Three days earlier.... The apartment looked like I’d turned my brain inside out and had emptied its full contents into an adorable one-bedroom in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. There were magazines and articles on food, health, healing and ethical business practices strewn everywhere. D was scheduled to arrive in an hour and I had no idea where to start.
His voice kept echoing in my head, something he’d said long ago, at the beginning of our relationship: “You don’t know what it’s like to be messy.” Part of me wanted to leave the place exactly as it was, just to prove him wrong. But I couldn’t, I was physically unable to welcome him into such a mess.
I am working on my company launch, the novel – that old tortoise of a thing -- my counselling practice, and a sweet mystery product. Life is going fast, whizzing by quicker than a month did in my darkest depths of depression. Exciting opportunities keep tickling my feet; and the best ones smack me in the face around just about every corner (in a good way – I am constantly scribbling ideas and epiphanies down on random torn bits of paper, my hand, or fervently typing them into my blackberry).
And as I move forward, I find myself sated in a way that I haven’t been – possibly ever before. Whereas for years, I’ve been roaming around the kitchen aimlessly searching for something to satisfy my vague, indeterminate cravings, these days, a rich bowl of salad, topped with all kinds of goodies – nuts, beans, sprouts, herbs – will keep me going.
Of course some things are deeply ingrained – chocolate, for example, is neither about hunger, nor is it in any way removable from my daily routine. I crave chocolate at any time of the day -- it will pop into my head like a cartoon bubble…. fluffy dots leading to fluffy cloud, pop up picture of chocolate… But so what? These days, instead of admonishing myself for being weak, I allow myself the abandon of indulging in a square or two. Homemade, dark, raw, delicious, if I eat it after five or so, I’m up half the night. The power of goodness.
Remember those ads in the US in the late eighties / early nineties – the ones with the hot pan and the egg: this is your brain (cut to whole egg), this is your brain on drugs (splat, and the egg becomes somebody’s soft-boiled breakfast, glistening with fat and spattering on the high heat of the knob/heroin)? That’s kind of how I feel, sans drugs. I feel whole and healthy and the forward momentum is filling, gratifying, exciting.
And now D’s here. The morning he arrived, I was so nervous, I must have tried on every piece of clothing I brought with me to New York. He’s come for four days. And suddenly I’m not writing 1000 words on the novel, nor have I studied. As if D’s presence should be enough for me while the rest of my life is mere filler. I’m ecstatic and repressed, enjoying his presence and missing my headspace, fulfilled and frustrated at the same time. Walking around Brooklyn with him is exciting and inspiring and yet I’m also very aware that the next draft of my article is due in class Wednesday night, that I have another school weekend coming up and homework due, that four days away from the novel equals five thousand words at least…
Last year, I had these same thoughts when, after 10 weeks apart, D came to Bangkok. Suddenly, it wasn’t just me and a far-off, disconnected voice on the other end of the line. There was someone else to take into account. Granted, D is probably the most easy-going person in the world: as long as I let him voice his old-lady-like worries, he’s up for almost anything – still…
I remember that I wasn’t as excited at our reunion as he seemed to be. For the first few hours, he stared at me in what can only be described as adoring disbelief while I wanted to run away.
D arrived Thursday night to a moderately tidy flat. Still, there ain’t a spy-thriller to be found. This is Brooklyn. It’s my turf, my interests, the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market on Saturday morning instead of hungover baked beans and rashers, the socialist food coop, not the socialites’ Fromagerie. And it’s the subway, not the tube that we take into The City, not Town.
I was pretty nervous. He’s loving it.
I pulled back. He pulled me close.
I made dinner. He devoured it.
And then it all fell back into place.
He decided to come to Brooklyn for four days, after we’d had the same fight for five days in a row. Not one long, ongoing argument. No, we had the same exact argument five days running. So D thought it might be a good idea to reconnect face to face.
There is something different about the person I decided to marry. It’s almost impossible to put into words. I mean, seriously, it’s not like he’s the only man I’ve ever dated, but with D, there is something that none of the others had. When I peel off our layers of baggage, family, career, fears, hurts, pain, issues, childhoods, etc, when it’s purely him in his rawest state and me in mine – naked as the day our souls came to be – we fit. Part of me wishes I could put it in more flowery terms, describe, embellish, but I don’t know how else to put it. It really is that simple.
So here he is, reading my Body + Soul magazine in the loo, drinking my dandelion shake in the morning and enjoying rice milk and agave in his rooibos tea. Tasting delicious life in Brooklyn together makes me think about when we met – going on five years ago now. I had left Brooklyn by then, and was living in a grotty studio in Midtown East, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Once I’d moved away from Brooklyn, I had fallen out of love with The City, but at the time, I couldn’t afford the rents, so instead I was looking for an out. When I met D, the timing couldn’t have been better and since neither of us was in the market for a long-distance relationship, it made sense for me to stay on the West Coast with him. Anything seemed better than Midtown East.
Thinking about the last five years, as D and I wander past Fifth and Carroll in Park Slope, how every decision I made got me right here, right now. In five years, I wonder where I’ll be standing as I reflect on this same exact thought, and how logical it will all seem then. Fifth Avenue and Carroll Street was where my first apartment was when I arrived in New York City in 1999. Last week, with D a million miles away, I kept having to remind myself that I did leave Prospect Heights, that I wrote a novel in France, that I moved to Los Angeles, that we bought a house in West Hampstead, that D actually exists as a real person, not just an imaginary creation. I shop at the same places I did when I lived here almost a decade ago. La Taqueria, with its submarine torpedoes for Burritos, is still there as are a bunch of the coffee shops like the insufferable Ozzie’s and the overpriced bean-grinding place on 7th Avenue. The level of unhelpful attitude at the Coop is unchanged, and the Saturday flea market at PS321 still doesn’t have anything I could ever imagine wanting. But I am different. My life has little in common with the one I lived back then. I give D’s hand a little squeeze as we make our way to Bergen Bagels for the greatest hangover cure in history – that’s one thing that’s as relevant in 2009 as it was in 1999.
(though yes, it’s true, I can no longer take advantage of it)