around the dinner table
over wine and half-smiles
people like to confirm:
i tap their shoulders
pass them the bottle
About a year and a half ago, when I was just moving into my second NY apartment, the city was slick, hot, and muggy and I detested it like an old boyfriend who took my favorite sweatshirt with him when he moved cross country. At the time, I didn’t know my Finnish roommate that I met on Craigslist (she is quite lovely). But I was content I found an apartment because the place was so filled with warm light, and quiet, and that’s all I wanted. My first apartment was dark and dreary and I could always hear a couple screaming. It made me sad that I was a distant, active voyeur to the crumbling of their relationship.
It’s funny to think about this now because NY all of a sudden feels way more permanent and whatnot. I have a solid job that pays the bills, a set routine I follow, and restaurants, bars that I’ve deemed to others as ‘my favorites.’ I know that instead of ordering black coffee, I actually prefer mine as au laits and an almond croissant is infinitely better than a pain au chocolat. But before I decided to give NY ‘a try,’ I told Chessher I was sick of the East Coast and wanted to move back to California, or just somewhere that was distinctly not New York.
‘Just go for a year,” she coaxed. 'And if you don’t like it, you can always leave.’
'I don’t know,’ I said to her. “It’s just not for me, I don’t think.” I groaned and complained about how the city made me feel inadequate and dirty and I was tired of fighting for all this attention that people expected to get from the city. This all happened while I spun in a chair in her office, where she had tiny bottles of Jose Cuervos lined up. (“Anytime you need one! Just take it,” she would remind me. Her Texan hospitality has always been one of her most loving traits, that, and she could make you feel like the only person in the room). That always made me smile, because she knew I would never take it, but the fact that she made herself, and her resources so available to me, is something I think about often.
Her office hours always felt like mini therapy sessions. Some days I would go in and tell her about something totally unrelated to the stories I filed. I would just jabber on and on until I was nearly late for my next class and before sprinting out, she would pop her head up from her stack of papers and say, ‘Oh, by the way, you got that C because you didn’t cite your sources properly.” I remember feeling irate at myself, and at her, because as loving Chessher was, she was a hard grader. And for the longest time, when I felt like I was putting in the extra time and effort toward those inconsequential magazine pieces, each would be returned to be with B’s and C’s and a bright-eyed stared—I knew it was her telepathically letting me know, “Now, you know that was shit. What happened?“
I don’t ever crave for those feelings because that was such a frenetic time when the future came batting at me with a capital F. But I still reminisce over those particular moments, because even though at the time I felt so old and wise, my world was still a little bit smaller, and I was a little bit more naive as to what’s to come.
in my town, marching band boys had a certain appeal to them. they were athletic, down-to-earth, and generally possessed a more creative zeal compared to the usual high school boys at the time. when I was sixteen, I crushed hard on a boy who was in marching band with me.
looking back, he wasn’t all that ‘amazing.“ he had green eyes, brown swoopy bangs that laid disheveled across his forehead. he had a large, inviting smile. he wore polos and khakis and slunk around his jansport backpack. he wasn’t a jock nor a nerd, but i later realized he possessed a bro-ish tendency that would manifest itself once he entered college. i was mostly attracted to him because he made me laugh and was a class clown. he possessed a sort of Sawyer-eque spirit that other boys lacked at the time.
i was nearly consumed by his presence. i would take a certain route just so i would see him in passing while getting to class. i would arrive to 5th period just a tad tardy because i’d wait for him to walk by me before lunch was over. he was a senior when i was a junior, so that meant i hung around the band room, pretending to read my book, while he hopped off his jeep, laughing with his friends while strolling to class.
he barely noticed me.
it’s funny to think about that memory now, randomly, considering i haven’t thought of this boy in close to 8 years. he stayed in california for college and i left the west for the east. we would exchange the obligatory holiday texts of hi, hello, what’s up? how’s it going? and somewhere between christmas and the new year, the whole thing would die, revive, and die again. our friendship had a Frankenstein flair. i never understood why he continued to reach out to me years after high school, when my interactions with him in those short years had been brief, restrained and only punctuated by my infatuation with him. after i graduated college, he texted me again about grabbing coffee. i saw his name pop up on my phone and for a second, i felt a flicker in my stomach. unsure whether it were the butterflies conditioned from years prior, or true hunger pangs, i picked up the phone and tapped away,
"i’m moving to new york tomorrow, but let’s definitely get together when i’m back."