Up early on Sunday to head to Fort Tryon with my friend eee. We are intrepids; explorers. We meet way, way uptown; the tip of Manhattan. She is a Swede; I am a mix of Europe — regardless of heritage, we are both blonde as blonde can be blonde. We both arrive in cammouflage pants.
Where are you? She asks into her mobile. We are standing on the same street and cannot find each other.
I’m here. Bennett Ave and 192nd.
Me too! Oh, wait, orange backpack?
We find each other, and she says:
It must have been the cammouflage.
Fort Tryon is as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. It reminds me, strangely, a bit of Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago at Christmas. I don’t know if it is the hot, dry, clear New York day; the people picnicking; the signs in Spanish at the foot of the hill, but I half-expect to see the ramshackle funicular inching up the backside of the rock; to look up at the summit and see the giant statue of the Blessed Virgin.
In the distance, there are the bridges and they are beautiful — the George Washington to one side and the Tappan Zee to the other. (I always laugh at the words Tappan Zee, because they remind me of that silly Maurice Sendak/Carole King special Really Rosie, where Rosie “[taps] across the Tappan Zee…”)
(Am I dating myself with that reference?)
We walk, and we talk. eee and I had gone to school together from high school through our university days, and while we were friendly, we were never terribly close. When she wrote last fall to say she was coming East, I asked her to come to Winesday. She did, and I am so thankful for that. The rest is history.
(I think one of the things that makes Winesday special is that wherever you are, there is someone to meet you there, or there is someone who has been there before. I have found that round table to be a sacred, scary space where I come to feel less alone. I hope that others feel that way too.
At the very least, it is a place where people come to get drunk and wear silly hats.)
The day is glorious and filled with light.
We finish our trek; eat some unmemorable food; take the A-Train back downtown. I hop off at 59th Street and cross the Park for the second afternoon in a row.
Later that evening, I am cleaning out some bookshelves; clearing out the cobwebs of past-lives. I am trying to learn from my mistakes but in so doing, I realise that I need to let go of my past. I dwell comfortably there, and it is holding me back. I resolve to get rid of the books with a university bookstore stamp, unless they are ones that I still read or have an interest in reading. I stumble across one book that isn’t mine; it is an ex-boyfriend’s; it is George’s. Tucked inside, neatly, is an 11 year old receipt. The date of the receipt, ironically, is my ex-husband’s birthday.
I text a photo of the receipt to my university roommate, Legs, who calls me immediately.
You’re a hoarder! she teases, I can’t believe you’ve moved all those times and you still have that kind of stuff.
It gets worse. I’ve pared down so much and I still have stacks of this stuff.
She laughs again, and I can hear the headshake in her voice. She is obviously without judgment — we both think this is funny.
Legs and I talk for 40 minutes, just like we used to, and we hang up — still laughing and shaking our heads. As we end our call, I pick up the book that had contained the receipt. The spine is broken; the pages yellowed. It appears the book is missing pages. I decide to throw the whole thing away.
It is a step. Perhaps a small step forward; perhaps a large one. I pride myself on my packing skills — why am I carrying so much baggage? Why do I cart around this library; these books that I’ll never again read; these tomes with the marks in the margins of my disordered past?
But I think maybe, as I reflect on my conversations with Legs and with eee, and on my sundappled Sunday, I am ready to let others in.