tales of a girl in the city

août 24, 2005


I'm drunk now, and when I'm drunk everything is the swelling of the orchestra, the rise and fall of an enormous string section. If I'm alone in a cab on my way home from too many martinis, I'm thinking big. I'm feeling big. No doubt about it. It's all the final movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and some poor underpaid guy in the back row banging his heart out on the timpani. Alcohol drills out the spaces inside of me, until I'm here, typing away, with the echo of my own hollowed-out self ringing forward, as deep and low as any cello. Rising to the surface. The final notes of some great truth.

I have written a letter that I am afraid to send. The last line of it reads this way: Last night what I missed was you in bed next to me. You sleep so close to me sometimes that you rest your cheek on mine, like books piled together on a shelf. How appropriate. I'm afraid to call it a love letter, though that's really what it is. It's a letter I wrote because I love you, and I'm afraid to send it because I am tired of loving you alone.

I am a detective collecting clues in your absence.

Love me back. What happened to all of my wishes? Love me back. I wish for you to love me back. I wish for us to be happy together. Simply happy. Walks on Sunday mornings, lazy moments in bed. Cooking dinner, reading the paper in separate rooms. Nothing extraordinary, just noons and breakfasts and you picking the music while I pour the wine. Not even wine, in fact. Just water. Just a pizza dinner and Netflix.

I wish for a thousand more wishes.

I wish for...I wish....I wish....

I saw another girl you had kissed tonight. How odd that was. I had expected her to be a cardboard cutout. But to see a real person, standing in front of me. With gestures and jewelry, a handbag and a favorite drink--that was more than I was prepared for. In my mind the way you touch my face at the end of an evening eliminates the world. You can tell me a story about so and so and such and such, and it's all nonsense; a story that happened once outside of our cab window, before your fingers touched my cheek and we remembered one another while we met for the first time.

You are me. I am you.

I have learned this summer that words are just words. The English major in me wants to layer them with meaning: connotation and analysis. The author's use of alliteration in this sentence further illustrates...blah blah blah blah. That is all garbage. Nothing is a symbol for anything. You didn't kiss another girl because of your mother or your stress or your guilt or your fear. You kissed another girl because she was standing in front of you and you loved the look of her lips and the light on her lovely legs made you long to linger longer. See? Alliteration can be wasted completely--can be meaningless. Things are just what they are.

You are me. I am you.

What did you mean? Not what I would have meant. For me, that means: When I wake up in the morning, your face is the first one I want to see. It means lines from love songs. It means a dance someday, in the middle of a room, in front of all of our friends. I'm wearing a white dress and if you are me and I really am you, then you already know what Nina Simone song will be playing in the background. But you don't. We've never gotten to that.

When we went to the MoMA the other day, a lot of things occured to me. That's a museum filled with ordinary. Chairs, tables, a big red car, canvases painted just one color, salt and pepper shakers and a whole room devoted to plans for what will eventually amount to nothing more than a fancy piece of sidewalk. Life. Elevated, certainly. Displayed beautifully and intellectualized a bit, but that's what it is. The message of the museum? This is life. Look how interesting it is. How lucky you are. Notice things, or they pass you by and you die blind and foolish.

I want ordinary. I'm done looking for the palaces and the glass slippers filled with promises of magic everyday. Magic is everyday. Finding a person who learns with you, who knows how you eat your eggs, who wants to make a baby with you that has eyes like yours and hair like its mom. The small pleasure of standing in a kitchen that we painted together. Packing and unpacking. Cold feet in the wintertime that scare me awake. In the end what you give is time: this is the time I have here on this planet, and I want to spend it with you.

This girl, tonight, who you have kissed, asked me, "How do you know him?" And I couldn't answer. What a simple question, and it stumped me for what felt like forever. I finally settled on something that felt like poison coming out of my mouth, "We used to date a long time ago." As though we were high school sweethearts, headed off to a drive-in movie to slurp a Coke and hold sweaty hands.

"I have a love letter in my purse that I'm afraid to send him," I wanted to say. Or, "He is me. I am him. That's what he says, anyway."

Somewhere out there, there must be a man who wouldn't make me struggle for that answer. He can't wait to escort me to a dinner, knowing that the next morning his phone will ring, his email will blink with messages to say, "Your girlfriend is spectacular." He will love that his day ends with me in his bed. When he listens to me laugh, without meaning to, he'll think of the family we'll have someday, wonder which one of our daughters will have my laugh, my smile.

I'm smiling now, just thinking about him. I wish he was here to see it.