Ooo, it’s me! I’m having an exclusive sighting of myself in the security monitors of the Lime Tree Market on a Monday circa 9:30 p.m. I’m asea in the thin aquarium aisle with the ice cream and cookies. They’ve finally changed the Mallomar packaging! Now the yummies come in a big yellow container you can actually open. Used to just be a glued yellow wrapping paper around a dumb white box.
From the west end of this aisle I’ve bought peanut butter on rich whims. From the freezers over there I’ve bought Lean Cuisines, two at a time for dinner—I was a wee little heavier then, yah. From up by the ATM I bought a five-pound bag of rice and lived off it that one summer I was sick. I’ve bought vine-unripe tomatoes here and balls of plastic-y mozzarella. I ate that every day this April and May, the tomatoes all sliced and the cheese sliced on top and salt and pepper and olive oil and then I’d pluck some of whatever the hell plant that is growing in my roommate’s kitchen window box and throw some of that on too. I made that for a visitor from San Francisco this May or maybe April and he was nonplussed.
This produce isn’t as good as California’s, I bet he was thinking.
There’s a gray shady kitty that’s grown up in the deli—under the onus of the No Pets By Order Of Health Department Sorry Neighbors Have Complained sign. The cat, when very young, scratched the shit out of my wrist—I have mad respect for that cat. Tonight at the deli I buy only Snackwell Devil’s Food Fat Free Cookies. Mallomars were last winter; I’m older now.
I desperately wanted to romance a man from San Francisco this spring, the spring of mozzarella and tomatoes. That night we first met, very late, we had an awkward encounter at the door as he was going to leave. Literal fumbling. Literally like stupid looks and he’s all I dunno how to do this.
Off he went to San Francisco, where he lives to this day.
The Flatiron Building was granny-like, creaking with scaffolding, immediately rendering it less romantic as a warm evening’s assignation place. How to lean right, coolly? How to prepare yourself for meeting first time? And then he gets there and he’s all hot and you’re like okay, wow. Look at your eyes. Both of them! Then where did we go? Dinner somewhere, and back to my dirty apartment? Did we go to the Lime Tree Market? The ground-floor rounded nose of the Flatiron Building now encases a Sprint PCS store, I think, or something equally fucking hideous.
And it was back at my place that we totally got naked and then the muscle-y guy I’d met for the first time at the Flatiron Building totally had this random allergy attack that prevented us from really, uh, doing it. For the next few weeks or maybe a month I followed him around enthusiastic like a retard while he had a nervous breakdown, and then sooner or later he made himself flee New York. I probably should have taken his absolutely huuuuge one-bedroom apartment in Times Square. But then I wouldn’t have had the roommate’s window-boxes with the unknown herbs to put on my mozzarella and tomatoes the next year. Or was it two years later?
Wait, I know: two years. He was the summer of rice.
See how that shit works?
Anyway, he, the guy I liked badly, had that nervous breakdown, and I was all, what? And so, get this: we said goodbye and I was walking down 14th Street, the south side, past Funny Cry Happy Gift. Walking down the street, really wrenchingly upset, crying in public. Then I ran into my friend Clay and a mutual friend. They were all bouncy and I was like, hi, yes, guys? And they dragged me into the RiteAid or the Wal-Mart or the Duane Reade, whatever. They dragged me into a drugstore and Clay popped out a big honking diamond ring. He was going home to propose to his girlfriend, who is totally beautiful and young and fascinating and a great professional hair-wrangler.
Clay and I went to Union Square and sat on a bench as the cool night melded the wet trees, and as the people shifted through the park we talked through our individual irrationalities with others past and present. He wanted a clean mind for his proposal. I went to their wedding some time later, in a New Jersey country club, valet parking and Italian characters and dancing and a magician. She wore amazing tall-heeled shoes, totally money, and they’re still married and just super.
The muscle-y guy that I was crying for ended up in the South, including a brief stay in a provincial nut hut. He’s back for the New York thing now and better than ever and we email each other and are all like I like you! Love to see you! I do not feel the same way about the Flatiron Building: it was romantic one night only and now when I cab by, it looks wicked dead.
It’s too soon forever to talk about the Seagram Building. At least I can spy on it now. I had to go right into its shadow four times in a week or so when I horror-film couldn’t look: to the dermatologist for the silly cancer biopsy, to the Four Seasons, to Lever House, to see my editor. I can cab up Park Avenue, through the magical fucked tunnel around Grand Central, and enjoy both that and also frowning at the grumpy old Bear Stern Building. But I won’t hang around the Seagram Building again, won’t sit there by the empty lovely lonely fountains.
There is a secret garden in a French restaurant in Chelsea the location of which I see no compelling reason to expose, right in the heart of horrible homoville. Everything at the restaurant costs $25. It is the most adorable place on earth, and a young man took me there and I had never heard of it before and I felt stupid and he was greatly funly wordy. It was autumn of this year and I was pretty vacant from all the places I’d been. The food was remarkably unremarkable but I just adored it and the French staff, and I thought, if this were a good restaurant I’d really tell people to come here. He had vegetables all cooked up together and off-green and I had a meat. A crackly-salt-skinned chicken. Lots of people go there anyway and try and make out the terrible handwriting on the specials blackboard. Whoever they are! It’s okay!
That guy I went to Chelsea with has been in Europe making a film. That’s very fancy! Now just the other day he’s flown back to town and sneaked inside the great country of Manhattan. Lucky.
I’ve returned to Manhattan twice on the Belt Parkway. Once in a car service with two slightly drunk young men I loved, after a deeply cold rainy summer day this 2003. Caviar and sturgeon in Brighton Beach. I smoked indoors, all the while convinced the waitress was faking her Russian accent. Everyone smoked. A fat sexy balding man with his children, a table with grandma. The boys had vodka and hard-boiled eggs. The edge of Coney Island had a scary crowd, looked like rockthrowers, but we never paid them any mind. All sorts of elderly and scruffled huddled in the sheltered pavilions of picnic tables, lightning over the ocean as we strolled.
I put my head on a lovely shoulder in the back of the black car. The soupy day misted off into the great barges coming around the harbor, magnificent long-distance boxcars.
And the second time was in a taxi, me alone, a million years later the same summer, really madly high on Klonopin. It was coming home after my first commercial plane flight in a dozen years, a flight of intense pride and duress and the beginnings of a new hunger. I fell asleep in the rain again and again as the car curved around the Belt. The lush backend of Brooklyn was all green poker table felt and erotic, again the same endless tankers incoming, all to shore in the tight careless channel.