By Lola Pellegrino.
01:23a (Meredith’s parent’s high-rise apartment in Columbus Circle, living room couch)
It’s an hour and twenty-three minutes past midnight and shit, I forgot to start. I AM: Lola, sitting on an L-shaped grey modern couch at my girlfriend Meredith’s parents’ Midtown apartment, one of those greyscale interior decorator specials where the white refrigerator door is smart enough to beep if left open but not smart enough to just fucking close itself. A museum house. Meredith’s parents are in Chicago for a conference, and we’re staying up here in because it’ll be easier to drive to her niece’s 2nd birthday party tomorrow, over the bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Meredith is on my right with her knees on top of my knees, and her best friend Connor is to our left, sitting with his feet up on the other side of the L. Connor’s living in DC right now, learning how to take the testimony of people seeking asylum in America, but came up for the gathering. The baby party is in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where Meredith’s brother and sister-in-law have just moved from Inwood, for more space. I am not a family person. Age of 19, alienated from family. Age of 29, alienated from family fun.
Meredith and I were stressed when he got here around 9pm and over the course of the night have begun fighting over trivial things, litero, trivial, like the title of the movie Breaking the Waves (my point) and Georgia geography (Meredith’s point). The three of us have begun a game where I read an Anglo-Saxon word off of a Wikipedia list and Meredith and Connor guess the refined Norman equivalent. Kingly? Royal. Shirt? Blouse.
Meredith sees what I’m writing on my phone and contests my record on the grounds of “everyone’s going to think you hate me.” A month ago, at a bar during the trivia night Meredith runs, I said to her friend F. that every relationship has one person who needs to be right more, thinking over at Meredith, a self-identified know-it-all, which I love. In this matter I was dead wrong. We are tied. I don’t need to be right but I hate being wrong so much it’s fucking indistinguishable. In college if I failed a test I would go to office hours like, I don’t care about the grade. I just don’t want you think that I’m useless, or I didn’t study. F. said that in her relationship, her girlfriend was the one who needed to be right. They broke up last Monday.
I met Meredith when we were fourteen year old summer campers, then we were AIM friends in high school, we stayed in intermittent contact for ten years but got together in the fade-out of last summer when at the end of our “friend date” I invited her back to my apartment to check out my rare first edition copy of Eileen Myles’ “Chelsea Girls.” In the Vulnerability Transformation Zone, that place where a romantic enticement morphs into the feature that threatens you exactly where you bleed, Meredith’s smarts go from “I have never felt more like I am seeing and being seen by the person that I love” to [COMPUTER BLINKING, BLEEP BLOOP, I READ FROM A PRINTING TICKER] “She sees through my heretofore unbeatable defense strategy of making everything I do look like it was ONE EFFORTLESS TAKE.” This means conflict, which I am learning is not bad, is not automatically and necessarily representative of ticking on a timer that counts down to relationship detonation. The goal is not to agree all the time. We’re supposed to be different, grow in different directions. She is the first person I’ve dated after I was disabused of the notion that dating a girl would solve all of my problems. She says I’m the same. It is the best.
Connor brings out two packets of microwave popcorn from his bag and gives them to me because he thought I might like microwave popcorn. I do. He said he also doesn’t have a microwave. “Then where did you get it from?” Meredith asks. He says a girl he was kind of dating left them at his house. They are no longer dating. “It’s superficial.” She is great, he says, but he does not want to have sex with her. I’m rull tired and I say goodnight to M&C and go sleep in Meredith’s parents’ bedroom, cleaning off 3 grey large square pillows, 3 smaller grey square pillows, 2 yellow and grey long rectangle pillows.
1:53a-11:08a (Meredith’s parents’ apartment, bedroom)
(I have a dream that’s like 75% my deliverance from American Horror Story: Asylum straight into the subsequent 25%, in which I attend a high school party. X. shows up, furry and tan so I know he’s just the boyfriend with whom I exited high school, even though we have eleven more years of history.
In the dream we see each other and know that we’re going to go home together. As I wake up I am thinking about the walk from the party to the train station. My phone’s dead and I’m in my Asylum Whites and yet I’m not worried, all I feel is this perfect secure joy from the idea of forming something secret with another person and anticipating escaping into the night with it.)
Hi good morning. I wake up and tell Meredith my dream with my eyes still closed. She and I play a game where we make our hands into shy dinosaurs that don’t know how to love. Then she kisses me on the teeth asks me if I like it and yes is the wrong answer.
Meredith says she wants to get up, which is hard because regardless of your body’s positioning, her parents’ bed is oppressively comfortable. It basically invites you to practice for death. I respond to her desire by asking her what she thinks the softest and warmest part of my body is, is it my arm when it’s around her? I am a torment. She pushes me off the edge of the bed with the flats of her feet.
I think about what Wolfpupy is doing for his Eye day. I get my psych meds off the nightstand (not related) and take them dry.
12:08p (Meredith’s parents’ apartment, living room couch)
I am back on the couch in front of TV showing the Arsenal vs. Hamburg (ARS vs. HAM, hi ARS) soccer game and drinking coffee out of a “You The Man!” mug that Meredith distributed to me, giving “Goddess” to Connor and keeping “World’s Best Dad” for herself. Meredith brings up the excellent point that I have to take time out of my day in order to write it down for Enormous Eye. You check out of your life to live your life.
Start to feel a little sad, am reminded I have a chronic illness, albeit a well-managed one, Major Depression, and that I need to take my meds before 9am or else I’ll start to feel the fog come in on the tail end of yesterday’s dosing. For a long time I feared these microdips and then tried to plane them down and then just accepted were going to happen to me after I asked my old therapist (“man with a cry watching license”) if people ever get rid of their feelings and he said NOPE. They just get better at affect management. I feel comforted by this.
I ask Meredith what what’s on the agenda after the baby party, and she says nothing, and I say maybe I’ll get gone. She says what. I say I’ll start driving, she says you can’t drive and write, you’ll just write 5:58pm, driving now. 6pm, crashing now. Rear ended. 6:05, hospital!
That means almost all of today is unscheduled and up to me to subdivide. I think about the task of logging the uninscribable dead air that is a Nothing Much, You? Saturday. Fuck it, since I have the time, I’ll break the fourth wall and try to evoke some experiences I think may please the Eye. Also to evoke experiences. I get the impression people are treating the Eye like an objective lens. Not me. HI, EYE. I SEE YOU.
I’ll go up north of the city to Westchester County to my parents’ house to visit them. It’s been almost a year since I yelled “I didn’t ask to be born!” at my mom through the phone, which, at age 28, I felt as if I had earned. It was just as satisfying as it sounds. I had two demands: that she go to therapy and that she leave me alone until I came back. I didn’t think she would do either, but here we are a year later, she’s largely respected my boundaries and even more impressive started going to therapy three months ago. I can tell she is a raw nerve because she keeps calling me saying that she misses me, just wants to hear how I’m doing, and I keep missing the opportunity to call her back (I’m at work, she’s at work, oh now it’s too late) But even though I’m not angry at her anymore, but I also am not sure I love her or like her, but I feel like I owe her something, but maybe I don’t. But maybe even though I’m not angry and I don’t love her or like her and I don’t owe her anything, I should do a nice thing and go visit her. And I love seeing my Dad, so.
I think about driving somewhere to feel something, getting there and feeling nothing.
01:57p (My car, driving west on 54th Street to the West Side Highway)
Meredith’s driving, Connor’s shotgun, and I’m taking the rare opportunity to experience the back seat of my own car in motion. What is this shit back here? Everyone who has ridden in my car appears to have left an old Diet Coke or tissue. We discuss the time Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, took revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee by inventing lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, and the email from his aide saying it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
02:15p (Driving west on the George Washington Bridge)
I share my George Washington Bridge fact, which is that it was supposed to have brickwork done like all the other bridges of the era but the public found the steel bones so beautiful that they left it as-is.
I know that because I access memories by place I repeat myself a lot love that I have people in my life who forgive me this. That part in 100 Years of Solitude where Ursula goes blind but soon realizes she can get away with nobody noticing because: “Quite simply, while the others were going carelessly all about, she watched them with her four senses so that they never took her by surprise, and after some time she discovered that every member of the family, without realizing it, repeated the same path every day, the same actions, and almost repeated the same words at the same hour.”
We talk about friends who seem to feel so strongly about something at one point and then three days later march strongly in the exact opposite emotional direction, and how you want to be true to them but it’s hard to keep up. “I don’t know where to put my sympathy,” says Meredith. I say that we all have those variations, definitely me, there’s always a part of me that wants to be here and a part of me that doesn’t want to be here, and I get better at putting them in perspective as parts of me and not all of me. I stopped feeling betrayed when people couldn’t play along. that its proportions of me, I can have thoughts and not be thoughts, that thoughts change.
We’re going to be a little late and I make a joke that they can blame it on me ‘cos I’m the new girlfriend. Meredith’s ex O. was there when Fiona, the titular baby of the Baby Party, was born, and this is the first birthday she will have without her. This is my first of Fiona’s birthday parties but only because there was a last birthday party for O. The adjacency feels jarring.
We’ve been together for seven months, the longest relationship I’ve been in since my (eventually broken) engagement, which was an open relationship five years long that ended three and a half years ago. Meredith and I started dating during her (eventually broken) engagement, which ended five months ago. The parallels were pretty uncanny–both open relationships, both shifted out with both partners in new relationships–except this time I was the one who walked into someone else’s invisible divorce instead of having someone walk into mine. Meredith and her ex made a family together, had a dog. To Meredith’s credit I have never felt like I was swapped in as O.’s replacement: pulled an O. costume over my head and thrown a ring at me. Even though I love her and want to be with her For A Very Long Time, we’re ourselves.
02:20p (entering Fort Lee)
We all rush to make the Fort Lee joke. Meredith wins.
02:25p (Meredith’s brother’s apartment building, Fort Lee, NJ)
To the delight of all, the doorman of Meredith’s brother’s building is SoooOoOOooo Jersey: when I push the wrong door, he yells, “Door number 2! Always choose Door Number 2!” We sign into the building’s visitor’s log, underneath handwritten entries for various food delivery guys. Three lines from the night before: 2:00am Ambulance, 2:15am Police, 2:20 Record, all to apartment 3N.
02:30p (Meredith’s brother’s apartment)
Take the elevator to their apartment, drop coats on a bed, receive hugs. The apartment has a lot of windows but there’s heavy fog, which lifts a little to put the entire George Washington Bridge into view. Meredith’s sister-in-law is noticeably rationalizing their decision to us. “You wouldn’t know it because we’re in a cloud right now, but we have an amazing view of the city.”
Baby party. Lots of babies. And I’m not afraid to say it: I’m really bored.
Bored in the clerb. Meredith’s sister-in-law introduces us as Meredith B.’s little sister Lola her girlfriend and Connor, her…boyfriend. Or basically her boyfriend. It’s like Three’s Company. In the land of the baby party, even a Straight Man can become a queer entity.
Connor has so many pictures of him with babies that he could stack an OkCupid profile but he doesn’t because, he’s not doing it for the glory. He is doing it because he is a man who loves babies. We get beers from a cooler on the balcony and hover at the edge of the Dad Cluster.
Officially too sexy for the baby party. Meredith’s mom’s younger brother shows up, takes off his leather jacket and as we’re standing around watching the Little People Faction says he does not miss “this scene.” “This is the most boring scene.” I am reminded of a Dear Sugar column where she addresses her younger self: “Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity….Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.”
His kids are grown up, and did so in the small town next to the small town I grew up in the county north of NYC, Westchester. He accuses me of loving Ardsley. “You love Ardsley,” he says. Nope. “But you used to love it.” Nope.
Watch the kids dance (??? walk in circles) to Moby. I think about being 22 and hanging with my fiance Dylan’s Mom Kristin and telling her that my mom stopped loving me because I was a bad kid, too willful, never listened, very selfish, and how my mom would tell me that her greatest hope was that I would grow up to have a daughter like me so I could know how horrible it was to be my mom. Kristin said, How could you hate a child. Look at them. In my memory she points at Dylan’s six-year-old brother Bo lying flat on the lawn rubbing his face in the grass. Kids are basically always high. Dylan’s mom Kristin telling me that I shouldn’t worry because she would be my mom, and she was, and still is, just like her son is still my best friend even after he stopped being my fiancé.
Adulthood I see you. You work an aggregated series of Magnificent Subtle BBC Drama Driftings but also keep it lively with aggravated overt strikes. That was the moment a redeeming started. POW, RIGHT TO THE FACE. Who the fuck stops loving a kid for being a kid? Kids are basically always high.
The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” comes on the stereo. Think about X. He tells this story about how him and his two older sisters were sitting in the backseat with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend driving to Mets game. Baba O’Riley came on the radio and right before that fucking glorious violin solo his Dad’s girlfriend CHANGED THE STATION, like “Let’s see what else is on!” X. and his two sisters looked at each other and were like, “You will NEVER marry my dad.”
Second X. omen of the day, after the dream this morning, unignorable, he still lives a couple towns away from my parents so I text him to see if he’ll be around later tonight.
I realize I rely on the past to explain the present, which duh the Human Condition but also I’m especially good at it I think, even when I am here in this 2015 scene I am devoting real time to maintaining the stories of the past. Word count is only the most direct accounting. It took me a long time to pick out every way I use the past to soothe the edges of my little person-ship as it meets the unfolding scenery of this harsh-ass realm, and as the primary object I throw into reality to jam up the works, prevent it from grinding on. Think about that moment in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Jim Carrey’s character begs, Please Let Me Keep This Memory. Just This One.
I wish I was not so good at it, that I could remember that if I’m trying to maintain the past I should instead be paying attention to why I need insulation right now and focus on the present. Is my present life not meeting my needs. Why can’t I be here. It’s really not so bad here.
Connor reports that he has just eaten a Goldfish cracker from one of the baby-height dishes saturated in what he hopes was just spit.
A toddler in a tie-dye T-shirt hands me her balloon to appreciate and then demands it back. Meredith’s niece, the birthday baby and by far the cutest, stares at me until I look at her and then smiles real big and waves, like I am essentially inescapably good. Like when I hold a baby and it doesn’t cry. Same valence the other way, if it does cry, thinking oh god, I am rotten, plain as day, anyone can see it.
Fiona’s freaked out by her second birthday, who wouldn’t be, so she’s regressing: she refuses to eat her slice of pizza so her mom has to rip off pieces for her and cries when she tries to do anything that isn’t holding her. Even her Dad can’t hold her without her bursting into tears. Mom-only zone today. Attachment shit is so real, a repetition of a granular act. Freaky to see.
Talk psych stuff for forty minutes with Meredith’s sister-in-law’s sister, a clinical psych student and the only other person here without kids. Bad places to be committed in the New York Metropolitan area: Woodhull, Kingsboro. Good places to be committed: Four Winds, St. Barnabas.
I rep Four Winds because the first time I committed a patient there, I got a consult call from the doctor: “Can you tell me about this patient?” I launched into 20 year old generally well female no medications no allergies and he cut me off and asked, “Okay. Can you tell me about her.” I’m usually the only Dr. Feelings at the medical rodeo, so mad respect from me. Put me there if I ever need the help.
On our way out. I pull a book called “10,000 Dreams Interpreted” off a bookshelf, open it to “party.” “To dream of attending a party of any kind for pleasure, you will find that life has much good, unless the party is an inharmonious one.”
- texts back that he’s around tonight. The last text from me is a late-night one-off from me at the end of the summer, unrelated, do you also wish that jeremih’s ‘don’t tell em’ had been around during the eight years of our long understanding and from him, January 19th, happy birthday, I’m sorry I couldn’t.make it.
05:12p (going over the George Washington Bridge the other way)
There’s traffic problems in Fort Lee.
Maybe the whole thing about when I was a teenager who had no conceptualization of the future wasn’t because I thought I would be dead, it’s just that I thought I would be myself forever. I definitely did not want to live, I am sure I wanted to die. Always dying but never dead.
05:35p (my car Meredith’s parent’s apartment building)
You bet yr ass I was stuck on that thought for twelve fucking minutes. I give Meredith a kiss because I’ll miss her, Connor and Meredith exit the car, I jump through the middle console to the driver’s seat and turn it around to the West Side Highway.
X. texts me that R, our other mutual best friend but one I just saw last week, just informed that at 730 they will be having dessert at her parents. Pisces month birthdays.
05:44p (Major Deegan, Bronx)
I get a text from my Dad that they are in fucking Florida for two days. That’s what I get for not calling ahead.
06:18p (Saw Mill River Parkway N, Ardsley, NY)
It takes 40 minutes to go from the West Side Highway to Sleepy Hollow, NY. That gives me a 30 minute cushion in which to do my favorite kind of fuck-all, which is Driving Alone + Highway + Shuffle.
I choose iTunes shuffle over Spotify ‘cos it’ll only have things I listened to before 2012, which is the place I need to conjure right now, when I was fully committed to Dying for Lost Love despite knowing it was not the goal, my one modification maybe just not going to tell anyone about it. Back in that era I was still assigning people songs, the more I missed them the more songs they got, I played the song so for that time the person will fill the seat next to me, I’m sorry but that’s just how it is, I’m on that fucking Willy Loman tip, or was. Still am. I think about my ex-girlfriend C. Cat Power – Breathless. Please Let Me Keep This Memory. Just This One.
06:25p (Taconic Parkway N, Millwood, NY)
The Who – Baba O’Riley, hands off the wheel and push the pedal to 80 as the guitar fades into the violin solo Hell Yes
07:19p (X.’s place on Main St., Tarrytown)
I pull up in front of X.’s house, text him that I’m coming up “because I gotta drain the snake.” X. opens the apartment door (video game paused on a map screen, ashtray, boy apartment stuff) and I head for the bathroom. “What you said was terrible,” he yells through the wall as I pee.
I exit the bathroom. “We have twenty minutes,” X. says. “Do you want to hang here or do you want to drive around?”
07:25p (driving around Sleepy Hollow)
I tell X. that I thought about him because I had a dream last night. He said he was thinking about me today, too, because he had “crazy sex” that morning. This reads creepy but it ain’t: our vectors have pulled away from each other, parabola-style, mine heading in a lesbian direction and him heading in a Dude direction. Sex just isn’t an actionable thing anymore.
07:30p (my car parked outside R.’s parents’ house, Sleepy Hollow)
We’re on time for the original dessert time (7:30) but early for the amended start R. just texted us about (7:45), so we sit in my car and discuss the Long Understanding. Atalks about the few times we would run into each other at parties and handshake that if we struck out with the people we were going after, we’d go home with one another.
The Long Understanding is what we call how we casually slept together behind everyone’s back on and off for eight years. X. was my worst enemy from 8th-11th grade, then when everyone graduated High School except him and R. and me, so he became my late night driving friend, then slash my boyfriend, then slash my ex-boyfriend, then as stated slash my perma-sidepiece x 8 years slash the last dude I punched in the face because he made a request slash I just remembered a mask of a photo of his face I printed out was my halloween costume in 9th grade. Slash my bete noire. My all-slash human friend. I love him ‘cos there are so many categories they stop meaning anything, you just start to relate to each other on a human level.
We surprise everyone and R.’s older sister cheers it wouldn’t be a party or holiday without X. and me showing up. Even though I feel sort of like when the bodega guy knows me through the fact that I get the same snacks at the same time every week, I love this family.
07:55p (R.’s parents’ house, Sleepy Hollow NY)
R.’s house, four cakes: tiramisu, a banana bread bundt cake, almond chess pie, a blueberry tart. We talk about anything. R. shows X. a photo of them together, age 5 or 6, on her phone. I didn’t meet either of them until we were thirteen, and I try to pick out the features. “Fuck, I don’t even recognize him.” R. says we should go upstairs and look for more.
R. and I go upstairs to the extra bedroom where their huge boa constrictor (“Lester the Polyester”) lives, along with a mess of guitar cases, most of which contain guitars but some of which contain guns. There’s a folding table in the middle where her mom winters the front porch plants. We look through albums for pictures of baby X. but only find the one we already saw.
R. grabs a cutting of one of the plants off of the windowsill behind the kitchen sink and wraps it up in a wet paper towel for me. I hug everyone and head out, X. takes the ride with me back to his house, we hug, I get on 287 to head back to Meredith’s parents’ apartment.
10:41p (Central Park West, parking spot in front of a church)
Park but stay in car until Ginuwine’s “Pony,” #1 forever anthem of being alive, finishes playing.
10:56p (Meredith’s parent’s apartment building)
I roll in past the doormen using the All Access Stroll (™) I’ve mastered over years of needing to enter places I am not allowed to be and/or finding visitor’s logs super annoying to fill out. Immediately my mastery shows itself to be hubris cos I take the elevator to the right floor (fifth), but the hallway looks strange and so after pausing outside Meredith’s parents’ apartment door, I think it’s the wrong floor, get back in the elevator and take it to an actual wrong floor (seventh) that I think is the right floor, still something’s not right, I text Meredith asking which floor she’s on, it’s that first floor (fifth), take the elevator back down to it.
I get back in. Meredith and Connor are finishing The Boxer. I walk over to the kitchen sink, run some tap water into a mug and put the clipping in it. Then I sit down on the couch and Meredith drapes her legs over me. All circularity appearing in this work is fictitious, any resemblance to real circularity, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
11:55p (Meredith’s parents’s apartment, living room)
Now there’s a Deep Lez Double Feature of Fried Green Tomatoes on one Channel 4 Women and Steel Magnolias (“Steel Mags!”) on another. It’s like they knew we’d have cable this weekend. I idly pinch Meredith’s legs through her jeans because I love her.
Lola Pellegrino is trying to do a better job of finishing her first book in Brooklyn.