Boston, I love you.

Yesterday I sat down at my computer to the news of two bombs detonating near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I read and reread this sentence, its simplicity, its unyielding finality, and feel every part of me revolt against it. My hands are shaking, I want to type something else, but it will never be anything other than what happened. The impulse to rewrite yesterday’s tragedy, to undo it somehow, to feel your powerlessness from the inside out, is not unique to me or to this situation, and with it the unwelcome memories rush in. 

I am outside of a church in Boston, a week before the beginning of my Freshman year, on the phone with a friend from home, I am hearing “he fell eighty feet, Bakara, there is no way he made it.” 

I am waking up in a hostel in Laos, phoneless and homesick, to the news of my best friend’s overdose. 

And all you want to do is return. To get as close to the wreckage as possible, to be around the people who are feeling this loss as acutely as you are. For Boston, there is no funeral to go attend, no one I loved was hurt, but that want is there. To return to our hill on the Common, to Newbury, to Allston and LB and the Marriott and the legendary corner of Tremont and Boylston, to the Pru, to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and to be around the people who love this city and know the significance of Patriot’s day there, the good will and giddiness, the whole city celebrates, you don’t want to explain it, you want to be around people who, too, have it encoded in their DNA— understanding, at times like this, is the only salve. 

Today in New York, there was no overarching sentiment of sorrow or patriotism, no unspoken acknowledgement of loss, and as I rode the subway and the lights went off for a moment I felt the fear I know every person in Boston is feeling right now. It doesn’t feel appropriate to feel this as intensely as I am feeling it, especially in New York. I am embarrassed by it in a strange way, fighting the impulse to take a national tragedy personally. And then I remember everyone I love and have loved in that city, the four years I spent there, the way that, without a campus, the whole city becomes yours. I remember writing in the garden, praying with Hannah on the dock, falling in love on Charles street, sobbing in Fenway as I pressed save on the first draft of my manuscript and I realize that it is. To every person who has ever made that city home, it is nothing but personal. 

And I am feeling all the base instincts I lean towards in the wake of something terrible happening. I am too hungry and need too many cigarettes and I can meet this tragedy only with anger and bloodlust, I am exhausted but can’t sleep. 

To the dead, the injured, their families and friends, to the seven Emerson students who were hospitalized yesterday, my teachers and mentors and best friend, to Boston and former Boston residents, to everyone who has a piece of their heart in that amazing little city, everyone who is suffering from a once again shattered sense of trust in the world, my heart breaks for all of you. In the wake of this ugliness comes the merciful light, the resilience of the human spirit, the selflessness people are capable of, I am seeing the city united. There is love in the streets today. Walk towards it. 

Boston, you will heal, you are madly loved, you raised and educated the best and brightest in this country, and we are feeling for you today all over the world.

blah blah blah

I have taken a hiatus from blogging to get acclimated to working life, make questionable choices regarding my finances, men, and sleeping habits, very casually do some writing and editing, and generally flounder about the way GIRLS assures me we are all supposed to do in our early 20’s. 

It’s had its ups and downs. I want to think I can flip my hair around and make spontaneous, crazy choices and stay out late on school nights and spend twice as much as I make and blow smoke into the wind and be very lackadaisical and nonchalant about it all, but that’s not me. I’m anxious and weird and generally insane. I make my bed every morning. My clothes are always folded and I swiffer like, all the time. I want to be the former in the cool impractical way I used to want to go to math class on acid, the way I would wake up in different states, the way that made everything fall apart in a big and scary way.  Every time I try to act like an Almost Famous character it inevitably results in eating cookies for dinner and my friends scraping me out of bed. 

But scrape me out they do. 

I am writing like a motherfucker, with urgency I haven’t felt in years. I am back in the past, at that lakehouse, in that basement, on that bright cold December morning when I finally surrendered. I am feeling the pain that comes with growth. The low after the high, almost always more meaningful than the high itself, the opportunity to break it down and find the value and magic in it. It always means something, and I am always better for it if I figure out what it is. 

A year ago, I lost my best friend. We met four years before, and she was coming off the heels of a relationship that almost killed her. She loved this man, spent the next three months crying to me every night, mourning the loss of that relationship. She told me about the night she left. It wasn’t different than any other night, but in a moment of inexplicable clarity she looked around knew she had to walk away and if she didn’t walk away then she would never walk away. I still don’t know why I did it, she would say, as we embarked upon a summer that would save us both, that still shines gold in my memory five years later, that was greater than anything we could have imagined before it. I hear her words as I walk away when I don’t want to, when I don’t know why I’m doing it, when I could but shouldn’t stay. If I am brave, it is because she taught me how to be. 

Rainer Maria Rilke writes: "Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” I have found this. In romantic relationships, certainly, for a time. But more than that, in the friendships that make you feel so sure of yourself and the endless possibilities of everything and everything you are capable of. This is the love that has given me wings. That has healed the broken parts of me. That has literally saved my life. Love is real, simple and great news. 

Cold men destroy women," my mother wrote me a year later. "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes-you hear all that has been sacrificed, all you have been given, landing with a loud clunk. They lock the greenhouse and you are as tiny as a figure in an architect’s drawing, a faceless splotch, a blur of stick limbs abandoned in some voluminous desert of stone.
Lorrie Moore

All roads lead eventually to the mountaintop

It feels like the end of a wild ride when the truth is it is not that, it is only what it always is when it feels like the end, a pause somewhere in the middle. A calm where seemingly all at once everything is answered and resolved, leaving a momentary stillness in its wake, and through enough of these I’ve learned that everything will get all fucked up again and again will come this calm and again it will feel like an ending, but what it will be is a breath. 

I haven’t written in a long time, on or off this blog. 

The fever has left me, at least for now, and I don’t feel the guilt and itch and insanity I used to feel when I wasn’t writing because I had to should needed to write and every moment spent doing anything else was a waste. It happened in Boston, smoking out the window, perched on a stool with my computer in my lap. The sentence was it all left with that scream, it has not returned since. Then came calm and relief and unbelievable quaking loss because the story I so badly needed to tell had been told. It had been disarmed, taking with it any raw shame or anger attached to it. In the words of Sugar, what was resolved will need to be resolved again and again, I have in no way shut the door on my demons. But the initial resolution took place there, laying on my bedroom floor, sobbing into my computer screen. 

I know writers who write because they love to have written. Because the ideas keep coming. Because the need to wrestle with language and make it do new and different things is incessant and unending. Because they read. Because they must. I realize now, as this first draft of my manuscript is read by more and more people, that I am not any of the above. I wrote because there were too many things that didn’t make sense that could only make sense through writing. Because I had to tell my specific story. What happens to it now is not as urgent, and the perpetual sickness of needing to write has been lifted. It is enough that it is in a word document, that I and a few close friends have seen it, that it has been printed and bound and lives on my windowsill, the first 18 years of my life. 

The reason I haven’t written in so long on this blog is for a number of reasons. The biggest one being the depressing expanse of time it took to find a job. I wish I could say I overcame that and found self-worth and validation despite applying to 150 jobs and not hearing back and interviewing and not hearing back and going to ridiculous stalker lengths to contact these people and not hearing back and all of the silence and waiting and silence. In some ways I did, in a lot of ways I didn’t. Maybe if you want to go into an industry that effectively fucks up the world and everyone and everything living on it you have a shot, but for for the rest of us its rough.  I sat for six months with a seemingly obsolete degree and did a bunch of weird things to make money. I slept until two and applied to jobs I didn’t want and jobs I was completely unqualified for and jobs that I just wanted to add to my sticky that eventually added up to well over a hundred jobs. I avoided people who would ask what I was doing, I lashed out at the question how’s the job search going? In all that time I didn’t apply to a single internship. It was an arrogant and pompous move. I ended up taking an internship at an amazing literary agency and was hired within the week. I am blessed and grateful. My best advice to everyone struggling with the job search is to keep going, even when you feel like shit about yourself and your stupid useless degree, and do what you love at all costs, oftentimes that will involve humbling yourself and starting at the very bottom, which will really just be the very beginning. 

I feel like I can finally say that I belong in New York, I am anchored here. It is not like other places, where you can sign a lease and feel like you have joined a new city. New York is not an easy place to live. It is filthy and crowded and expensive as hell. It is magical and and alive and full of infinite possibility. I live with two amazing girls and our house is filled with candles and incense and cozy fuzzy things and laughter. I love coming home. I miss Chicago all the time. I wax sentimental over Boston in a way I never thought I would. The more I live the more I miss. There is a quiet sadness to that feeling, but also so much beauty. 

For now, I am trying to live peacefully and without incident. I have learned acceptance on a different scale, in a way I have been resisting since I learned five years ago that acceptance will be the answer to every problem I will ever have. There are some things we can change, but most things we can’t. To accept a person, place, thing or situation exactly as it is, exactly as it is meant to be at this moment, is something I am making a beginning on. Something I am watching so many amazing people in my life do. I am older and different. I am filled with wonder and gratitude. Everything will soon be all fucked up again and again will come this calm in this weird and continuous unfolding. 

Now let’s quote Dear Sugar, Cherly Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things, who says all this better than I could ever hope to:

“And in the meanwhile, cultivate an understanding of a bunch of the other things that the best, sanest people on the planet know: that life is long, that people both change and remain the same, that every last one of us will need to fuck up and be forgiven, that we’re all just walking and walking and walking and trying to find our way, that all roads lead eventually to the mountaintop.”

Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Kafka on the Shore

It’s a goregous summer night in Brooklyn

My room is lit with candles and smells like vetiver and lavendar. There is a galaxy lazily dancing on my ceiling. I spent the night laughing and snuggling with two of the best girls on the planet. Came home and laughed more. Chatted with my two best boys from home. All is full of the best kind of love, the kind that floods your insides, so overwhelming you do a handstand in your room, turn on some Dead and smile into your computer screen. It cuts through fear and doubt and sadness easily, like light destroys shadows, it hatches the thought thank god I’m alive for this night.

Live High

So I’ve been called out by my friends for being a serial relationship-per. Accident. I came to college off a year long stunt of being single with the promise to continue this streak. Who wants to be serious with someone in college? Now is the time to create a narrative for the rest of your life, to find out where everything fits. Two months later this promise was forgotten and thus began my first college romance, brief and dramatic and painful, as they are hardwired to be. The recovery was quick, we had barely scratched the surface of anything. The thought of his existence brings no emotion with it, it has returned to what it was before I met him, an irrelevant fact.

A month later came the next one. He taught me how to fall in love, how to disarm myself, how to be fearless in loving another person. One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given, as uncontaminated as love can be. The last time I accepted needing the person I was in love with, the last time I gave someone complete and full permission to break my heart, and the last time I had faith that they wouldn’t. We are always ruined by our first love, made broken and measured and cautious. It comes with the two most extreme emotions a person can feel— exhilarating well-being and debilitating pain. We land somewhere in the middle, ever-conscious of how we got there, to that space of unwanted understanding. It ended and then ended and then ended for good. Sometimes, it is easier to let go of a person while you are still with them. Sometimes you need to do that. It’s not a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. The shock and grief of losing someone all at once is only necessary when someone dies.  With everything else, the loss can be gradual, accepted in increments. You can say goodbye many times, in the thick of summer nights, turning into mornings. In violent anger. In the adult detachment of a dinner reservation— the confidence you feel to see this person in public and not shatter. We always get there, whether we want to or not.

There was barely time for a breath when the next one happened. Unexpected and unplanned, it escalated from casual to committed without being able to trace the geography of exactly how or why. He taught me how to settle, how to make sacrifices I never thought I would. How to fight and cry in public, how to become someone my friends couldn’t recognize. He taught me how to wait, I learned what to do with silence, how to make and believe irrational excuses. How to forgive when you shouldn’t. Being with him was learning to hold smoke. We never fully belonged to each other, there was no falling in love, only a careful stepping into it. It was exhausting and intoxicating, this lack of security, feeling like the person who are with isn’t actually yours. The chase never stopped. We were magnetic and precarious and bound to fail. The highs too extreme and the lows too devastating. It ended terribly. It had to.

Each relationship was almost comically different, each one dangerously living on the brink of cliche. I think of the story “Lust” by Susan Minot, the short vignettes of the men she’s been with. The simple details, specific but universal, the emptiness that comes with the constant giving of yourself. I haven’t known that feeling. It was never giving just to give. It was always real. It could be boiled down to a simple sentence, a quippy one-liner, to make it mean less than it did, to make it stop rolling around in your stomach. But then what? Though being human may be difficult, let us not become monsters.

Today I talked to one of my greatest friends for the first time in too long. I told her the most recent updates— the biggest one being the stream of updates have stopped. This month of welcomed solitude. The small things you forget when you’ve been with someone else for so long. Having the whole bed, not a side, the strangeness of sleeping in the middle. Remembering to floss every night. Painting your nails a color you like. The joy and sadness of these simple things. I didn’t look for any of the people I’ve been with, they all just happened— each one instilled with reason and meaning, not to be minimized. I’m grateful for all of them, better for each one.  But I like myself a lot, arguably too much, and this new freedom is electrifying and exhilarating. It has brought with it quaking laughter, nights that end with the sun rising over the Manhattan skyline, filled with the absolute certainty that you share a pulse with this blazing city.

I’ve been thinking about relationships. About this phantom next person, whenever that happens. I tell myself: let it be effortless to be with this person. Like rubbing your eyes. Like falling asleep.