The narrowing of distance

I mean, can you imagine? That a place can feel like a person? That a place can talk and sing, and make you feel that same bubbling under the skin that a lover can when you’re just one corner away from meeting? I love that feeling. That sort of pleasurable terror at what’s to come. He made me feel like that. Like this. But! This is a city of sensation, and I can push away those sad feelings, those reminder feelings, just by going for a walk somewhere new. I walk like some people drink, I suppose. Too early, too late, until my head is spinning with everything I’m forgetting.

I never expected to be happy.

Carl bought me a pair of sneakers. I came home and they were there in a box on my bed, the sticker with the price scratched off, so only the .99 part was left. Purple, thick-soled, smelling of rubber and dye, and so much newness. My size, too. It was like sliding my feet into the future. Into all the possibility ahead. That’s what I felt, and I may have cried a little, but I didn’t tell Carl that, or say thank you, because I’m learning he doesn’t like that kind of thing. I just wrote out another I.O.U on our post-it pad, and stuck it on the fridge door. They’re layered on top of each other now, all the little notes, and I don’t know if he ever looks, but there are a couple I’ve snuck into the pile that just say – Friendship. Or Loyalty. Things like that.

The things I can pay back sometime.

I’ll be 25 one day. And 30 and 40. By then I will have accumulated so much, and I’ll buy Carl a farm, or an animal shelter, or a farm that is an animal shelter, somewhere in upstate New York, where I’ve never been, but people go, and I think it must be beautiful there. I haven’t put that on a post-it note, though. I’ll keep it as a surprise for Carl one day.

I have Carl, and I have my sneakers, and my camera. And I have this place. This city that runs in straight lines and sprawls, so you can’t ever get too comfortable with one or the other. Sometimes, when I’m crossing the street up here, I stop in the middle and look both ways, just to see the avenues run on in either direction. I love the perfect lines they make, the narrowing of distance to something you can see, understand. But I ventured further south yesterday, and one street turned into another, right under my feet, no warning, just a little veer to the right, and I wasn’t where I was before. That happens a lot, too.

It’s amazing how little I mind getting lost.

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures on my walks. People sometimes, but the city mostly. Like I said, a place can feel like a person. Sometimes more like a person than the strangers blurring past in their sneakers and suits. I do not like this by the way. The quick legs and stiff arms of people in a hurry. I do not like the way they look unfinished. When I am 25 and 30 and 40, I will not wear a pencil skirt and sneakers. I will learn to stride along in lovely heels, or maybe never wear pencil skirts at all. This is something I haven’t yet decided.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Just 500 words, someone reminded me. So I wrote these 580 or so before breakfast. I may even keep a sentence or two, ha.

nychome

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The corners of her name

That’s Jane, and she’s polite and she fits right into the corners of her name, and it isn’t my name.

It isn’t my name.

I want my name back. I want the news stories to say that Alice Liddell was a girl who lived in New York City, and she was just starting to fit into the corners of her own name, her own life. Alice Liddell was 18 years old, and she had long blonde hair that her lover used wrap around his fingers, forcing her neck back so he could bear down on her skin with his teeth. Alice Liddell loved that, and she loved taking photographs with the camera she stole, and she was starting to love Walter and his quiet kindness, and she loved the Chrysler Building, no matter how many times she saw it.

Alice Liddell was someone who missed her best friend Tammy, and once, when she was six, a man pulled up in front of her house and tried to get her into his blue car, beckoning from the driver’s seat, saying he had a special secret to share. Alice Liddell was the girl who froze for a full minute before she ran inside, and she was the girl who never told anyone about that minute and that man in the blue car, ever.

This was Alice Liddell. She never broke any bones and her teeth were straight and strong, and her mother was murdered, and so was she. Not the same way, but not so differently, either. She liked fish tacos and fairy lights and hated the taste of licorice. She hadn’t read nearly enough books yet, and she was busy falling in love with the world, when she was yanked right out of it.

Time’s up. Is that what he said to her, just before? Or during? There were sounds he made that she couldn’t hear, wouldn’t hear, but she’d made him angry, hadn’t she. By not answering his question. She froze instead, just like that day when the strange man in his blue car tried to tell her a secret. She knew not to go toward him, could smell the danger between them, but for a full minute, she forgot how to move. And this time, she remembered too late.

chryslerbuilding

Drafting, drafting, drafting. Alice is my new Lucy. The secondary character who has stolen the whole story. Maybe it’s because she thinks/speaks in run-on sentences, just like I do 😉

What I have taken

I don’t know when the idea first occurred to me. To come here. I suppose it could be the stories my mom used to tell me. They must have been lingering around, in that way certain memories might seem forgotten, but really, they’re right there waiting, and some day something or someone happens to push that memory front and center, as if you have been remembering it all along.

Maybe that’s what this was at first. A kind of pull toward my mother, to the city she always dreamt of. Or it could be that I haven’t been able to shake off Mr. Jackson yet, that the pull is toward him, toward the version of him who lived here first, and I want to go back to that time before me, and find him. Or maybe – the exact opposite. Maybe I want to be equal to him, to best him, after what he did to me. I want to do what he did, and prove that I can survive on my own. Now that he has cast me out.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just looking for a horizon. Maybe I’m just looking for something to look at. After all of that looking at me.

I reach inside my bag, swing it to the front of my hip for safety. It’s still there, his Leica M6. I run my fingers over the raised metal and the smooth round of the lens. I don’t know why I need this proof. I’ve been feeling the weight of it this whole journey, the heavy bump and knock against my thigh. It is not as if the camera could have suddenly disappeared from inside my bag, but I need to feel that it’s there just the same. This is what I have. This is what I have brought with me, and it is a small triumph to know that he will soon realise what I have taken from him. If he does not miss me he will at least miss the way he used to look at me.

Everyone’s lost something, Alice.

Isn’t that what he told me just the other day.

~ Alice,  What We Have Left

AliceNYC

In the end

I broke what we had, and it’s our love that is in fragments. So what if a piece or two stayed lodged in our hearts. That’s more like a wound than love, in the end.

In the end.

When do you get to the end of love? The moment it breaks apart? Or is that just another beginning? I don’t know anything. Or I know this. My love for Ash has been revived like some Frankenstein’s monster, a gross, distorted version of what it was before. A version where I break up his family, take him from his child, from the friends who wouldn’t choose his happiness this time, because they wouldn’t trust it, wouldn’t trust me. That version, the one I’ve cobbled together since we met up again – at a bar not unlike this one, come to think – that version is why I had to leave, and why I am more alone than ever, here in this never-sleeping city.

In the end.

In the end, you can’t get back what you’ve lost. You can’t bring back the dead. There is a girl who died today, and I don’t even know her name. I will need the police or the papers to tell me. I will need them to tell me the way she died. Even though I was the one who made it real, even though I was the one who finished whatever was started last night, or this morning, when someone smashed in her skull, when they left her on the rocks, half-naked and waiting.

I need another whiskey. I can see her face. I know she wants to tell me something. I know she has something to say about all there is to lose – in the end.

I head back to the bar, passing the nuzzling, love-soaked couple and their shared couch cushion. Wanting, suddenly, to stop and tell them that I’m so very sorry for everything that will surely come their way.

~ Elliott, Into the After

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Most everybody knows

People die every day. In minutes. Seconds. The closing and re-opening of an eye, and the world changes direction, spins you or him or her away. Out into the nothing or everything, and not here. Not here ever again.

In New York alone, 150 lights go out from one midnight to the next. Cancer, cars, trains, swimming pools. A bottle of pills, or a fall the wrong way. There is some kind of sorrow every second.

Back in the 90’s, there were up to six murders a day. A decade later, and that number dropped down to two. Now, sometimes a whole week goes by without someone dying at another person’s hand. Still, it happens. Strangers, and vigilantes, and lovers with twisted hearts. More often than not, the twisted hearts. Turns out most everybody knows the person who kills them. A fact we close our eyes to when we do our choosing.

Did you know the person who took your life? The one who took your name, and your story, the one who left your body for me to find?

Are we any safer, Jane, with our lit streets and windows barred? Or are we only ever one opened door away from the dark?

I don’t know who to be afraid of, here.

Grand Central, New York

A place like this

Chewed up. Spit out. That’s what they say about girls like me. In a place like this.

As if the city has jaws. Great, chomping concrete jaws that bite down on new flesh, and then, disgusted at the freshness, spew it back out. As if the streets are littered with lacerated hearts, with open wounds and cardboard stories.

They say I’m bound for such corners. For coffee cups and copper coins, and no way of getting home. But I know it’s the small towns that kill you. I know who takes bite after bite.

Home is where they feast on girls like me. A place like this just might save me.

NYC Walk

~ Alice, Into the After

The familiar ugly

Maybe that’s this strange shame I’m feeling. An embarrassed disappointment that the shine has come off my new city, that it took so long. And how the real glare, the thing standing out, is me.

I had intended to go for a cocktail, I was ready to venture out to some busy, pretty rooftop on this summer night, but now I just want to get back to my neighbourhood, and I’m relieved when I get to the familiar ugly of my station. Here, no one stands on the sidewalk taking pictures, keeping the cardboard-signed stories of the homeless just out of their frame. Here, there’s no reason to look up, to miss what is right in front of you. Here, there’s not much to see at all.

I walk into the sports bar on the corner of my street. Ask for a scotch on the rocks, and settle at a table where I’m not blocking anyone’s view of the boxing match playing on the row of mounted TVs. The scotch sits on my tongue, it’s smoky and warm and familiar. Reflexively, I reach for my phone, bring up his name. I want to talk to him, I want to share this crappy night, and this foreign place, but it’s Saturday there now, an against the rules day. We don’t message on weekends; I agreed to this moratorium a long time ago. He didn’t even need to ask, or explain.

Fuck.

How did I agree to any of this? How did I end up here? Out of the corner of my eye, I see a punch land. A guy in purple shorts staggers against the ropes, then rights himself, comes back for more. I leave the two men on the TV to their weaving and ducking, and turn back to my scotch. They use such generous pours here; the golden liquid fills a good two thirds of my glass.

I take a solemn sip, and add this fact to my ever-shifting list of reasons to stay in this city.

Scotch on the Rocks

Fact and fiction in New York City …