12 March 2011

Moving Along, Then...

Flyover and his girlfriend moved out today. Except for the miscellanea in the fridge, some battered furniture they may or may not intend to keep, and an inexplicable pile of clothing, they’re gone. I feel like I ought to be sad about this, since Flyover was the one who invited me to live here, or at least buy them a bottle of prosecco, since I’m upgrading my square footage for the duration of the lease courtesy of their desire to get out of this apartment post-haste.

But you know what? No sorrow, no prosecco.

The living room, last night.

I expected living with people to be a convivial experience, sort of like 509 but with fewer people and a less repulsive kitchen, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s just that I’d estimate that most of my socialising has been with Florida. Even during football season, when the three of us were in the same fantasy league, Flyover streamed games in his bedroom and we’d yell at each other through the wall. And when his girlfriend moved in, he was wholly subsumed into the Borg of his relationship. The two of them would go into their room, close the door, and shut out the world. And I would be disappointed, since I like both of them and didn’t see the need for insularity.

I joked with mutual friends that I never saw Flyover either, and I lived with him.

My future bedroom, this afternoon.

Eventually, it got less disappointing and more annoying, and I found myself looking forward to their move as much as they were. There were little moments when I’d remember, oh, right, we’re friends but they were rare enough that I’d always come to that same realisation, which always lead in turn to, wait, I probably shouldn’t need an active reminder that we’re friends.

To be honest, I am a little sad. But it’s because living with a friend couldn’t prevent us from drifting apart.

24 February 2011

Memory Lane

While I walked to Duane Reade, I was thinking two things: I can’t wait to live alone again and I remember this.

It was seven o’clock, which is a fine hour to be awake if you’re a morning person or your dog needs walking, and a less fine hour to be awake if you only got back from Williamsburg at two and have totalled four hours, at best, of fitful sleep. But I guess no one had noticed, between the time I left on Friday afternoon and returned in the wee small hours of Saturday, that the last roll of toilet paper was damn near depleted. I’d been afraid this might be the case and considered stopping at the 24-hour bodega right across from the train station, but I decided to have some faith in my roommates’ observational prowess because it was cold and I was tired.

Although they are lovely people, that faith in them was unfounded, so when I woke up for the third time, late enough for the city to be stirring and stores to be opening, I threw some real clothes over my pajamas and headed out. This would never have happened to me when I was living alone, I thought as I walked down my street, and if it had, I’d only have myself to be annoyed with. But it wouldn’t happen. I would at least have known to make the late night dep run. (I say bodega, but in my head it’s still dep.)

Then I hit Amsterdam, and suddenly I remembered another Saturday morning in February. It was the beginning of reading week, and I was on a night bus. I fell asleep after customs and woke up in Jersey to watch the sun rise over Manhattan. Then I was waiting for the A at Port Authority, rehydrating, explaining to a guy on the platform that I was from here originally but living out of town, and bidding him a good weekend when the train arrived. I got off in my current neighbourhood, to stay for a few hours in my current apartment, just after seven in the morning, and the scene was exactly the same: faintly peopled streets, trash blowing along the sidewalks, all illuminated by the early morning light particular to wintertime.

I was born here, in a hospital I pass whenever I take the M3 to the Met, so I’ll never have a story of my first time in New York, but I have places to which I return and return and return, where I have overlapping layers of memory. When I walk along East 77th Street, where the sidewalk sparkles, I remember my teenage self wearing Converse and a camel-coloured coat and being enchanted, and I am enchanted all over again. When I sit with a book and a coffee at 9th Street Espresso, it makes me smile to know that my order has never changed even though the colours of the walls have.

I have a whole set of memories of this apartment from before it was mine. Sometimes I’ll walk into the bathroom to do my makeup, and I’ll remember reapplying red lipstick the first time I was ever here, and I’ll remember that night and that party and the dress and the shoes and the cab ride uptown, how the first things I wanted to see were the washer and dryer. I stayed over the night before I moved in and it was just like all those other nights I’d stayed here, when I woke up early and walked into the living room to see Florida sitting on the couch, eating yogurt.

It’s strange to be surrounded by things I remember. All my life, my modus operandi has been to get up and go someplace new, where I can reinvent myself as necessary. Even as kid, I chose to go to a sleepaway camp where I didn’t know anyone.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll feel this same way when I go back to Montréal. I stayed long enough to have favourite cafés and routes to walk, and whenever I passed my old buildings, I’d remember the experience of having walked through those doors and lived in those places, but I don’t know whether it can ever have the sheer depth of memory that New York does.

15 February 2011


To: my roommates
In re: glassware

Yes, you do need to wash the glasses with soap. No, ce n'est pas difficile. I didn't buy frosted glassware, so that's not what I want to find when I open the cabinet.


I'm working on two real posts, and hopefully those will be up soon.

29 January 2011

Likes Beer and History (Part I)

People are usually amused but seldom surprised when I tell them how I met my boyfriend. A generic script is as follows:

“We met in a bar.”

Of course. You would.”

It was the first Friday in March, I’d just gotten back from reading week, and I was at Gert’s. I’d had a paper due that day, so I arrived straight from the library, late enough for the bar to be packed already. There were people I knew scattered throughout the room and two people I didn’t know at my table. It was louder than usual—the engineers were throwing some sort of party, complete with a cardboard robot in the corner—and we could barely hear each other when we tried introducing ourselves. There was takeout detritus on the table, so I grabbed a slightly greasy paper bag and a pen and wrote my name. They followed my lead.

At the end of that night, or maybe it was the next Friday our group went out, I knew the Russian and I could be friends. Except in his unfortunate distaste for football, he seemed to be my dudely doppelgänger, down to the way he took his coffee (black, as is Right and Proper). We agreed that we should hang out sometime, so I typed his name—which I misspelled—and number into my phone.

By the end of the month, we were dating. It happened almost by accident. On our first date, we went to one of my favourite restaurants without considering the impact of the Saturday brunch rush on available seating and ended up side by side at the bar. He turned to me and asked what I was looking for, and I said I wasn't sure. Though I didn’t yet know that I’d be going on leave, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. If anything, I thought I'd graduate in December 2010, only a term behind schedule, which meant that I'd be leaving for good in the near future. Besides, I was still having an open-ended, blissfully noncommittal fling with a friend in the States, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I liked the Russian enough to set a date for the following Thursday, which proved fortuitous for him, because on Wednesday, I had the Worst Date Ever with a guy I nicknamed—as I texted a friend from the restaurant bathroom, without thinking of the insult to dogs everywhere—the Golden Retriever. So even if the Russian were not a genuinely cool, interesting human being, he would have gotten a third date; since he is, it’s a moot point. He didn’t mind when I stopped in the street to pet dogs, he complimented my ability to give directions (and didn’t care when I laughed at him then pointed out that we were in my neighbourhood), and he found a ten dollar bill on the way back to my apartment. We used it to buy beer.

Despite one major hiccup and a smattering of smaller points of contention, I was pretty sure we were compatible. Because I was still nervous about committing in any way, shape, or form, Siren’s visit to Montréal early in April was timed perfectly.

Siren is one of my oldest and closest friends. She really deserves her own post, since she’s fabulous, but for now, our backstory in brief: We met as kids during a weeklong retreat at Camp Nausea (yes, that’s a nickname; no, I don’t remember the camp’s real name), lost touch for a year or two, then met again and really got to know each other at an art camp. Several years later, at that same camp, we were co-workers and co-conspirators, plotting to dump unwrapped condoms into the pool so we wouldn’t have to swim... but our adolescent adventures are off-topic. The point is, over the years we’ve built a rapport, and I tell her almost everything. I trust her judgement immensely.

Both the day of her arrival and the next afternoon, as we walked to Toi Moi to meet the Russian, I explained whats and wherefores of the situation.

When this story resumes: Siren meets the Russian! And Montréal has good weather in early April, but the apocalypse does not ensue!

27 January 2011

Snow Day

It's been a month, and I keep meaning to finish writing posts once I start them, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or at least unbought stuffed dogs. I also intend to continue in the Dramatis Personae series; I'm already giving them nicknames, so it's rather fun to think of the people in my life as characters in a play (no, I am not going to quote that Shakespearean cliché, apropos though it may be).

I’m going to be taking two classes at City College this coming term, and as a non-matriculating, non-degree student, I have last dibs at registration. That was supposed to happen today. Then nineteen inches of snow fell in Central Park.

The city isn’t crippled the way it was by the post-Christmas blizzard, but that’s because handling snow means things like suspending bus service so the plows can run. It’s frustrating, on a personal level, because classes are still starting tomorrow, and even though my first choice of a French section meets in the afternoon, I have no idea whether a I’ll have a spot in it by then or if I’ll have a spot in it at all.

When my friends and relatives in New York told me that they had snow days, I used to laugh and say I hated them, that I always got more snow and that I was always expected to trudge through it. But now that I’m back, I see how ill-equipped this major Northeastern city is for weather that is not—despite its volume—atypical of the region. And that’s frustrating not because it screws with my plans, but because it really illuminates the extent to which America’s unwillingness to invest in infrastructure is failing us all.

24 December 2010

"At the still point, there the dance is"

It is Friday again and I am not taking a ballet class. The studio closed early for Christmas Eve, but I didn’t even think to check until seven, when class is at 7:30 and I’d need to be on a train by then to get to Midtown in time.

When I took class last week, it was a nostalgic whim. I needed to cheer myself up, and I love the feeling of inhabiting my body that I get from physical exertion. That’s why I like the gym so much. Sure, I sometimes slack off for a few days, but I don’t think of it as a torturous chore, the price I pay to fit into the jeans I do (which is none of them, anyway, since I’m too short to wear pants off the rack and too impatient to shop until I find a brand that works for me). Exercising diminishes my anxiety, and considering that once I spent a year hiding in my apartment, afraid to run errands in my neighbourhood and utterly unable to attend school—as I alluded to in my first post, there’s a reason I’m on leave—that’s certainly a good thing.

However, this is not a paean to the effects of sweat on my mental health. This is about a decision I need to make: do I want to be a dancer again?

I don’t have the background that most dancers do, since I didn’t sew my first shoes until I was fourteen. Despite the extraordinarily late start, I danced four or five times a week from then until I moved to Montréal, where I kept meaning to join a studio but never quite got around to it. In winter term my first year, when I took ballet once a week at the gym—I recall telling myself it was just “to stay in practice until I find a studio”—I approached it recreationally. My attendance was erratic. I actually missed the last class, probably because of the guy I was dating at the time.

Gradually, then suddenly, it occurred to me that I wasn’t a dancer anymore, and I didn’t really care.

The years I spent in class were just a breezy “I used to” when men in bars asked if I danced, a pile of neatly folded pink tights at the back of my sock drawer, and a lingering lower back injury. Until I joined the gym last winter, I had forgotten all about endorphin rushes and the way it feels to collapse, muscles satisfyingly sore, onto a soft piece of furniture. When I got home from class last week, it was very much like getting home from the gym; first I sprawled out on the couch and drank a glass of water, then I cooked something.

But a studio isn’t like a gym. There’s no such thing as a recreational ballerina. If I want to keep taking class, going once a week won’t be enough, especially because the technical weaknesses I had as a teenager are still there, now coated liberally with rust. And although I’m slim and flexible for an ordinary person, I don’t, on a fundamental level, have a ballet body. And I, still unemployed, already pay for memberships to my gym and my dojo. When I math it out, the cons outweigh the joy I get from dancing.

Not going back is the rational, adult decision, and I’m definitely happy I’m in a place where I can think clearly. Still, I rediscovered something I loved last week, something that links me to an earlier time in my life, and I’m a little disappointed to be letting it go so easily.

(Title quoted from T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton.")

19 December 2010

Out of Town

After I finished with my bedroom and the kitchen, when I was seriously considering taking on the loathed task of the bathroom, I realised I was going to run out of rooms to clean long before my foul mood ran its course. Besides, neatening the site of my anger kept me in the apartment, seething as I scrubbed.

I made a mental list of my options: the gym; a bar; it’s a Friday and you live in New York City, dumbass, find something exciting. I decided to take a ballet class, my first in four years, and while it was a worthwhile endeavour in and of itself, it was only an effective coping mechanism until my sweat dried.

In Montréal, whenever I felt bad, I’d retreat into my windowless box of a bathroom and sulk beneath a pleasantly scented pile of bubbles. But I am of the mind that unilateral actions—it was a roommate’s unilateral action that had gotten me angry in the first place—and bathroom monopolies are both privileges of living alone. Besides, our bathroom is a black mark on the value of this apartment. There are no taps, so to take a bath, you need to shower the tub full of water, and because our shower has terrible, terrible water pressure, that’s a slow process.

On Saturday morning, my mother called, and I suddenly felt like an idiot. The solution to my problem was a train ride away. I could go back to my parents’ house! That would get me take me away from my apartment to a place where there are three bathtubs, all with taps. I got dressed, crossed town, and caught the first train I could.

I only intended to stay for a few hours, but I didn’t dump my purse and make a mad dash for the bathroom as soon as I walked in their door. At the height of my anger, I’d been reduced to thinking that it would have been better to live with my parents, and the time I spent with them that afternoon, reading the paper and arguing about politics, didn’t really change my mind. Sitting in the living room with my cup of coffee and an actual, tangible newspaper, safe in the knowledge that they’d never spring any surprise roommates on me, I wondered whether I’d made the right decision in moving out.

Sure, I’m fundamentally a city person, and it’s a lot easier to have a social life when I don’t have to get back to Grand Central before the last train leaves... but I don’t have a job, so I don’t have the money to go out, and I don’t have that many friends in New York, since it’s hard to meet people when you’re not in school and you’re not working.

I ended up spending the night.