Nocturne

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NoLita in the dark.

My suite mates are apparently having a party or something…which makes me slightly upset that I’ve never dragged people over because I’ve kind of wanted to have a party but I always felt it would be inconvenient.  Yes, I’m stupid and petty.  Regardless, it doesn’t look like I’m sleeping soon. Far too loud. I’m also not social enough to actually go out and talk to anyone: so…

Some thoughts on night in the night. It’s not like my drive towards nocturnal started just now, anyway, even though it’s often hard for me to be productive in the darkness. But nights aren’t really for productivity until it gets so late it’s almost morning. And speaking of that twilight place: how do we define night? In or minds and programmed into our bodies.

Night sometimes means sleep, of course, that crushed velvet sensation of letting your bones lay weary against the earth. Most of us enjoy the feeling of sliding sideways into darkness: the curl of blankets and pillows forming a safe cocoon. I must confess, odd as it may be, that I do miss nights spent awake and on the road. Admittedly I have only ever been a passenger, one who can afford to meditate on the darkness. It’s astonishing how beautiful the world is, blurring by in a string of houses and highway signs, cities and railroad tracks. The “I” of me melts away until all that’s left is just a pair of eyeballs, drinking in the sideways slip of the world outside my window. Those are the nights when I never want to reach my destination. The hum of the road is home enough. At least until dawn, rosy in the east, unmasks the dark silhouettes of the trees, or mountains, or skylines—whatever my companions had been in the evening—and wakes the world until it’s no longer quiet. Until traffic is a scream. The bubble bursts.

After all, nights are the times of dreams: waking or not. It’s when you are close to people, even strangers you’ve only just met. Anyone can become friends right around three am. The world is soft, then. You all share the dream. Any other time those pretty words you so willingly exchange, flitting on their gossamer wings, would be too heavy. Would fall out of the air like dead things.

The nocturne is its own song, and it compels us to our feet. We dance because it’s harder to feel ashamed in the darkness. We dance because we don’t remember our daylight faces.

Not that there isn’t a danger in forgetting: there is no innocent dark, which pains me deeply. I want nothing more than to stalk the streets and learn the city’s moonlit face: unlined and dewy with summer. But I can’t, just out of simple fear. Because I’m not especially intimidating or good at violence. Because darkness shields dangers in the alleyways. And anyway: the world is stifling and warm, and I will not ruin it by seeking confrontation.

Instead, I’ll content myself here in the cocoon of my lamplight, hung sweetly in the summer night.

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SoHo’s Skin

I want to capture the night before it slips away from me and becomes just another Friday in New York. They tore up Broadway, tonight, down in SoHo where the stores shuttered up early and tight. Friday’s usual victims were all just stepping out, all aflutter, clumping gorgeously in the streets with their high heels and blazers, pre-game faces on. But beyond them were great metal beasts, their maws tight against the ground as they chewed up the pavement, a layer of dust rising around them and blowing into the sidewalk. It swirled in the work lights hung low in the street, giving a blur to those holes punched in the darkness. I can’t quite capture what was ever so captivating, between the industry and the revelry, excess and renewal. But those great steel beasts giving Broadway a fresh skin of pavement drew attention to the scaffolding lining the streets, sometimes on both sides. It reminds me that this city is always changing, even if we don’t notice it at ground level, caught between sidewalks and skyscrapers, that it’s like a lizard that constantly sheds its skin. Let me remember that all things change around me, that they in turn change me.

Swollen Summer

The view from a home I used to know.

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I almost can’t wait for another swollen summer. I can’t wait for the blistering, sweltering heat. How it forces its way under your skin and holds you hostage inside strip malls and other suburban purgatories, lured in by the lewdest of the lewd: that seductive wet whirrrr of air conditioning.  I couldn’t keep one in my bedroom, what with the fire escape.  So at night I’d crawl out onto the hot metal grating to meditate on the blank New Jersey sky, able to pretend that the barest breath of a breeze was refreshing.

I’d curse the night: roiling but empty with a haze of too many lights from airport landing strips and sterile office buildings, formica kitchen counters and caustic railroad stations.  And burned into my memory is that night, years ago now, when we hooligans poured onto the streets and I was that girl with the dragon shirt: dancing red green and gold over the swamp-lit streets.  And it seemed to me that the earth was as blank as that cloudless sky, even with the streets so filled with the half-feral youth of a mile-wide town.

That’s far away now.  My mind overwritten with other summers, other longings.  And yet, and yet.  There are constants in the meadowlands.  I miss how each day the lush trees would grow more and more jaded to the sweating masses underfoot and the morse code of fireflies as they call to each other in the night.  I miss the honeysuckle outside my window: climbing up the bricks of a childhood that I no longer own.

Title stolen, with apologies, from The Bravery who were a big deal for about five minutes when I was fifteen.

There’s No Mom in Mothers’ Day

So this is my first Mothers’ Day without Mom.  Part of me wishes I could have just holed up in my room and ignored the world: not have seen the girls holding balloons that said “MOM” on the subway or the numerous Facebook posts saying I love my mom.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Well.  I can tell you that the first thing you do is cry a lot.  But you’ll want to keep it mostly together for the EMTs.  Their job is easier if you’re not in hysterics.  You offer them gummy bears.  It’s nine in the morning.  Your mother’s body is cooling in the next room.  Her blood is on your shoes.  They refuse the gummy bears.

But it’s not your mother lying in her bed with the sheet pulled over her face.  It can’t be her.  Your mom wakes up early so she can take forever in the bathroom.  She asks you whether her hair looks better up or down when honestly to you she always just looked like Mom either way: you couldn’t see her in any other light or capacity.  In your mind you see Mom in a serviceable black dress with her hair up yelling that you’re making her late.  But the next morning she’d be the one making you late, her favorite boots unzipped even as you ran together for the train.  Then Mom in the last few days: too weak to get out of bed.

There’s no way she’s gone.  You need her.  Who else will call you baobao in public or remind you not to get home too late?  Who else will make your favorite foods when you’ve been away from home?  Who else will need you like Mom?

The next thing you do is…no, you’ll still cry a lot.  For good reasons or for no reason.  Without meaning to, even.  In the most awkward settings possible.  When that doesn’t cut it your brain tries laughing.  And you can see the way her best friend stares at you, a worried crease between her eyebrows.  You know she will distantly adopt you now: hover slightly more than she ever did in the past, make you a Chinese dinner sometimes because now Mom can’t.

It’s really her friends that trigger the next thing you feel: the incredible guilt for the selfishness you’re displaying.  All of the people Mom touched in her life come out of the woodwork: discreetly asking if you need help with college, buying flowers for the frankly rushed funeral.  Talking to your grandmother about what her life will become.

You’re not the only one who’s lost her, you selfish idiot.  All these other people have as well.  You miss the woman who cooked for you, who took care of you.  You haven’t missed the woman she was outside of your life.  If you mourn her, mourn all of her.  You’ve been raised already.  Mourn that she still had other work on this earth.

It doesn’t work.  For a couple days you want to die.  This is well after the funeral, mind you.  The funeral was actually beautiful.  You could see her again, face made peaceful.  There’s no blood on her teeth.  She’s in her favorite dress (a particularly Jackie O number—a cut that neither you nor your sister could ever pull off) and surrounded by flowers.  Why does she have to be put into the earth?  Why can’t you just keep her in that room, so that you could go and see her whenever you wanted?

You’ll never visit her in the earth.  You’re almost certain of this. There’s no point.  She’s not there.  She’s off wandering in the canyons or watching the slow dance of stars in the night sky.  You hope she doesn’t think of you, doesn’t even remember who you are.

Because you’ll still find ways to disappoint her.  You know you will.  And you’ll do them anyway.  Spend your life throwing yourself into “boys’ work” or staying out too late roaming the streets.  Write things that would make her sad.  Write things she would hate.  Listen to degenerate music.  Cut your hair or get tattoos.

This is where the social workers come in, maybe.  You’ll have to talk to many of them, and they’ll tell you to stop feeling guilty about it.  Stop sabotaging your relationships with other people.  To let yourself be sad.

But the only way to do that is to completely forget her.  And you’ve tried.  But she’s saturated in your life.  You need to make some more memories without her.  She shows up everywhere in your town, or you’ll dream of her.  She’ll even haunt your thoughts at night when you can’t sleep.

You’ll try to scrub her from your life: throw yourself into school and work.  Start a fucking blog. Keep doing the things she hates so from wherever she is she’ll make you feel guilty.  Because you love her disappointment.

You love the woman she was.  You love your mother, who gave you her flesh and blood.

I don’t know what comes after this in post-Mom life. This is only as far as I’ve gotten.