I am flying from Vancouver to Washington two months after Kim Jong-il’s death.
I am landing at Ronald Reagan National Airport. My dad picks me up in his 2009 Honda Pilot, with my little dog happily licking the inside of the windows.
I spend the night here, in my old bedroom, with my old things. As I lie in bed and stare at the peeling stickers on the walls, I try to remember ever feeling so carefree.
The next morning I wake to an uncannily familiar Mamas & Papas song swimming out my old alarm clock speakers.
I take one of those cheap crazy bus lines called Bolt Bus to New York. I leave Union Station at like 6am, or some ungodly hour, with a book and a water bottle and my cell phone charger.
I read “The Wind-up Bird Chronicles” on the bus, and turn my music up loud enough to block out the sound of the bus driver singing, without cancelling out the sounds of the words in my head.
The Manhattan skyline appears behind dirt grime factories and criss-crossing speedway-overpass-parkways. The Empire State Building to the right, the Hoboken who-knows-what’s to the left.
Joanna, my best friend for ever in the whole wide world, including outerspace and the sea, stands waiting for me at that fateful Sbarro on the corner of 7th and 22nd in manic midtown.
We stand across from each other, on opposite sides of the crosswalk, and when the light-up white man tells us we can go, we are hugging in the middle of the road.
Now we are walking and hugging, simultaneously.
We get up and eat everything bagels with lox, the size of our heads. We buy jewellery at the Salvation Army, and sit in the park. We feed the birds the smoked salmon and slide the rings onto each other’s fingers.
At night we go to a reading at St. Mark’s bookshop. We are very early and sit in the second row of chairs that are lined up in the middle of the shop.
Tao Lin arrives and monitors the crowd with his Macbook at the front of the room, videoing us. Tao Lin introduces the writers. Megan Boyle is there. Marie Calloway and Spencer Madsen are also there. Two other people I don’t recognize are there as well.
My face is burning red as I listen to the vulnerable, declarative stories read in monotone voices, mere feet in front of me. I touch my hair repeatedly and fidget like a nervous hamster. I could reach out and touch Tao Lin’s head. He seems shorter in person.
After the reading, I tell Spencer he was funny. I tell Marie she was great and that she shouldn’t be so nervous. She hugs me. I buy a copy of Tao Lin’s “Shoplifting from American Apparel,” and we leave.
Will Sherman, Joanna’s best-neurotic-gay-Jewish-Ohioan-friend, meets us around Astor Place, and we all go to a Polish restaurant and eat warm, hearty-type dinners together. All throughout dinner my thoughts are swimming, and my words like a wet bathing suit stick to my skin.
I sleep it off.
Waking up on the floor, I feel the heat of the sun on my face as it pours down on me through the windowpane.
I stick my bus ticket in my pocket and take pictures of homeless people on the way to my last brunch with Joanna.
This brunch, like every brunch on days I am leaving New York, is solemn. I chew in mourning of the chaos and calamity of the city that grows with you and around you. I order coffee and water and eggs and fruit like I always do, and I talk about the future with Joanna, though increasingly less-so than I usually do.
On the bus ride back home I use the rest stop in Delaware to smoke. I don’t smoke, but this time, I smoke.
Returning preemptively from New York, I stay at my parent’s house in Virginia to watch my sixteen-year-old brother for them while they are in Florida.
I make myself a strawberry, banana and soy-milk smoothie because I was reading ‘Shoplifting from American Apparel’ in my parent’s king-sized bed and, in the book, Sam drinks that same smoothie, and I had read that, and thought that it sounded good.
I sit on the floor on a yoga mat in the living room eating fortune cookies from the bag, a pile of paper fortunes accumulating around me.
Good clothes open many doors. Go shopping.
Doing this makes me feel like I’m jinxing my future, like I’m messing with fate, or something. And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
As a kid, I had thought the dining room was called the dying room, a logical companion of the living room.
My brother comes home from school and I drive with him to his hockey game in Reston, Virginia in my parent’s 2011 Acura TL.
When we get to the rink, I wait in the lobby and drink black coffee and read ‘Shoplifting from American Apparel’.
I connect to the WiFi on my iPod touch, go on Facebook and ‘like’ the whole ‘Simply’ family of juices.
Someone named Colleen wrote on the wall for ‘Simply Orange’ juice, inquiring as to if there was a shortage of juice, as she could not find any in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
I was listening to Wu-Tang Clan on my iPod, and momentarily, I hate the world a little less.
An elderly woman sits near me in the lobby, wearing a long blue tartan skirt, a red cape and Ugg boots. Looking at her makes me smile; and hate I the world a little less.
I sit in the viewing stands in the empty back row, behind all of the parents, friends, and relatives who came to watch their kid’s, friend’s, and brother’s hockey game.
Some of the hockey mom’s invite me to sit with them, spreading their fleece blankets across my legs.
I listen to the kids behind me talking to ‘Siri’ on someone’s iPhone. “Siri, I have a huge boner,” one boy laughs.
I text my mom in Florida, “feeling really lonely.” Send.