I think, sometimes, of his tiny studio apartment. Before I knew studio apartments existed. Of the futon frame and card table, the folding chair set up in the corner. A single chair. The meals we ate perched on the edge of the futon. The kitchen table abandoned and standing alone against the kitchen wall. I remember the heat, sweating itself, and the hum of the air conditioner, the tip of my nose frozen at night. Chilled and cozy-warm, all rolled up into one. I remember his nighttime routine of spraying the perimeter of the room with roach repellant, while I watched from under the covers. I remember how vastly I loved everything. The solitary folding chair, the yellow glow of the kitchen light, even those tiny roaches as they came out to play each night. Too young to know any better.
I walk the city streets often now. Choosing the thirty block walk over the ten minute subway ride. "Have to enjoy the city while the weather is nice!" I excuse myself. But I'd walk these blocks in the January winds. I have. This city saves me. From what, sometimes I do not know.
I think, now, of what thirty means. Salaries, mortgages, babies. The yardsticks by which I measure myself. "Kindling for the fire," I reassure myself, break them up, try to toss them aside. Furniture and pots and pans and a recipe book. I stood on a Manhattan rooftop bar during the first few minutes of my thirtieth year and declared that this was going to be a fun year. The colorful lights of Hell's Kitchen below, bright abundance.
I taped together the broken yardsticks when he asked me, quietly, my favorite question. Old ones: tidy cuticles, cute clothes, hair that behaves. My hair will never behave. I'd gladly never be called cute another day in my life. Yet I'm scrambling trying to find the pieces, trying to get the tape just right. New ones: restaurant week choices, tickets to the ballet, creme brulee pulled right from my oven. Absurd for me. And yet.
I think about how much I loved even those roaches. The hum of the air conditioner. The kitchen table we didn't need. I think about the city blocks I choose to walk over the subway lines. How this city saves me. How I know how to save myself. The lights of Hells Kitchen from above. The questions that still take my breath away.
That's enough. I am enough.