Four years ago I moved to New York with my best friend. It was - let’s be honest - a weird, confusing decision born out of some romantic stereotype that (I think) maybe everyone develops towards that city at some time or another. I was going to be a writer. I was going to be writing in a cafe some dark, grey evening and I was going to be discovered and given money to do what I’ve always wanted to do. Literally - I have always wanted to do it. I have always wanted to write. I was 9 when I wrote my first short story. It was about my dog. I was 11 when I devoted my young life to writing X-Files fiction. I thought - ah ha! I have found what I will do forever. This is it.
I was 15 when the show was cancelled and I realized I should probably start writing about something else. So I did. When I was 16, I submitted and published my first short story in a small literary magazine. I was published a few more times throughout college and then, when I graduated, I moved to New York. And I spent 3 and 1/2 years figuring out that you do not have to be in New York in order to be a writer. And actually - sometimes New York is possibly the exact opposite of where you have to be in order to be a writer. I was working a full time job, commuting 10 hours a week, and getting home too exhausted to do much besides feed my cat and collapse in bed.
So I left. At 26 I quit the job I’d had for years and I packed everything I owned and I moved back in with my parents. And I told myself the only way you can do this - the only way you will be able to do this without hating yourself forever - is if you actually sit down and write something. And then you have to send it out. And then you have to get it published. And then you have to move to Scotland.
All those things are happening. Slowly. I wrote a book, I got an agent, I got an editor and a publishing company, I got accepted into a master’s program in Edinburgh. I’ve spent this summer editing a book that in some ways took me 3 weeks to write, in other ways took me 26 years.
All this is just a long way of saying that I started this blog in 2008 and it’s been great in nearly every way. It taught me to write for an audience and it connected me with readers in a way I’d never really experienced. But as all things eventually do, this little piece of internet has run its course. This is me in New York, this is me sort of floundering and unsure, and I’d like a clean place to start over and fresh and new.
I leave for the UK in one month and I will be starting my new blog when I get there. I’ll have one more post here to give everyone the link. I hope you follow me to my new internet home and I hope (let’s be honest) that you all buy my book and stay in touch and keep sending me all your lovely messages that I sometimes reply to and am usually too embarrassed to reply to.
And allow me to be incredibly lame for about ten seconds and say - in all sincerity - do not follow your dreams anywhere. Rope them in and tie that knot tight and pull them to you. Make them come to you. If you want to write, sit down and write. You don’t have to be anywhere special to do it. Wherever you are - just drop everything. Just make the time and sit down and do it.
You can also apply that logic to anything else you want to do and to anything else you want to achieve.
Like Scully says in the first X-Files movie: “DON’T THINK. JUST PICK UP THAT PHONE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.”
At the end of my dream last night I sat in a car across from a beautiful woman and she held just the tips of my fingers as we barreled down streets left bare and destroyed by the last, final virus. Only a handful of people survived and we were among the lucky ones and we sat eating strawberries and laughing and I have never felt such a feeling of wellbeing - such a feeling of belonging, of peace, of surrender. I woke up and it was dark and the house was like an empty shell around me and as much as I strained my ears in the absolute blackness of it, I couldn’t hear anything. Not even the air conditioning straining out of the vents or my cat upstairs or the incessant stream of fireworks my neighbors have kept up all week.
A few days ago I drank boxed white wine in a glorified barn - one long, sweltering room with a lousy band and a dozen scattered relatives. Afterwards we ended up at this bar and then afterwards afterwards I threw up acid vomit into my cousin’s toilet and I remember thinking how double vision is just that - a perfect duplicate of the world copy-pasted just off center of this one. My niece slept next to me on the couch and I tried to figure out how to crawl from this world to the other world, just to see if there was any real difference between the two.
In the morning everything was back to normal. I had a headache and a bad taste in my throat and I drove home barefoot and spent the whole day watching movies in my bed. My cat approached with caution. As if - and maybe I am just projecting - as if maybe he knew I had been so close to crossing over and had only narrowly managed to make it back.
The upside of leaving New York City and traveling three hours north to Connecticut to live with your parents in their (furnished) basement with your cat and the half of your worldly possessions you managed to fit into your (to be fair enormous) car is that you are afforded the sort of quiet that New York City has never and will never afford anyone. You can take a breath; you can lay back on a bed; you can stick your head out of a window; you can write until you are physically ill from the writing, until you hate writing, until you would literally like to do anything in the entire world other than write, ever again. You can dust off old sheet music and sit down to play a piano you’ve neglected for years and you can spend time perfecting the perfect french manicure and you can cut all your hair off and read an entire book in an afternoon on the hot hot impossibly hot deck.
There are upsides, and the key is to keep remembering the upsides. Keep repeating the list in your head. Tape it to the walls of your brain and read it off to yourself before you go to bed.
You might be lonely. It might be very, very lonely, but you are getting things done and you will not be here forever. In fact, in three months exactly you will board an airplane and move to the other side of the world. But until then, you are here. And there are upsides.
In the hospital waiting room, the receptionist tells me I should be a model. I’m wearing thrift store shorts and an ancient X-Files tee shirt.
“Oh, thanks,” I say. ”Um.”
“It’s the eyes. You have very pretty eyes.”
“Thanks. I um… not a model. I’m not a model. A writer. Actually I was wondering - “
“You could be a model, though. Right? Doesn’t she look like she could be a model?”
” - if my mom has been brought in yet? She’s had, um, some sort of - they’re taking her by ambulance. Some sort of head trauma.”
“Oh, what’d she do, then? Fall?”
“I think she just, um - hit her head? On a cabinet? I think I beat her here, though. I think I beat the ambulance.”
“Just have a seat over there. You’ll probably see it before we do. Just have a seat over there and we’ll let you know when she’s all settled in.”
When they let me see her, I am unprepared for the amount of blood pooled and congealed in her hair.
“Oh geez,” I say.
“Oh geez?” she says. ”What do you mean: oh geez?”
“There’s a lot of blood,” I say.
A doctor enters.
“This is Gary,” she says, pointing. ”I told him you had copper hair.”
“Hi,” he says.
I know Gary. We met last year. He treated my grandfather, who died a week later. But that wasn’t Gary’s fault.
“She’s going to need a few staples,” Gary says.
And later, I think to myself, Oh. It is an actual staple gun. It is an actual staple gun with actual staples. Well, I’m not sure what I was expecting.
In my dream, I have killed two people.
This happens a lot.
I kill people, and I regret it. My brain attempts to rationalize a crime I can only vaguely remember. Was I protecting myself? Did this person I kill try to kill me first?
In one such dream I sat with my mother at a kitchen table and confessed everything. She said, “I already know. We’ll do everything we can. You must never tell anyone.”
Last night, my friend found out. I tried to tell him - but I think they were trying to hurt me! I was only protecting myself! You’ve got to believe me! - but he wouldn’t listen.
“You can’t just go around killing people,” he says.
“It was only…it was only two people,” I say.
I somehow killed them. The memory is foggy. Afterwards, I drag their bodies into separate bathtubs and hit them on the back of the head. So now, when they are found, it will look like they’ve only slipped and fallen and accidentally died.
But I can’t remember why I did it. Did I do it just to do it or was it really self-defense?
In the middle of the night, I wake up. There is always that second. That moment. That terrifying flash of time when the room is buzzing and your eyes won’t open and you’re held paralyzed against your bed and you are so scared you’re going to wake up to a jail cell. You think - why would I do that, why did I do that - and then you shake yourself and you pull yourself up and you look out your bedroom window just to reassure yourself that you are still on familiar ground.
You did not kill anyone last night, you say. You have been watching too many crime TV shows.
You look half-hopefully around your room for Matthew Gray Gubler or, perchance, Fox Mulder, but come up dishearteningly blank.
“Have I told you that one before?”
“It’s just easy, Jet. All your riddles are easy.”
She scowls, disappointed.
What she doesn’t know is he found her riddle book once and he read it front to back and he has, among other things, somewhat of a photographic memory. And by “found” I mean he snuck into her room and searched the most hidden corners until he unearthed it under a dozen worn copies of National Geographic. Jettie wants to be an anthropologist. I think. Something with ancient civilizations, bones, and old pottery. Once she tried to steal a fossil from a small museum on the coast. They caught her at the door but she was only seven so they didn’t press charges.
I was embarrassed but my parents were strangely pleased. In the car, they quizzed her about her choices. It was a prehistoric fish in a flat, smooth rock. She said she admired the way the rib cage had been preserved complete; it looked like a puzzle.
“You’re a freak,” I had whispered to her in the backseat.
She looked at me demurely and gave me her best condescending shrug.
“Miriam, don’t call your sister a freak,” my mother had admonished.
“Although we shouldn’t steal things,” my father adds later. We’re still driving but it’s an hour later and we’ve all moved on.
“I don’t think anyone can own a fossil,” Jettie had said. “I think a fossil can only belong to the earth.”
That was my sister in a nutshell: waxing poetic about fossils and crying an ungodly amount of tears. From the littlest paper cut to the death of our mother.
Some books you remember reading.
The Silence of the Lambs: Public Library. An uncountable amount of times. It was an old hardcover edition. A beige binding. No dust jacket.
Intro to Psychology: Brother’s Room. It was a college textbook kept squashed in a book under his bed. I read the introduction, which was mainly about Van Gogh’s reasons for cutting off his own ear, three or four times.
The Complete Shakespearean Sonnets: My Bedroom Floor. It was read aloud to me once when I was high. After that, I couldn’t understand what he was saying unless I was cross-legged on my carpet.
Babar: I Couldn’t. The Public Library’s editions featured tiny, handwritten cursive text. I tried so many times to read those fucking books but never, ever could.
The Magician’s Nephew: Under the Christmas Tree. And the whole time I kept thinking - someday I’m going to write a book like this. I don’t care how long it takes me, someday I’m going to write a book like this…
The Dud Avocado: Apartment in Manhattan. With the windows open and the summer heat radiating around my body like a headache.
Let the Great World Spin: Airplane home from Poland. Nearing New York, the boy in the seat next to me leaned over and said - How can you be reading? Aren’t you getting sick yet? How can you be reading?
He offered to drive me home. He lived just a few streets over. As we walked through the parking garage I thought - is this how I die? A ride accepted from a stranger? Is this the way I die?
His name might have been Mike. He helped me with my bags. He did not kill me.
I woke up sluggish and with a mouthful of unexplained canker sores clogging up the roof of my mouth and the back of my gums. I tried unsuccessfully to eat a bagel, dumped a sizable heap of cream cheese on my brand new dry clean only dress, and set out in the pouring rain of Brooklyn to meet my agent and editor for lunch.
I like housesitting for my brother and sister-in-law because they always keep such interesting snack food: jars of salted nuts, greek yogurt, dried figs and cherries and every healthy alternative to potato chips you can imagine. The flavor of their sorbet is blood orange and I twirl it around in my hand before replacing it untasted. I haven’t exercised in days and I’m already feeling guilty for the amount of wedding cake I consumed on Sunday, fast bites while holding my sleeping, twitching niece.
The weekend was nice and flawless in a way that wedding weekends rarely are. Aside from a few hiccups (five minutes before the ceremony my three year old niece got a running start, launched herself at my gorgeous vintage dress, and promptly fell to her knees, the first layer of delicate embroidery ripping apart in her sticky, guilty fingers (I pinned it up with my earrings and no one was the wiser)) I danced, I ate good food, I saw people I haven’t seen for the better part of thirteen years, and I watched my brother exude the sort of peaceful happiness he is rarely able to achieve. Usually he is hectic, mildly panicked, late in every date he endeavors to keep and almost purposefully stressed about something but this weekend he was relaxed, smiling, glowing. It was as if he’d finally reached a state of bliss one only dreams of achieving - the perfect house, the doctor’s prestige, the truly perfect bride crying rivers of mascara before the ceremony even begins.
“Eat anything you want,” she texted me from the road, following six separate messages containing explicit directions on how to feed and water the cats and fish, “but leave the wedding cake. I guess we’re supposed to save that.”
I eat dried figs and ignore one bulging, swollen lymph node. I work lazily on a manuscript. I read three books at once, one chapter at a time. I stand for long minutes just watching the backyard waterfall. I think: this part of New York. This is one part I’ve missed. But then I step outside in the pouring rain and navigate labyrinthine subway construction sites and I don’t miss anything else. No - the veggie sushi. I’ve missed that. But the rain. It’s hard to love New York in the rain.