Apr. 10, 2018

The Frozen Tundra

      It’s the Thursday after Christmas, although at this point it is basically Friday because it is almost midnight--the perpetual blurred line of days passing. I am reluctant to wake up given the two pre-flight Dramamine I popped after a few Jai-Lai at Tampa International while waiting for my delayed flight due to the weather. Not even because of a snowstorm, but the cold weather's tendency to make things move more slowly. I am completely prepared and simultaneously unprepared for the 12 degree weather we are landing in, spending a solid twenty minutes waiting for my luggage I knew they would ask me to check complimentary at the gate and another twenty minutes for the taxi app ride share back to Brooklyn. The final days of 2017 are treacherously below freezing and the city ices over into the new year.

      I’m sitting in the back office at work at 8pm with only a handful arrivals left, watching some brain candy tv show on my phone, stragically placed against a stapler for the optimal minimal glare without having to hold it. My feet propped up on a filing cabinet, using my Black Friday score scarf as a blanket. The houseman comes to switch out our trash and I pause the episode and swivel in his direction, willing to make small talk with anyone in my current state of frozen boredom. I mention being grateful that it will warm up to 45 degrees next week, and he defies my optimism, “The winter has just started, Leila.”
     My signature full blown eye roll did not express the amount of disdain I had for his statement.

      It’s the last night of the ungodly cold temperatures in the foreseeable future, and I cozy into my bed with some homemade vegetable soup, Wheat Thins topped with Veggie Lite brand vegan swiss cheese, and a bottle of Granly Head Old Vine Zin poured into a copper mug I got drunk enough to take home from the bar on New Year’s Eve on accident. I start feeling an unprecedented amount of emotion and I think back to Marc Maron saying that the modern age has repurposed the word “unprecedented” as a more articulate or possibly more sophisticated way of saying something is “fucked up.” So it’s sometime around 1am and I begin feeling a fucked up amount of emotion. To be as close to exact as possible when describing emotion, I have begun feeling nostalgic for the moment I am having while I am experiencing the moment. There's a German word fernweh that translates best into the sensation of feeling homesickness for a place you have never been before. It is something that I think I experience often, frequently feeling defeated to the idea of being born in the wrong generation. I suppose fernweh is the closest I can get to boiling down this particular emotion as concisely as possible...
     It is strange and unsettling, but I know what is happening (for the most part).

     I always tell people that my move to New York City was the result of a manic episode. And don’t you worry, liberals, this is not mocking mental illness, because as you can tell by my style of writing I tend to suffer from the occasional mildy hypomanic episode. And if I am being honest, it was just that, but also what I needed at the time. I typically proceed to tell people that, despite the circumstances on my move, I will never regret living in New York City in my twenties (even if it wasn’t what it used to be). 
     And in my emotional moment on that Monday night featuring the worst temperatures in the foreseeable future, I am existing in that moment in the future where I am remembering living in Brooklyn in my twenties. I am wondering if I will remember the fleeting moments and the nights of closing down the bar and the nights of getting home at daybreak and all the brand names of the overpriced (but still affordable) wines and vegan cheeses of my history. That’s why I am sad in this moment: will I remember the specifics, and not just the blurred details.

                                                                         ***

     I step out into the last few hours of daylight around 3:00pm and into what feels like spring weather. In reality, it’s 45 degrees outside; however, after the past few weeks, it is walking out into the world and being able to breathe again. No complaints in sight. I have a conversation with my super outside of the apartment--a conversation that was a little lengthy for one with my building superintendent, but I am chatty and he is a good guy.
     The city is melting, causing black slush on every street corner while the piles of dirty snow along the streets and avenues slowly make an attempt to fade away. I romanticize for summer--or even for the springtime when I can leave my apartment in a dress and jacket and hope for the best as the sunset cools the city air. The trains are all delayed due to the water seeping underground or maybe it is actually from the signal issues like the MTA claims.
     (My personal opinion is the delays are from the amount of sick days the union allots and the amount of overtime they are willing to offer. If being in a union has taught me anything, it is the other members of the union sure know how to work the system. People like to complain the MTA doesn’t know how to function if the weather is bad, but I am convinced trains are slower on rainy days, during blizzards, and on days too cold to justify to leave the apartment or too relatively beautiful to go into work being a result of well deserved sick days being cashed in).
     Who am I to say though?

      En route to my first destination of the day I get a text message from the guy I am seeing, “Pretty sure I’m dying. Remember me when I am gone.” I attempt to reassure him it is the fever dreams that are making him feel this way, and offer to bringing him sick supplies: soup, or whiskey. We all have our own remedies. Given we are only three dates in, he justifiably reiterates that he is dying and I cannot see him like this. Fair, I agree, and make a mental note of how he handles illness.
     I think back to my past two and half years in the city and tally the amount of times I have been “under the weather,” as if that phrase makes any sense. I debate the roots of that cliche and conclude it must be a British phrase, and mentally tally feeling so terrible independent of too much alcohol intake: a total of four.  Each of those four times, however, I remember being so sick that I thought I was dying. In fact, I can only trace feeling that terrible to the first few years after my family uprooted our midwestern lifestyle to reside in “sunny Florida,” you know, like they say on airplanes when you're landing in Tampa on Christmas Day morning. 
     I had strep throat to the point of immobility our first few years there, the first year being so feverish I still recall the full blown hallucination conversation I had with one of our family cats, Fluffy. My mind skips a few tracks to the NYC sicknesses I have experienced, specifically the four independent treks I made to the grocery store while the medicine was just setting in for long enough for me to get out of bed and buy everything I felt like I needed. Orange juice, my Florida background pleaded, some ginger ale--something that my dad also brought me (without fail, along with Jolly Ranchers i.e. the childhood version of cough drops) in my pre-adolecent illnesses, soup and some more soup, grapes because I always crave grapes when I am sick, an assortment of Bigelow tea, Wheat Thins to soak up up all the liquids, and Gatorade (for the sake of electrolytes, I suppose). Being sick in New York City is the absolute worst, and I feel for him while also remembering the fact that I refuse to get sick this winter.

     I exit the G train on Metropolitan Ave and walk toward the Tex Mex place Jess and I have decided on. Our plans have gotten rearranged and by the time she arrives our Taco Tuesday orders along with our overzealous choice of chips and gauc and queso are on the table, plus our two happy hour frozen margaritas. I am already two happy hour margaritas on the rocks in.       
     “Are those two glasses from water you had while you were waiting for me?” she asks while I am in the middle of my Christmas family drama recap. In my mouthful of veggie taco she continues her question, “Did you order me a margarita and then drink it because I was running late?”
     The answer to both of these questions are a hard no, and I answer with a wholehearted laugh over The Strokes playing in the otherwise somewhat quiet establishment. Tuesdays have been my Saturdays--since I started working in hotels in NYC for the past year and a half--and I appreciate embracing my Saturday regardless of it falling on a weekday.