I am unaware that I am not ready to move on but I walk eight miles a day toward nothing. I try to remain in a state of suspended animation, not coming to terms with the impending upheaval of my life as I know it, and not working toward any tangible goal or destination. I download the new Bleachers album and meander through Tribeca in the rain, overpay for salads I didn’t really want in the first place, get lost in Brooklyn on my way home from Planned Parenthood, and form the darkest tan lines of my life in the shape of my $22 sandals. I try to take a local train home and am disappointed when I realize we’ve skipped from 34th to 14th St. I slip pennies one by one into the self-checkout register at CVS to pay for a $5 bag of peanut M&Ms at 11 pm on a Tuesday. People ask me in passing how I feel about moving and I say with a crooked smile that I am in denial about it all. I just want everything to slow down, I tell anyone who will really listen.
I say goodbye to my best friend at an Italian restaurant in Jersey and take an extra hour to walk home after getting off the Path train. I hand my leftover pizza to a homeless man outside the Fulton Center and wander around what has been my neighborhood for the past three years. It is brutally hot even as the clock inches closer to midnight. My dress sticks to my skin and I can feel individual beads of sweat dripping slowly down my spine until they are absorbed at the top of my underwear. Through my headphones I play a Taylor Swift song from 2012 and as I cross over Water Street for the third time, I begin to cry.
As I wait for an email about the very distant future, I check my phone frenetically for two days straight. I am able to blissfully dream about a distant future in a distant place with so much ease. When I receive a positive response on a Wednesday morning at 8 am, I am convinced it is too good to be true. With a laugh I tell my boss that I worried a piano was destined to fall from the sky and crush me during my walk to work this morning. When I tell her this, she turns to me and says, "Jaclyn, good things can happen to you."
As I wait for an essential email about my very near future, I complain that it hasn't arrived but I am secretly grateful. Each day feels like I'm beating the system, being given a little more time than was planned.
I have a dream that my phone gets stolen in Times Square and I feel relieved.
During my last two days at my job on campus I listen to the album that reminds me of working during winter break. It is an attempt to turn back time. I want to walk around during my lunch hour but all week there is the kind of July humidity that hits you as you step out the door. In my head I see images of the long skirts and tights I wore all winter.
On Friday at 5 pm I get into the elevator on the sixteenth floor and I am stabbed by a deep longing to hit the “door open” button. I have a lump in my throat knowing that when I reach the ground I will have to say goodbye to the women I work with, who have given me endless guidance, confidence, comfort, and laughter over the past two years. I instantly begin to regret every time I ever slammed down an elevator button on campus to close its doors before a mass of my peers had the chance to slide in. Why was I in such a rush? In this moment, I want that time back. I would give anything to do it all over again.
It is my last night in the city and I am eating a slice of pizza on the 2 train to Crown Heights. I balance a bottle of red wine in my lap while trying to shove my MetroCard back into my tiny bag safely and get the regular slice in my stomach as quickly as possible. It is a vulnerable position and my crop top isn’t helping. Once again, I feel like I just need a minute.
By the time it hits the first hours of Saturday morning I go to the bar to get glasses of water for me and my friend Emma. I wait for what feels like years, standing at one end of the bar and then the other, watching the bartender look away, help other people, dodge eye contact with me, and never make it over to where I'm standing. I try to be patient and I wait until I can’t anymore. Emma texts me to ask where I’ve disappeared to. I am missing the things that carry on without me. I get sick of waiting and give up. I don’t want to press pause anymore. I can’t.
After leaving the bar we buy water bottles at the bodega across the street and my Uber Pool arrives in three minutes. This is enough time for a teenager to offer us weed on the street corner but not long enough for Emma and I to fully express how sad we are to have to stop seeing each other every day. Perhaps this is for the best. I sink into the back seat and the driver brings me safely door to door from the bodega to the apartment I am staying in for the summer. Against my better judgment, I wait until the Uber pulls away then walk a block from the front door of my building to Seaport Deli alone. I am stubbornly convinced in that moment that I must order curly fries. I walk back, sit on my air mattress in the dark, play an episode of Friends on my iPad, and reach into the silver tray in a plastic shopping bag to eat each French fry slowly, one by one.
I return to my hometown for a few days before moving to a new city. There are a dozen kids running through the parking lot of Mattituck Plaza when I pull in to get Chinese takeout. Transitioning from the city to the suburbs is giving me the kind of culture shock it often does. I am struggling to remember why I came home until my favorite former coworkers from the local ice cream shop call me and beg me to stop in during their shift. I immediately smile when I pick up the phone and hear their voices. Oh, right. I am reminded. That’s why you go home.
I go to Jamesport Beach, where I took swimming lessons as a kid, and walk down where no one is around. It's unusually empty for a Friday on the East End in the summer. I stand alone in the water between the two forks of Long Island. People from seaside hometowns like mine believe that salt water is a cure-all, so I instinctively shove my face down into the sea, convinced this will help heal my nose piercing, which has been bleeding and scabbing on a loop since I replaced my stud with a hoop a week ago. Jamesport is the bay, thus lacking any waves that require treading water, so eventually I find myself standing still with nothing to do, really. I let myself float and wait to see where the water takes me. I am disappointed when it carries me directly to shore.
I wait to meet a friend for dinner outside a ramen restaurant in Port Jeff and he is running late but I don’t mind. I sit on a bench in the sun facing the water and I text another friend while I wait for him to arrive. I tell her about the anxieties and insecurities that arise for me every time I visit home. I keep using the word “revert.” I want to stay in that moment, to sit on that bench and absorb the warmth of that orange sunset forever.
My GPS keeps telling me to make a right to cross from Sound Avenue to Middle Road but I ignore it over and over again. I am not ready to go back home yet so I take the long way. While I am actively keeping a keen eye out for deer, a cat runs under my car. I try to convince myself it was a raccoon but I can still picture the white spot on its head and its family waking up to its mangled body in the street in the morning.
I am looking for an apartment in my new city and I keep insisting that the neighborhood is most important to me as I hesitate to commit to any suitable choices. I realize that my hesitation stems from my fear of becoming as unhappy as I was the last time I lived in the suburbs, my freshman year of college in New Jersey, and in high school before that. Eventually I sign a lease for a house on a quiet street with a driveway.
I finally move because despite my denial it was ultimately inevitable. (I ran out of money so I decided to leave New York, I will joke to a new coworker two weeks later.) Everything is different and everything is new and everything is harder than I had let myself believe it would be. When I walk down the hall to my bathroom at night it is so dark that I am afraid I will walk down the winding staircase and tumble to my death instead. I was prepared for the big changes to be difficult, but I feel most affected by the stress of the little things that sneak up on me. I think of the cat that slinked under my car.
I drive on unfamiliar highways and I feel brave and vulnerable at once. I am shocked when I realize I have to drive out of state to get to the closest Target. On my way home from Massachusetts I listen to Lorde's album, like I have been since it was released in June. Track two, the song “Sober,” comes on—Lorde poses a question about what happens after the buzz of a perfect party (but what will we do when we're sober?) and for the first time I feel like I have to face that side of the song. My goodbye tour has ended, my friends continue in New York without me, and everything I felt secure in and proud of for so long is at a distance. I am sober now. What will I do?
I spent the past year and a half living in a dreamlike reverie that is slipping away from me and I am trying desperately to cling onto it but deep down I know I cannot. My life is different here. Everything is different here. Different is not a synonym for bad but sometimes it feels like it is when the familiar was so sweet. So good.
For the first time since my junior year of college I want time to speed up. I want to skip ahead to when I can feel settled and content. For now, the days are dragging, the August heat is heavy and I have no AC in my third floor walk-up. I haven't changed time zones but my experience feels jet lagged—every day feels like the day you get off an international flight and fall asleep with your eyes open at the dinner table at 6 pm. Is it September yet?
I download Tinder within a day of moving and delete it within a week like I always do. It always feels too shallow. Too fleeting. But for a few days it makes me feel powerful, like I have some control over my life when everything else feels out of control. Until, suddenly, it doesn't anymore.
Everyone around me feels far away.
I’m up tossing and turning until 5 am on the Saturday after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. I feel sick to my stomach over the hatred that exists in white Americans who could very well be my neighbors, my classmates, my coworkers, my family. I am flashing back: to the boy in my high school health class who looked me in the eye as he said the N-word, to the teacher who tried to defend the confederate flag to black students, to volatile online comment sections during the election, to the times I spoke up and the times I didn’t. For the first time I find a consistency between the present and exactly a year prior, as last summer’s widely publicized incidences of police brutality kept me awake as well. There is nothing to romanticize about this.
It has been eight months since I started titling these posts with names of the months I write them. At the end of the year I'll have a collection of twelve to staple together and document 2017. I am glad I made this choice but I keep telling myself that next year I will write fewer posts in an attempt to spend more time fine-tuning each piece. Then, as my self-imposed deadline approaches each month, I can’t seem to stop typing. Before we know it, it will be December again. So this is Christmas / and what have you done?
The story behind this picture: I discovered Cafe Tomato, my favorite lunch place near campus, when I was a brand new transfer student living in a dorm a block away from it. As it turns out, the year before I transferred to Pace, Cafe Tomato was a go-to place for underage students to buy alcohol. This led many students to chuckle as I raved sincerely about their pasta salad bar and excellent iced tea selection. Throughout all of my years at Pace, I bought the vast majority of my lunches from Cafe Tomato, and my friends made fun of me for it all along. When I walked past it on the night I cried at the old Taylor Swift song, I saw it had closed, and I took this picture to send my friends some evidence of my complete heartbreak. I am not sure if it only closed for renovations (I think and hope it did, because the line during lunchtime was ALWAYS extremely long) or if it is gone forever, but when I saw those white signs on the door, it felt like a final, cruel push out of New York.