In New York City There is Nobody

Personal Essay

It was the beginning of January in New York City and I couldn’t think of any good reasons to get out of bed. In my defense, my mother and I were staying at The Plaza Hotel for the weekend so our bed was a chic king-size with satin pillowcases and warm cotton sheets; even the most dopamine-balanced mind would succumb to its bedridden pleasure.

My right ear pressed into the satin pillow. The hair around my temples grew moist from sweat. I was uncomfortable but unwilling to do anything about it. When we first arrived at the hotel, my mother noticed, as if by maternal instinct, that the bathroom had no counter space, only the slim, gleaming edge of an immaculately white sink which could balance one toothbrush and maybe a tube of lipstick. Despite the inconvenience, my mother was eager to bathe in the gold framed shower with a golden shower head and a golden soap holder. She showered every afternoon until her skin pruned. I, on the other hand, don’t remember if I showered once. I have no memory of the golden shower head or steam or stretching my toes against the mint tile. I just laid in our bed like a hopeless sweaty thing as my mother washed her arms and belly with the flower and herb scented soaps the hotel provided.

The shower water turned off. I heard my mother clear her throat and flip on the overhead fan. I imagined the hot steam as it began to melt off the mirror’s glass and evaporate into the ceiling. The thought of a wet, steamy bathroom depressed me more. I pulled my cheek away from the pillow and sat up. Sitting up was the first strenuous step in trying to convince my mother that I wasn’t clinically depressed. Mounds of satin pillows surrounded me. On the bed table to my right I saw a rectangular notepad with the hotel’s name curled into the top. I moved the notepad onto my lap. Then I reached for a black pen and began to describe the emptiness I felt. I was a shell. Tears swelled behind my eyes the way nail polish drops of the brush and onto a bare nail. At least I could feel something.

My mother came out of the bathroom wrapped up in two fluffy white towels, one on her head and the other tucked and hanging above her breasts. She looked like one of Mario Testino’s subjects for a towel series in Vogue. She sprayed her wrists and neck with perfume. By the time I wrote two full sentences on the notepad, my mother had already laid out her jewelry and heels for the evening and rubbed a coconut lotion into her chest. I stared down at what I had written and felt miserably worthless. I pitied my mother. She looked radiant and clean and ready to see the city. She didn’t deserve to be pulled beneath the concrete with me. Like any healthy woman would be, my mother had a thrill through her bloodstream. She was excited to call a cab and excited to eat sushi and excited to see Aladdin on Broadway. She took time to select her outfits and curl her hair.

As I watched her move about the room, I began to grow restless and jealous of my mother’s vibrant nature. I threw the duvet comforter to the side and swung my legs off the bed. Color and enthusiasm unfolded in my mind the way it always had when I believed that I could simply stand up and start anew. I thought about what I could do to get ready. Mascara, I thought, will liven me up. Perhaps some lipstick as well. I sat down in front of a full body mirror with my light pink Claudíe makeup pouch. In a slow, sickly manner, I set the makeup out before me. Achey and heavy, my arms continued to move the makeup out of its pouch until the products, like dominos, formed a straight, anticipating line. I looked at my face in the mirror and was horrified. There was no rosiness in my cheeks. My eye whites were dull and lonesome. There was no plumpness to my face. I looked flat and deficient and dead, but most of all, I felt pathetic.

Before taking the elevator down to the lobby, my mother asked me to sit in a teal velvet chair at the end of our hall for a picture. Like our bathroom, the chair had golden edges. Above the chair was a painting of a dark haired woman’s profile with pearls around her neck and a rose in her hair. I sat down and crossed my legs. For a while now I had stopped smiling with my teeth. I flattened my lips into a pink sneer and waited for the flash. Waiting. That’s all I knew. Waiting for sleep. Waiting for the next day. Waiting for our walk through Central Park to be through.

My mother showed me the picture in the elevator. The flash made every colorful thing more vibrant and every dull thing gloomier. I looked at my face and tried not to cry. There was no life behind those eyes. There was no passion beneath her chest. I looked and looked and looked until I memorized the face. There was nobody inside, I thought. There is nobody.

Journal Entry: Eight

Journal

January 20th, 2019

Today I woke up at 9:30. I made coffee with my new french press and then I read in bed for a while. I did my first load of laundry today. The washing machine is puny. Around 12:15 I ate yogurt and granola. The woman from Italy Excel emailed me back and said she wants to meet at her office. I hope the internship goes through.

I went to Coop today and bought carrots, lettuce, mushrooms, and brown sugar for coffee. It makes the coffee taste sweet and good. I just relaxed all day. Classes start tomorrow. At 5:30 I went to La Chiesa di Santa Maria in Trastevere. I bought a pair of leather boots on my way home from mass because the ones I’m wearing give me blisters.

For dinner I made the following: two-three mushrooms, one garlic clove, 1 oz spaghetti noodles, extra virgin olive oil, red wine, and a salad. Now am drinking a glass of red wine and eating chocolate in my room. Meg and Anna are talking about taking a trip this weekend but is sounds nice to be on my own.

If you love her, I’ll see it

Personal Essay

Tonight, everyone in my family is having dinner with someone they haven’t seen in a long time. My dad and I. My mom and her best friend. My step-dad and his daughter. I don’t know my brother’s dinner plans for the night. His friends will probably order a pizza or maybe they’ll walk to the Mediterranean place down the street. My brother loves it there. I do too. The waiters are friendly and they hand out free samples of fresh fruit smoothies. I’ve been there twice with my brother. Both times he ordered the chicken shawarma.

My brother is coming home in the morning. My mom and I are going to pick him up. He brings a laundry basket full of dirty clothes with him every time. No matter what time it is or how early he went to bed, he always sleeps on the ride home. We are getting breakfast tomorrow. My mom and brother and I. My mom told him to invite friends; there are extra seats in her car. She’ll drop them off before we head home.

I met two of his friends about a month ago outside of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I spotted my brother in a wool lined denim jacket and dark washed jeans. He wore a hoodie beneath the jacket. And his white Adidas shoes. He was hunched over, shivering. Hands in pockets. Hood up. Knees knocking. His back was facing me as I approached. I could see his friends’ faces. The girl had auburn bangs. The boy had a mustache. I don’t remember their names or majors or how many layers they wore in the cold. But I remember the brides. I remember the photographer. He pointed to a rectangle of shade for the bridal party to stand in. Shade means good lighting. No harsh sun lines across the face. No shadows. There were so many shivering brides that day. Teeth chattering. Bouquets twitching. The groomsmen jumping. For the love of God, someone give her a jacket. 

We walked across the street to the library. Another bride in the stairwell, standing against a stained glass window. She had a white, fluffy shawl covering her shoulders like the fur of a Pomeranian. The photographer was squatting. He touched his fingertips to the floor for balance. A camera case sat beside him with chargers, lens caps, and reflectors protruding through the zippers.

From the top of the stairwell, I peered over the railing and watched the groom watch his bride. I watched him closely, waiting for some proof to cross his eyes or lips. If you love her, I thought. I’ll see it. His arms rested along his torso. He flicked dust from his left shoulder. He leaned closer to the photographer, trying to see the images as they flashed on the camera’s mini square screen. He started to sway. The photographer motioned for him to join his bride. He lowered his chin and skipped a little. I thought he might jog to her. His eagerness made her giggle like a stunted hiccup. If you love her, I’ll see it. With one hand on her stomach and the other on her back, he brought her closer. I saw his lips. He whispered to her through a full faced grin. Whatever he said made her quiet for a moment. Then she laughed and laughed and laughed, looking up at him, leaning into his body. I heard the camera shutter like a machine gun. This is great you two. That’s beautiful. Keep that up, keep that up, keep that up. 

 

Journal Entry: Seven

Journal

January 19th, 2019

I am going to work backwards through the day. I just came back from eating pizza with Georgi and some of his friends. I took a taxi to the pizza place. It was called Pizza e Mozzarella. The pizza was great. We ate, talked, and hugged goodbye.

Then I got lost in the city center by myself at nine o’clock at night. The city was dead and dark. A couple walked by me and when I asked in Italian if they could help me they said they only spoke Spanish. It was a rude awakening. Here is what I learned:

  1. Do not go out without at least 60% of phone battery. My phone died right after I saw the arrow on Google Maps point to Trastevere.
  2. I don’t care if people know I am American. I need to lose the fear I have to be seen as American. In the last few days I have realized that life is life no matter where you are. Yes, Rome is objectively more beautiful than Detroit but life still goes on here. I also realized that you can wear whatever you want as long as you wear it confidently. I definitely have a specific style and every time I try to venture away from this style it doesn’t feel right. Being lost allowed me to value my time here more. It was a good reminder to not make poor decisions.

I bought a mini french press today and a manual grinder.