2.25.2013

I've been downhearted, baby.

L--
When I was 17 or 18 I went to San Francisco for the first time. A few months previous my very first roommate, Jono Green, had gone with his then friend Claire for the Pride Parade and I remember thinking, the day he left, what an insurmountable task it seemed to get myself all the way to San Francisco. But that feeling--the intense jealousy of his trip and my all consuming desire to go--just wouldn't leave me, and within a few months I found myself in an Oakland coffee shop about to board a flight back to Seattle having just completed a week in the Bay that seemed much too short.

I was with my ex-husband, whom you know, and his sister Emily who was on the verge of moving to Berlin for a semester of school.

"I haven't saved any money. It's hard, I work at a fucking steakhouse and I'm a vegetarian," this is Emily speaking of her upcoming trip, "and when I get off work all I want is alcohol, and conveniently I always have a fistful of cash when I leave at night. I don't know what I'm going to do. I have almost no money, I haven't learned any German, and I wont have a place to stay for a couple nights when I get there. I don't know where I'm going to sleep."

"I couldn't do it," I offered incredulously, "I mean, you're just going to fly to a foreign country without knowing where you're going to sleep?"

It's funny, because within a couple of years I found myself at a train station in Bern while the Swiss ticket agent explained to me that the train I wanted to take to Germany was already fully booked and I'd have to leave a day early. Five days later I was in Berlin without any money or a place to sleep.


I've told you many, many times about what we thought of you the day you came to our shop on Alton Road. Knowing the other idiots I had been forced to make coffee with since I had arrived in Miami I was wary of the new transfer from Kendall, but when I offered to help you with a line of drinks twelve deep and when you declined citing that you could handle it, my mouth curled into a broad smile when I realized that this girl, meaning you, was dope as hell.

That day was longer ago than I, and you and Rob too I'm guessing, would like to admit.

My first trip returning to Miami after I moved back to the west coast was almost exactly a year later, and a couple days before I flew out from San Francisco on my way to Cancun for my friend Ed and his then fiancee Carrie's wedding, Rob, who was picking me up from the airport, gave me a call.

"I'll come get you at 8," he assured me, "I'll be in my Jetta. You'll see me. And I have the best surprise for you. You'll see."

He took me directly to 16th and Alton when I arrived, pulled into the parking lot of our old coffee shop,  and before we had even finished the katty-korner treck to The Abbey you had walked from down the street to meet us. There you were! All the way from Sarasota! And it's crazy Lauren, because in all these years I think now, in coming to New Orleans, is the first time I've come to you.

Where were we? Were we on the plane there? Maybe it was when we had already landed in London when I finally confessed to you that we didn't actually yet have a place to stay. I think we've both had a lot of practice at that since then; that's so weird how that happens, isn't it? It's so much easier to perform a task you once feared after having done it one time. One time! In fact, it was only weeks after that first time in Berlin when I made it to Barcelona and welcomed--welcomed, Lauren--the opportunity to trade a bed for a night of spontaneity.

I thought of you when I arrived in Shanghai. Hurricane Sandy had prevented me from getting a Chinese visa so I wasn't even sure that I would be allowed out of the airport. But they did, let me leave I mean, and an hour later I was escalating from the subway having gotten off the train at a stop I picked somewhat arbitrarily but remembered from looking at a map. I didn't really know where to go, but was comforted by the fact that it didn't really matter since I didn't know where I was. It could be worse, I remember thinking, I could be in London in January, and it could be pouring down rain.

Remember the first time you visited me in San Francisco? You were coming from Florida for a stint on the West Coast, and we went thrifting in The Mission and drank cheap beers at The High Dive and we traipsed about The Tenderloin at all hours of the day and night just fucking begging someone to fuck with us but they never did. And when you were there in SF I could see the wanderlust in your eyes, and it was so fucking infectious that I agreed to meet you in my fair hometown some days later. That used to placate me Lauren, a swift trip up the coast for a couple days or more, but I'm always chasing that first high.

When I was 5, I left the country for my first time. My family and I drove up to Vancouver for Expo 86, and the one thing that really stuck with me, that dazzled me so much that I remember it to this day, was using a touch screen computer at a kiosk to navigate the park. It was amazing! I don't even think I had yet ever even used a computer, let alone one with a touch screen, and it was the most amazing device my young eyes had ever laid eyes on. I went on rides that day, ate cotton candy, maybe had a burger. I don't know, I don't really remember anything else; but there are still days when I casually remove my phone from my rear right jeans pocket, and while I'm navigating it with my thumb on its surface I will think of that very first time that I was farther away from home than I had ever been.

I want that again, Lauren, I want a moment like that one in Vancouver that I will never forget. I've  found it a couple of times since, I've felt it. I've felt it in front of a makeshift Catholic altar in an alleyway in Milan, in the view from the 80 mile bridge to Key West, at the bottom of a box of wine in Sydney, and yes, on that empty pedestrian mall in Shanghai. But the trick is that you never know where you're going to find it: you could be navigating a pitch-black mountain highway in California, and, only because you have to pee so desperately you might end up at a viewpoint high above Carson City, and there you might see the thick swath of the Milky Way stretched across the wickedness of Nevada on an utterly moonless night.

And this might be the night that stays with you everywhere you go, because you will never forget how small and fearless you felt right there, in that moment.

Or maybe it's on the floor of Heathrow airport where two girls are tucked beneath their too-small complimentary fleece blankets, drunk from airport wine, while the thick snow outside finally thins to a flurry.

Or maybe it's on your couch on Fat Tuesday when, full from eggs and potatoes, we slept off our Lundi Gras exploits. I'm fairly certain that I will not soon forget when, in the throws of sleep, your hand wandered to your face revealing the back of your wrist from beneath the sleeve of your hoodie, and I smiled when I read the tattoo you've carefully had placed there because I finally understood it.

I didn't know quite where I was going when I left New York again in January, but by Ash Wednesday I had the beginnings of a plan and by the time I got to Austin I was saddled with buyers remorse from all the plane tickets I had purchased. But now, here in Phoenix, I'm relating my new timeline to Ed and Carrie, whom I saw get married in Cancun all those years ago, and I'm calm and collected and I'm ready to do this.

I've told you before that I love you, that I admire you, that you are my friend. But I don't think I've ever told you how much you inspire me.

Never go home.

XOXO--M

4 comments:

lauren said...

i am crying...i love u. it was such an absolute pleasure having you, and thank you so much for all of your help. i truly feel right now that you came here at this time for a specific reason. from the moment you got here i started thinking about this coffee thing, and as soon as the ball started rolling it all was too serendipitous. from the perfect machine to you showing up out of no where after all these years to write my proposal and financial ss for me. i could not have asked for a better person to have around to pick their brains about coffee and business knowledge. you are also an inspiration...

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