Everyone has their reason for coming to a city. It’s usually something small, compelling, and faintly ridiculous, like a lover. I told people who asked that I was moving to New York because a literary agent had found me right out of school and it seemed as good a place to write a book as any, but the truth was that I wanted to stay close to a boy who would break up with me three times over the next year. After it ended for good, I thought: now I have to write, don’t I?
Chris and I like to play a game where we talk about the next place we’re going together. So far we’ve been to Vermont and upstate, near the Catskills; stopped by Storm King on the way. The joke is that money is no object, that we’ll pull some great ruse over all of Brooklyn and just—whoosh—disappear. We let the future swing open like a door, chart long ellipses of possibility, all the lives we could possibly have. Let’s run away, let’s move to rural Japan or the south of France.
But mostly, we remain in place. I bike up to see him. My iced coffee sweats in my hand. He tugs at the hem of my dress.
When I first moved to the city I felt lucky just to be here. Every time I emerged from the subway into Manhattan I felt as though the world was mine to take in all its coruscating fineness. Now I feel that way when I bike down Kent Avenue at night and see the city shimmer over the water. I told Dmitri this, way back in September when we had just met, and he knew exactly what I meant; he once moved to New York, too. Everyone comes from somewhere.
On the waterfront after an event at Powerhouse Chris and I are a little drunk and I run through the middle of all the mirrors in that Jeppe Hein piece, the one everyone Instagrammed this summer, watching myself appear, disappear, reappear. I twirl. The park is full of people and tripods and cameras but it still feels magical. A couple kisses in front of a photographer, their faces uplit by a floodlamp. I feel like a clear mouthful of white wine.
I tell him about the importance of making a painting slowly and he laughs, says: “That’d be a good point if you knew what slow meant.” Then he showers me with kisses, raining them along my shoulders and my neck. It’s an abundance, an indulgence. The punch line being I’m always the one who goes too fast. Speeding around bends when we take the scenic route, driving to a swimming hole a little drunk, my knees open and his hand on the inside of my thigh. Emotionally, too, I move too quick; find myself all need and mouth.
The lights of the city glimmer across the East River. Looking up, my eyes track the shape of the Big Dipper, each star faint next to the manufactured brilliance of the skyline but bigger than anything we could ever make.
He’s leaving the city soon. I’m trying not to be sad about it. I’m trying not to think about time, or distance, or the inevitable end. I’m trying not to think about anything but how good it feels to have what we have. Sometimes I think about leaving with him, running away for real, but I don’t want to leave New York.
He writes something to me, for me. It’s startling to see myself through someone else’s eyes. My grace, my petulance. (Don’t I do this to lovers all the time? Am I not doing it now?)
I read it again and again, hungrily devouring the sentences, trying to excavate their hidden meaning. I read it after a fight, on my phone, on the train home after a trip to look at Basquiat’s notebooks—we’re always fighting in museums. Everything comes in time, he says to me, everything.
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