I meet him for coffee. The coffeehouse is crowded, so we improvise two blocks up to a brunch spot we’ve both tried. There’s a ninety-minute wait, so we pivot, again, to a noodle shop. Over pad thai and spring rolls, we unpack our histories a bit. We moved here within a month of one another. His knee grazes mine beneath the table, and I’m surprised to see him blush.
Fast forward an hour, two men again on the sidewalks. Let’s go to the water, I suggest, and he agrees. I’m lowkey nervous, he says a few steps later, chuckling, filling a silence.
We reach it, the water, lean against the railing and look around. To the east, the moon hangs faintly in a blue sky, and to the west, having just begun its descent, the sun splashes gold across the Hudson.
I glance back at him, mustard sweatshirt into camouflage pants, and notice the way his irises trap the sunlight. I lean in and kiss him.
Shy laughter. Brush of fingertips beneath a table by a 9th avenue window. It isn’t until later, reading and listening to vinyls at my kitchen table, that the moment comes back to me: cold breeze from the Hudson river, his sweet grin under one of winter’s final skies, my hand on the back of his neck.
How strange and rare the moment might have seemed to a 19-year-old me. How impossible a hope, how unreasonable. Here and now. Mine.
Thirty years old, and I’m still finding new ways to love myself well.
A few months ago, sitting in the apartment of friends who make me feel at home, the room froze when she suggested putting a vinyl on. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. We were silent the moment the needle dropped, waited together for the melody to rescue the room. We basked in it, hope and heartbreak.
She gave me suggestions on record players and, on a whim, I bought one. When it arrived, I unpacked it with awe and anxiety. How did it work, and how to build it without breaking something. I sent her pictures of parts I didn’t use, and she reassured me they were for special circumstances.
Tonight, I’ve cycled through six records in the burgeoning collection, and the apartment has never felt warmer. What is it, I wonder, that makes this seem so special? I’m not sure I buy the idea that the sound is actually different (though, if I’m honest, it does feel that way).
Maybe it’s that it slows me down, somehow, this means of listening. I don’t skip the slow tracks, can’t get so caught up in what I’m doing that I forget which track is playing. The vinyl will need to be flipped, or switched, and I don’t want to miss the moment.
Here and now, the song is playing, meticulously planned and put together. For this moment. A love letter to a quiet evening at home: chicken in the oven, boots by the front door, books read under lamplight.
My greatest anxiety is this: I’m going to get so caught up raking my hands over the past, or worry about what’s coming, and I’m going to miss out on what’s here right now. I’m going to miss my nieces at this age, eyes still wide at the idea of spending time with me. I’m going to forget to tell my parents I love them, forget to set aside the right amount of time to be at home in their reach.
Outside, the sky hangs dark, and the day freshly passing is already yellowing into a story. How do I keep it all, carry it all, without becoming too cumbersome to fly? What can I keep from today without staining tomorrow’s pages?
Here and now, I chide myself, tucking the stories gently in between hardcover borders. I put a bookmark in the spaces that give me hope. Here and now.