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Living Here

December 16th, 2022

As I force myself awake promptly just about 15 minutes too late, I feel disdain at the thought of leaving my bed, the only warm place in my room. I’m tempted to fill out my fourth maintenance form to finally fix the heat but then I realize that I’ve woken up 15 minutes too late.

It’s hard to write about New York when I’m half-asleep, but I guess I’m half asleep all the time, so that’s not a very solvable problem. I feel like that little blot you get in your eye when you stare at the sun for too long, just drifting and flickering, kind of glowing cold-warm, somehow always moving around and staying in the same place at the same time.

Sometimes on walks to school I have to remind myself that I have a life and friends that I know well, seeing as I’m constantly surrounded by people I don’t know who like to remind me about how bad of a person I am. I know that it’s middle school bullshit, but being above that sort of thing is a lot easier said than done when it’s everywhere. I remind myself of the people who I can call who’d call me in return. My friends. Make me think that maybe I’m not all bad.

I think I’m finding that difference between nostalgia and missing. I’ve stopped blocking out the bad stuff. Because I miss my father and the way he’d barely tell me he loved me. I miss my mother’s tears. Even my dog’s whimper.

Of course, as the sun hides more often and the seasonal depression hits, I get annoyed by the whole thing. With depression, it’s not the sadness that really frustrates me as much as the complete and utter destruction of any drive to do anything at all ever. I stop calling my friends, stop using my phone.

I miss my mom. I miss being asked for a hug.

I get better though, I do a little thing for me that I can keep to my memory and smile. I get up, begin. Make my way from my bed to my shower, knowing it will probably be the hardest thing I do all day -- eau de Mark Kingwell.

Whenever I reread Catch and Release, I relate to it a tragic bit more. I get this fear that I’m turning into my arthritic marine core grandpa when my bones start to ache. As I start parenting my roommates more, I start to relate to my Dad’s stubborn love. I think I could count on my fingers the amount of times he told me he loved me, but oh did he show it. I used to resent him for missing out on my childhood to kill ISIS and how he paid someone to teach me how to ride a bike. About a month ago I got access to the old family albums. He got deployed for 200 days once. When he got back, the first thing he did was take my sister and I to dinner, the arcade, read us a book. To a roller rink. He taught me how to roller skate.

I start to feel less unique, in a communal sense, among my family. Because a sense of community is wholesome -- that maybe you’re not unique. Maybe you’re not on your own. That’s nice when you don’t know what to call home.

There’s this book stand downtown that I work at whenever I can. Chris, the 65-year-old intrepid owner, also known as the drunken tourist, often says that it’s “dime-store intellectual Mecca;” a place where conversations skip small talk and go straight into what’s important. Across the street, there’s a pizza place and a coffee shop -- whose workers all know Chris and I by name. On a building on the other end, there’s graffiti I fixate on like a stoner, “woah gasm.”

At the book stand, I meet people that I don’t forget, even if I only talk to them once. A starving artist in a pac-man shirt with ambitions of making millions off the world's biggest painting -- an American flag. I can’t think of anything more American. A former Jimi Hendrix-style guitarist trying to get back in the groove, if his divorce would spare him the time. My personal favorite, Jonathan, who often bikes down past us blasting his rock-your-baby tunes, never with anything but a smile on his face. Also says little more than “YEAH BABY!” It’s cold there, but I feel warm there.

Chris often shares with me his equally “dime-store wisdom.” Just little things that make me think. He says “The irony of loneliness is that we all feel it.” I think about the people that I’ve abandoned, or that abandoned me. I’m never bitter about it; when you live everywhere and meet a new cast of people every other year, relationships start to depreciate in value. I’m worried that the naive love and companionship I crave won’t return

He says “it’s better to be a first year philosopher than a fourth year philosopher.” That way you don’t get stuck up thinking that Camus is right for some reason or that Lolita is somehow a good book. I start to feel less ashamed at the idea of new people caring about me.

Connor (Chris’s named “DJ of the Obscure”), Chris, and I recorded a Christmas song less than a month ago on Mercer. I remember my first time in the studio, feeling the music. Going to jazz clubs after with Connor and being a part of a sound greater than myself.

When I leave the bookstand I usually stop by Zach’s and we watch baseball or, when the season’s over, baseball movies. We smile, we drink, and we laugh. Try to be wise. Start another story, like the time we went to Long Island to see Nick Mullen, walked 45 minutes to Hicksville, and got punched by some guy on the subway who didn’t quite like my face. We never make it home before 4. I feel stupid for thinking I don’t have a life.

When I go home I pass by the Two Boots on 2nd that I’ve slowly seen built, I think about how it appeared on Google maps about two weeks before it opened, and I walked all the way to 65th just to discover that. I think about how my friend Sophie recommended it to me. Then I think about how I referred to Sophie as my friend. I can’t go there alone now.

I’m starting to live here; developing my sense of community. People that I’ll call when I’m back in Hong Kong for Christmas. People that I let be a part of me. I feel less unique and, by virtue, less alone. It's a small solace to be sure, but it’s real. As real as anything gets. Some days, when the sun once again fails to show itself, it’s just what I need.

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