tales of a girl in the city

décembre 20, 2007

This year. This black, dark year.

I moved to this city in love, part of a partnership. I remember walking through Rittenhouse Square in August of 2006 and feeling as though I was on the verge. At the crest. Exciting things were beginning. My father was alive. Harvard was all the things I thought I wanted him to be.

Tonight, all I can do is shake my head, thinking back to all of the changes that came. So quickly, so quickly my father was gone. And Harvard, too: I remember standing at my father's funeral without him: The plane tickets aren't refundable. I wish I could be there. Me telling him, "It's ok. I understand."

And then, again, when he decided to throw a party for New Year's. A little over a week since my father had died, and I was expected to be a hostess. "It's fine, if we can just keep it small. Close friends," I asked. Of course, he said.

There were people at that party I had never seen before.

When I fell in love with Harvard, I fell in love with the calendar we made together: my vision of our days and years. We functioned, I thought. We hosted dinners and did the shopping and decided things as a couple and laughed some and loved some, and I suppose, looking at it now, it was tablespoons and wine glasses and thank you notes and he was handsome and a prince, really. On paper.

The whole thing was paper. Wedding invitations, birthday cards, sympathy notes: the way all of those are perfect, squared up, neat representations for things that are, in truth, deeper and more joyous and more jagged than paper can convey. Invitations are gorgeous, with velum and pristine, creamy card stock, but the reality of the party is that the hem of the bride's dress will be filthy by the end of the night. Someone will drink too much. Someone else will sit in the corner and feel jealous of the dancers.

I did not know it then, but I know it now: Harvard and I were paper. And you cannot build the life I want--cannot support the life I have--with paper.

And so.

Let it all go. Let go clean, easy sentiments and choreographed, precise calendar days. Let them drop into crumpled bunches, soar away in paper-airplane arches, smolder into dust and clouds of ash.

Bring in what happened: Harvard offered a delivery of white flowers and a note instead of himself, and I stood in the greeting line, thanking strangers for coming, and knowing that my boyfriend had lost his last chance to ever know my father.

Harvard was a coward and a cut-out, and I left my New York life and lost my father before I realized it.

Bring in what happened: my father was a vital man with a throw-his-head-back laugh who loved October cold snaps, and would let me eat the olives in his glass of brandy every time. People drove six hours and stood outside in Wisconsin December to tell me and my family that they would miss him in remarkable ways: miss his hands, his early-morning rises. How he had made them notice their own lives.

My father was a good and smart and loving man, and he died anyway, too early, and with too much pain. But my father's death and my father's pain were a pause, not an ending. And the way I miss him is blood, not paper.

The rest: let it go.

December 19th was the one year anniversary of the day he died. I had been waiting for it, scratching off the days from the prison of my last year. All of the fear. The last-time's. The loss. The whole of 2007 was lived by comparison--what was he doing this time one year ago.

And then on the 20th of December, there was no him to remember.

Today, I am sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco. My father was dead when my brother moved here. I have no memories of our family spending Christmas in a place where there was still so much green, so many flowers. Today--every moment since I woke up--has been entirely new.

The landscape of my grief is changing. Let it change.

I am leaving the grid of last year's calendar days, moving off the page. Let me move.

I can see, in my mind, the dates and their disconsolate record. But I ask them now to be finite, bounded things.

I fold each one, carefully. They honor a great man. They honor a dark year.

I send them out as boats into a current.

It brings me to my knees, this terrible blessing.