Originally written Nov. 6 after arriving in Providence, R.I.
The 5th came after six weeks of waiting. I picked the day in my calendar at a coffee shop while Hannah was sleeping. Not really sure why it was the 5th, but knew I couldn’t stay a day longer. I counted all the twenties I had saved in my little gold box and scratched out a budget on blank paper. Sold my bed for margin and scattered books into brown bagel boxes from the deli down the street. Everyone helped carry 6 plastic bins, 5 boxes, 4 pieces of luggage, and 3 pieces of furniture and too many plants to the truck. My room looked sorry, empty and bare, with the broken blinds on the southern window.
Ellie doesn’t understand my leaving. She clung to me most of the last hour. I told her she’d understand when she was older. I know I sound like the adults I resented in my youth, but it is all I can offer. We trade my tin canister for her banana plant. We talk about favorite memories, like the time we tried to revive a baby bird that had fallen on our street; the games we’d play; and how I wrapped prosciutto in brown paper for her birthday and put it in the refrigerator with a ribbon. I try to explain to her how you can hold two feelings with one hand; how I can love my friends here but need to be there. We talk about visiting and letters and FaceTiming, but it’s 3:00 now and there is no comfort as we stumble down the stairs for a final photo. This being and then not-being is one of the oddest pains of life. It’s the same pain that pangs me as I weave my way out towards 5th Avenue. I haven’t cried that much and these 3:00 tears last only the three blocks until I reach Atlantic Avenue.
I’ve seen friends all week over candlelit tables. They remind me that, “Brooklyn will always be there,” and, “you can visit,” but this is not a sadness about leaving. This is a different kind of sadness. This is end-of-summer sadness. This is morning after Christmas sadness. This is the sadness that cloaks the euphoria at the end of a five-mile run. This is, “I hated that. It took so damn long and was painful, but now it’s over, please take me back, what a journey.” This is the top of Mt. Marcy sadness. Sadness that’s punctuated with joy but an odd kind of nostalgia for the process that got you here in the first place. These is the sadness you cry with a 9-year old who has wrapped her arms around your neck, saying please stay a day longer. This is the sadness that comes from realizing I know how Park Slope connects to Ft. Greene and to Williamsburg and Greenpoint and Red Hook. I know this because I pumped my bike all over the borough for two summers, hunting for jobs or homes or friends or beauty or maybe all of them at the same time.
The trees along I-95 were brilliant, full of that autumnal understanding that good must sometimes end. We pulled into Providence at eight. I was exhausted. Friends met us here and we hauled everything up to a little yellow room on the second floor. We drove through dark, quiet streets for homemade roast and eggs and we divided an avocado I had in my bag. Six months earlier, I would have balked at the thought of leaving Brooklyn, at the thought of living in a small, quiet city with no trains or bodegas or crowds. But the opposite of proper sadness is a sort of rightness that comes from being in the right place at the right time. It’s as though time ran ahead and back again and brought with it an impossible sense of familiarity that makes you sort of giggle because it isn’t logical.
It rained in the night, I woke up to sit on the couch and sip coffee from a blue cup. I have yet to unpack boxes and buy groceries. I used to resist change but I won’t fight this. Won’t fight these streets. Won’t try and make it make sense. There is a halcyon tree trembling out the window sending its leaves fluttering to the ground. If Ellie were here, I’d tell her this. I’d tell her that it will be okay. That it isn’t natural for seasons to last forever. That you shouldn’t expect life to happen without detours or interruptions. I’d tell her to learn to live like a river, bending and fluid. I’d tell her to scream like summer, rest like winter, and weep like trees in the middle of autumn.