response to ‘squaring up’


(I wrote this on November 22, lost the thread, but found it again yesterday. With some updated notes, here it is, egg, xx) ~ I often think about the very Proustian closing line from egg’s “squaring up” post: “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.” I read that line with some familiarity of it. Probably because Torrey Peters says something similar about Reese, the protagonist, in Detransition, Baby: “New Yorkers were only unique in one regard: their audacity to recognize their own provincialism, yet still persist in foisting it upon the rest of the nature. She had been intimate with New York and gotten over New York long before she arrived there.” The two quotes maybe aren’t actually that related, but to me they both tell a story of how New York was a place I lived before I ever moved here. — — — — — I first lived in the vaguely (and retrospectively way too bougie) loft with Rachel Berry, when she left the glee club and moved to NYC to fulfill her Broadway dream (relatable). I didn’t even have to come out as queer; it was understood the moment I waved a flick of the limp wrist on stage at my matinee showings of Funny Girl. I experienced love and heartbreak and sex, all of which were really auxiliary to the friendships that made living in the city bearable. I then moved a Williamsburg apartment with my sister gossip squirrel Little J Humphrey (similarly confusing in it’s elegance), commuting to St. Jude’s on the Upper East side, spotted daily for my chic, drama-rich social life. Bartenders at sceny Michelin Star restaurants knew my name and the birthday on my fake ID even better. Taxi cabs hailed me. I was young and dumb and looking for more, even if I didn’t know it then. And most recently, I lived in the Bronx, apartment 306 in the House of Evangelista. I lived my full truth, weekly winner of the face category, building family out of take out Chinese containers that stacked up next to the kitchen sink. I knew what it was like to be thrown out of a home and find refugee in a new one, both within the walls of an apartment but also within the bridges that make an island feel like a sprawling home, buildings lit like candles, water glistening brighter than the pollution veiled stars above. Pose, more than any other media depiction of the city, gave NYC a promise I held onto: there, everything is possible—the dreams, the fears, the desire. The promise is that it will all find me once I arrive, even if I don’t ask for it. — — — — I return to a daydream or memory — tbd which it is. I’m at a bar, with a man I don’t know well, and we are talking over drinks and a meal. I don’t love him, but I love the moment because of that. It’s as if I feel freer to maybe love him (and make love to him) because it’s not love. Above the bar, I see a clock back-lit by a warm yellow light. I try to tell its time, but after a few glances, I realize the time isn’t changing. It’s a prop. But maybe it is telling me something. Like telling me that time is absent from this space. That I shouldn’t be looking up at it hoping to know when I am. It wants me to be unstuck in space, in a moment removed from time. So maybe it’s not a moment at all. It’s a noun that doesn’t exist, an existence not measured by time. Measured, if measured at all, by presence. In the daydream/memory, I stop checking the clock and settle into the bar stool, looking at him, for what feels like a lifetime. — — — In 2020, before I knew I was moving to NYC, I watched this reality show called Dating Around with my mom when back in my childhood basement in Alabama. Every episode featured a new person who would go on five dates, which the audience would watch play by play, to then attempt at guessing which one of the five people the protagonist would ask back out on a second date. The first season uses NYC (mostly Brooklyn) as it’s backdrop. I was obsessed — not actually with the outcome of the dates, but with how the camera showed two people talking in NYC’s private bars and restaurants. Because of the high quality production value, incredible editing, or attention to the curated mise en scène detail that can only come from a TV set or a Brooklyn bar, the show captured this purgatorial world in between fiction and documentary, a way that feels so accurate to how I have come to think about NYC. It’s both real and removed from reality, and I couldn’t possibly have craved moving there any sooner. I look over at my mom, who is fast asleep. — — Back to this boy and the bar with the clock. It’s Sisters, and I haven’t yet tried and failed to work there. His name is Josh. He’s Turkish and British and has a boyfriend who is asexual. So basically I’m begging to get on my knees whenever I can get us to go home (then eventually get him to set me up with his boyfriend). As we sip our $16 cocktails that I’ll later teach people how to make at a cocktail party, I tell him why I moved to NYC (it’s a rough summary of what I’ve already been writing about here). I talk about Glee, Gilmore Girls, and then, of course, Pose. He laughs, and tells me he was the creative producer for Pose. I don’t know what to say next. Thankfully he does, and asks me what my favorite scene of the series was. I say when Angel and Evan Peters are sitting at the diner, and Evan Peters tells Angel that he envies her because her life is real, that trans women embody freedom in a way he will never feel and can only try to experience through proximity. Realness. That’s why I loved the scene. (scene: Josh tells me that the cars in the back of the scene got him in a lot of trouble. He forgot to get cars from the 80s to drive by, since that’s when the show was set. He said it tarnished the monologue of realness. Still in disbelief, I don’t tell him I didn’t even notice there were cars going by any of the 30 times I’ve watched that scene. I never question whether he’s lying to me, but I do question whether I’m actually on this date, the frozen golden clock feeling more dream-like and suspicious the way its glowing face peers down at us. Looking up at the clock and pretending it’s telling me anything informative, I say, “it’s getting late. Want to head back to my place?” Later in the night, as I laid on my back letting his body move over mine, I doubted myself again, unsure whether this was happening or invented. It was surreal to be in the room, as I was also having such an awesome time and knew in some objective sense this was very, very special. But I didn’t feel like I was the main character living it, rather I was one of the Pose characters etched on the outside of the lit candle on the floating shelf above my bed, watching this perfect moment flicker closer to an archived daydream than to memory. After we came, he left, and when I never see him again, it actually makes sense because I’m not sure it even happened. — I sum up why I often feel dissociated living in NYC with this quote from Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: “As they approached the factory, the air increasingly smelled of sugar, and the scent made Sadie nostalgic for a candy she had never even tasted.” In German, fernweh is the word for a feeling of nostalgia for a place you’ve never been, an experience you’ve never had. I sometimes wonder if I lived in NYC too long, too passionately before I ever moved here. When I feel the exact feeling, meet the exact people, have the exact night I moved here to find, I won’t actually fully feel the specialness of it. It’ll feel like it’s somewhere in between fiction and documentary, and the cars driving by my bedroom window as I peer out on Nostrand Avenue may as well be from the 80s as from today.