People ask if I miss New York and the odd thing is I have no idea. I ask myself the question and nothing happens. I don’t miss Inwood except on Wednesday nights. I don’t miss the weather. I miss obviously my friends and a building on 62nd and Columbus where people often sing. But I see it the city in a movie and remember New York as an idea and I don’t miss that because I didn’t live in it, hard as I tried.
I mean, listen. My life is pretty stupid here. I’ve had one job interview in three months, and I’m living on the money that was maybe going to be for buying a car, and as of now it would buy a very fancy bike. It’s enough to make you want to go crawling back to anywhere. In New York I had a job I was viscerally sick of, some days, but you can be sick of something that’s basically good, and anyhow, it paid the rent.
The woman who comes out onto the street on the hour, all night, to smoke in her housecoat and cough is doing those things outside the window.
George Saunders (or George Sanders, whichever is the one who writes short stories and not the one who played effete men in pictures and killed himself) wrote this dire, wonderful story that felt autobiographical about a period of failure in winter in Chicago, as good a place to fail as there is. It contains one of my favorite pairs of sentences: “There comes that phase in life when, tired of losing, you decide to stop losing, then continue losing. Then you decide to really stop losing, and continue losing.”
Some days I fucking hate California. It’s hard not to take it out on a place, because it’s about the largest thing you can get angry at. Hating the world doesn’t feel productive. Other days it’s a warm, less-angry-than-New-York place where I haven’t had to set an alarm in three months. My positive regard for Oakland is public record hereabouts. A friend said “it’s like a historical reënactment of the 70s” and I have long wished I could visit the 70s, though it never occurred to me to live there.
But I’ve read Tales of the City. In the dream fantasy of the 70s, and maybe the real ones, you could walk into an employment agency and they’d pull out an index card and send you off to a job that paid for a room on Russian Hill. I sent my resume to a temp agency and was told, in so many words, that companies wouldn’t be interested in me because the last job title on my resume isn’t “administrative assistant.” I thought I was setting my sights low, but I wasn’t done losing. Am not done losing.
I’m lying here on the couch I brought with me, with the LED light on, the one that makes it look like there are fireflies in the room.
I miss the subway, because it actually goes places, but only when I remember it taking me places I wanted to go, and not when I think of subway preachers screaming about faggots, or the A train failing to arrive at 1 am at West 4th, or my 35 minute commute. I miss Marie’s, obviously. I miss radiator heat. I miss my modicum of self-esteem.
What I emphatically do miss is not being new. Knowing how to work the place. Feeling an imaginary network that stretched out from me for several hundred miles on either side, even if this did not forestall the occasional lonely Friday night.
What I emphatically do not miss is being 200 of those miles in particular from one person in particular, who has stopped the worst of this from being crushing. I thought there might be some romance to parting and reuniting that would be subject to nostalgia but on that count my eyes are dry.
It’s 3 am and there’s no real reason to go to bed except perhaps to stop writing this dirge. I won’t say “things will get better” because really who knows? Things will change, though. You always ask: is this the moment when despair (or something a little less dramatic–there’s a word in Russian) motivates some change of course clever/lucky enough to stanch the losing?