When I moved to New York, I put my wide-leg jeans in the back of my closet, marrying my legs to the skinnies that were de rigeur almost 10 years ago. The wide-legs have gone in and out this last decade, and they’re back again, with everyone’s body pretending it’s 1978 all over again. I’ve periodically felt like someone’s out of date grandmother when I’ve worn them, but not today. They hung over my cowboy boots in this misty weather, paired with the grey cashmere turtleneck sweater I stole from my mother that I’ve now worn two days in a row. When I wore it out with LM she said I “looked like a goddamn cup of cocoa.” I hear that in my head every time I wear it now and I love it.
The rain hung just enough in the air to not warrant an umbrella, though many people walking in front of me today would have argued with me about that as they held their open nylon protectors upward toward the sky. I sweater-jeans-and-cowboy-bootsed my way to the main branch of the New York Public Library today, held captive in the house earlier by a phone interview. I want to go somewhere quiet where I can write, I said to myself, and moved myself past Patience and Fortitude, the library lions, up the marble staircases to the Rose Reading Room. It was silent save for the periodic shuffle of tourists’ arms moving against their puffy vests as they held their phones upward to take pictures of the really quite epic chandeliers and ceiling. I only wish they allowed coffee, or that I was crafty enough and not clumsy enough to figure out a way to bring some without spilling.
At first I am distracted by the fact that Peter Hermann, who plays Charles on TV Land’s Younger and is Mariska Hargitay’s husband, is sitting directly across from me. But, in true New York fashion, I shortly forget about him because I am too focused on myself. Later, there is a young couple--late teens, maybe-- sitting across from me--she is taking stickers out of a millennial pink book that teaches you how to identify various cacti and he is sketching her without looking at her.
The writing happens, but barely. A month ago I realized I had not had a proper vacation in four and a half years, and while I am rectifying that situation next week, I am in the unusual, regular situation of having to pluck the words from my brain rather than having them flow freely through my fingers.
There’s another group of tourists when I leave after two hours. I wonder if they’re looking at me the way I used to look at people when I visited the library: Wow, a real live New Yorker! I wish I could be her someday! But I am her now. Some days I am too lucky; other days I try to use the bathroom at the library but don't because I notice a toilet has overflowed, covering everyone’s shoes in water.
I sometimes forget what a daily commute looks like for most people--I’m often one of a few on the downward escalator when everyone else is heading upward. But I’m in midtown now, and everyone goes every direction at once. Getting off at 23rd, I’m desperate for a snack, and find my way to Foragers, an upscale grocery store, and wind up with things that don’t need to be purchased at an upscale grocery store: a banana and a cup of coffee. I spill some coffee on my shoes on the way out because of course I do.
I see Joel Meyerowitz speak at Aperture. A legendary photographer, he tells stories about making portraits in Provincetown, getting into arguments with Richard Avedon and photographing Norman Mailer. His voice is soothing, one you’d believe without question if it told you you could do anything. His hands are long and spindly. I can see bones and veins when he moves them while he speaks, these hands that have printed thousands of photos, held countless cameras, moving seamlessly over their shutters, focusing their lenses, loading their film. People line up to see him, to have him sign their books. He lives in Italy now and I didn’t even think to bring mine. I don’t know what I would say to him anyway, aside from the fact that his parents bought my first baby carriage (they were clients of my dad’s some 30--at least 31, as of this coming Sunday--years ago). A man asks me if I am a photographer and I say yes. He doesn’t feel comfortable calling himself one yet, he says.
On the way home, a man is sitting with his legs up on the subway reading a newspaper and I audibly whisper “asshole” as I walk in the other direction. Transferring to another train, there’s a woman in a grey pashmina and matching beanie with a shiny square diamond on her ring finger. She wears pearl earrings and cropped black pants and tortoiseshell glasses. Her ring looks like one I tried on a few weeks ago. Doyle was having a viewing for a jewelry auction and, always excited to ogle jewels up close, I walked in. Peering in the ring case, I saw this classic small square with a platinum band. “Would you like to try anything on?” a woman with glasses and fluffy, graying brown hair asked me. People don’t normally ask me that question when I’m perusing fine jewelry, instead ignoring me for someone who looks like they have more money (after we part ways, her colleagues do not disappoint). I was so taken aback someone asked that I said yes, I would, and tried the ring on, just to see what it felt like. I’m annoyed by the part of me that wonders this, that makes me a single woman cliche. But it almost fit aside from two small bumpers inside the band--apparently my ring finger is just a bit larger than a size 5. It was from 1920, the woman said, showing me the auction catalog, and estimated between four and six thousand dollars. A steal, I chuckle. When I show my mother a picture later, she says I should have something bigger. I disagree, I don’t want something bigger, but instead of arguing I say “we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” offering up the bastardized expression we have come to love.
At home, I’m too tired to use a knife and fork so I rip a chicken breast apart with my fingers. I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s yesterday and I love it there but I hate that there’s one on Delancey Street now next to a Target. I wonder what New York will look like in another nine years.