squaring up


This morning I had a sugaring appointment with my favorite person, an Indonesian-American heiress in her late 20s/early 30s who lives in the East Village and spent her high school years taking the bus between DC and NYC to party in the city every weekend. "Who sugared you last time?" she clucked at the ingrown hairs. She grew even more aghast when I told her I didn't have a Halloween costume planned yet for this weekend. "I just feel like the partying spirit is high, but the costume spirit is low," I posited, not really believing what I was saying either--I've been so tired neither sounds appealing. "I understand," she said, clearly not understanding. "But this is degenerate Christmas, you gotta give it what you've got." I took the scenic route home down Greenwich Avenue, stopping inside Mah ze Dahr and debating in front of the pastry case for a couple minutes before I put my foot down, $6 is too much to spend on a croissant. Instead I walked along 8th St. until I came across the Stumptown that Jay and I had once WFH'd from the winter that Drew and Ashwin broke up, a nice space that I always forget exists. $3.75 is also too much to pay for a drip coffee, but this felt more aligned with my desires, and as I took a second detour through the park, marveling at how beautiful fall is, the sunlight and unadulterated yellow elm leaves a perfect complement to the brick facades and still-abundant foliage on the sycamore trees, I decided to stop by the dosa cart for brunch. "Behold, the green and white umbrella that is a symbol of freedom to all," a man with a smiley face tie boomed as he rolled up, dapping up the dosa cart guy and giving him a big hug. Meanwhile, a man with a bike that had been souped up to carry more things than a bike should be carrying was doing a quick charcoal sketch of the cart as he waited for his meal. I ate in the law school courtyard, listening to Time Crisis, and said hi to Jamal on my way home. "Hi, baby," he smiled around his cigarette as he stacked black plastic crates of used records on the folding table outside the record store. I can't believe my time here is coming to an end. Rather than being the agent of this change, even though I actively desired and sought it out, it all feels out of control now, but in a good way, like it's time to surrender myself to it. Today when getting to the sugaring place--a commute whose timing and route I've perfected--and when making my way home I thought about how long it's taken for me to get to this place with my life in NYC, to be so comfortable with the lower Manhattan landscape and my life amidst the constant flow of people and noise and happenings and capital that I now know how to find and create my own pockets of solitude in the four-block radius outside my apartment, which places to eat or drink or sit at when I'm in specific moods, how to indulge and deny myself in accordance with what I actually want. I know my favorite spot in WSP to sit and read at when I have free time in the work day and where to go for coffee when I'm feeling indulgent vs. utilitarian and the fastest path to Olive's apartment and which streets in Soho to avoid when I want a quiet walk home. Self-actualized, as far as my life in this neighborhood goes, and now it's time to throw it away for something new. During our sugaring appointment, Aprilia made a joke about her ebbs and flows between weeks of wellness--"drinking 2L of water a day and eating low sodium foods"--and periods of hedonism--"my roommate told me yesterday that we were going to do coke all day on Saturday, and I thought, I guess I'm in"--likening the cycles to samsara. The reference hit; I thought about how yesterday morning I had lain in bed for an extra half hour listening to Dolly Parton sing anxiously about knowing her man was going to cheat on her with Jolene, then joyfully about knowing that her man was going to leave her: "What do you do, what do you say When you know they want to leave As bad as you want them to stay And there's nothing quite as sad as a one-sided love When one doesn't care at all and the other cares too much ... You know how much I love you But I know you don't love me And I know it's just a matter of time before you leave But I do, I stand aside and just let you walk away But I know you want to leave As bad as I want you to stay." Later that night, when on the phone with Inhae, I told her that I'm still feeling up and down (although crucially, not anxious!) but in a new way where I feel like I can step outside my sadness, not that I'm able to stop it but rather can recognize that it's temporary and important to experience and thus give in to it. It makes the sad spells ("wanting to cry mode") feel more purposeful and nourishing, like vitamins. Similarly to the beginning of summer when I was walking home from Prospect Park with Eric and Pau on a warm June evening and believed us all to be on the brink of a period of great change, I feel that we've begun to actually step into that chapter, emotionally volatile but blossoming, doing fun and exciting things, putting down roots, dedicating more time to our interests and hobbies. No city seems to inspire such continuous conversation about whether you enjoy living here as NYC--it seems like this place has such outsize ability to exert control over your emotional life, and a large part of my becoming more comfortable here has been about learning to grow away from that. It's comical how that sense of security is so explicitly tied to judicious use of money and time and relieving yourself from the pressures that urge you to expend both in service of things you don't want... My brain these days feels clean, I don't give much of a shit anymore about "coolness" and don't compare myself as much to other women when walking around, I no longer feel as trapped by fashion and clothing as signifiers and instead just feel supremely grateful to be here, despite the lack of nature and space. I love my friends and the endless list of things we want to do together, the inexhaustible number of ways of ingraining the city into our memories. I’ve been thinking about that night at Market Hotel where we could see the J and M trains running on the subway track through the windows right behind the performers, and how it felt like we had been picked up and placed into someone else’s vision of life in NYC, Mark likened it to Guitar Hero while I thought of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and it felt surreal to be in that room, having such an awesome time and knowing that in some objective sense this was very, very special.