NORA: 25, an accountant, engaged to her high school sweetheart, curious about what she might have been had she pursued a life outside of her home town
TOPAZ: 33, traveling gypsy, free spirit, curious about the life she might have led if she had settled down with the only boy she ever loved in college
ERIC: 29, enlisted in the military as soon as he got out of high school, bright, could have gone to college but wanted to explore his masculinity
AT RISE, an art studio so small, it could be a closet. TOPAZ is painting and is covered in paint. A knock--Enter NORA.
Paint hits NORA.
Oops! Sorry about that. So hi, who are you and what would serve your spirit right now?
I’m here responding to the craigslist ad about a new roommate?
Yes! Eric is two doors down.
He and I live together.
Paint hits NORA again.
I guess I wasn’t actually sorry earlier. I’ve always thought that if people are actually sorry about something, they don’t repeat the action and if they do, they weren’t really sorry. Let’s stop and think about why I’m not sorry. You look kind of sad in your outfit. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to brighten you up with some color. Do you always wear grey?
I am a terrible painter. I wanted to try Pollock’s process though... so… fun.
I think that--
I am in an interesting energetic space right now. Do you feel it? Because it’s just going. So you’re going to have to answer an interesting question if I’m going to give you the floor to talk. Here: What three ways might you die? I know it’s kind of macabre, but I think you can learn a lot from a person by how they think they’re going to die. Like there’s a very big difference between the person who is going to die of old age and the person who is going to die skydiving, don’t you think?
TOPAZ stops her frenetic moving and plops down on the floor, cross legged.
The Girl in Purple Sunglasses, Sipping Chocolate Milk Through a Red & White Bendy Straw & The Boy in Leather Pants Holding a Skateboard
“I’m not just some strange girl,” she said, as she sipped on chocolate milk through a classic red and white striped bendy straw, “I’m a strange girl from the past and the future at the same time.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that,” he replied.
“I mean you’re never going to understand me, so I’m not sure that you should try.”
“I’m not trying to understand you. I’m just curious, so I’m just asking questions.”
She laughed dryly.
“Maybe you’re simply a narcissist,” he said, “Maybe I don’t want to know you at all.”
She began to unwrap a French macaron. It sat, wrapped in a delicate plastic, in a cardboard box with only room for one. The box was wrapped in a champagne colored ribbon.
“Okay,” she said.
This made him furious, but he knew not to show it. This made her laugh.
“I know you’re mad,” she said, “Would you like a bite?”
“That thing is a bite,” he said.
“I don’t get close to people.”
“We’re just working on this project together. It just seems necessary for us to talk.”
“I didn’t say necessary for me to talk at you. I think we need to talk. With each other.”
“Why don’t I just put together a little something something, and you put together a little something something and we surprise the teacher.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“Why are you so boxed into ‘how it works’? Who decided ‘how it works’ anyway? I don’t like that guy very much.”
“This is very frustrating,” he breathed.
“Would you like some tea? There’s this place two doors down. Beautiful teahouse. I know the guy who made all the pots.”
“I feel I’m supposed to say ‘yes’ here.”
“Is that the only way you’re going to talk to me?”
“Don’t you see I’m talking to you now?”
“Well, yes. Yes, I see that.”
“Then why don’t you just ask me a question.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
“Are we still talking about a project for school?”
“I don’t think so. Not anymore, I don’t think so. Although I think we should come back to that.”
When I grow up, I hope to be a figure skater or a classical violinist or a neurosurgeon or a biostatistician or a clown.
When I grow up, I hope that I do something that makes me feel like I’m helping something, maybe helping someone cheer up or feel entertained or get better or understand something better.
When I grow up, I hope that I will have figured out religion. I hope that I will not be at war with myself over what is right and wrong, and I hope I will have figured out some dogma that makes sense to me, that makes me feel that good feeling that religion makes so many feel, that they are part of something larger than themselves.
When I grow up, maybe I will understand the allure of Game of Thrones.
When I grow up, I hope that I will have found love, and that he will make me smile and laugh every day and that I will be able to listen to him for hours upon hours without once looking at the time. I hope that he’s the kind of man who will bring me flowers for no reason, and who will cook with me.
When I grow up, I hope that I am still reading. I hope that I read books upon books upon books and that my mind is sharp because I still question things and I’m still always thinking the way I am always thinking now. I hope that I read all the classics that I have always meant to read but never got around to it-- Jane Eyre, The Color Purple, The Lord of the Rings.
When I grow up, I hope I recycle. I hope I run into some terrible problem that makes me care about recycling. I always recycle in front of people, but I also throw cigarettes out of the car window and throw soda cans into the trash can when I am alone.
When I grow up, I hope that I am brave enough to stay still, because maybe I haven’t grown up yet because I just keep on moving, changing, morphing. How did everyone else quench their curiosities?
Spent the day on the high line, walking through the greenery dropped into the city on this beautiful park on the sky, a halfway space in so many ways--halfway city, halfway escaping city, halfway park, halfway street, halfway tourist destination, halfway a place for a local to sit and eat a falafel sandwich before returning to work in the boutique in the meatpacking district.
Halfway is interesting--halfway to adulthood, halfway involved romantically, halfway interested in my classes, halfway too busy being distracted by the city, halfway missing home, halfway so glad I’m not near anything familiar, halfway satisfied with my body, halfway on some diet in that halfhearted sort of way, halfway thinking about next year, halfway telling that part of me to shut up, shut up, just shut up already because halfway I’m here in New York City and I shouldn’t be anywhere else because when am I ever going to live in New York City again? Halfway intoxicated on being 25 and alive and from Brooklyn, halfway staring at children being pushed in strollers by their nannies of different ethnicities and so I’m halfway thinking this would be a disaster of a place to raise a child in and so I’m halfway thinking about Colorado, and about the outside because I halfway miss all the fresh air, all the stars and how they’re so very bright in Colorado skies and I’m halfway jealous of kids who grow up in Colorado because the ones I know know far more than just a few constellations. I’m halfway thinking about how incredible it is that I can wake up at 3am and decide that life is tedious and so I’m halfway so glad that the A line runs late into the night and I can be in Times Square anytime I want and Times Square is always breathing, it’s always alive and it’s always pulsing and it doesn’t care how much it’s wasting, and I’m halfway thinking about how if Colorado were a person, he would be very mad at its wasteful niece, New York City.
In all the halfways, there’s one very whole question that I can never quite answer: Who the hell am I?
It's really warm and it's really sticky. You can feel your sweater clinging onto your skin even though it was much needed when you were standing outside in the 60 degree weather. That's the thing about the subway- it's September- the end of September, but September- so summer still lingers down here, the heat trapped within these concrete walls.
There are some relationships that are sticky. They linger even when their season has passed. Her mother was that way. She had long left the comforts of her middle class bedroom. She had paved her own road through college and she got a job in a different country immediately afterward. Her mother was supportive and loving but sometimes it was... Well, sticky. It was warmth when she'd already put on the thick sweater to protect herself.
She wants to do all these crazy things. She wants to take up horseback riding. She wants to understand linguistics. She wants to work for a neuroscientist. She wants to be a flight attendant. She writes to NASA because she's tall and she wants them to just consider sending her to the moon. She writes to Tyra Banks because her little sister is short but her little sister is also beautiful and she thinks she would be a superb contestant on the next cycle of America's Next Top Model.
She's not the settling type, and this worries her mother who has worked the same job for over 30 years. That sounds tiresome and bored and she's much too excited for life to live it so sleepily.
But her mother's steadiness is why her retirement money looks so good. This is the steadiness that allowed them to raise three kids and send all of them to college.
Which she is grateful for. They are both grateful that she got to go to college.
But here's the thing with the umbilical cord. It is necessary for life to exist but it must be cut for life to continue, at least in a meaningful way. And she wants life to be meaningful. She wants to taste it and all of its different flavors and variations. That’s what she’ll say tonight on the phone.
Inside the Pregnant Pause
That entire relationship was a pregnant pause, the tipping of the water but never the splash, the unwrapping of the candy but never its sweet taste.
I'm 25 years old and I'm sitting on a subway and I'm soaking in New York City and right now it's 7:24pm and I'm curious if I could build a life here, if I could be happy here, what I would do here, would I make it?
Today I made a list of things I want to do and it was much too outrageous to ever actually complete and maybe I should blame my teachers for this, that I just dream and dream and dream and I keep moving but I don't really know where I'm going or how what I'm doing now will get me there, wherever the hell "there" is.
Life feels like a pregnant pause right now and maybe that's why I keep thinking of that relationship from my past, because it was the same feeling, like I'm holding my breath and I don't know when I can let go. Like I'm on this subway ride but I don't know where the stop is and he won't tell me. And life won't tell me.
I tell myself I've got to keep creating, keep making because Ira Glass talks about that too, that makers get into making because we have good taste but there's this period of time where what you're making isn't in line with your taste; there's this gap and you know better and so you know what you're making is bullshit but the secret is most people give up there and stop making and the secret is to keep going. I've got to keep going.
I’ve made it off the subway and I stopped and talked to a girl who was sitting on the stoop smoking a cigarette and sipping some red wine. She used to live in Los Angeles and thinks maybe she’ll return there one day when she’s older but she wants to spend January in Spain or Morocco and she’s dreaming just like me and I wonder if that’s okay, if I kept living like that, inside the pregnant pause.
A Brief Analysis of My Personality According to the Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
I have sold all my belongings in order to move across or out of the country five times now, and I’m just 25 years old.
Crimson is a special color for the Scorpio. I am rarely without red lipstick, which is a source of conflict when he wants to kiss.
New Orleans, for the Scorpio, is a magical place. I remember standing in the middle of Bourbon Street during Jazz Fest 2012, soaking in all the whimsical noise, trying so hard to just, for a minute be still.
The pictograph is the stinger of the Scorpion. It happens to be the same symbol that, in ancient times, represented the phoenix. I am always lighting my life on fire, wanting to just feel something: a move across the country, a swift change in profession, an application to the peace corp, a graduate degree, maybe. Reinvention isn’t a waste of time-- it’s living as many lives as you possibly can in this short amount of time.
Even in my Catholic upbringing, I was drawn to the occult. I wanted to get my hands on tarot cards and ouija boards and I wanted someone to take me to a psychic because I wanted my palm to be read. In my adult life, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on these things, even though I’ll say to my more science minded friends It’s just for fun.
I was hospitalized twice this past year, once for exhaustion when I had decided I was going to teach a 24/5 playwriting theatre intersession to my bouncy high schoolers and once for dehydration during my packing and moving and selling phase of my move from California to New York. The first time, in March, the Capricorn took me to Sedona, Arizona and he said Don’t do anything, just be and that made me fall in love with stillness.
My mother harped on us about flexibility when we were kids, which is ironic because she’s the most stubborn person I know. I know that what she said mattered, though, because I don’t know that there’s anything that could happen in any situation that would make me stop trying. I always keep going.
The Real Problem is the Humidity
RITA, a beautiful, strong, sassy, elderly southern woman, defensive over accusations that the place that she calls home is home to some severe racial tensions. She speaks to LORETTA, a fresh out of college young woman who has come to intern for the small town’s Chamber of Commerce.
The thing that really kills ya is the humidity, cuz the air is just so thick you can just ‘bout take a butter knife and slap some of that son of a bitch on that fresh baked roll ya got there. That’s ‘bout the only real down side livin’ down here cuz everything else is all that good stuff you see in the movies about these here southern states. Folks are nice. Ya got a flat tire, someone’s gonna stop by and ask you “Hey there, need a hand?” Last time my grandson got a flat, six people stopped and tried to help him--six! And he knew all six of ‘em too. That’s another great thing ‘bout livin here is that you just ‘bout know ever’ person in the entire place. Sick? Gladys will send ya over some of her famous chicken noodle. Graduatin’? Make sure you got food for everyone ‘cuz the whole town’s gonna come celebrate with ya. You need help movin’? We’ll all be askin’ when we can be over to pack a box. Sometimes people get overwhelmed with all the help that people be wantin’ to give that you get numbed to it and start sayin things like “No thank you ma’am, I’m just fine” or “No sir, I’ve got it all covered,” and then you find yourself alone, wrapping glasses in bubble wrap and thinkin’ to yourself, why how the hell did this happen? That’s what it really is- all this and that about people bein’ racist. Some people just never take that hand up when it’s given so people get tired of askin’. There are plenty who still offer the hand--I’m one of ‘em. You wanna talk about “racial tension”- get all the folks in a room and make ‘em talk about the things they’ve got in common, cuz there’s a lot of them. We can start with the humidity!
He never kissed me.
I met him in a coffee shop, the year I moved back to California.They had hired me to be live music for Friday night, but no one wanted to be in this coffee shop when the brewery next door had just released a whole slew of new porters and stouts. He was walking toward the brewery, stopped when he noticed the music was live and walked inside. He stayed for my entire set.
He brought me home that night. I was enamored by his Bob Dylan musicality and his James Dean attitude. He played all sorts of instruments himself, and there were a few moments over the years of our friendship where we’d play and sing together and it would feel perfect, at least to me.
“Let’s go to the desert,” he said one day, as we lay awake on the floor of his apartment after an evening of dancing with and exploring one another’s bodies. “Let’s go to Mexico. Let’s go to Mexico today,” he said to me.
“Okay,” I said and I excused myself so I could head home and look for my passport. I showered and straightened my hair and put on makeup and re-did my lipstick three times until I got it just right. He asked me on a trip. Maybe I wasn’t just the girl he called in the late evenings, just a girl he kept around so that night wasn’t so lonely.
It started to rain. He called and said he didn’t want to ride his motorcycle in the rain, but how about we meet at the Yellow Deli and have lunch?
Hours pass. He called again and said the rain is pouring too hard, he doesn’t think he can even make it to the Deli but how about I come down there?
I said no.
That’s the way it was with him. He was endlessly disappointing and I was so caught up in what it might be like to be loved by him.
“Why don’t you ever kiss me?” I asked once, as we both lay naked in his bed.
“It’s too intimate,” he said, and he fell asleep, turned away from me.
I’m in my twenties and I’ve got an unlimited metrocard and that means that New York City is mine for the taking any time of the day for as many days as she’ll keep me here.
It’s 2am. I get on the subway. I try not to listen to music when in transport, but sometimes the loneliness swallows you when you’re surrounded by so many people who are so seemingly uninterested in who you are and what your story is so you put in the headphones and you turn on the sounds because it makes it feel like someone is talking to you. Someone is singing to you.
But when the noisy silence of the subway car is broken up by an announcement of, “Ladies, gents, we’ve got a show here,” I shut off my phone.
A little boy who can’t be more than 7 years old is dancing. It’s happened so fast; I didn’t even notice music getting turned on. His older brother (dad?) is bouncing along on the side and eventually joins in. Two brothers, looking at one another, smiling big smiles as if it doesn’t even matter that there is a subway car full of audience members.
Little boy takes off his cap and walks around the car. I reach into my purse and I give the duo a dollar. Part of me wonders why they are out so late, curious if they are using their talents to hustle the necessary cash to survive in this expensive city or if they are simply using their talents for the sake of using their talents.
I’m 5 years away from being in my thirties. I’ve got to get my life together. I can’t keep chasing crazy dreams. What if I became a mother projecting singer songwriter dreams onto my child? What if, at 2am, I was playing a guitar to my baby girl’s voice on a subway platform? I wonder how much I would hate myself should that be a necessary action rather than a purely joyful one.
The subway door opens. A final thought drifts through my mind:
At 25, I am young, but I’m not free--I am now shackled by tomorrow’s worries.
The goal: Release the inner creator. The means: Write 365 words a day in any genre (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, theatre) for 365 days and make the work public.