Three months

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 reĆ«nactment 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?

12 responses to “Three months”

  1. T-Mo says:

    I’m not sure what to say except thanks for writing this post. Coming up with some sort of cheer-up-Charlie-just-be-glad-you’re-you response won’t help, I know. Pretty much everyone who reads this has been in your situation — deeply at odds with a new stage of life and feeling incredibly vulnerable — at some point, and it totally and completely sucks.

  2. Mister Smearcase says:

    I am cheered up slightly by the awfulness of that song! And thank you–it’s true that there’s not much to say to someone in this idiotic situation, but the sympathy does make it suck less.

  3. T-Mo says:

    That song is just the worst, and absolutely the low point of the movie. I remember twisting and turning in my seat during that part when I first saw it as a kid. Otherwise, it’s an amazing movie, and the rest of the songs are really great. I recommend it. It starts slowly, but once it gets going it really goes.

  4. LP says:

    Cheer Up Charlie is an atrocious song, but seriously, that kid needed some cheering up. There were four adults sleeping in one bed, and his grandfather hadn’t walked in years but suddenly found mobility once Charlie won a ticket to the chocolate factory. That is some bullshit parenting, right there.

  5. LP says:

    Because I am a pollyanna, I will note that your situation is far preferable to that of dear ol’ Charlie. And things turned out okay for him, right? The solution is clear: eat more chocolate.

    PS: Cannot wait to see you and your gentleman friend.

  6. Mister Smearcase says:

    They were showing the movie at the Paramount but it turned out Dave and I both find it more creepy than fun so we skipped it.

    So, this entry. I wrote it in the middle of the night, which is never the best idea. I find it a little embarrassing and will probably make it vanish into the ether in the next day or two.

  7. swells says:

    Please, no. This kind of writing is what I miss most about TGW. It’s a selfish request, of course. If it will help to cheer you to disappear it, then hit the button, but concretizing this moment of your reality (and sharing it with people who sympathize and empathize) seems pretty darn valid and even, dare I say, pro-active. Plus we (the royal we in TGW reader land) can’t get enough of your voice.

  8. T-Mo says:

    Hear hear! I agree with Swells. I’m not much of a journal writer (not at all, in fact), but there have been times in my life when I’ve been brought so low that I needed to write down what I was thinking and feeling in order to express and, yes, concretize the moment. Occasionally, when I happen upon these pieces, I re-read them and am glad that I wrote them.

  9. GF says:

    It’s just so Let Me Show You My LiveJournal when you’re the only one doing it. I dunno. I’ll mopily think on it.

  10. LP says:

    What Swells and T-Mo said! We’ve all spilled our guts on these virtual pages at one time or another, often about the very same feelings you’ve expressed in this post. You just happen to express them better than most of us.

  11. Bryan says:

    “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.”

    Probably the best sentence I’ve read this week. Love this post. Also especially love the line about George Saunders. And the LED fireflies.

    Hey there from Beirut, y’all.

  12. Josh K-sky says:

    One more vote against memory-holing, one vote in favor of cheering up charlie swinging down to LA. And more sympathy, and no advice. I wonder for myself whether the only way out is through, or if edge skirting is a viable course.