Sunday, August 31, 2014

ghosts & glorious golden beets

I was going to get some, and then decided not to, but then Lauren decided to get some, and then we wandered on through the market and came across some more, so then I just had to get some too.

Golden beets. They draw me in every time, even when I don't particularly want beets. They're. Just. So. Goddamned. Beautiful.

We met at Union Square, took the L out to Bedford Avenue (oh lord how I detest Bedford Avenue),  and walked west towards the East River and all the deliciousness awaiting us at Smorgasburg. We indulged in Dough doughnuts and shared a bowl of Noodle Lane noodles and split the best fish sandwich and finished it all off with cups of strong-enough-to-make-your-toes-curl cold-brewed iced coffee. We sat in the sun and traded stories, she resplendently pregnant and happy, me feeling grateful for the lunch, for her, for this magnificent day.

We took the L back into Manhattan and decided to wander the Union Square farmers market where we bought golden beets and where I bought local linden honey for me and wine for a friend's apartment-warming party.

I swiped her back into the train station, took myself back up to street level, and headed west to catch the A-train home, anxious to have a couple hours before heading back out to the aforementioned party.

As happens because it's so beautiful, I found myself walking along 16th Street and, as also happens (and yet somehow always manages to take me by surprise), I found myself passing Xavier High School.

One of my brother's dearest friends, and something akin to another little brother to me, killed himself during his senior year of high school. Xavier was the last place either of us saw him, on a gray and cold December afternoon when my brother was visiting me at Barnard and I took him downtown to watch this friend compete in a debate tournament.

And even now, almost twenty years later, Xavier jolts me into a moment of grief every time, a moment of having the air punched out of my chest. But yesterday as I was walking, for that moment, for that block, I felt as if some of my ghosts were walking next to me, and it felt warm and golden and good.

I've been contemplating abandoning New York City, heading west, finding my love and my next move. I am excited about this, even if moving almost imperceptibly, glacier-like, in that direction.

But I will miss these streets, and I worry that I will be abandoning these ghosts. There's been a certain comfort, over two decades of walking the streets of this city, in coming knowingly or unknowingly across my particular haunted places.

Every time I walk down 113th Street (which for some reason is less often than one might think), I smile at the memory of a Symposium dinner with my father at the end of a childhood going-to-work-with-Dad day.

The rock wall overlooking Riverside Park, especially in the gloaming-time when the sun is just going down across the Hudson and the shadows come swirling in, brings back hours-long conversations with Mick, perched up there on the wall and thinking, I think, about falling.

And then there's Matt, heartbreaking Matt and the reminder, walking down 16th street every once in awhile, that you rarely know that this time -- this moment right now -- may be the last time you see someone you love.

And I know of course that these places are not my ghosts, but the deep pleasure in still being able to walk fragments of their worlds is real. I wonder, sometimes, if pieces of people can be caught in their multitudes of geography -- in concrete and leaves, in rivers and libraries and ash. I'm hoping, of course, that I will take them with me when I go.

So I walked along 16th Street yesterday, basking in the afterglow of a lovely afternoon with my Lauren, wondering what to do with my beautiful golden beets, and also thinking about my dead. And I felt, in that moment, very, very lucky. Is that really so strange?


Marie C said...

Did my other comment get to you? I don't see it but I can't remember/don't know if you actively moderate posts.

Marie C said...

Ok apparently the other just disappeared. I said,

That doesn't sound strange at all. It sounds like it was a perfect gift of a day.

And here is a very belated thank-you for your welcome back and your concern in the spring. I didn't see it until just now. Things were very hard, but I think they are getting better. Life is pretty good right now. It would make quite a long comment if I went into detail here, but maybe I'll write a post about it.