being alone in ny

I almost started this journal off with the phrase, “for the first time in a long time…” — but I realize that’s not quite right. This has been a somewhat gradual process, an accumulation of being with HJ and living in China with not much to do and now being in New York, the city of my dreams since forever, and now being in it in a unique semi-optional but not permanent aloneness way.

Semi-gradually, I’m beginning to truly realize that life is more the day-to-day happy than the long-term happy, and perhaps that the long-term happy doesn’t exist at all; perhaps the long-term happy has always been nothing but something waved in front of me like a goading flag, always whipped away and out of reach as I think I’m charging towards it. And from there, I’m beginning to learn what makes me this kind of day-to-day happy, and furthermore to learn to actively search for what makes me this kind of happy.

I can bike for hours and be truly content. Rivers, the city, the late afternoon light is all somehow more beautiful on a bike. The wind is fresher. The rushing view is exhilarating. And I get the feeling — no, I’m not even aware of the feeling — that there’s nothing more in the world I could desire other than this: not people, not success, not friends, not family. I know this is fleeting, this encompassingly content state, born from a decent enough day of interactions and the security of the temporary solitude and HJ’s worldview, but the ephemeral nature of it doesn’t make it any less real, or any less sublime.

4/19/17 10:33am, on my bed in my dorm at college

Loudness is communication. Communication allows for understanding and change. What bothers me about MH, and now HJ is that they are quiet. They do not yell, or protest, or retaliate; they recoil. But this is far, far worse: in their quietness, they are resolute. Their judgements are set, their conclusions wrapped about you and your flaws. I would much rather they criticize openly.

05/21/17 9:42am, on the plane from DC to Beijing

And so, I am sitting on a thirteen hour flight and I am thinking about people, and sex, and the person I have sex with, but also people, and also sex. Junot Díaz is not helping me not think about sex. I think about sex, and I think about all the sex I will not be having in the next three months, and I am a little sad, and I think about HJ, and I am even more sad and while the whole thing is a bit sad I’m happy that I’m sad in the first place. Having people to feel sad about is kind of one of the reasons to live, I decide. Not that it’s completely necessary, but it does add a wonderful glow to living, if you’ve got food and water and shelter and all already.

And I’m still thinking about sex, and I really can’t stop, and I miss HJ so much that I take out my phone and try to look at photos of him. I have only four stored on my phone, because my phone broke. Not that I have that many photos of him or us anyway: we’re both not photo people. And because I have no internet, I can’t look at the fuzzy five-second video of him saying hi in a red shirt that I like, or the photo of us together with the good camera where my face looks a little bigger than I want it to and his eyes are in the middle of closing, like always. But I do have the four photos that I took of him two days ago in the morning on the bare bed in his boxers looking out the window at the blue, blue sky. Here they are:

In the first photo, the exposure is great for looking out the window and not so great for looking at HJ: he is nothing but a slight sheen of skin on bare back and a silhouette of a cowlick. Immediately before the first photo, you and him opened the window shade on the day and let the blue, blue sky filter into the empty room. You lay more or less side by side on your stomachs and looked at the view and the buildings outside but mostly the sky. You kissed his back and jumped up to take a photo because You Wanted To Get The Blue, Blue Sky And You All In One Photo, because Wouldn’t That Be Great? so you hopped off the bed and stood naked behind the bed and aimed the camera at the window and him before the open window and took the the first photo.

In the second photo, the exposure is not so great for looking out the window and somewhat better for looking at HJ: the blue, blue sky is blown out to white and the only vaguely accurate color of outside is are the trees, which are magnificently, stubbornly, lusciously green. HJ and the room are sort of colorless, but you notice that there’s a square fan in the window on the left. It looks like it’s almost the same moment, except you can kind of tell that it’s not because the shade in the window on the left, which is the only one that’s down, is a little concave because the wind is blowing lightly (not violently, which it often does: the window and the wind suck and blow those shades so much that it rattles and flies out with a ghoulish flapping, and suctions the door shut with a bam that is extra-loud because the door doesn’t quite fit the frame and is just big enough that it can only close with a yank, which the wind provides sufficiently). In the second photo, you can see his shoulder blades jutting from his back, and if you zoom in really close you can see one of his eyes, the other one hidden by the blanket, and it’s looking back at the camera with a smirk. You just know it’s a smirk, even though his mouth is hidden behind the blanket, too. You know that look.

Right before the third photo, you decided you Kinda Want A Photo Of Your Entire Face! so you hopped up on the bed and got back next to him and aimed the camera at his face, letting the outside exposure blow out to white because Oh Well That Probably Wasn’t Going To Work Anyway. You take this photo really fast. In the third photo, you can see most of his face. He’s smiling slightly in that perpetually good-natured way of his, but only half his mouth makes it to the picture so you can’t see the entirety of the lopsidedness of it, but still  now that you look closer you’re thinking about how He Really Does Kind Of Glow Like Your Friend Said That One Time. His elbow is huge because it’s close to the camera. He’s kind of not looking at the camera and you think maybe he was looking at you with that soft look and it’s both good and bad because Well He’s Not Looking At The Camera Again So When Will I Get An Actual Good Photo Of Him but also He Was Looking At You With That Soft Look and that feels pretty nice, you guess, and Oh Fine It’s Really Nice That You Have This To Look At. His cowlick is sort of blurry. The hairs on his arms are in sharp focus, though.

In the fourth photo, you don’t exactly remember but it kind of looks like you took two photos really fast to get two copies to double the chance of success with the third photo and this was the photo that you would have deleted if you were into deleting imperfect photos, but since you both think things that are slightly awkwardly imperfect are hilarious, you smile a warm smile at this photo. In the fourth photo, his eyes are in the middle of closing. You think this photo is hilarious. You think how this photo is so quintessentially HJ. You feel an outpouring of affection for HJ in this photo. You miss HJ a little bit more. You kind of wish you were more used to outpourings of verbal affection with each other before the summer started.

05/21/17 10:38am, on the plane from DC to Beijing

You think about the goodbyes.

You woke up with HJ and checked the time and hollered that He Was Late and chuckled afterward at the memory of him shooting out of bed instantly, pure panic on his radiating face in his bright green shirt. You scrambled to help stuff the sleeping bag, throw out the trash. You trailed behind him as he ran to the Uber. You stopped at the edge of the street so that he could turn and kiss you. You stood in a dazed mess as he dropped his bags to wrap you in a hug because he knows you like hugs. You watch him load the car and you check your texts accidentally too long and when you look up the car is already driving away. You send a text with all five colors of heart emojis, thinking that you’ll work your way up to sending just one red one.

YM came to the building you were grading essays and you couldn’t help it so you both slumped down in ridiculous position on couches and talked until we hit the time limit, and then YM pushed back her departure time and you talked for more. You planned your TV watching schedule so that you could discuss their sociopolitical implications with YM and affirmed her sweatpants in the ninety-degree weather and made her promise to get a Snapstreak going for you. You explained to her what a Snapstreak was as she stood in the middle section between the inner and outer glass doors of the building.

You ran across campus to say goodbye to GR. You were running to the eatery she said she was at when she yelled your name from the spot she was sitting at in the grass. You hugged each other and walk opposite way, but she calls your name when you’re somewhat twenty feet away from each other. What? you say. It Was Nice Knowing You this Semester, she says in her slightly off English. You Say That Like We Won’t Know Each Other Next Semester, I say, laughing, and she smiles and we turn and continue walking.

You ran across campus again with your luggage that AM was storing for you for two weeks and hugged his mom before him. You helped him saran wrap his carpet and he listened to you complain about your allergies. You gave them a quick wave. You’ll see them in two weeks.

You were waiting for the librarian to find a specific book that you really wanted to read and it took so long that BI and AC just decided to come to you. They walked in the door and you shot the crap for a few minutes and complimented his bag and you all promised to get together a visit and promised It Will Be Amazing. BI said Love You and you said Love You Too Broskito.

AC and MC said goodbye to you. You ran outside with your suitcases when they yelled and you stopped to give them a hug and MC said your name and raised her eyebrows and smiled in that way that she does and you hugged and turned and walked away.

You’ll be friends with ES for a long time, you think as her mom drives you to the airport. You hug her in her camouflage print sweatpants and poofy hair and you know. You are not sad.

You love and hate the goodbyes. You add goodbyes to the list of Things To Live For. You don’t have goodbyes for people that don’t matter.

05/25/17 10:41am, on my bed in Beijing, China

Of your memories in your memory bank, there are these:

You both wake up late for HJ’s train. He shoots out of bed, his panicked face still somehow radiant. He wears the fluorescent green shirt you like.

He shows you some crazy video with some dude who carves vaginas onto Thanksgiving foods. The room is dark save for the glow of the computer screen. You kick your legs into the air with glee and laugh, laugh, laugh.

He kisses you down your belly. His left hand rests on your abdomen. His right hand clasps yours. He looks at you, right at you. His legs alternate between dangling off the bed and swinging back and forth, bent at the knee like a kid during playtime.

You kiss his neck and look out at the blue sky.

You lay your head against his back and search for a lightening bolt to follow the thunder.

You run your lips against his ear. You listen to the sharp intake of his breath.

You grasp his sweaty back and bring his body to yours. You open your eyes. You find he is looking at you. His gaze is too intense to hold. His eyes are so very blue.

You say Let’s try to make the most awkward kiss ever. You think for five minutes. You lean in and slowly push your tongue in between his front teeth and lip. You simultaneously twist away in peals of giggles and laugh, laugh, laugh.

You stop for ice cream at some place called Dari Bee. He gets banana foster and you get apple pie. You bike home with a cone in your left hand and the bike handle in your right. You watch as a bead of sweat drips down his back.

You are stressed about finals. You spend the entire day on the second floor of the library in the dark stacks. When he comes he brings a boxful of cookies. Under the table, he crosses his ankles around yours.

You are on top for the first time. He looks at you and says, Wow. He comes in one minute.

05/26/17 6:35pm, on my bed in Beijing, China

I feel unable to express to HJ any sort of ill-being because he does not express those things to me, and it is doubly preventative because I don’t think he doesn’t tell me problems because he’s hiding them, but rather because he’s such an emotionally healthy and stable person that the problems he does have he handles perfectly on his own and furthermore, he doesn’t see many things as problems in the first place. And it’s not that he wouldn’t want to hear my problems, but I just feel as if it would be so unequal if I did (because I have, and he’s been great, but he really does not know the extent to which I can rant). And so even if I somehow was able to build up the comfort level of spontaneous free rants, they would never be reciprocated. And so I’m stuck in this bind of feeling slightly repressed and unable to tell him things because, in a nutshell, he is TOO POSITIVE.

WHAT in the world am I supposed to do about that.

on the walk here

JS is sitting on the steps outside my dorm when I walk out. I see him out of the corner of my eye: a solid pink sweatshirt and a penny board. We throw each other an obligatory wave and head nod.


Vignettes of the weddings I would have had with each of my past somethings:

At JKm and I’s wedding, I would have fake-fought to wear something bright — a sunshine yellow sundress. He would protest enough over me embarrassing him in front of his family that I would pick out something white. Something innocent. I would have struggled to mingle with charming, docile small talk — or who knows? Maybe I would have been good at it by then. I would have hovered with his grandparents in the corner, clutching to some conversation about contemporary art.

Barefoot, wearing some sort of wildly appropriated sari for JS. It would have been in India, or Puerto Rico, or Africa — anywhere but here. His friends would be hugging and kissing and my friends from back home would be uncomfortable. We would smoke weed. We would sit cross-legged on the floor.

WB and I would be back home, on the beach, with everyone from high school, or come to think of it, maybe no one from high school. I don’t know who I would be. I was in such a transition period during the period of us: I realize that now. Perhaps he was also, or perhaps I dragged him into mine. Maybe I would watch him joke around with his white, wholesome, cool church community, or maybe not at all. We were so different than we were two years ago; was the feeling the same? This I know, from the start until now: at the end of the day, we would have sat in silence, watching the sunset.

I can’t yet tell what HJ and I will be, except that I think I feel very much myself. I wonder how the legions of radical feminists can each individually choose to make that nod to gender roles and still make grand statements about the collective push against them. I couldn’t wear a white dress now, I think, that low bow to tradition.

I’d be down for a brightly color-blocked skirt, I think.


On the walk here, there were pink flowers covering the floor. They look better there, I think, than they do in the tree: a soft sea in grey light below leaves.