The last time I lived alone was the summer of 2002. I had six months to kill awaiting my grad school acceptances and spent every last wonderful drop of them in New Orleans.
I rented a tiny (300 square feet?) apartment on Dublin Street in Riverbend, a camelback with a screened porch.
I loved that apartment. It was a mess when I moved in. I was so broke, I convinced the landlord, who drove a fancy white SUV but was a decent fella, to let me clean it for a break on the first month’s rent.
Tina downstairs later told me that the previous tenant had been a frat guy who had been seen at least once vomiting out of the second-story window. It was pretty dirty.
But I had all of my things. Books. Dad’s old record player. An old enamel-topped table that my great grandfather used to fillet fish on in Mississippi. My first digital camera. The statue of David with the blue glitter hair and pubes purchased the summer before in Sorrento.
Landlord John told me I could take a trip to Freret Hardware and pick out paint to put on the tab. I painted the first room, my bedroom, blue. The kitchen, with my desk, and an old dial-style TV I got when I turned seven, was to be chartreuse. Or yellow-green, as I think the crayon was called.
(Have you been to Freret Street lately? WOW.)
When at home, I subsisted mainly on Easy Mac, runs to Taco Bell on Claiborne for Mexican Pizzas, cheap white wine, and cigarettes.
I distracted myself by writing on Diaryland and taking selfies, of which there are hundreds from this period.
It’s funny — in my post-9/11 funk, I let my birth control prescription lapse, and had a terrible, almost disfiguring breakout that required many trips to the dermatologist. And yet, there I was, months later, kind of cleared up, taking as many pictures of myself as I could. Finding just the right kitchen light to do it.
Same thing happened to me a year and a half ago when I went off the pill. Guess I can’t blame the terrorists, stress, or my mom being a carrier of Streptococcus B after all.
I just shipped two posters to myself that I had framed at the Michael’s in New Orleans that summer. They’re from The Public Theater’s marketing closet, which I had keys to, a privilege I did not abuse, except for taking the beautiful poster Dancing on Her Knees, which hung in my boss’s office, and an early print of Lackawanna Blues, before we realized Bill’s name wasn’t on it.
I’m staring at Dancing on Her Knees now. I have no idea what the play is about.
I remember thinking that summer, fuck it, this could be me going full cat lady for the rest of my life. Love may never come, and that’s perfectly fine. Because I am an eccentric woman who wears scarves and drives a Volvo with stickers on the dashboard and who’s gonna be a writer anyway so nyah nyah nyah.
And here I am, twelve years later, wearing gold glitter toenail polish, reading my tarot cards, wandering around the streets of Brooklyn, going wherever I want, doing whatever I want, writing, drawing, bookstore-ing, drinks with friends, kissing my dog, and loving every minute of it.
Last time, there was a certain fragility associated with the experience. Where will I get in? What will happen next? I knew the spring and summer would end with a move, somewhere.
I feel the same fragility. What will happen next? What job offer might I get? What person might I meet?
It’s something precious, not to be concerned about.
It makes all of this navel-gazing, this going through old boxes at my parents’ house and taking the time to Write it All Down seem really important and worthwhile. Because it won’t last forever.
This ridiculous 26th floor view of Manhattan from the other side of the East River won’t last forever. And I have no idea what will come next.
It only took about 3 weeks for me to cook up a Tinder drinks date, start to finish.
Just as my local yokel conversations were starting to get humming, I up and took a 11 day, 10 night trip home. New zip codes. New doods.
Sitting at a dark French Quarter bar, I opened the app to show my sister how it worked.
We found someone who had written a sort of enfant terrible novel in the early 00s and, more recently, an article about his experiences on Tinder (mwahahaaha MATCH!).
We found someone in town from Boston for a bachelor party (mwahahaha MATCH!!).
We found someone with a dog, a tattoo of a famous literary character, and a resemblance to Ryan Gosling (mwhahahaha MATCH!!!).
I had drinks with Ryan Gosling last night.
The red Hamster rental and I took the Franklin Avenue exit. I sat at the bar of a joint that only makes me think of increasingly inappropriate R. Kelly jokes. Someone cute — a different someone cute — sat next-ish to me. That was the Craigslist missed connection.
He came in through the back door.
The rest I will describe to you via this stream of consciousness word jumble:
Personal space; lack thereof
"Coming in hot"
Modelo tall boy
"New Orleans isn’t a city…it’s just a TOWN" (stage whisper)
Hates football fans
“I swear to god, if I hear ‘Who Dat’ one more time…” (<— at a bar during a Saints pre-season game)
Hates the media
Hates people who hate pit bulls
Hates the police, and the protestors, of Ferguson, pretty much equally
Hates Teach for America
1.75 hours later, I said, “I hope you find your peace.” I said it like I imagined Pema Chodron would say it while sucking on a lozenge at the end of a very long meditation retreat.
I got into the Hamster machine and drove back uptown.
"What I mean is, where before I would have striven to grip the meaning of what you were saying, and would have fretted over whether what I understood and what you meant were the same, now I just listen. I’m resigned to the effect of this sort of abyss that swallows your words and spits them out on my monitor and vice versa. It’s almost like sending each other an endless series of inkblots. But that understates my interest in what gets said. As you’ve surely noticed, I hang on every word you say. And I freak out every now and then and have to hear your voice or see you. That’s when I’m pissed off at the abyss and I need to narrow it. But one thing I hear every time you say or write anything to me is: ‘I want you to hear this.’ And it’s louder or softer in proportion to how much zeal or effort is apparent in what you say. So that’s how I get past the contradictions (or swallow them). I’m not reading for sincerity, I’m reading for what went into writing or saying it. Because it seems profound to me that a person with such bleak views as you could ever think, ‘I want you to hear this.’"