The time I flew away

When I left for a semester studying in Barcelona, Spain in January 2013, I was in love. We began dating the previous April, and I was enamored all spring and summer long. We spent nearly every day learning about each other, enjoying meals with each others’ families, taking long drives and day trips, swimming in the ocean, introducing each other to friends, enjoying every piece of the newness of being together. I was 20 and found parts of myself that I was previously blind to. I learned what I want in a partnership, and how it feels to care so deeply about another person.

This is not a post about my last relationship, however. This is a post about the first time I left home by myself, and the first time I left the country for an extended period of time. It was a time when one journey collided with another.

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Castellers

I boarded the flight (only the third flight of my life) clutching my passport and boarding pass, obsessively checking the zipper of my backpack to make sure it was closed, and peeking in my purse to make sure I had not forgotten anything. (If I did would it have mattered?) I was petrified. Armed with nothing but a Benadryl hoping for sleep, I found my seat beside a young couple who spoke sexy French. The next eight hours seemed like they were going to last my whole life, and I wondered where the hell I was going. What if I hated Spain? Why was I leaving all of the people I loved to go somewhere that I knew nothing about? The answer of course was that it had been my dream all my life to study in Spain, and eventually reach fluency in Spanish, but in my panic, I flooded myself with panicked thoughts.

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Lara, Katherine and I atop Tibidabo at sunset.

In an effort not to freak out further, I browsed through the films that Delta offers to passengers to watch. Immediately upon seeing Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom on the queue, I began to quiver and cry. Sentimental, sleep deprived, (oh and hung over, this flight was on January 1st my friends…) I remembered seeing this movie at the theater in Red Bank one rainy night the past summer, with my boyfriend, it was the first movie we went to together.

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Barcelona from Montjuïc on a sunny day

For some reason his card didn’t work at the box office, so I paid for our tickets, which I loved to tease him about because he was obsessive about paying for everything all the time. I remember sitting in the theater wondering if he liked it, because I did not yet know his taste in movies at all, and breathing relief when he said he did during closing credits. So in the plane, leaving him, leaving New Jersey rain, leaving home, seeing that, I lost it, and still I had to watch it. So I watched and sobbed throughout.

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Learning to make paella

My mother had stuffed tissues in the pockets of my sweater before I boarded and I went through nearly all of them before the French woman next to me asked timidly if I was ok. I couldn’t tell if I was. I asked the flight attendant for more tissues.

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Hiking Tibidabo in Barcelona a few days after I arrived

Thankfully I cried myself to sleep and woke up somewhere somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. I needed to watch something more distanced from myself, as the airplane carried my body away from everything and everyone it was ever surrounded by.

 

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Gypsy village in Granada, Spain

I chose to next watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie that I knew was a classic but for whatever reason I’d never seen it. Watching it calmed me down, and I was inspired and excited by Holly Golightly’s independence, attitude toward men, and beauty. I quit being a weepy American girl and thought excitedly about what the next few months would bring: independence, new friends, a new language, a new home, everything I wanted.

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Small streets, something I wanted

Well, the semester was nothing short of incredible. I spoke a lot of Spanish, traveled to different cities and countries, met people from all over the world, took chances, trusted myself, everything anyone will tell you about a semester in another country.

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The library at Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

At times when I was not with friends or in class, I strolled the windy streets of the gothic quarter by myself, sharing small talk in Spanish with strangers, snapping photos of architectural corners, stopping for a café solo in pretty coffee shops. I stayed out late at night with the girls in my classes and we met lots of people, other travelers, Spanish and Catalan citizens. I learned balance, in a place where it was possible and almost expected to act totally recklessness. Passing Poesia Hispanica class was most difficult academic endeavor I have ever faced, it was a poetry class taught entirely in Spanish.

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Hexagon windows

It has been over a year since those months in Europe came and went. Since then, I ended my relationship, graduated from Rutgers, moved home, and began thinking through my next move. A significant part of me is yearning for travel again. I am saving every penny I can from the restaurant where I work, and I want to plan a trip to central America or across the country very soon.

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Friends one night at the port

Before I went to Spain people told me there is nothing like the first time you travel by yourself. The first time I left I was so nervous that at times I thought I was making a mistake. The next time, I do not expect to feel so. I anticipate readiness to explore, and enthusiasm for the unknown. I want to feel that space of uncomfortable magic that I felt in Spain. I want to feel the adventure, but this time, without doubt and fear, because I proved to myself that I can.

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Lara and I in Granada

I enjoyed the stretches of experience that come from crafting a life for yourself away from home. I thrived making connections with new people and finding similarities when there seemed to be none. I loved stumbling into a situation that felt so impossibly perfect. The first time I left, I did not know such an experience was possible. Now that I do, I crave it.

 

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Recession-istas

My favorite way to recycle is by purchasing and selling clothes, purses, furniture, and household goods at consignment shops, thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales. For as long as I can remember, I have taken delight in finding a perfectly-fitting frock or a cool velvet chair that once belonged to another, and buying it at a discounted price, rather than buying new items at a store.

At Rutgers my roommates and I took pride in furnishing most of our apartment in yard sale priced or free, given away furniture, and we had the coziest, best-looking apartment in all of New Brunswick, I’m sure.

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Lounging in the living room. American flag scored at Ocean Grove flea market, little iron table at an estate sale, reclining chair given to us for free, plants obtained mysteriously by horticulture enthusiast roommates. 

When I was a junior in high school and all the girls in my grade were nervous about potentially wearing the same dress to the prom, I was completely calm. I bought my lace cocktail dress at a consignment shop sidewalk sale for $15. I spotted it hanging on the rack outside, and thought it was beautiful and unique. By the grace of the thrift shop gods, it fit perfectly, no tailoring necessary. When I slipped it on and zipped up the back I felt like Jackie Kennedy (alright maybe a stretch.) I absolutely loved wearing that dress.

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I loved that car too. RIP Cabrio. May 2009 

I especially  LOVE bringing clothes that I no longer wear to sell at Squan Dry Goods, in Manasquan, NJ and receiving a percentage of what they sell for. I could not be happier that their business has grown from a tiny, one room shop a few years ago to two multi-room stores, one in Manasquan and one in Point Pleasant with clothes, shoes, purses, and furniture.  I have sold clothes there for years now and the profit has certainly kept my wallet from emptiness while I was in school and not working.

Being a consigner there is nearly effortless. Just fill a bag of gently worn, quality clothes, bring it to the store, and the girls there price them and put them on the floor for you. There is no fee to start, and consigners receive 50% of whatever an item sells for. I truly hope their business continues thriving. I can even see myself opening up a consignment shop like that someday.

My friend Janette sells her clothes online, on a site called vinted. I have not tried vinted because personally, I must try everything on and examine it very closely before buying, but Janette loves it. On vinted you upload a picture of the item to sell, price it yourself, and then other users can buy or swap with an items for theirs. Vinted only takes 20% of what an item sells for. Janette is working on opening up a new shop to sell mostly vintage clothes. She asked a few friends and I to model the clothes for her vinted pictures, and I am hoping my totally inexperienced, improvised modeling session helps her sell lots of clothes!

Check out Janette’s store Harmony Revolution.

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Who’s that modeling such a rad romper?

I find something kind and human in the experience of buying previously owned goods from individuals or small businesses. There is a communal and friendly feeling that I prefer over the sterility of buying in a store. It also feels better to consume less, and to make mindful and conscious purchases. Mahatma Gandhi’s words on ecological justice come to mind, “the earth has enough for everyone’s needs but not for some people’s greed.” I would recommend using both sides of the consignment coin, buying and selling, to anyone looking to save money while maintaining an exciting wardrobe, and make a few extra dollars on the side, simply by cleaning out what is no longer worn or used.

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The last time

The last time you saw him,
you begged for the kind of
forgiveness that expects
nothing at all to change, or
the kind of forgiveness that
will still bring you home
beneath moonlight and traffic lights
of the city where you learned him.
You were drunk and stole his cellphone
and it was the least important
of all that he thinks you have hidden.

You once mastered understanding
what he sees, hears, thinks and acts on,
but the last time you saw him, it
nearly failed (until the morning when
he squeezed you, reminiscent of
him teaching you to find ripe kiwis.)

But in the dark, his face was empty.
There was absence in the eyes that once
begged for yours
(but yours
were out of focus
never could you focus.)
Leaning, becoming one with a concrete wall
In a hot Juney haze you finally felt it- freedom!
Sweet and lonely freedom! It is something that will not
drive across the country and let you choose every song,
or walk to the laundromat when it’s cold in Brooklyn.
It will not worship your body even when you’re putting on shoes,
or cook a grilled cheese when you’re sick in New Brunswick.
No, it will not be kept a secret.
So you left him three times and finally it feels a little real.
You left to keep on moving
to continue growing and going,
to create
the way women do,
yet on these nights
you are so still.
You sleep in beds around the corner if
somewhere strange at all.
You meet moments of deciding.
Do you disrupt time’s remedy?
Do you pick surgically at the scab?
Pry open all that you closed so tight?

Or do you let things be?
There is never any certainty
so you idle, you merely
consider how dangerous both will be.

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Notes for Today

The story itself need not be extraordinary, but you must express it with such honesty that it can is felt through every sense.

Sometimes it pours, but I wonder if restraint is necessary for depth to be truly shared.

Beauty is all in the limbs.

The bee keeper has gone home for the evening
he works in the yard behind mine-
well, my parents’ yard,
the green acre behind the home
where I live too and wonder daily
if it matters. The bee guy left
just as the maple leaves flipped
above on this tree, this canopy that
filters geometries of light onto
the hammock on which today I
lay. It was a tennis lesson
the summer I turned 14
where I was told, leaves turn
upside-down
before rain.
My brother hates the hammock,
says it is filthy,
I do not disagree nor
do I mind, it cradles my limbs
and from here I see
both the bee keeper and
my aging grandmother smoking
her cigarette gracefully like
the lady in a nightgown she is.
Suspended here I wonder, how
real can I be? Much less
than my grandmother once was,
holding smoke in one hand,
the other flipping an omelet,
breakfast of most mornings. Or
Nameless neighbor keeping bees-
sometimes I see him
smoking-out the bees to sedate
them and I wonder just how anxious
they could be, yards from
my parent’s home and could
proximity transcend species? Anyway

from this hammock I
read, romanticize life
and wonder why at twenty-two I
spend the humid afternoon
in the yard, a witness just
to leaves tossed on
their fragile backs.

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Something Built, or A Home

I. (Allenwood, NJ)
How peaceful is this
room my father built
two years ago but has
yet to fill with furniture.
It is a project left un-
finished. A victim of
sweetly shared,
common dramas
of aging and
bodies once strong,
bending
under the curve
of the clock’s hand.

When a television
meets the western wall
between the two windows
generous with sunlight,
I will enjoy this room
much less.
For now, there’s
a sofa and items
stored in the corner

Temporarily placed,
with no where else to be
right now,
like me,
settling back
into the home
my father built,
feeling familiar
grievances in
other rooms
less empty.
The corners
dulled as
children grew.

II. (Hazlet, NJ)

There were hanging baskets,

brimming with vines
a glass wall with shelves-
it was chic in their time.
Pop would lift the baby
into tree branches
and walk her along the garden,
rows and rows of begonias.
Dark leaves will return her to
records of The Eagles.

There are many different ways to plant a seed.

III. (West Belmar, NJ)
Home improvement
projects require
shirts stained by sweat
and hands dusty
from sheetrock.
Crafting a home
is no simple task
and yet he says it’s so
simple, nearly
instinctual to
grow his home
to offer us
more room to move
or stay, like he does too.

Carving words into the
unpainted wall we are
untouchably safe, like
ripe fruit not picked
from the vine on which
originally it grew.

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Bloom

“How the days went

While you were blooming within me”

-Audre Lorde, “Now that I Am Forever With Child”

 

With blossoms on your mind,
And legs that stretch to intertwine
With roots that rise from fertile ground,
You feel a nudge. You start to grow.

Your grandmother,
Alone in her smoky apartment
One afternoon,
Told you she lived
“A good life,” and you
Wanted to believe her.
She spoke to you about men
And love,
Marriage when you’re twenty,
Four kids by twenty-five,
And control-
The kind that haunts you.

She was bound by the times.
Your insides echo the tide.

With the moon in view you
Soar like a gull.
The wind is at your face.
It shoves your hair back.
It keeps you still.

With salt between your fingers
You reach for her words and they
Frame the sentence that you’re about to
Tell him,
Tell him,
Tell him.
You are in bloom.

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Tribute

After reading your poetry today,
after observing
the succulence
of your words,
and wandering
the threads
of your world,
and tasting
the poignancy
of your breakfasts
and other things devoured,

I am inspired to write a poem
of my own.
Is that not
how it always happens?

But I
do not believe
that today would be
better spent

writing a poem,
(inspired by your
hospital stays,
wandering intuition,
unnamed women who
loved you, or didn’t,
the rhythm and
breathiness in
your voice,
and the way
you stress
the last syllable
of each
articulation…)
than laying seaside
with my sister,
who laughs while
rubbing sunscreen
lotion onto the middle
of my back,
a place that
I cannot reach.
A poem
might hurt,
like you do.
My reality today,
instead, will be to write
in the sand
and avoid
the pain of sunburn.

 

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Mental conversations with yourself become the script of your life

It has been a month since I graduated from Rutgers University and ever since that sunny afternoon of May 18th I have been vacillating between confidence and total lack there of. A few different thought patterns are seemingly competing for my attention and subsequent action.

This one is the most recurring: “What are you doing?  Where will you go from here? You should be actively crafting the life you want! You need to MAKE MOVES or else YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO ROT.”

Another is “Hey you, take some time to chill, think, and search both your soul and the internet. You’re lucky that you have an opportunity to settle into something new rather than rush. Also, go to the beach. Take a little time for calm and contemplation.”

Another suggests: “Just go to yoga class and work on your vibrations so that you aren’t blocking any part of your human self”

Another says: “You’re ridiculous. Shut the hell up. You are what you do (waitressing… reading on the beach… going to bars…kissing boys…?) not what you say. (read above)

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My situation is not at all unique. In fact, it is so cliche that it makes me want to throw up. However, it’s my reality right now and I have enough self-awareness and perspective to be grateful it’s mine. In an effort to release these thoughts and give them less hold over me, I write.

Today, tomorrow, and the day after that I will gather up experiences, watch my thoughts and write them out. I will pay attention to the beauty of my life and the mild uncertainty of it. I will blog and document what happens here and hopefully someone will read my words and relate to them, because, despite the fact that I have no idea about the short term, my life’s goal and dream has always been to be a writer, and to extend my voice to others, to inspire, and to offer something beautiful.

 

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A piece of the map

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A picture I snapped while hiking The Footpath of Gods along the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

 

 

A Piece of the Map

 

Silver skies allow
green edges
of distant trees
to be seen sharply
as if stenciled-
one world displayed
against another.
It rained all three days that
we explored Positano.

You expressed
admiration for the
synchronized grace
of Italian rain clouds,
as if they too were
preparing an evening
meal with herbs and
dough and olive oil,
cooking together
with ease.
Overcome with
indulgent guilt I
apologized to
my pizza.
The silver skies
laughed with sea-
side cliffs because
silver skies exposed
how out of place
we were. Blue would
have been a disguise
like a camera, but
we were stenciled
rather than freely
drawn, or artfully
sewn, we carried
one world into
another.

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Story Telling

Steven

In the backseat of a minivan,
strapped by seat belts, I sit
between two neighborhood boys.
Mrs. D- drives us home
from school this afternoon.
Steven whispers
in my ear asking
“Can you sound out
this word?” Billy nods,
“He can’t read.”
Although younger,
I am smart I am
the most advanced
reader in my class
thanks to drills of
alphabet flashcards
led by bored parents.
It is not hard to
flatter a nervous
seven-year-old girl
so I examine the letters
carefully,with intent
to impress.
The word is unfamiliar.
Remembering that C and K
float into one another
seamlessly and two S’s
side by side sound
just the same as one,
I pronounce
“JACKASS”

with pride.
Steven laughs loudly
and his mother,
driving, screams
my name. I am
furiously embarrassed
to learn this word is not
one I should say and
that I have been
tricked by Steven.

At the Drive-In Restaurant,
I lean against the waitress station
in the carport, examining my 16 year old legs,
pale and pink with sunburn, barely covered
by the mini skirts we wear.
It is a Friday night in July before the rush
of young families, excited to eat in their cars.
A summer job serving “Wild Animal Special”
hamburgers to sandy-skinned tourists is a rite
of passage for Wall High School girls.
I am the youngest waitress this summer
Only a few of the other girls take me seriously
Steven works here too, in the kitchen, he’s the
soda jerk and ice-cream guy. We call orders
of root beer floats to him. Tonight is busy and
after the shift he is throwing a party, at his roachy
apartment in Belmar. The cooks and waitresses
in their twenties will all go. Hundreds of hotdogs
later we’re closed. With cash folded thickly in my
apron, my father comes to drive me home.

In the dimly lit venue in
Asbury Park Meg and I
wait for the set to begin.
Perched on barstools in
sundresses we scan
the crowd. I see Steven.
“That guy is a jackass.”
He is in his late twenties now he
has a beard and I think he works for
his father’s tree services company.
He passes by and looks me in the eye
approvingly as if my presence at this show
renders me valid. He says hi with a smile.

Wordlessly I smile and feel strangely reconciled.

******

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circus drive in 2

The carport to the Circus Drive-In, where I spent a lot of time leaning against the waitress station, hiding my cell phone from my boss, and serving hamburgers and milkshakes to customers in their cars. It was at this restaurant where I worked my first summer job waitressing, and  made enough money to buy my first car, a Volkswagen Cabrio. I was at least one year younger than everyone else who worked there that summer and always felt like such a nerd, but I had more money than I knew what to do with.

 circus 1960

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