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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

this blog post is 2,836 words long, all the words are true

[I think I accidentally wrote this because of Freedom, where Jonathan Franzen manages to make every single detail of every character's life seem necessary just because it was lived and therefore has meaning, but I'm not Jonathan Franzen, so maybe it'll be terrible. But I wrote it, so you know. HERE]

I am moving to San Francisco at the end of the month, for abstract and possibly impulsive/illogical reasons. I have no plan.

My last trip to San Francisco was in 2000, the summer everybody left everybody else, including me. It was the summer I felt fucked for no reason and kept traveling distances to watch other people fight. Mostly they fought about how it's hard to love people and be far away from them, or how it's hard to love people and watch them change into a person you don't recognize, which I think happens like a year after high school, maybe, or maybe it keeps on happening.

First up was running away from Manhattan, where I'd just finished up an NYU photography class and was waitressing at the Olive Garden in Times Square. I chose to leave suddenly, like the indifferent, fragmented, endlessly needy but cold-as-fuck person that I was. I just haven't really ever not known what I wanted more than I didn't know that summer.

It was June, maybe 2 am, when I waved at the doorman of our midtown post-work haunt (I'd befriended the owner's son, who'd sent me some mediocre love poems and earned me the eternal devotion of his employ, regardless of my age) and walked, uncertainly dressed in platform sandals and a brown sunddress that made my legs look good, back to Mike's going away party. Mike, the 27-year-old law student I'd been sleeping with since February, was headed to L.A. for the summer for no discernible reason. He was perversely delighted by our collective disapproval of this decision.

High drama was underway: Jen, another server, had baked a cake for Mike and also confessed her longtime crush on him. So she was crying next to this cake we were scared to eat. Mike was on a rampage, inspired by Jen's friend Steve asking Mike to be kinder about rejecting Jen. For example, the "YOU? HELL NO!" was unnecessarily cruel. This only enraged Mike further: "Fuck you guys! FUCK. YOU. GUYS. I dunneedyou! New Olive Garden, all new friends, alllll new women!"

I thought, I'm sleeping with someone who just said NEW OLIVE GARDEN!

I'd probably cried 5-10 times in front of Mike already but that night I was the calm, embarrassed/horrified babysitter, all crossed eyebrows & arms. On our way out, Mike spun on his heels, grabbed the hand of the new young pretty OG girl and stuck his tongue down her throat. They kissed for two mortifying minutes, I stuffed him in a cab and he remembered nothing the next day. Being with Mike felt like a claymation fistfight in slow motion, like a game of "How Low Can You Go?", where the winner must completely evacuate vast reserves of self-worth.

Mike left for the airport and I trotted back to my apartment where I was greeted by the ballistic face of my psychotic pseudo-beatnick roommate Evan. Gorey-like, the elongated tool of his mouth and eyes dashed at me from all corners, screaming about my BLOWDRYER being PLUGGED IN (apparently a primary cause of unexpected house fires) and also about his IMPORTANT VOICE MAILS from AUDITION PEOPLE which I'd COMPLETELY ERASED like a person with no RESPECT.

After that pissing contest I decided to move out the next day instead of staying for the summer. I moved swiftly about my mess & boxes like a swan out of hell. I quit my job and scheduled a flight back to Michigan.

I bid adieu to my Oklahoma-bred gay best friend from boarding school, Hayden, who I'd moved to Manhattan with from Sarah Lawrence and who'd let Evan move into Our Apartment under false pretenses. Hayden was obsessed with Evan's obvious gay crush on Hayden, though Hayden didn't really want to fuck Evan. Hayden had hated my relationship with Mike, I had hated Hayden's relationship with cocaine and Evan. We were at silent odds.

Hayden was my "other half." We'd been obsessed with each other for three years. We pawed, held, cried, saved, even fucked (we'd decided having sex would make us as close as possible, adding a physical element to the emotional and what we perceived to be a "supernatural" bond between us) -- we could barely breathe without the other. Friendships like that don't last into adulthood, because you should know better by then.

Later that summer, Evan would try to kill Hayden with a broom. In September, Hayden would move to a Navajo reservation and I would start school at the University of Michigan, where I transferred from Sarah Lawrence because I didn't know what the fuck I was doing and thought the in-state tuition was better suited to this kind of indecision.

I hugged Hayden like I might see him again in a few months. We'd never been apart much longer than that.

I never saw Hayden again.

+

I carried a barrel of anxiety/neediness in my stomach then. It was gigantic, it could swallow plants, but I also tried to keep it hidden by not talking too much. Then before you knew it you were knee-deep in my fucking barrel.

I was like a girl who wanted to be trampled on and was just looking for the right trampler. My personality was up for grabs -- first come, first serve.

+

I booked a handful of West Coast trips to fill Michigan's endless numbered days 'cause almost as soon as I got home, I started going nuts, and there wasn't enough time to get a new job before school started. My brother and I were silent fighting about our own self-loathing, my Mom was dating a track coach who's son had sold her a ton of Cutco Knives.

I felt like the protagonist in one of those popular late 90s films about sad people w/nice houses. I'd be watching TV but would feel like I was standing at attention in an empty carpeted room, staring out the window, vacuum cocked in my right hand like a machine gun.

Nothing happened. My friends were out of town. Nothing to think about but the past; which I hadn't enjoyed too much at the time. Or the future, which made my stomach hurt.

You might notice that nothing was wrong, really. Like I didn't have any "problems."

+
I'd spend a week in Berkeley with my old friend Magali and another in Seattle, coinciding with my friend Genna's trip out there, to visit our friend Sabri. Genna & Sabri were boarding school friends. I can't believe I traveled so far to be around people I loved. It was unlike me.

Seattle was pleasant -- we went raspberry picking, made a lot of complicated meals, went to a museum or two, took an overnight jaunt to Vancouver where we fell in love with the city, and also, for one drunken night in a restaurant we couldn't afford with big windows overlooking the water, fell back in love with our friendship.

But also Sabri & Genna, who'd been best friends like small beautiful turtles, were having the first falling-out of their friendship for reasons including Genna's disappearances to meet up with her boyfriend and Sabri having read Genna's diary.

I was stuck between Genna & Sabri and their fight, but I wouldn't take sides. They'd been these little rabbits, see. Like little animals joined together, like Hayden and I had been. They were both short, and Sabri was a designer-clad Indian and Genna a pale redhead who preferred Value Village but they had this special thing that made them seem identical.

Now they hated each other and I didn't know anyone anymore. That's how it seemed.

+

Mike emailed me: i'm gonna get a local exchange # so it's cheaper for my many ho's to call me. so, speaking of ho's, I've already had a date. Yep. going back out with her tonight. she's sweet, but not as sweet as you. as i remember when i first met you you put up this 'facade' :) of how you really are. a bunch of bullshit. you are truly a nice genuine person. see the good things i say about you?

+

"Sooooooo I'm a total pothead now," Magali told me when she picked me up a the San Francisco airport.

"Magali, guess what? I actually want to smoke pot right now," I said. I never wanted to smoke pot.

"Really? Ooo, this is so exciting!" she smiled. Magali was warm and sunny and optimistic and my time with her was serene, but distant 'cause I thought she could tell that I was changing into a person who might try and "fit in" at the University of Michigan when classes started in September. Selling out, like Ani had told us not to do.

I also knew she hated Mike, for example, and hated my fixation on him as I had no explanation for liking him besides that I was needy.

We saw the Indigo Girls, smoked pot from Magali's sister's Oregon farm, took hikes in boots & shorts and went to museums and mostly I thought about how crazy it was that I'd always had the upper hand in our friendship despite Magali always being infinitely cooler. She spoke three languages, eschewed leg-shaving and other patriarchal beauty institutions, kissed boys and girls, made perfect mix-tapes and sewed fabric into her bellbottoms to make them baggier. I guess I made her laugh.

But then things got bad, just like with Genna and Sabri, because Magali's ex-boyfriend Joe had illogically decided to visit her and she didn't like him anymore. His need made her cranky.

Mike called and said I should fly to LA from SF to see him. And so I did. In LA, things were already sad because Lana, an Olive Garden friend, had decided to also visit LA that week to see Gerard, a friend of Mike's who she'd fucked a few times. She'd also fucked Mike and two of their other friends. I hated hearing Mike and Gerard talk about Lana, like she was a hamburger they'd both eaten. I felt bad for her because I thought the only thing that made her sex life different than mine was that she was really funny-looking and I was only kinda funny-looking and I had that one brown dress that made my legs look cute.

But Gerard had a new girlfriend now, Brittany, who was 16 and rode in the front seat of the van like a terrier, tucking her lanky tan legs beneath her and eschewing the seatbelt for an advantageous body position that enabled her to constantly keep tabs on the passengers facial expressions; like maybe she already knew she was dumb and wanted to make sure her new boyfriend's friends hadn't noticed yet.

"Hey uh, I told you I quit working at The Olive Garden, right?" Mike asked. He always started sentences with "I told you" or "Can I ask you something" and ended conversations with "Lemme go."

"Yup, three or four times, genius." I said.

He rubbed his knuckle into my ear; "Oh, how I've missed my Marie!"

Mike took me back to his place. I'd helped him pack to leave Brooklyn, so I don't know why his barren room surprised me.

"You couldn't even buy sheets?" I asked, staring at the bare mattress he'd dressed up with a pillow and that comforter I'd always hated.

We had sex. Afterwards he said that although he'd dated a lot of girls this summer, he'd missed 'my body,' which I took as a huge complement and rode it like a dream through everything that happened those next two days and big chunks of months afterwards, which would be some of the most numb and miserable and empty of my life.

I'd only planned to stay in LA for one night, 'cause Mike frequently stressed that he couldn't stand being around me for more than 48 hours at a time. When I called Magali to tell her I was staying an extra night, she seemed distracted and more than fine with it, but I felt guilty, like now she knew that I just wanted to be fucked, but also to complain about being fucked afterwards.

We traveled mostly as a group -- Mike, Gerard, another friend, Brittany, and Lana, who cried in the bathroom, messing up her makeup, while I tried abstractly to help her with problems that seemed insignificant compared to my self-loathing and World Hunger.

Mike was uniquely chivalrous at times, like taking sticker pictures with me at Venice Beach and telling me he loved me in a big brotherly voice. For a second it sounded like a fatherly voice, which scared me but not as much as it should have.

Mike said he had a cold and insisted on taking NyQuil for it.

"But you'll be sleepy! You'll sleep through our time together!"

"No I won't."

"But why take drowsy and not 'not-drowsy'?"

"Uh, because the drowsy kind works better? That's why it makes ya sleepy!"

After sake bombs at a strip mall sushi joint, more drinks at a club I'd gotten into with Lana's ID, and, once home (Lana spent the whole way back fighting with Gerard), a joint, Mike fell asleep on the floor. Everything felt trippy like I'd been dropped into the story of someone else's life; or rather like I'd flown myself right into someone else's life.

After Mike fell asleep, I wandered innocently back into the living room, where I was greeted by the unexpected sight of Lana's ankles on Gerard's shoulders and him fucking her like a jackhammer. I scampered back into the hallway, horrified, my head in my hands in the darkness thinking how the fuck did I get here. Lana was gasping, Mike was snoring, the dude was grunting, I was not yet crying but surely would be soon.

What the fuck, you asshole, I said to myself. Who are these people? How did you get here? I was stoned, they were fucking, he was an asshole but a passed-out asshole and who the what the how did my Mom let me go here. I met him at the goddamn Olive Garden. I'm a child, goddammit, I'm clearly unable to care for myself, will somebody please, please, please, please rescue me please just tell me what to do I'LL DO ANYTHING and what did I do with those thoughts, what did I do.

Well I drank the rest of the NyQuill and passed out into cherry-sticky sleep and flew back to Magali's, where she and Joe were at odds. She smoked maniacally and worried about me leaving her there with Joe. Just like I'd left Mike to pick up Lana's devastatingly lonely body the next morning and left Sabri with Genna's secret emotional breakdown and its walls. I'd left Hayden with Evan, and now here I was in this totally fucked place, and it was one of those moments, you know. When you realize you're fucked and you realize, I am a person who takes wrong turns, I am a person capable of gigantic miscalculations of spirit and personality, I am anybody really
+

Magali and I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in early, dark, morning, flanked by cars headed to work. I told her that it looked beautiful out there and she agreed. She was taking me to the airport, and I didn't know if I was ready to leave or not. Surely I was ready to leave these people, but I wasn't ready to give up on mountains.

I'd seen cities that looked big enough for my needs -- Vancouver, where I wanted to live. San Francisco, where I wanted to live. Los Angeles, where I knew I'd always be visiting people. Seattle, which is a difficult place to complain about because everything seems fine there.

I came back numb, thinking only of the geography and not the people in it. I'd had a good time with the trees, I thought. I had a good time with that bridge. I wanted to be like Sweden, somewhere green where people never changed and always gave me what I'd come for; some place like my first two nights in Berkeley before Joe came, smoking and pouring cream in our cereal.

Maybe we'd emerged to announce who we'd become and then retreated into the new universes we'd been preparing for, alone. We had to tear each other apart in order to change without being sad all the time.

Really, I guess, it was a matter of who had the guts to scream NEW FRIENDS, NEW LIFE, NEW OLIVE GARDEN, NEW GIRLS into a crowded room. Who among us was willing to not only push people away in order to evolve and leave without dying, but to announce this intention to whomever is within earshot? It was better to pretend, after all, like we were just cranky, that it didn't mean anything bigger how selfish we were that year. Me too, including me.

There is a need, sometimes, to run away again, because it's just been so long since I've done it. It's just been so long since I've had a chance to leave, and sometimes I'm not sure what else I can do to show you how much I love you.