I was tidying up my server the other day and found a story I wrote many years ago (I think three). It was in Quark, just sitting there. This was partially responsible for my having started this Web site. Toby said, “You should start a Web site and talk your nonsense and put up pictures every day of your commute. I’ll even build it for you.”
And so I did. Anyway, I went back and forth trying to figure out if I wanted to put this up because, well, it’s sort of embarrassing. But then I thought, “When have you ever been someone to worry about sharing something that might be too embarrassing?” Answer is: never. So here is a story I wrote while living in a 3,000 square foot loft in Brooklyn, NY with a boy I had only met a month earlier, a boy I would eventually marry.
It was called “Birds” (I think)
Our loft faces the Northern view of the city. In the morning the sky is pink and the light is tired and sometimes dizzy little reflections of the southern view form on the east river. If we’re lucky, they trickle by us on Newton Creek. But usually the existence of the southern view is easy to ignore. For us, it’s easy to forget about.
One morning, I ran into the bedroom to wake him up. Some days I am amazed by what I see on the other side of my window. I saw a movie once. It was so good and I was so moved, I left wishing I could erase having seen it and go see it again. These moments don’t always last. Sometimes they call for a witness.
Last June, I quit my job had a few drinks on a Thursday and decided to join the Peace Corps. I met him three days before being accepted. At the time I had never felt so at war with myself. I declined my acceptance. We ended up here-
in this loft-overlooking a northern view of a city after suffering through a long September.
Turkeys probably fear November as early as August. And even though cities don’t have minds, they are made up of thousands. And I don’t talk to turkeys. But in this city there are at least a thousand Thanksgivings during the month of November. All take place on a Thursday. Some Thanksgivings are planned as early as September. Those plans are made up of little minds. I think the city fears September as early as June.
There were swans on Newton creek the day that we moved in. They went wading by outside our window as if to welcome. I spoke for the swans that day. I told him, “Swans are monogamous and they mate for life.”
He answered, “That’s what monogamous means, silly.”
“They don’t know that.” I said.
Turkeys aren’t monogamous because of November.
There are many birds on our river. I call it our river, but it’s more theirs because I would never touch the water. Ducks mate for life too. I see them swim by in even numbers. When there is an odd number of ducks, I know something must have gone wrong.
I lived alone for bit prior the three days before my acceptance letter. At my old apartment, in the garden below, there was a couple who read with their coffees, sipping it near newspapers. I saw them on Saturday and Sunday mornings. They would sit out there, the two of them, and I would look down at them through my window. I mean actually down at them as I was on the third floor at the time. They were happy, happier than I was. And I could have convinced myself to hate them by bloating their mannerisms, but this would have been due to envy. And I knew birds could fly.
He is sweet. We now make two. I have a thing with even numbers. They give me the creeps. A bartender once told me if you receive an even number of olives in your drink, it’s bad luck. While I do like olives, and I do tend to gravitate towards odd numbers, the other things he said seemed much more important. I just don’t remember them now.
On Saturdays, I like to listen to music and drink coffee. I can see the city from the sofa, the chair, the kitchen table, and the bed (but only when sitting up). When I lay down on the bed I can see only sky. And occasionally birds fly by and interrupt the blue or black or pink depending on what time of day it is. The floor dips down about half way across the apartment. It dips down towards to windows that overlook the northern view of our city. If you took down the wall, we would roll into the river. This would most likely happen in our sleep.
We slept on an air mattress for about 2 months when we first moved in. I blew it up with a battery-operated pump every night. It became a ritual like brushing ones teeth. It worked. We didn’t have the money for a bed or a sofa. We used the futon to sit on. Primetime television was important then and was always coupled with comfort. Apparently, at the time, the comfort of sleep was held secondary.
I had a dream one night that the air mattress ended up on the river. There we were, him and I, floating down Newton creek, eventually we were pushed out onto the East river. Two small people, sandwiched between both the Northern and Southern views with nothing to hold on to. I had the battery operated pump with me. It held two batteries—the big ones. I forget what they’re called but I know it took two. And I remember thinking we would only last so long as they would eventually stop working. We would eventually sink. I woke up before that happened.
They must have been Energizer batteries and we were sort of like that big pink bunny.
The alarm must be set on a three. It does not have to be 03. Any 3 will do. I prefer, however, 13, 33, and 43. If it takes too long to go from one number to the next I can settle on 23. It depends on how tired I am. The time is never right. I wake up every morning before 8. I am at work by nine. I think I’m usually on time, though I stopped caring at some point. I usually do eventually. Where I work, the woman who surround me are married and most of them have kids. I have attended 7 dinner parties. All, in which, have taken place on a Thursday.
At all of these parties, they have (in some way) brought up their labor pains, their small dogs, their husbands’ pains of labor, and anything having to do with their nails. I never have anything to offer. I did not attend the 8th party, but I did have a surviving cookie on Friday. The woman who made the cookies said to me, ‘Where were you? Did you not get the Evite? We sent out an Evite. I thought you responded. Did you not respond? Next time, you just have to be there. Stacy had three cosmopolitans!’ I didn’t even flirt with the idea of answering any of these questions. I knew my not showing, the lack of me, wasn’t noticed until Friday when I was caught holding an escapee cookie, and my not answering wouldn’t be remembered as well.
I chew my nails. It was either that or a lifetime of smoking. I love to smoke. But I don’t any longer. I have given up smoking. Smoking has left me. It’s easier to give something up after it leaves you. You’re not really given a choice in the matter. My nails don’t chew themselves. I make the effort to chew them and second-hand nail doesn’t tend to hurt other people. I am punishing my fingers for holding a cigarette for so long.
I go to work to pay the rent on my northern view. I don’t have any kids. We’re not married. And I don’t have nails. But I can humor the women I work with. I listen to their stories. And I think they feel sorry for me so I reassure them that their lives are meaningful and worthwhile. And that’s ok with me. We all need to avoid the truth during a spell of self-doubt.
The guy who runs the place is rarely around. When he is here, he’s usually sweaty. I am not sure what he does during the day. He’s slightly overweight but not so bad as to explain all the sweat. Sometimes I imagine they’re all fucking. It’s one big office porno I am not invited to because I don’t have fingernails, a dog, or a husband. He pays for my view, indirectly. So I’ve learned to ignore all the sweat.
Before I lived alone, my time left me for someone named Chris. When I spoke to him he would hear something entirely different from the sentence’s actual meaning. And no matter what I said, to him, I was saying something negative. I would sit there dissecting my speech, wondering what it was that made him so very angry. I would come up with nothing but became more and more wary of myself. Eventually, I stopped saying much at all. And he became distanced from the person he fell in love with and person who he was trying so hard to hate. Then, one day, he left me. And all of the sentences I never said were suddenly in my mind as cold metallic, little truths, pricking the inside of my skull, making it difficult to put it against anything. It was then I realized I had actually reduced myself to an odd number.
My northern view makes the most sense to me now. Even when it renders me speechless, it still makes sense. And I don’t think I’ll stay here forever but I like it for now. It’s easy to relax here.
Sometimes I forget how cute my cat is. I have noticed this happens time and time again. That’s why the life span of something new is so short. Like with cars and computers and cell phones and haircuts and boy bands and Victoria’s Secret models, their popularity doesn’t last long. And I find it funny that people are wearing leg warmers again. And I know not to believe them when they say they don’t miss that person. Even something old and ugly can become new again if given enough time.
We moved into this loft a year ago and I haven’t seen the swans on Newton creek since then. The city wasn’t as worried as I thought it would be. September came and went and now we’re looking at November. I look at my northern view every day. I look at him as well, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Last month, I made a crease in the year, marking an overlap of time. At some point, the folds will become thick enough for me to lay my head down again. I still work at the non-profit organization to pay for my view and my primetime. I still work with the ladies and all of their stories. I’m sure they still feel sorry for me but I giggle secretly at them through nailess fingers.
Last night I threw away my acceptance letter. Today it is Friday.
I’m sure that the two of you are, in your hearts, a truly odd number.
you got me all choked up… what sweet and beautiful things you say.
Have you seen the movie “Pieces of April” ?
It’s pretty excellent. Besides the fact that the soundtrack is mostly by Magnetic Fields, it also has Patricia Clarkston in it and is set on a Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, in New York City.
We just watched that the night before I posted this. Odd, gina. Odd. Made me miss new york like I lost an arm.