Friday, September 24, 2010

What Did You Do Out There. What Did You Decide.

[i wrote this on my birthday as a stream of consciousness with whiskey, forgive the occasional incoherence]

The night before I left Michigan for New York City in 2004 I’d rented a room at The Courtyard Inn out by the highway so I could sit on white sheets alone and decide who to be next. Blake* came by and we laid on the bed and looked at each other and I took photos of him with my new cell-phone and we talked about how much we liked each other and how much he'd miss me.

Then we fucked and I could see in the mirror when I looked up that blood was dripping down both my legs, bright red and almost beautiful and I thought it’d scare him or me but it didn’t. (I mean I wasn't like that. I mean it wasn't like me. I couldn't wait more than two or three minutes after sex with men before dashing to the bathroom to scrub everything off me, to 'detail' my bellybutton ring like I could get pregnant or die that way. Then I scrub memories too but I didn't scrub this one and so; bear with me. I feel like it matters or I wouldn't be telling you, trust me.)

(But I gave that up, too: the idea of sex being clean, because I mean what makes you more vulnerable than being fucked and dirty too, and how can you have sex if you aren't vulnerable? But also so much has changed since then, about sex.)

He kept fucking me because this could be the end of it, after all. Who'd ever said that we didn't have to shed a little blood on our way out? Or leave some damages on the carpet or even stain my brain with the memory of my thighs in the mirror, shocked by myself and unsure, thinking to myself 'we are animals who bleed' and also how the Pill they'd switched me to was fucking me up, because you know, for so long, for a year or so I hadn't bled at all except on purpose. So this was a new thing for me and Blake.

I was thinking of that Tom Waits song we wanted to play at our funeral, Take it With Me, and thinking of the morning in February after we’d polished off $150 of cocaine in four hours and how he'd left my room and my house bleeding. I had the smallest room in a house I shared with seven Kappa Kappa Gammas and one best friend and when I was sad I'd just turn out the lights and turn up Fiona Apple and listen to my friends talk about me outside the door. Anyhow he was fucking me and I was thinking of how he'd left bleeding that morning and when I called him eight or eight hundred times later in the depressive throes of "coming down" and "wondering why he was spending the afternoon with that other girl after what he said last night" he told me that he'd bled all the way home, that his mouth was bloody and he'd bled all over his shirt and how I'd told him, 'my everything is bleeding' even though I was just talking about my heart but that was what I did with everything, then, I said 'do you want to get ice cream' and even then I was just talking about my heart.

I stayed that way -- splayed, bleeding, fucked, shocked by my reflection in the mirror, at various degrees for the whole summer. See I haven't been in love that many times, really. I've wanted to be in love so many times and sometimes I wanted to be in love so badly that I thought I was in love but I wasn't. But I was in love with Blake and he can have that forever if he wants it. The last man I ever fell in love with.

So that summer I was still that girl in the mirror but also; I was sometimes the girl I still am now if you happen to catch me laughing or vulnerable or honest for a minute. I was the girl who came to New York City because I thought it was the only place I could both be myself and be loved. I didn't know who i was but I showed up just the same in those obnoxious flirty mini-skirts I wore and purchased all summer in electric blue, bright yellow, hot pink and light pink. I also had these hot pink Puma sandals and a Star of David necklace I wore because 2004 was a year that a lot of people were talking shit about Israel and I was sick of listening to it so I thought the necklace would scare people. Don't ask me why I thought what I thought about politics, I'm sure I was just repeating whatever someone I admired had said out loud to me in a dark room while I nodded.

So that summer Blake kept me hanging on for a bit 'til he met someone else who he said was just like me, as if that would make it hurt less, and I wailed and screamed and then I eventually met someone else too, by September.

But in the meantime, that summer in 2004, when I got to New York but left my heart elsewhere -- girls were okay. I could be with girls if I wanted to and so I was. It wasn't hard to meet girls here.

I mean that's how it started. I mean that's what I told myself about how it started.

+

I'm leaving New York City in seven days and I don't know how to write about that. I don't know how to be honest with myself about what it means, with respect to the dreams I came here for and the fact that although I feel perfectly ready to admit defeat and flee, I don't honestly think that's true. I don't think I necessarily messed up though I definitely spent most of my time here messing up.

I didn't come here to be gay, that's for sure. When I write "that's for sure" I'm actually just imitating the boyfriend I got to get over Blake, this ridiculously nice boy I met at my second serving job that summer who left his wife because of me but not FOR me -- it's just that we talked about things he'd never talked about before. It's strange how some men can go their entire lives without once talking about their feelings to anybody. He always said "that's for sure" in this way that made him seem so young and trying-hard-to-be-sure even though he was eight years older. But unsure. He'd lived here all his life and knew things that made me feel safe. That's for sure.

Anyhow I left him or we broke up. You already know that part. About how I leave and leave and leave and I've spent my whole life leaving and I only stopped because I ran out of the money I used to use to leave. Because I have a lot of books and books are heavy and hard to move and mean more to me than people. That's a lie.

That's something I learned here: meeting a person you really feel something for -- meeting a person you can't do without -- god, that's fucking rare. I mean that's something. It's something worth staying or leaving for, though I wouldn't advise it, but it's been known to happen.

+

I changed here. Dramatically.

I hate it here, I love it here. I don't want to remember loving it here. Something changed. It was me or it was here. It was me or it was you. It was the internet it was my heart it was the day I looked at a photograph of a window and decided I had to leave.

+

I wanted to tell you something about the people I met here who I love and who changed me. Or the things I did where I woke up or looked out the window and thought 'i could be anybody' or 'i am an animal who bleeds.' I'm not just talking about New York City who I also loved and who changed me or who let me change because the thing is you can be whoever you want here. You can be ten people in one day.

It's August 2004, before I got my new boyfriend but after I lost the old one and also my heart, and I'm standing in Justin's apartment in Columbus Circle and he is sleeping. I am in his living room and i am thinking, 'this is the nicest apartment I've ever been in.' I walk to the window and below me is the whole city, giant with it's golden mouth wide open and everyone inside on their way to somewhere else. I wonder how he keeps it so clean. I want to move things around, eat things and then put them back. I'm naked at the window and wonder if he'd ever considered, as I do, what it would look like to take a running leap towards that gigantic window. I mean how much glass would break.

It's February 2006 and I'm in a blizzard with Kat* and Jenny after the Black Hearts Party at the Chelsea Piers and me and Kat are in our boots and fishnets and our makeup is smeared and compromised but it doesn't really matter because the snow is more beautiful than either of us will ever be though sometimes together we did feel beautiful; and she was. She was graceful and even in anger had a precise velocity I admired a great deal. We finally get that cab to that subway to our home and it's only the next morning that I realize we crossed that line again, and I'd wonder what that meant if I wasn't so confused, in general, about what everything means. It was fun. I knew that much. We'd had a time. What were lines, anyway? I mean how fucked up were we? Why didn't anyone stop us?

We're in our Brooklyn living room after work, watching Pretty Persuasion for the third time eating spaghetti and things feel easy and sustainable. We're in our kitchen watching the couple across the alley again.I mean we've seen these people do everything. 'Do they know we're watching,' Kat asks, and someone (me or her) says 'Do you think they're watching us,' because after all, we know how to perform. We know how to be shadows.

She's one of the people who will still be here as I drive away, I think, and who may or may not know how much I loved her in a heightened, confusing and often self-destructive way that changed me forever, and I think changed her forever too, or maybe that's just what I told myself when I drove away, feeling like she hated me because I didn't really understand yet how the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference and she wasn't indifferent.

I think she's doing what she came to New York to do. I hope she is. I mean I loved her gut and would've taken care of it.

These are the things you can do here.

These are the stories I can tell now because they're over. This is how I keep everybody alive. I pretend to leave but I'm not really, because as soon as I'm gone the stories begin, I can't stop telling them.

It's May 2006 and I'm in Haviland's bed the night before I have to fly to New Orleans and the way I cried earlier while Kat yelled at me and I packed like a maniac who didn't know how to wear clothing and who, consequently, had to wear beat-up Converse with Kat's polka-dotted dress to my brother's graduation ceremony the next day, much to everyone's dismay, and Haviland says "I don't know what's going on with us, but that's okay with me," and later on she says something about a treasure hunt and a few years later (I think) I'll know that part was from Tipping the Velvet.

It's December 2007 and I'm sitting in the corner by the bathroom in my apartment in Planet Harlem, maybe tripping but maybe not, and Alex is there too and I look at her and I tell her that I'm bad news. I tell her if she thinks this is bad, it's only going to get worse. She says it doesn't seem like bad news to her and it takes me a year or two to realize she meant it. I think she is the happiest and purest thing I've ever seen in my life and I want her to stay that way forever, no matter what happens next, and I don't want her to ever stop dancing or being a rabbit.

It's a few days later and I'm having breakfast with Tara at a diner a few blocks from the Upper East Side hospital where Heather is sick and I want to eat Tara's head off I love her so much. I'm texting Caitlin, maybe, I mean that's likely. Haviland is slipping and she'll move away soon. We're all still excited about that fake vacation that never happened. I think about how much time I've spent in hospitals that year and how much better 2008 will be. I grin at Tara because she's not in the hospital anymore and I can touch her face whenever I want to.

Or it's September 2007 and I'm on the island between streets on the Lower East Side practicing with Stephanie for my reading at Happy Endings. I'm happy that she's agreed to read with me, happy to see her again after so long, happy that she didn't forgive me that December prior when I'd asked her to because she forced me to change. I think of how she's such a beautiful person and whomever gets to crack the surface is likely to find wells of empathy and history and heart there. I think someone has, now.

After the reading I'm sitting on that street in the Lower East Side with Stef (not Stephanie) and I think I'm crying. She's rubbing my back and telling me it's gonna be okay. I've never cried on the street like this before and I'm crying about all this other stuff, the stuff that made me afraid to leave my apartment except for previously scheduled events. I can't remember. New York City is a place to love people but it's also a place to let the night shatter you into pieces -- not neat pieces, not clean jutting diamond blades from hell but into just MUSH, into just something gross that you want to scrub off later.

It's November 2007 and I'm running down the stairs of my apartment away from that ridiculous 'potluck' my roommate held to sell us something with Caitlin and Haviland and we're laughing so hard I think we all might die, dashing into Caitlin's crappy car and making jokes… It's July 2007 and I'm on the rooftop with Carly at the gallery opening from hell where we were supposed to sell something to somebody I think but instead just made fun of everybody… it's January 2008 and Alex is walking into that hotel room at The W and she says "what the FUCK is going on here" and then she turns around and then she turns back and it's too late, we're already laughing, I mean it's over, I mean how fucking cute can one person get, "I am REALLY drunk right now," she adds, but really, what's that to any of us then at that point.

I don't know the person in any of those scenes. I recognize her but I don't know how to hold her or keep her safe. I love her though. I love her because she gave herself permission to love recklessly and jump heedlessly off things more serious than cliffs. I love her because she hadn't paid her processing fees. I don't want to be her again because being her was often sad and hard but worth it. Because this is "it."

+

What of recent history? I can't handle that shit. Whatever just happened is a thing I just can't think of just yet. I don't ever think of what I'm doing while I'm doing it. Like right now? How I'm packing and leaving? How I honestly think that I maybe picked the right place this time? How I feel like I learned something from experience and I trust my gut for the first time ever and as fucking pissed off I've been, I also feel more certain of the future than I ever have before in the weirdest craziest way possible? That's a lie. I know things now, though. That's not a lie.

Do you feel me walking away, probably not, because I am already hiding behind a rock, packing my slingshot. That's just a thing. I mean that's just a story I'll tell to the 6-7 people who want to read it, way later. There are some secrets I'll keep for years and I don't know yet quite what those are. There's some I'm only now learning how to tell. There's some I want to eat and dance about. There's also most things which are not secrets.

I can't. I mean really. I've spent this whole post trying to get to a point about leaving New York City or about loving people or about how I came here splayed and bleeding and left here with hearts beating still and all I could do was talk about moments where everything was so heavy that I couldn't walk around it or lose it. Moments when I couldn't starve me out of me.

I'm moving to California for no reason and by that I mean I want to step into a circle of light, break right in there and raise some hell.

I want to say that I want to look in the mirror and recognize something in it. But when the blood is that red and that beautiful, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love that, too. I came here to have adventures less local than a highway or a mirror or a clean white hotel room or my familiar, dull, heartache.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to do it all over again, but smarter this time, but stupider this time, and in the sunshine.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

wishin you luck, happiness, and peace. you are loved.

laneia said...

this made me laugh and smile, because i know it: "I want to move things around, eat things and then put them back."

and this felt like something i related to with something like shamelessness / hunger, but not for food / humility: "I'd told him, 'my everything is bleeding' even though I was just talking about my heart but that was what I did with everything, then, I said 'do you want to get ice cream' and even then I was just talking about my heart."

really liked this.

Amy said...

Joan Didion left New York at a similar time in her life. I've often wondered how one acquires her/your life. California seemed to work out for her -- and she got to come back to New York.

Have a safe move. Let us know about it.

kells said...

Riese,

This is beautiful... It stirs the numbness in me... makes me FEEL real FEELINGS again.

I hope that you find the light that you're searching for and that California is good for/to you. Know that you are definitely loved :)

Haviland said...

I know who you are, and were, and all of it. And I am proud of you. And I get this, and I feel this for you:

"...I want to step into a circle of light, break right in there and raise some hell."

The circle is there, no need to break in.

eric mathew said...

Riese... this was beautiful and I really enjoyed it. You have always created amazing, passionate, and heartfelt moments.

As Bette always said, "For me, when I really search myself, it feels like i'm coming home."

Best of luck to you in CA. Our paths will cross one day when you least expect it.

xo

Stephanie said...

Good luck. Moving is hard no matter what the reason. And I moved 45 minutes away.

<3

vrgriffith said...

Just a truly beautiful real work!Good luck with the move.they are always hard, even under the best circumstances.

Roxy2 said...

you never cease to amaze me in your writing. best of luck. keep your head held high.

crystal said...

I think your gut is taking you in the right direction.

I like this. I like knowing that you'll be closer.

Anonymous said...

jesus h on rubber crutches, this made me cry. this made me want to hold your hand and tell you that its gonna be alright, eventhough i dont know if this is ture. i dont think you know how much your writing helps me get through this trial called my life. i love you and i dont even know you. i genuinely hope you raise some hell.

Anonymous said...

You go, Tiger.

stef said...

i forgot what this was like, reading your words and knowing fully what they meant and loving you completely for telling me about it. not sure why i forgot. i got distracted.
i am going to miss you, marie lyn bernard, even though i rarely see you and you've been threatening to leave almost as long as i've known you.
that night, ohh that night.
i'm in berkeley sometimes and we will have some drinks. it's not so very far.
things got better and will still.
new york will miss you, treasured buddy.

a;ex said...

I hope one of the many things that San Francisco will lead to is more of this... more time for you to do this.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and honest writing. Truly brilliant. I wish I could be this honest with my life.

Good luck with your move and I hope you find the you you are looking for.

stef said...

i don't comment very well when i'm drunk. i hope you get the idea. this was an autowin classic.

elliB said...

You feel all the feelings more beautifully than anyone I know.

Barbara said...

I am moving in two months and this post is home right now.

Bridget said...

is it weird for me to say i'll be sad to see you leave nyc?

well it's true i am a creep (sing it w/ me "I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo What the hell am I doin' here? I don't belong here")

I'll be sending you vibes of creativity, productivity, and adventure whenever i read this or autostraddle.

i'm looking forward to your west coast writings as i'm sure they'll be per usual: brilliant!

cheers

Jack said...

I have missed these entries. Lots.

Go to California, be amazing, let life tumble around you & let your words keep fumbling out of you.

So many things I loved about this entry, but mostly: the unmistakable voice of you.

Thank you for this.

dewey said...

This makes me realize how much time has passed since I found this. It makes me realise how much I've changed in that time and how much this blog had to do with that. This is where it all began. I've said it a hundred times before I feel but, thank you for that.

Good luck with the move, I hope it all goes well for you, always x

jasmine said...

it's uber hard to exaggerate how well you write and how your words never fails to "touch" me.

thank you.

Bokolis said...

The entire post disappeared on Fri. as I was writing...is guess the whiskey, which I hope cost more than the pinot grigio, was to blame.

A circle of light is with you. I see it getting just a little dimmer around here- like when the macbook unplugs- as you go.

Raising hell does require selfishness, so you'll have to drop some of what you're holding. Those that love you will suffer you gladly.

alphafemme said...

we'll be good to you out here, and september/october's the best time of the year to be in the bay area. I remember driving up the coast along the ocean in a u-haul with my best friend singing along to the cranberries "dreams" on a glorious september day in 2008 and now we're not friends anymore but that day will always stick in my mind. san francisco is a good place. berkeley too.

saint modesto said...

you said you needed time and you had time

ediddy said...

i love reading your posts... always inspiring and raw and too much and not enough. good luck in SF.

Coffee Stained said...

This is so lovely.. heartbreakingly beautiful.
Thanks for this!

goneundercover said...

and it was great to see you again, a few blocks away, only a couple of Septembers later.

e. said...

dear riese.

i don't know you at all, although sometimes you write in such a way that i'm sure i do, you write in such a way that i feel as though i am a guardian of your secret heart, and then i feel very proud and wise and love the you and the secret heart of yours that i've imagined.

and i feel like you leaving new york is like you leaving me, even though i've only ever been to the new york airport, and even though "leaving" is such a dramatic ownershippy thing to say, like your words have made you mine. (but they have.) and like my one-way attachment to you hasn't become more tenuous since autostraddle really hit the big time and threatened my sense of favourite-author ownership. plus it's not like you'll stop writing in san francisco. but i'll miss new york, she's been my favourite supporting character or setting or heartbeat or whatever.

what i mean is, i feel like this post of yours demands a sense of closure, like i am somehow obligated to catch you up on my life, which you've never been privy to, in ways beautiful or otherwise. but that's okay. it's only because of autowin that i ever settled into my gayness ('cause if you were gay, then it was better than tolerable, it was desirable and perfect and maybe even what i wanted, oh, how pretty girls are!) and my sadness, and now i am something that shockingly resembles good, although i am probably nothing like you except for gayness and sadness, and even that may be a real leap.

and now i have a girlfriend that my mom knows about, and also there are a number of things that are good in my life that cannot be traced back to autowin in a straight line, but definitely in a squiggly line or something other than a line. (thank you, thank you, thank you.) and so i cannot offer to marry you and move you to vancouver and drop out of school to support you and your writing in financial and emotional and other ways, just to be in the presence of literary beauty and genius, like your very own alice b. toklas, even though sometimes nothing matters more than your words on my computer screen, which were sometimes all that let me write and breathe and love again.

(are you pleased to see i haven't lost my taste for oversharing and melodrama?)

but even though i'm pretty okay, and you're moving, and also not mine, can i keep you? 'cause your made-up secret heart still means a whole lot to me. and i can't wait to meet san francisco. and i love you, riese, like i love t.s. eliot and like i love my therapist and like i love "marcel the shell with shoes on". and also kinda like i love a real person.

with true sincerity,
your loyal reader,
e.

e. said...

dear riese.

i don't know you at all, although sometimes you write in such a way that i'm sure i do, you write in such a way that i feel as though i am a guardian of your secret heart, and then i feel very proud and wise and love the you and the secret heart of yours that i've imagined.

and i feel like you leaving new york is like you leaving me, even though i've only ever been to the new york airport, and even though "leaving" is such a dramatic ownershippy thing to say, like your words have made you mine. (but they have.) and like my one-way attachment to you hasn't become more tenuous since autostraddle really hit the big time and threatened my sense of favourite-author ownership. plus it's not like you'll stop writing in san francisco. but i'll miss new york, she's been my favourite supporting character or setting or heartbeat or whatever.

what i mean is, i feel like this post of yours demands a sense of closure, like i am somehow obligated to catch you up on my life, which you've never been privy to, in ways beautiful or otherwise. but that's okay. it's only because of autowin that i ever settled into my gayness ('cause if you were gay, then it was better than tolerable, it was desirable and perfect and maybe even what i wanted, oh, how pretty girls are!) and my sadness, and now i am something that shockingly resembles good, although i am probably nothing like you except for gayness and sadness, and even that may be a real leap.

(cont.)

Anonymous said...

Wow I didn't read you in like forever, and you have grown so much as a writer. Keep writing girly and I will say, "I read that woman when she was young and blogging." It will get better and yes I said woman. Peace

aneke said...

It's incredibly rare to find someone so searingly honest. You're very brave, to be so naked, so vunerable.

I love your writing. When you were a little girl did you ever have any idea of how you would touch people's lives? Do you know now? You make a difference. You make the world a better place.

The way you give yourself through your words, it's beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

how come you changed the top of your website?