At a horrible morning hour I stand in front of the bathroom mirror with puffy eyes and tousled hair. I am wearing a shirt that shouldn’t belong to me; a shirt that belonged to Tyler. Sprawling all over my torso is a map of the New York City subway. In the very center, just to the right of my heart, are two stops on the green line 6: 68th street and 77th street.
I’ve used both of these subway stops to run to my appointments at the French consulate on 74th street. I met Tyler for the first time at that address, sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette after his long bus ride from Buffalo. I observed. We stood in line next to each other, and made small conversation about school and traveling. Once we were inside, I sat next to him and kept observing. He continued to talk, about school and traveling.
The weeks after that moment are a blur of car rides and plane tickets and lifting luggage up and down stairs. The months after we moved in together go by even faster. We lived, we traveled, we ate, we talked, we danced, we smoked, we drank, we cooked, we baked, we did laundry, we lost things, we slept, we missed deadlines, we wrote emails, we listened to Lou Reed, we spent time with friends, we got hurt, we got better, we laughed. We existed frequently in each other’s presence by the window; looking out, exhaling out.
Life went on like this. Even though I claim to be aware of loss, like most people, I was not prepared. In the weeks after Tyler had moved back to the United States, we texted and snap chatted each other, but I was swimming in the muck of a deep depression. I was not prepared for the Sunday at the end of that month. I was not prepared to wake up that morning. I was not prepared to check my phone. I was not prepared to live with the information I would receive.
I think how I have always hated that it is only after loss we can see life for what it is. Maybe some monks or enlightened people see it this way all the time; I try but it gets tiring. To constantly look at life as a random and chaotic event in the middle of a random and chaotic universe. If I reminded myself every day of my eventual death, I would have a very difficult time going to school or work.
There are so many gaps between the thoughts I have and the life I live. There is an écart that permeates human life. We live almost entirely in fiction and we are shocked back into reality when the people we love die on us. Maybe the more reminders we have, the more purely we will live. I have a long list of reminders. They make me feel very sad sometimes. Other times, they make me feel joyous and at peace. They are distance and they are closeness.
The subway stops, 68th street and 77th street. Rue Alexandre Parodi. The Long Hop. Chesterfield cigarettes. The LCL bank. The 8th arrondissement.