p.s.- listening to Biggie first thing the morning while eating “healthy” chocolate cookies for breakfast (restraint? what is restraint?) and chatting with girlfriend about delightfully unfeminist things, this is why being an adult is the best.

Mozart on the tape-recorder

last days of august. and my heart knows it. it’s on a high for what comes next. always reaching for what’s next. haughtily, even.

this morning i was half asleep, watching the road without tenderness. hands on a steering wheel. your closed eyes in the rearview mirror. later, your hand shooting out to hold me close when the car swerved.

last night i was planetary, orbital, insatiable. everything in slow motion, foreign despite its familiarity.

this evening, i was wide awake. watching the moon while walking aimlessly on 61st street after drinks and dumplings, texting you lines from poems, forgetting to look up to see if i was at the right stop.

looking for something protective, firm, resolute; that never came. this feeling reminded me of you. the point is always to be reaching but never arrived, you taught me. and if the void was there yet there existed no words to describe it, perhaps we could make it disappear.

Across a city from you, I’m with you
just as an August night
moony, inlet-warm, seabathed, I watched you sleep,
the scrubbed, sheenless wood of the dressing-table
cluttered with our brushes, books, vials in the moonlight—
or a salt-mist orchard, lying at your side
watching red sunset through the screendoor of the cabin,
G minor Mozart on the tape-recorder,
falling asleep to the music of the sea.
This island of Manhattan is wide enough
for both of us, and narrow:
I can hear your breath tonight, I know how your face
lies upturned, the halflight tracing
your generous, delicate mouth
where grief and laughter sleep together.

glass jars

i walked to the coffee shop that makes matcha teas the way i like them (yes so bougie). and  while waiting, i looked carefully at all the too-fancy glass jars of jam on the shelves. rose petal preserves, traditional quince preserves, organic fir honey, bergamot preserves (which is a type of citrus).

i reminisced about when people would still spend time in the kitchen to make things based on grandmothers’ handwritten recipes, and not just drink or eat ready-made things out of a plastic container. i remember the way my grandmother would cook meals in her tiny apartment in Tainan. it was always dim, they never turned the lights on (to conserve on energy bill). my grandfather always sitting at the small table kind of grumpily, surrounded by his calligraphy paintbrushes. his face was always stuck in a strict, mean expression. i was absolutely terrified of him.

when he was dying, i sat by his bedside at the hospital and stared at his white hair and sunken cheeks. the strong mouth i was terrified of because it was always saying too-mean things in Mandarin, it lay silent. when he did gain consciousness, he would tell me about my childhood self, not knowing i was the same person. not recognizing the adult version of the girl he talked about. he would ask me to fetch his paintbrushes so that he could practice his calligraphy, though he was too weak to even hold them.

i was overwhelmed at how it felt. i wondered how to treat this sudden lack of terror towards him. we tell ourselves that keeping the uncomfortable parts of someone’s presence would be worth it, just let us keep them. please, just let us keep them here by our sides on earth for the rest of this lifetime. “these are the things i would trade for him to stay,” we shout into the void.

at the altar where my elders’ photos hang, i felt the universe moving, adjusting to the loss of a soul. the fishbone that had been caught in his throat led to the discovery of other cancers that had invaded his body.

such tiny, invisible things that alter us.
such huge things that change us, that can in no way be contained or understood.
the mystery that hangs in the stillness between worlds, between us and loved ones lost.

i wondered what we could do, put their souls in glass jars, keep them safe, preserve them? mix them with rose petals and bergamot, pour in all the sweetness stocked up in ourselves that we saved up thinking there would be a better time in the future to say the necessary, come up with a new name for the concoction. give the soul-preserves a forever shelf life, and keep them present within every food we eat and at every meal we share.

gratitude journal

oh good morning!

i keep a gratitude journal, and it’s separate from my main daily journal (which i lovingly call “The Main Squeeze” on my journaling app, so that i don’t get confused).

i don’t post in the gratitude journal as often as i’d like to, but here are some real entries (from the past 3 weeks) for things i’m grateful for!

  • waking up early to do yoga on the rooftop, facing you.
  • r. telling me “hey rose, your ‘sad state’ is better than most people’s normal state :)”
  • met matt damon in my dreams last night, what?
  • the feeling when i’ve slept with my hair wet and i let it down in the morning and the curls fall everywhere around my face, like pillowy clouds
  • c. telling me that i’m his “sriracha soulmate”
  • s. sending me the menu of osteria francescana, which has lovely watercolors and now  i am dreaming of going to italy one day and eating there and meeting massimo

  • changed my work chat dock icon to a dancing Hobbes and it changed my life
  • when doorman exclaims as i go downstairs on my way to work after rolling out of bed and throwing random clothes on at 8 in the morning: “you look so incredibly beautiful! tell me what your secret is! you don’t even wear makeup!” me blushing and shaking my head.
  • the possible rain, the certainty that it will pass
  • the man playing the accordion on the subway platform that brought tears to my eyes
  • the 25 cent vending machine at work
  • mom and dad practicing juggling for exercise
  • t. telling me after reading my blog posts, and me being self-conscious of their recent length & subject: “they always seem too short, when you are the one writing.”
  • the wild chase for the m&m statue!
  • netflix
  • dairy substitutes
  • watching the galway girl scene over and over
  • my amazing, imperfect knees that still work after everything they’ve been through
  • avocados

 

have an incredible, gratitude-filled day.

 

lucky dragon

E. convinced me to try it as we sat in his living room one night, eating chocolate-covered figs. He retrieved a Swiffer from the crowded broom closet and taught me how to paddle. He sat down next to me on the couch, handed me the Swiffer, and we pretended we were on a boat. I expressed my doubts. He shrugged and suggested that all the guys who do it are really fit and good-looking. The whole situation was comical, and I bought into it. I mean, there were chocolate-covered figs involved. Of course I was tricked!

The next day, he texted me at like 8:23am and asked, “You awake?”

Ugh. So I pulled on my stupid tiny bike shorts and geeky waterproof shoes to trudge downstairs for my first dragon boat practice. We arrived at the World’s Fair Marina, already drenched in sweat. The heat was nearly unbearable, even for me(!) I felt my hair immediately growing lighter, my skin growing darker.

We got on the water. I felt like I couldn’t breathe after every run. But E. was right in the end. All the common suffering buoyed us, and I just reminded myself what he promised (tricked?) me: “Yeah, it seems like you’re doing to die and you won’t make it through the sprint. But TRUST ME it will make you forget all the suffering your heart is going through.”

… yeah. sho’ did. For a hot minute.

***

Before we went out on the water, the very fit and good-looking guy in front of me (that part wasn’t 100% a lie) turned around while the boat was still docked and introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Jack,” he said.

“Hi, I’m Rose,” I replied.

“Oh man. It’s like… Titanic! We met on a boat together!” he ventured, grinning. Which makes this the first time in history a guy has initiated the cheesy part of the Titanic reference with utter sincerity. “Just promise me you’ll never let go.”

You really can’t make this up, even if you wanted to.

So yeah, um. After that, I paddled the sh*t out of that race, my eyes following his paddle the whole time (I got lectured later about the difference between paddling and rowing).

That evening, my roommate brought home a whole bag of Jamaican sweet currant rolls and asked if I wanted any. I told myself, I deserve this.

And yes, I believe I do. I deserve this life. My heart sure will go on.

You can’t have everything at once. But give me one of each: the sun on my face, the water, a way to paddle to another shore, and the ability to write myself out of any storm.

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