August 2nd: New York

Day four of no caffeine. I don’t miss it. Don’t have any intention of having coffee. My adrenal glands are reset. My cortisol levels are regulated. I feel less desperate. Things are fine right here right now, on this train in New Jersey, listening to the guy behind me speaking in an East Coast accent. We’re by the airport, traversing industrial yards. The train is cool and air conditioned. I have nothing to do but sit here and enjoy the scenery.

Yesterday I got into New York and went straight to Manhattan. I never want to live in New York. I would rather live in a cabin in the woods, or a small town in  Washington or British Colombia. People say things are happening in New York, but things are happening everywhere. Everything is happening where you are. Right now, this Jersey train is my world. Nothing else exists. What difference between sleeping in a New York penthouse or sleeping on the ground outside a church?

After visiting my friend I had brunch with Ellen, who’s still wildly attractive and who I’m still wildly attracted to. It was a nice brunch. A greasy spoon diner and everyone spoke Spanish. There were some great moments in the conversation and some so so ones, but mostly great. I’ve dated Ellen. I’ve traveled with her. I’ve been her friend in a platonic context, as I am now. And to be honest I don’t think we’ll be together again, and that’s fine. She’s happy. She seems happy.

When we were paying I was a bit dismayed by the price. If the breakfasts cost six and seven dollars each, how did the total come to $22.50? But of course I wanted to look cool in front of her so I just shut my mouth and paid.

After brunch with Ellen I walked to Central Park and it was hot out. I stopped to get a coconut water at the Fairway Market and then killed time by the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel before hanging out with Sarah. Sarah’s a photographer. She lives in Brooklyn. We chilled in the park. She bought me a salad and I ate most of hers and then we watched classical music. “When do you feel happy?” she asked me, and I told her some times I’d been happy, like the times I worked in Alaska or the study abroad programs, when I have camaraderie with people, but then while we were watching the classical music I had one of these moments, nothing else mattered or existed, just lying there on that blanket in Central Park, feeling the summer evening air which seemed to mute but also accentuate everything, hearing the violins and also hearing birds chirping. As were walking to the subway station there were fireflies and it reminded me of being a little kid in Ohio, catching fireflies or just watching them from my grandparents’ porch.

Finally I went to hang out with my friend Jack. He’s a lawyer. I met him at McDonald’s, then we took the subway to Brooklyn where he and his girlfriend and I talked. I felt comfortable. Then they went to bed and I showered and it was glorious, washing the grime off me, washing my hair, and I lay in bed and read Siddhartha and listened to them talk, a thin wall separating us, them talking about what couples who live together talk about at night when they’re lying in bed and not going to have sex. The air conditioning was splendid. The blankets splendid. Everything splendid and I slept well and then went back to sleep after Jack woke me up in the morning then talked to his girlfriend and then left. And now it’s today and I’m on the train. I haven’t eaten anything all day.

I’m starving.

The Great Richie

The first night Richie and I went to some bar in Manhattan. I was sober. I think I just told him, “Look, buddy, I’m not drinking,” and it was fine. We were sitting there talking and somehow we started talking to these two girls at the bar. I think Richie said, “That girl is beautiful. I’m going to talk to that girl.” Richie was fairly drunk.

It turned out one of the girls was Australian, I don’t remember if it was the girl Richie was talking to or the other one. The girl Richie was talking to was definitely more attractive. But the girl I was talking to wasn’t bad either, and I was sober and confident. The girls were animated. Richie was dynamic. But as the night drew on things sort of fizzled, and Richie wasn’t happy about it. “God, that girl was beautiful,” he kept saying. It was night in New York and warm. “Why didn’t I get her number? God, she was gorgeous.”

The next day we went to the Hamptons. I was looking forward to it, even though the Hamptons are expensive and a bottle of orange juice costs $10 at a farmers’ market. I hate farmers’ markets. They’re such a sham. Things aren’t cheaper. Farm to table, my ass. Well, OK, maybe it is farm to table, but if it’s farm to table why is it so expensive? Why do these guy’s beets costs like 18 dollars a pound? I don’t care if your lettuce is organic. My arm is organic. I can get organic lettuce at Whole Foods. I can get organic lettuce at Wal-Mart, for crying out loud. Did you know Wal-Mart is the largest purveyor of organic goods in the US? Of course you didn’t, because you blindly assume Wal-Mart is evil.

I’d been to the Hamptons before with Richie. We went to this place where people stand around in a dirt parking lot drinking something that costs 11 dollars. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it has banana and Kahlua and vodka. Supposedly they won’t even sell you more than two, because they don’t want you to get alcohol poisoning in their parking lot. The crowd was incredibly un-diverse. I don’t there was a single non-white person being there. And everyone was rich. Or pretending to be rich. But I think most people were just rich, or working jobs in which they were going to be rich. That’s the thing about Manhattan. It’s a different world. Richie threw around twenties like they were dollar bills. It was his default method for paying for everything. Get in a cab, go two blocks, hand the guy a twenty. Go out for a drink with friends, drink one beer, throw in a twenty. I must say I envied this but also kind of despised it. I couldn’t keep up.

This time in the Hamptons though I wasn’t drinking. I hadn’t drunk for five months. Before coming to New York I’d done a study abroad in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and met the love of my life. Well, maybe not the love of my life, but close. Her name was Sasha. We met on the first night. I thought, Hmmmmm, this girl looks weird and then 10 seconds later, Oooh, this girl is gorgeous. We hit it off and spent basically every waking moment together.

One night, a few weeks into the program, we were lying on the grass near the school. We had just gotten ice-cream and everyone had gone home so it was just me and Sasha.

(To be continued tomorrow)