While the North battled against the bitter January snow storms I greeted the new year in sunny South Florida; having barbecue by the pool and teaching baby Gigi how to float. I wish I could say I felt guilty about escaping the miserable weather but a cold Corona on a hot day has a funny way of persuading you otherwise. I was home for holiday vacation which meant I had plenty of leisure time for lounging with our puppy Pulguita, playing board game Sundays, and catching up with dear friends.
I logged in some much needed face time with my Yari, also known as our Sammy Jones. We hiked up Biscayne National Park while he told me stories of his latest dating shenanigans. We even managed to get in some exercise in between our laughing hysterics. It was so good to see him again. I also got to visit my friend/college professor Marina and see her new home. It was so lovely to shoot the breeze with her and Paul. It was reminiscent of all those other afternoons we spent on those same couches when we talked about art, philosophy, theatre and mainly just tried to figure our shit out. On those afternoons time was irrelevant. We talked about our wonderful FIU stories that I’d long since forgotten because it felt like an eternity ago. Before I knew it it was time to go. I had my going-away party to get to and I was running late. It seemed that on those couches time would always be irrelevant and I was glad that some things never change. I kissed Paulie and Marina goodbye. She smelled exactly the way she always did- Ralph Lauren’s Blue, cigarettes, and comfort.
Going-away parties are always a little sad but they’re never without its precious moments. The adults playing domino a 25 kilo el pase y 50 la ganada. The music always pumping higher than what the speakers can manage. The long table full of Tia Olga’s homemade dishes. Abuelita telling her grandson to get off from that chair because he’ll fall. My baby cousin Anahi sitting on my lap, asking for stories about princesses and frogs- little does she know the premise doesn’t change much even after childhood. She looked up at me with same adoration in her eyes I too once gave my elder sisters and cousins. Nothing makes you feel like you belong at the adult table more than realizing you’re now the older generation.
Like all good things, my vacay came to an end. Around 5AM Lizy and Gigi dropped me off at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. I already missed them all but I was also anxious to get back to the city. I needed to get back to the business of moving. I landed at LaGuardia at 11:30AM on the coldest day of winter. Payback was a bitch. Due to airline delays, I had to quite literally drop off my carry-on and jump in the moving van without a second to spare. Three things I’ve learned about moving- especially in New York, especially below freezing weather. Number 1: don’t plan it from 1,088 miles away. Number 2: don’t schedule it on the same day you fly back from vacation. Number 3: for heaven’s sake don’t think for a second you can manage it alone. For all future moves new rule of thumb is throw some money at the problem and hire professionals. It may not be the stuff of great character building but it will save you major back pains. Pun intended! Luckily for me, my roommate and savior Maury helped me out with all of the heavy lifting. So much so that it’s safe to admit he did it all himself. Six hours and three take-out containers later, I was all moved in. I woke up the next day on an air mattress in the living room, my body more beat up than Rocky after 12 rounds, and without the slightest notion which box contained my toiletries. Vicky, the third ingredient to our Three’s Company trio, arrived from Miami the following night. We all huddled on the air mattress with steaming mugs of cinnamon tea mapping out decorating ideas. Suddenly, I got a sense of déjà vu. Vicky said that someone once told her that déjà vu meant you were on the right path. It has been my favorite explanation thus far.
Over the course of two weeks we went about the process of making the apartment a home. Trips were made to IKEA (new bed), BJ’s (double-size egg cartons), Home Depot (paint and more paint), and Target (chevron-print ottomans). And then came the fun stuff- can you sense the sarcasm?- organizing the pile of boxes that seemed to multiply any time I wasn’t looking. So I put on my Daisy Dukes real low and Pandora on real high and got to work. Now, it’s no great secret that I enjoy housework/home improvement. I find that spending an entire afternoon wielding a brush or washing windows can be more therapeutic than a trip to the head doctor. No really, try it! Next time you’re frustrated have a go at scrubbing the hell out of your bathtub. You can thank me later.
Once every square inch was spic and span it was time to unpack my old life into my new room. My books found a resting place by the two bright windowsills. The plain $10 lamp I’d bought for my first apartment, which I can’t seem to part ways with, cozied up the corner of my “night table” (read: the windowsill that so happens to be on the left side of the headboard). The full sized bed, with its pristine grey sheets, was a kingdom unto itself. After three years of twin-sized confinement I’d become desensitized to the grand luxuries of mattress real estate. That night I slept spread out like a starfish. It was glorious! Putting away the last of the boxes it became evident that this new life fit me quite nicely. Everything had found a place and a purpose. And yet I couldn’t fight the nagging feeling that there was still one loose end to tie up.
After two years of a romantic relationship and four years of an undefined friendship, Mr. Stark and I were left somewhere in between: ex-lovers’ limbo. Undeterred by my reluctance to visit him in the City of Angels, he'd bought a ticket to visit me instead. One simple assessment of our dysfunctional relationship was enough to see that it was an all around a bad idea. I couldn’t keep making the same choices and expect the relationship to magically work itself out. It was illogical and toxic. What I wanted more than anything was a fresh start so I asked him not to come, even after having initially agreed to the trip. That conversation went about as well as an Israeli–Palestinian peace attempt. There were casualties and there was carnage. I could only hope one day he’d forgive me for sparing us both. But even if that day never came, I knew that I was done. I was done with breaking up after every visit, every phone call, every text or message, in every single goodbye. I was done breaking his heart as a byproduct of everything he wanted me to say and that which I couldn’t be.
When the last frame was hung and the broom put away, I plunged back into my career. The new year brimmed with promise and it was time for major revamps. I put together a different marketing strategy focused on finding representation (any day now, Ari Gold!) and joined the One-on-One network for a more discerning selection of workshops. I auditioned at my beloved INTAR for its latest production. I took new pictures with a friend photographer. In one of the portraits he managed to capture a certain je ne sais quoi not easily attainable on film. It was not headshot material, at least not a conventional headshot, but the fun of learning the rules comes from knowing when to break them. I printed 100 copies and off to submissions they went. The dotcom underwent a face-lift and a boob job. The old resume gained a new short-film credit. I was so proud of that one I stopped myself short of writing actor/producer.
Saturday afternoon binge watching Breaking Bad while doing my nails. Bless those simple moments of restorative solitude. Sunday I met Nan, who was visiting from San Francisco, for brunch at Louro. We walk around the West Village streets reminiscing about our college days. Wednesday after work I stop by Victoria’s Secret just to browse but then decide on a dainty, lacy promise that I neatly fold and place on my top drawer as a reminder that just because the flowers are not in bloom it won’t always be winter. Thursday night I meet Vicky at BAM to watch Frank Langella’s King Lear and it is epic: the performance as much as the company. Friday evening I stop by Trader Joe’s for cheese and wine for a dinner party with the girls. We drink, we roll up salami appetizers, and we trade dating horror stories. I think of the small frame Mr. Stark once gave me. It reads “Live the Life You’ve Always Wanted.” I wished the same for him because it’s been the best advice anyone’s ever given me.