12×3

12×3

First, listen.

It seems unfair that anything concerning you should be so easy for me to remember. Had it been another month, another day, another year, I can guarantee it would not have stuck to the walls of my brain the way it has. But as it so happens, we both showed up late for dinner on a Wednesday, a date that made the entire evening electric similar in the way that kismet might, if you choose to believe in that sort of thing. And here’s where I’ll let you in on a little secret: I choose to believe in that sort of thing. I’m something akin to the Grinch when it comes to romance. But put on a romantic comedy and my heart grows three sizes every time. As does the goofy grin on my face as I watch the inevitable and probably cliche meet-cute unfold before me.

So perhaps I had set myself up for failure from the outset. Perhaps the cards had been stacked against you from the moment we agreed to have dinner on December 12th, 2012. Who can stand up to destiny and meet-cutes and kisses set to the perfect song? Who did I think you were, after all? Someone who made me laugh, who fawned over Springsteen the same way I did, who had my ideal balance of controlled mess, and a dog, too? These were all things I had learned to be true about you before the 12th of December, of course. They were the things flying around my brain in the interim between our first and second date. They were also the things that remained in my brain as the little pieces that continued to endear me to you long after you had ceased to deserve any endearment from me at all.

You met me at a strange time in my life. I was a late-blooming 25 year old, and at 25, I had no idea how to fall for someone. So I began making charts and diagrams in my head. A breakdown of our dates, their locations, the lighting, tracking the hours we spent together, who texted first, the songs you hummed along to in the car, how many times you said my name, the jittery feeling in my stomach when our hands touched, if we spent the night together and where we had breakfast the next morning. It might sound crazy to you (and it sounds crazy to me, too) but for however literary- and creative-minded I am, I am quite a fan of being able to break down and analyze things, too. I thought I had been helping myself, drawing out a topographic map of our relationship for all its mountaintop highs and valley lows, giving me something to measure the current against. But in the end, it only constructed a detailed history of flickering giddiness, glimmers of love, and omnipresent self-doubt.

The difference between today and two, three years ago, is the feeling. The feeling of the day as a whole. In the past, I felt as if I’d failed at something, I felt a loss. But I could never name the loss, I never quite knew what it was. It has been a while now that I’ve been able to look at the situation objectively, to realize there was nothing for me there. All right, that might be overstating things. There was something. It was a sapling of something that was ill-advised and planted in the throes of the frosty winter months. It never stood a chance. But from that sapling, I learned what it was to fall for someone. I mean, to be smitten with someone. And I learned what it was to be blinded by feelings of love and intimacy. I learned that my radar for bullshit should always be trusted and I also learned that letting my guard down and running the risk of hurting myself is worth it, sometimes. Because the hurt can go away. And it has.

It’s no longer about the romance, or the feelings I once had. They’ve gone and disappeared with the bar we first met at, which no longer exists as the place it once was. To me, the marvellous thing about the situation is how two people who crammed so much something into so little time can look back after four years and find nothing at all.

Header photo by Anders Røkkum
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On The Street Where I Live(d)

On The Street Where I Live(d)

First, listen.

This morning I walked down a dawn-lit sidewalk on the street where I’ve lived. This is both past and present tense in the strangest and most marvellous of ways.

As I walked by each house that has colored my childhood, I realized that not much has changed except for the occupants of some. When I still lived here as a child, I had memorized every window, every shingle, every front door and the cement path that led up to it. I memorized every tree, every fence that (sometimes successfully, often times not) held in a friendly barking dog, every bump in the cement where I’d tripped and skinned my knee or bumped over with my rollerblades. And the big tree that stood like a faerie castle where most of us always ran to hide during manhunt, because if you could get in through the bottom level, the other branches above created a sort of natural fortress. If you were brave enough, you would climb to the highest limb and feel like the king or queen of the block.

I have vivid memories of the older kids camp-out on the patch of grass between my house and the house next door. It involved a massive tent and a co-ed sleepover and stories that became engrained in our memory as blocklore; someone licking a firefly and saying it tasted like peanut butter and the swirling tales of who had kissed who, something that I couldn’t fathom at the innocent and precious age of five. But I remembered it well, mostly because I was both mystified and disgusted by the idea of the prettiest girl on the block wanting to kiss my terrible brother.

I walked by the patch of grass where there had once been a massive tree trunk that seemed carved as a seat, for any runaway kid on the block. I remember trekking 100 feet from my front door to this very spot, feeling as if I had crossed the Sahara desert on what was a very hot August midday. The sun was at its peak and I had packed my backpack with all the essentials: a juicebox, my favorite doll, a packet of Smartees, and a chapstick. And with that, I was out the door. Why? Could have been anything. Mom wanted to brush out my tangled mess of hair (a big LB no-no) or I wasn’t allowed to have a playdate with my best friends or I was in trouble for not eating all of my lunch that day. These were cardinal sins against my five year old existence. Commit them and Hasta la vista, mis padres! 

When my name was yelled out the door for dinner, I decided my parents had learned their lesson. Tough love, man. It’s the name of the game. But I always ended up back home.

Home. Home was the tiniest house on the block. In all of my years of passing it by, I’d never seen it. It was only on this early morning as I walked by in quiet but constant acknowledgement of the house I had spent an important handful of years in that I looked to it, then to the house directly next door: big. The one across the street: huge. All around me, these houses seemed to rise up like they never had before. Big, big, bigger. I laughed because I realized I had never noticed it before. See, we had the big backyard. We had the most grass footage, and the long, strangely-shaped driveway that led back to a garage we never used and a patio we lived on, where we hosted block-wide barbecues and where the summer babies blew out their birthday candles. We had so much backyard, my dad had built a bunny run where we, a family inexperienced in the bunny world, ended up with a wayward brood of fuzzy creatures when our two “female” pets ended up mating. There in the yard, we even had a long clothesline that my mom used. The sheets would blow in the cool breeze of the day, and we’d play among the dancing sheets until we were told to stop, for fear of dirtying them up again. Because we were always covered in some tree sap, or maybe dirt, but definitely grass stains. We had a wall of morning glories that greeted us each new day with their purple faces, so beautiful I had as difficult a time as ever not picking them off the vine to mash into my “perfumes” (a recipe as simple as squashed up flowers and a dash of water from the hose).

Moving away from that house, we moved into a much bigger house. My brothers no longer had to share a room, there were one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining room, a basement and an attic. But there was nothing sadder than leaving our tiny house on our block. Because it had become our block, us kids, from different families and different backgrounds, who met in the street with the common goal of finding a way to have fun until dinnertime. When you’re young, you don’t notice if you’ve got the smallest house on the block, if you’re poor, or even if you’re rich. You just go on playing and living and laughing and crying. And if you’re lucky, you’re surrounded by others who don’t notice it, either.

I silently acknowledge the little white house whenever I pass by, seeing light through the windows and the latest occupants going about living within. I give a little smile in thanks, for giving me and my brothers the chance to have a carefree childhood, surrounded by other carefree kids causing trouble, breaking bones, having impromptu Frank Zappa dance parties; for irrational fears of the Mad Jogger, first kisses, and the “car, car, C-A-R” chant because without it, we would have all gotten hit by at least one car during a game of Spud.

To Jefferson Avenue, with love.

On Bern-ing…

On Bern-ing…
Note: I’d like to preface this by saying that I’ve never written anything like this before and I am not doing it with any malicious intent, nor am I looking to bully anyone who feels differently than me. Please, if you choose to respond, keep my intentions in mind.

First, listen (loud).

I first took interest in the presidential election circus when I was 16 years old; too young to vote, too old to ignore the madness. I remember staying up late on a school night with “Kerry” written on my cheeks, cheering every time he had a victory over George W. Bush. I remember being hopeful for change, for something new, something that aligned with all of these fresh new ideas in my young mind. When he lost, I felt defeated. I hugged my friends as they hung their heads and I tried to be positive. Only four more years. That’s what everyone says, right?

Four years passed, I was old enough to vote. And you have no idea how excited I was to vote. I made the pilgrimage on that November Tuesday from the north Bronx to Long island because it was my goddamn right as an American. Even though the entire concept of the electoral college had confounded me for my entire educational experience, I wanted to exercise my minute, minuscule wage of power. So I rocked the vote like MTV told me to, and I wore the stickers, and I let myself get really, really excited about another presidential candidate. And he won. And that was so cool and I was so damn pumped. I remained pumped for four years. Then he ran for re-election and I voted for him again and I watched the poll results with a battalion of butterflies battling inside my ribcage. And he won again and we celebrated over cold beers at one of my favorite bars (hi Good Co, still miss you). We felt like maybe the world wasn’t as screwed up as we thought it was.

I thought, this is politics, huh?

It’s not so bad, if you’re winning.

A lot of people complain that Bernie Sanders supporters are obnoxious. As one of them, I might agree. But there’s a reason for it. More often than not, I begin to talk about him with the sense that whoever’s listening is writing me off as a tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, but I’m okay with it. I continuously lambaste the media for not giving Bernie nearly as much press coverage as the other candidates even when his rallies in New York City pull in more people than can fit into Madison Square Garden. And if there’s any coverage at all, it’s saying that Bernie’s got a snowball’s chance in hell to win the bid. There’s plenty of rea$on$ for that.

(Here is where I might link you to a bunch of credible YouTube videos that further prove the media bias where they brush him off as nothing but a little thorn in the side of the Clinton campaign, but I’m not going to do that. You’re welcome.)

I like him because he’s Bernie. Because he has wild white hair and a thick Brooklyn accent, even after years of living in Vermont. His family came to America to escape persecution, he grew up relatively poor, he was lucky enough to attend college, his eyes were open. That last part is the most important, for Bernie Sanders and for me, and for you, too. One of the first things I learned about Bernie was his involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. For me, growing up, the Civil Rights movement was the single most important human rights movement in American history, in reaction to the significant, disgusting, unfathomable wrongs occurring within our country for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Do I want a president with the same ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Yes. Yes, I do. Because we still need help.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: I like Bernie because he excites me. My ears perk up at the mention of his name, the sight of his gap-toothed smile makes me, in turn, break out in a smile. When he talks, I just want to listen. (Sidenote: have you heard him say “quagmire“?) So much in this country, in this world is broken, but he makes me feel like it’s not irreparable, and that’s all I can ask for. There are countless running jokes about how you can’t trust politicians, how they change masks to suit their needs (not naming names or anything…), but Bernie’s had that same determined look on his face since he got into the game. Hell, since he was writing for his college newspaper. People ragged on John Kerry for being a flip-flopper, and even though I supported him, I saw their point. But when I look at Bernie, he’s standing on a solid foundation of ideals and beliefs that he’s been standing on since the 1970’s and I take comfort in that. I take comfort in how passionately he cares about us, as a nation, fixing what is broken, of righting what has been so, so, so wrong. We deserve better, you know?

I never understood campaign finances. It always made me angry to know that the candidates with the most money were the ones more likely to win. I think the anger and resentment comes from the fact that I grew up relatively poor (and I say this as a person basically living paycheck to paycheck to this day, thanks Sallie Mae!) with very little financial help to be the girl on top. Insofar as going to lacrosse camp to be a starter on the JV team, or taking SAT prep classes to get into a better college, or even just getting a math tutor because, lord, trigonometry, no. Money helps. Money talks. Money wins. The best lacrosse teams in high school were always from the schools with the wealthiest demographic. To me, it made perfect sense. They had the resources, they had the facilities, their programs had been around for decades and decades, of course they would kick our butts, we’d only just started five years prior. (I didn’t realize until I started writing this paragraph what a fitting analogy my high school lacrosse program would be for this post but, thanks Lady Mustangs! Sorry not sorry I quit after sophomore year! Viva la revolución!) My point being, the money shouldn’t matter so much. But it does.

Listen, there’s nothing that exhausts me more than old white dudes in positions of power. But when I look at my alternatives, I’ll stick with this old white dude because he’s the candidate with the most progressive ideas, the one who doesn’t deny climate change, the one who cares about the 99%, the one with the lowest bottom line on his tax return, the one who isn’t a demagogue, the one who doesn’t incite hate and hostility, the one who is not the Zodiac Killer (because Ted Cruz is not not the Zodiac Killer). When he says revolution, I want to be a part of it because I believe in it. Because I believe in the possibility of a world where everyone gets a fair shake. So hey, Gloria Steinem, kiss my butt! While guys are 100000% more attractive if they’re feeling the Bern, I’m not looking to *meet boys* by way of my presidential candidate (what even?). Yeah, feminism!

I’ll occasionally wear Bernie’s face on my t-shirt, my heart on my sleeve, wax optimistic and I won’t apologize for any of it. I’ll fight the good fight with the belief that all of our voices matter and we’ll be counted.

My eyes are open, we deserve better.

xLB