Category: anecdotes

let it be absolutely winter

In February, it is too cold to meander: leisure takes a backseat to power walking through gallery openings. The wind rips through my hat but I try to find the beauty too, like the coziness of being outside looking into a window lit with warm light, watching other people drink cheap champagne and discuss art. There is a German word for this feeling, I am sure of it. The art-goers are nibbling on Chex Mix and in any other setting, the Chex Mix would be cheap but against the backdrop of nocturnal art and winter, it looks like the best damn snack in the world.

I frequent basement jazz clubs more often in the winter. Our coats strain against the random hooks scattered across the walls. This coats-on-hooks thing is uniquely wintry, something I had never experienced before in Texas. The constant scramble to make sure you have all the accessories at the end of the night: Scarf? Hat? Gloves? Multiple sweaters? I’m still not used to it. The orange-brown hue of Old Fashioned drinks illuminated by candles that blow out every few minutes from the opening door. The way the saxophone wraps itself around you like a purring animal – all of this, this can’t be replicated in the heat.

A few months ago, E. texted me that he was out buying a snow blower with his brother-in-law. I responded, “Wow, that’s New England AF.” E.’s response: “…Rose, we don’t live in New England.” (“She’s smart, I swear,” I heard him whisper later. I did deserve that.) Living most of my life in the very southern part of the country insulated me from having to know where “New England” really is, or definitively what the demarcation is. Not that if you had asked me to think about it I really would have made the mistake, but it was an honest snap retort that made us laugh later. I just think of New England as The Place Where There Is Cold Winter. And The Need For Snow Blowers.

It doesn’t ever get easier. Not this season, not these feelings, not this cold. But the light changes, yes. Or, how we see the light. Or how we use it, sometimes even to our delight.

AK asks me if I’ve been writing, and it’s hard to answer that sometimes life moves too quickly for writing. It moves at the pace of note-taking, frantic scraps. Fragments I scribble even when my fingers are freezing in the tunnels of wind. Poems I write down to think about later.

Speaking of the winter and New England, I can’t stop thinking about this:

Part of Me Wanting Everything to Live

This New England kind of love reminds me
of the potted chrysanthemum my husband
gave me. I cared for it faithfully,
turning the pot a quarter turn each day
as it sat by the window. Until the blossoms
hung with broken necks on the dry stems.
Cut off the dead parts and watched
green leaves begin, new buds open.
Thinking the chrysanthemum would not die
unless I forced it to. The new flowers
were smaller and smaller, resembling
little eyes awake and alone in the dark.
I was offended by the lessening,
by the cheap renewal. By a going on
that gradually left the important behind.
But now it’s different. I want the large
and near, and endings more final. If it must
be winter, let it be absolutely winter.

― Linda Gregg

relationships are non-linear

Relationships are everything. Connection is everything.

“I remember as a small child seeing the geese flying south. Firefly season. A cicada that lived for a while in the cracks of the cement bricks that made up our porch wall. A flash flood sweeping cars away while we were huddled under an overhang on a picnic. Lightning felling a tree in our backyard. I guess I learned that everything will pass.

But also, and equally true, it will all come back again.”

Karen Joy Fowler

Every week, S. and I have a call to talk about one thing, but we almost always begin with another. On Thursday, we began by discussing this incredible piece (The Crane Wife) in The Paris Review. There has been an undercurrent of thinking about the shapes we believe we have to take in order to invite love in; of how we make ourselves smaller, ask ourselves to need less in order to appear worthy of love.

The next day, I finished reading Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living, in which the author reminds us: “To separate from love is to live a risk-free life. What’s the point of that sort of life?”

AK is always talking to me about maintaining my mountain pose, and he asks me if my stubborn patterns in building relationships (or stumbling on/upon them) feels to me like accidentally stepping to a different dance that I already know the steps to. Absolutely! I respond. You can always tell what someone’s home dance is, based on the habits their bodies hold onto as they learn a new one.

I take time to remind myself that almost nothing in life is linear. Not our outward portrayal of success, not our bodies and health, not love, not friendships, not the greenness of my four plants in the windowsill, not the rhythm and pace of sleep. We are who we are right now in order to become who we will be. Growth doesn’t always look or feel like growth, sometimes it’s underneath the soil, sometimes it’s within our leaves, sometimes all your leaves turn yellow and red and then brown, then drop to the ground in order for new life to grow again.

My sister and I grew in a womb together, and when I spend time with her I feel in awe at how little I know about her, and how much we have both changed. The way we regard (crave or don’t crave) touch from men, and the way we talk about love languages. She asked me to re-take the Myers Briggs test and we marveled at the disparity between us. But we still buy the same flavor of Pop Tarts.

In yoga class, J. implores us to love the transitions just as much, if not more, than arriving at the pose itself. S. and I contemplate water and earth. One shapes the other.

Brecht says: But love is like war; it always finds a way. Perhaps he originally said it the other way around, but still.

On a Tuesday, we are in Korea Town claiming that we’ll go in for “just one song.” JD, whom I am meeting for the first time, says that he never sings “just one song”- it’s either hours, or nothing at all. We get a room for 8 people and stay for 6 hours (I mean, Jia did it too), because it’s cathartic to sing with strangers you’ve just met alongside friends you’ve known for decades. I’ve always had the intuition when I meet someone: is this person for good, or for just now? Either way, karaoke has been a pretty good proxy. We accidentally sing from every Disney movie, shake it like a Polaroid picture, butcher Jay Chou songs, and twirl in the bouncing, ridiculous disco lights. The night deepens as B. serenades me with “Every Rose Has Its Thorns” while I am laughing, I am laughing so hard. “You’re so happy,” he croons, “why are you so happy?”

“I’m not, it’s just… it’s just all so true,” I gasp.

Afterwards, we put down the microphones and he two-steps slowly with me in a circle, in a hoop that never ends.

memory, ongoingness, and goodbye, vitamin

 “I realized that I could remember something and he could remember something different, and if we built up a store of separate memories, how would that work, and would it be okay? The answer, of course, in the end, was no.”

I just finished reading Rachel Khong’s new book, Goodbye, Vitamin. Mostly I related to the details the narrator remembers about specific days, the introspection and doubt that occurs after heartbreak, the strange closeness you can feel to family members while also feeling alien amongst them, the lies you tell under the pretense of protecting the ones you love, the dichotomy between how you remember something versus how the other person in a romantic relationship remembers something.

At the time she was reeling from a breakup, contending with the way a tanking relationship exposes a chasm between each partner’s memories of seemingly joint experiences. How can a person trapped in the morass of imperfect recall identify true north without signposts? “I’m terrified of forgetting. If I could remember everything, I thought, I’d be better equipped; I’d be better able to make proper, comprehensive assessments—informed decisions. But my memory had proved itself unreliable, and I needed something better.”

I have a strange habit. Maybe I fool myself into thinking that it’s a writerly habit: I devote a lot of my life to observing and remembering details. I comb through the past when I’m writing vignettes, but this sometimes prevents me from living fully in the present.

Read More