really think straight or properly say goodbye to the park I had come to depend on and loved so much. I left my beer on the bench and walked back towards Duke Ellington Circle and down 110th street. I gave up on my last goodbyes to Harlem. Maybe I’ll be back someday.
I went upstairs and put Pirate in his cat kennel and set it on top of my suitcase. I knelt down to chiweenie level, “HelloGoodbyeHelloGoodbyeHelloGoodbye” I said to Cherry as I rubbed her cheeks and scratched her ears at the same time. She wouldn’t quite look me in the eyes. I think she knew I was leaving for real. I turned away because I couldn’t look either or I would start to cry.
Eliot was on the phone right when I had to leave. When he finally hung up I said,
“Ok I have to go.” He was sitting there in his chair with Cherry on his lap. She still wouldn’t look me in the eye.
“Oh!” He went to hit the joystick and lurched forward and for a minute I thought they’d both roll out with me but I forgot they couldn’t. Eliot can’t get in or out of the building by himself because the doors aren’t automatic.
“Thank you.” he said.
My hand was on the door handle already pushing the door open,
“I will cry. Goodbye.” And out I went dragging my giant suitcase and my cat behind me.
I don’t have to think about Eliot everyday anymore. I don’t even have to talk to him. I don’t have to solve his problems or convince him to solve them himself. I don’t have to be rudely awakened every morning at 9am by the sound of the door buzzer and ring up the day care worker. I don’t have to race time to find a subway station and be home by five every day to make anyone dinner anymore. Goodbye.
Pirate puked in the cab on the way to the airport. The guy was a crazy fucking driver and I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it alive. At least we did arrive at the infamous John F. Kennedy airport right on schedule. Airports remind me of movies kind of like the way New York City does. I’ve seen more airplanes on TV than I’ve actually been on and every time I fly somewhere (which is barely ever) I look around at the passengers and imagine all of us dramatically trying to survive as the plane is about to crash. I walked down the aisle trying to find my seat, and one lady asked me what my cat’s name was. As I answered I immediately pictured the scene in a blockbuster film. It would happen near the beginning of the movie to let the audience get to know the characters and wonder who might survive. Which one of us would live? Or maybe we would both be fighting to save the day together alongside that older white haired gentleman across the aisle? And who would save Pirate? Probably the airline hostess who greeted us as we got on the plane and thought Pirate was a dog.
I had asked to board early because it’s just easier to get situated first without having to ask someone to stand up because you’ll be taking the seat by the window and whoops sorry I didn’t mean to smack you in the head with my cat carrier. I got lucky. It was just me and another lady on her way back to Corvalis with nobody taking the middle seat. I put Pirate on the floor and looked out the window. I kept forgetting I was leaving somewhere. I sat there waiting for the plane to take off but my head was already in the clouds. Where have I just been? I wonder how different my home will look when I see it from this side of two months.
I already feel far away.
I am far away.
The old city below is just a sprinkling of lights.
If there was any truth the old gypsy woman told that day in the park it was that I should leave behind the negative energy I am surrounded by. Negative energy had clouded up the Manhattan apartment for sure. The walls breathed the toxic dynamic of caring that had grown inside. I could almost feel it’s absence every time I stepped out of the building.
But it really started at the beginning with you. The deep sorrow she said I have inside of me.
Maybe she meant it’s the sad thoughts I have swirling around my head instead? Thoughts of you I’m not supposed to have. The length of sadness, the stupid longing, the obsessive ‘maybe ifs?’ Missing you always in the dark boredom of night.
All of it must be left behind. Even the shame I feel in feeling this way. I must leave you behind. Every thought that is you. Every hope that is you. All of the want and loss and remembrance of last year’s you. And when I get home and we are in the same city it isn’t your physical presence that is missing, it’s the idea of you that I will have left buried somewhere deep in the Spanish Harlem.
As the plane is lifting off I will imagine every last bit of yourself dropping from the propellers like flurries of confetti into the Hudson River.
Goodbye you. And goodbye New York, I love you.