I. I’m moving on Friday. Actually moving. After a year or two of wondering if maybe I’d go to Brooklyn or maybe just get out of this little studio up here on the sixth floor and go somewhere else nearby, I’m actually going. I haven’t even been here for three years, but I still feel like my whole adulthood has happened in this apartment. I turned 30 here. I stood in a particular place I’ve never stood before or since, over by the cable box, leaning on the high dresser, when I talked on the phone with my friend’s boyfriend, he telling me she was dead. I had a very few guys up here, but the ones I did mattered, in big and different ways. Pretty much everything I’ve written on here, on this dumb blog (are we still calling them blogs?) was written on this little brown couch, the one my sister bought, fleeing from a different apartment, before she left it all behind to go to L.A. (Only to come back again—she’s now in a nice place in Williamsburg.) This little hermitage, on 14th Street, central and small, has been the nexus of, well, me for long enough that it feels very strange and sad to be leaving. I haven’t packed at all, because I’m no good until the last minute, so it doesn’t feel over yet. But there’s tonight, and then Wednesday, and then Thursday, and then that’s it. All that! Just three more nights of all that.
I don’t know how I’ll feel in the new place, deeper in the East Village, with one of my best friends. I’m sure I’ll miss living alone, but I hope I don’t. Living alone hasn’t been great for me—I’ve the Tumblr posts to prove it. I’ll miss the convenience, the ease and annoyance of Union Square being right there. I don’t know that we can really ever prepare for something new until it happens and then it’s not new. I had a drink with my future roommate tonight, who just started a teaching job at a tony prep school uptown, and she’d been so nervous all summer, nervous but also blank. She didn’t know what to feel. Because how could she know until she’d been there? And now she has, and it’s good, and it’s nice to have the question answered. I’m eager for that, to not live in that weird liminal spot where I am right now, all my books and Playbills and DVDs and whatever else seeming less like accumulated life than just a chore, things to be thrown in a box and carted off. I can’t wait to feel like myself again, my new self, anyway.
The NYU kids are coming back. I saw them yesterday, tromping down 14th Street with “Class of 2018” T-shirts. I like to joke every year that the freshmen look like children, actual children. Such babies! And they do, sometimes. But mostly they just look like people, albeit people with bright faces and sloppy gaits, as yet unburdened, un-muted and tightened in the way that too much time spent in Manhattan can do to you. The Class of 2018. It’s such a silly, enormous number that it doesn’t mean anything. The Class of 2014 was much, much scarier. 2018 is an imaginary number, one only the math geniuses, lugging their boxes into their new homes while their parents nervously inspect every vagrant dotting the block, can understand. I wish them luck! But me, I’m moving toward the river.
II. I joined a gym. I joined a gym and paid for 20 sessions with a personal trainer. An insane expense that I can’t afford, but they pressured me into it, there in the little downstairs office, the guy giving me his practiced spiel, frustratedly losing his way every time I interrupted him with a stammering question. I’m glad I was hoodwinked, though, even if my bank account isn’t. The sessions are tough and I dread them, have even last-minute canceled a few out of fear, but I’m starting to see the good in them, the focus they draw out of me in a way that sitting in front of a computer and letting my mind reel but my body fall apart does not. My trainer, Matthew, is a weird guy. He’s into Magic: The Gathering and talks about chess. He told me he was a literary agent once and I’m not sure I believe him. He said to me today, while I was struggling on some horrid machine, that he wants to get back to writing, “If only someone would let me do it.” All I could muster to say in return was, “Yeah, it’s a racket.” And he wasn’t sure what I meant by that, which is fair, because I didn’t know either. It just felt like all I could say, sweating there in that gym. I turn to the side in the mirror every night to see if there any results. Of course there aren’t yet, and never will be unless I do the other work required, like diet and cardio. But still. I’m going. And all that pull and push and dread eventually giving way to relief is worth something, it feels like. I hope I keep going once the gym isn’t an easy two doors down from my apartment.
III. I went to Fire Island. This strange trip, like a pilgrimage. When I was about two years old, my uncle Bobby died, he and his lover and pretty much all their friends wiped out by disease. But before that, there had been summers on Fire Island. He owned a house in the Pines, and I went there once, as a baby. I’ve seen the photos of my sister and me in the pool, have heard the dim, gauzily remembered stories about my toddler sister enamored of drag queens, grabbing at their sequins and feathers. Nearly thirty years later I went back, to meet some friends, to stay at a house in Cherry Grove and sit by the pool and go out at night, to be enamored of the drag queens myself. That place had loomed so large in my imagination that, my whole time there, I had to keep reminding myself that I was, in fact, there. I liked it, I think. That you can see the mainland, and yet are so hidden and tucked away, clapping around on little boardwalks, contained by the feverish, sad, horny spell of the place.
The friends I was with were accommodating, knowing that I was nervous about the whole thing. The couples I didn’t know who were also staying at the house were great too, summer expats from Connecticut and Toronto who let some part of their year, every year, orbit around the island. We went out, we drank a lot, some of us smoked a lot. There were too many innuendo-y jokes for my taste, drag speak hurled around with abandon, but it was fun to try to forget myself for a few buggy nights.
At the grocery store in the Pines—the Pantry, excuse me—right by the checkout line, where impulse buys usually are, were the ultimate impulse buys. Condoms and lube and enema kits and laxatives and all those gnarly gay sex-related items that, I blushed to think, the checkout girls were so familiar with. Probably more familiar than I am, anyway. I felt like a stranger on Fire Island, but peering in, saying “Ohh, I see,” was its own kind of success. We stumbled home on the beach one night, from the Pines to Cherry Grove, and I stopped a few times to point up at the very visible stars, and though no one there on the beach with me was all that interested, I thought of my mom. Who, when we’re in Rhode Island, likes to rush my sister and me outside and point out some constellation, or a planet’s seasonal glow. My mom might have been on that beach once, with her brother. It was sad to think about. It felt, sometimes, like I was walking on bones. But as the ferry chugged away, back to Long Island, and I watched older gay men serenely waiting to get back to the city to pick up supplies and then return all over again, the island, and all its bitter and lovely history, seemed perfectly eternal. Tragedy and loss and time be damned, there are still sunny, choppy Tuesday afternoons in the summer.
These are the two obvious metaphors about Fire Island: that it’s this spit of land just to the south of everything else, this tiny strip where people seek out each other. Where they can be together in their difference, there in the thin place between land and the deep, lonely oblivion of the ocean. And then, second metaphor, there are the deer. Who are afraid of nothing. We were walking through the Meat Rack (during the day, I’m not that brave yet) from Cherry Grove to the Pines and we stumbled across a doe and her two fawns, picking at the dry grass near the site of a fire. We hung back for a second, thinking that if we got too close to this mother’s young she might attack us. But we quickly realized that she was not fussed about us being there at all. Or about her being there. The deer on Fire Island are, more than any other creature on that silly line of scrub and sand, perfectly, wonderfully confident. Completely content with where they are.
Isn’t that nice? I think so.