Bertha's List: July Edition
I have this tradition that began my first year living in New York City. Every summer, without fail, I watch the entire Sex and the City series from start to finish. It is a compulsive ritual that only true fanatics can sympathize with. Sometimes I even persuade friends to geek out with me. Two summers ago we had SATC Sundays and while my friends were reluctant at first they nevertheless indulged me. To this day it is one of my favorite memories: getting together with Yariel at Jian and Ryan’s first New York apartment to order pizza and binge on episodes. It was serendipitous that Yari happened to be in town to kick off season one, episode one on the very first of July. Despite the unusual circumstances for his visit, or maybe in spite of them, I found comfort in our familiar tradition. In times of heartbreak the best cure was tenderness and a bit of humor. His visit was brief but his presence lingered.
My high school girlfriends, Amanda and Julissa, landed Thursday afternoon to stay with me for Fourth of July weekend. They picked me up after work for a sugar rush at Melissa’s Cupcakes before walking the Brooklyn Bridge. We were already running late so we hurried home to change for Vicky’s directorial opening night of El Cruce Sobre el Niagara at Repertorio Español. After the show, we went to the bar next door for a celebratory drink which turned into many celebratory drinks and an overnight guest for me. The tryst was unexpected but exhilarating. It was a sexual awakening to behold myself as a fully consenting adult capable of shameless, physically-driven, and emotionally-unencumbered sex liberated from old childhood guilts and prudish labels. The following morning, after plenty of amiable heckling from both roommates and guests alike, he made his exit and the girls and I headed out for the second day of our tour. We gazed up at the constellations of Grand Central Station, visited Patience and Fortitude at the New York Public Library, walked through the When Harry Met Sally wing of The Metropolitan Museum (which, of course, isn’t called that) and after a quick coffee run we finished the day with a picnic in Battery Park. Under the gaze of Lady Liberty herself, we watched the fireworks. What is it about sparklers in the night sky that makes one crave a lover’s embrace?
Saturday afternoon we brunched at Red Rooster before heading out to Central Park where we took turns Instagramming pictures with Hans Christian Andersen's statue. It was time for high tea, so the ladies and I proceeded to Alice’s Teacup where over dainty cups of tea and scones we talked of love, friendship, and everything in between. Afterwards we watched the sunset on The Highline and had tacos at El Centro— vegetarian for me since I’d recently given up meat. At the end of the night we walked up from Times Square to Columbus Circle where the adventure continued with impromptu twerking and flirting with some sexy Spaniards, freshly arrived from Barcelona.
Inevitably the weekend came to a close and it was time to say goodbye to the girls. Before they left for the airport we took the last picture of the trip together. We looked silly but so happy. Reuniting with them, after almost ten years, was like coming home. We’d spent an entire weekend of Ya-Ya-Sisterhood bonding and it was reassuring to know that my Sex and the City girls had been there all along.
Sunday afternoon we began filming our web series Love* (Asterisk). We had been graced with borrowed sound equipment, talented actors, and some of the best locations. When you’re shooting in the greatest city in the world you don’t need much else. One of the first scenes was at The Mall in Central Park, a promenade full of vibrant trees and pedestrians. Three years in and completely in love I figured it was time to make this thing official. I scheduled an appointment to get my New York license. The day went from bad to worse, between missing my time slot due to train delays and the hour long lines, it was a reminder that this city is not always a walk in the park, quite literally and figuratively. I gave up on the whole thing and went off to work in pissy mood. I took it as a sign; maybe I was meant to be a Florida girl for a bit longer.
Saturday night at Turnmill Bar on a first date with my one night stand. Over drinks, I told him about my most recent heartbreak, he told me about his. So there he was, just as mangled as I was, as we all are, but brave enough to jump again. He was offering up his world freely and yet I didn’t want it. A year earlier I was in the same situation. Except that time I was in his shoes. I’d given out my heart freely and it wasn’t received. The great paradox of life is that nothing ever goes as planned. We went back to his place but the next morning it was apparent that his intentions were nobler than mine. I got out of there quicker than a shopaholic with a credit card. Vicky’s aunts, who were visiting for the weekend, graciously invited us to brunch that day. As I rehashed the previous night’s conversation about how brutally honest I was with him in my disinterest for a relationship, Vicky’s aunt looked me dead in the eye and called bullshit, “You’re scared and you’re speaking out of fear.” She was right, of course. I was still letting my burn scars dictate how close I came to the fire. All I could do was honor my own turtle-slow pace. Some people can spring right back, I just wasn’t one of them. Later that day I had a thought maybe it wasn’t fear or even bad timing holding me back but rather my complete and utter refusal to settle for anything less than spectacular, anything less than absolutely amazing. I wanted fireworks and I knew they were worth waiting for.
Far harder than settling is letting go. It’s counterintuitive to the human heart but it is the truest test of love. Another Saturday, another brunch at Red Rooster. We’d been there so often I was beginning to accumulate quite the little collection of Ambessa Chocolate Nut Black teas. Our friend Liz was visiting from Miami and we met up with her before she made her return flight. Coincidentally, Mr. Gatsby was also in town on a layover to Los Angeles. I was so thrilled to see him again. We all went for drinks by the Highline and ate Artichoke slices. By the end of the night we were ankle deep in the mossy water of the Washington Square Park fountain pretending to be ballerinas while Clair de Lune played on someone’s boombox. It was one of those moments one tries to commit to memory so years down the line it wouldn’t be just a picture or just another piece of classical music. As Mr. Gatsby helped me strap on my now damp shoes, I saw in his eyes what his mouth had already confessed: he wouldn’t give up his tireless pursuit of that which for me had already died an irrevocable death. My heart is fickle that way. Once it’s moved on it is for good. I patiently waited for the day when my foolish heart would also feel that way for RobotBoy. Saddened, I took Gatsby’s arm and walked the streets of New York repeating words that would be forgotten as soon as they’d been said. That night in bed I held his head and made my secret apology to his unrequited love. I told myself I wasn’t responsible for his darkness, the one he tried his best to disguise. He flew home the next day and my mind was made up. I asked him not to look for me; he’d only be greeted with silence. Forever is a frightening word to the mortal soul but “forever” was the only love I could show. There would be things I’d want to share with him, moments I’d like to revisit, words I’d want to say but for our best interest they would have to begin and end with me. Forever. Finite. So frightening yet so freeing.
Summer carried on. I began developing two new scripts and took a freelance job writing for The Culturalist. I rewarded myself for all the hard work with a gift from Anthropologie. Some of us are more hedonistic than others. I bought myself a bottle of Outremer’s Vanille. It was petite and exquisite and the “Made In France” label made me tingle with excitement. Since most of my perfumes have been gifts from men this small indulgence was more than just another perfume. I believe a woman’s scent of choice is a personal, almost intimate story. It can, at a whiff, tell you everything you need to know about her personality, maybe even her soul. It should be chosen carefully, deliberately and it is a search that can take years, life stages. Ironically, this was the same scent that had in the past been an aphrodisiac for the men I dated. I wore it only on dates and special occasions, specifically for them. I brought the tiny bottle home and after a long shower I spritzed on a few drops before going to bed. Just for me.
Sunday afternoon, before we started shooting for Love* (Asterisk), I tackled on something that had been gnawing at me for weeks. I put on my big girl panties and reached out to a college friend I hadn’t talked to in years. After graduation our friendship had taken a turn for the worse and, aided by the convenience of living in different states, I never addressed the problem. But now she was moving to New York in a matter of months (and visiting in a matter of days) and everything that I’d managed to neatly store away was coming back up like a congested sewage pipe. Like Pema Chödrön wisely says “Nothing really goes away until it has taught us everything we need to know.” Sooner rather than later, I would have to deal with all the messy emotions I’d compartmentalized. It occurred to me then that she also must have things that she’d held on to these last four years. It was out of compassion that I realized she and I were not much different at all. All this time I’d held on to my storyline as a living, breathing thing; maybe so had she. I decided to write her a message and bury the hatchet. I left myself vulnerable and spoke from the place I operate best, honesty. I kindly wrote around the edges, mostly about practical things when looking for apartments, and offered my help if needed. In my heart I’d forgiven everything. I was no longer interested in past injuries, inflicted or imaginary. Most importantly, I forgave myself. That night I dreamt of a great deluge in which I was running in the rain but not from it. I Googled what it meant and was rewarded by the definition: falling rain symbolizes forgiveness, grace, spiritual growth.
Friday night arrived and it was time to put all my forgiveness mumbo jumbo to the test. When I finally saw her I was immensely relieved to look upon her face and feel nothing but delight. Pure delight at seeing an old friend. We filmed the Love* (Asterisk) party scene in a smooth couple of hours and afterwards we all went to celebrate with a drink at Chocolat Restaurant Lounge. Maybe it was my champagne-y cocktail or how happy I was to have all my beautiful friends together collaborating on a project but that night I felt larger than life. I felt like a shining light. Yeah, it was probably (most definitely!) the drink. Whatever it was, I was euphoric. My fears were not only unfounded, they were downright laughable. My life wasn’t diminishing because of my past, it was expanding— “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
After three consecutive weekends of social activities and weeknights of late filming, I was looking forward to a quiet day at home. I’d finished up my assignments for Culturalist so all I had on the agenda was lazing on the couch reading Woody Allen’s Annie Hall screenplay. In the morning Vicky and I sat down with our big mugs of café con leche to watch Michael Scott’s last episode of The Office. I cried my eyes out for the entire thirty minutes. A lot of it was attributed to Steve Carrell’s talent as an actor and his skillful crafting of a beloved character but it was also something else. Carrell was one of Mr. Gatsby’s favorite actors, thinking of him was unavoidable. I cried for all the changes my life was undergoing, all the necessary changes. I was closing one door and opening another. It was a feeling that would take some time to adjust. We had a roomies night in and ordered takeout which we scarfed down watching World War Z. Flesh-hungry zombies may just be the best antidote for the blues. The next day we put our game faces on and continued shooting. Then we took a lunch break which turned into a long dip at the neighborhood pool. Not everything can be work, work, work. This was summer after all. I’ve learned that, in New York, you grab on to the sunny days whenever you can get them.
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