Humor their shared currency, and sex, too; they were both only twenty-five and Maya raw, experienced, a bucket of need. But after a few months of going to films or getting drinks, fucking on her couch or the floor or the hallway, then waking up to get in line for brunch, he wished that the rapier wit, the strength of feeling that attracted him in Maya wouldn’t take incessant aim at things he held sacred: seeing indie films on opening night at the Angelika (“that’s why God invented television”), downtown lounges with loud music (“why must I yell instead of converse?”) and her classmates who welcomed Carl (“snobs and bores. Rina was different”). Unnerving that she had no interest in being his social entréewhile at the same time she held her wealth of knowledge and her plain old wealth over his head. “Please. I did that when I was 17,” she often said when he proposed going to a new place. She often let him treat her, even though he knew she had enough cash to buy $200 shoes and leave the price tag on for him to see.
In place of Theo, there was a rather incongruous movie poster for the latest zombie film Paul Goodrich’s company had released. The undead faces leered at Carl. He scooted backwards until he felt the wall behind him.
“Are you sure it’s okay? To be in here?” he asked.
He was told to lighten up.
“Are we smoking weed or something?” He fiddled with the buttons on his sleeves.
“Better.” Alice kicked off her high heels and crawled under the desk—Carl tried not to stare at her long, sturdy legs, smooth and hairless and browned by the sun or self-tanner.
“Still here,” whispered Alice. She reached over the desk to show them her hands full of orange pill bottles. She examined the labels, wrenched open the tops of two and spilled the small white orbs onto her hands, counting, then distributed the booty as if it were one of her daily tasks.
Alice leaned in close to him. “Believe me, no matter how lame Maya acts these days, she’s been in here and taken these.” He believed it, remembering Maya at the beginning of their relationship: down for anything, he told his friends. When had her shrugs of “why not?” mutated into shrugs asking “why do I have to?”
Alice’s lips were bright and full, her teeth gleamed. She knelt so that her breasts, immense, pillowy and red-draped, sat even with his eyes. He held out a hand, swallowed the pills without protest or query. He conjured an image of Maya, young and skinny, popping Vicodin here as a teenager. Now she would swaddle her body in a chenille blanket, weeping as she flipped pages. Had he triggered the change in her? No, impossible. Her friend had died, her dad had left; it had caught up to her in the past few months, just happenstance. It had to be that.
Joan Didion returned to New York gradually. “I don’t know why we moved back to New York,” she told the New York Times in 2005, admitting that she and her husband had felt “kind of restless.” New York moves fast, demands that you keep up with it. It’s a place where it’s easy to lose yourself in the conversations, the feelings, and the pursuits of others. For many, that’s a reason for leaving, but my own brand of restlessness seems to demand that lost feeling. It’s the only way to reach those lonely parts of the brain.
Here is the thing - the obvious thing - about New York: It’s a fucking complicated place to live. The rent is high and the good people are hard to find and it is simultaneously the most rewarding and most maddening place to make art. That never changes, but our persistence in going out and finding the things that make it worth it does. We give up on New York long, long before it ever gives up on us. There is no clean, triumphant return; there is only a feeling of displacement everywhere else that sends you creeping back the way that you came.
flynnwaslike, “On Returning”
And here Apollonia stopped writing. For something had happened, she knew, and she knew it with a profound absoluteness she had for nothing else in her life. There was a difference between species, no doubt about it. From her turned-out hips to her brain, her body spelled out the difference between herself and the redheaded volunteer janitor. She knew all about evolution. The German Primatologist had explained everything: like it or not, she was its emblem, the last branch to depart from the human tree. There was no crossing that morphological line now. It was like a firewall, a whole series of firewalls between their DNA. But she, she was not her DNA, nor her rickety hips, nor her even her brain. With her bowled legs she had stepped right over that firewall, not genetically, but with her consciousness, its great capacity for love and compassion, yes, love and compassion for an acne-ed teenager, and even for herself.
And her heart had alit on the janitor. She braced herself for the loss.