the perfect winter table

Her face tilts upward, as the sun fully reclaims the summer sky on this particularly warm day in July. She is wearing a red dress that hangs off her shoulder blades, melts to her midline, and billows out like the mouth of a tulip. Her hair is neatly tied back into a low bun and rests on the base of her neck, because he liked it like that. Three years ago, when they lived here, they only stayed long enough to see the dreary winter months of grey. Yet, it all feels wildly familiar, even now.

The sidewalk is full of life outside of Salut Salon. Mothers with their babies and couples with their feet tied and eyes locked and old men with their hand-rolled cigarettes. She has never seen it quite like this. And though tempted by the cascading summer light and the innocent laughter of children and the open table on the corner of Werdstrasse and Weststrasse, she opts for the table inside. The one by the floor to ceiling window in front of the fireplace and tall shelves of German literature. The perfect winter table. The one they’d occupy every Thursday and Sunday afternoon, sometimes Wednesday when he didn’t have to work so hard. He worked so hard, always writing things down and keeping the folded notes in the back pocket of his favorite blue jeans, the pair she’d always check before throwing in the laundry. It was an obsession really, the way he’d pause in the middle of conversation to announce a new idea or roll over in the middle of the night to send an e-mail or pull her in so close she could taste the hint of lavender soap on his hands, whispering “you’re going to be so proud of me one day.”

Beautiful day, she thinks, and orders a cappuccino and tries to remember what it’s like here when it rains. The empty chair on the other side of the table is heavy with grief; the feeling of loss as raw as it was the day of that unthinkable accident last September.

The stranger behind her cracks his knuckles in sweet succession, all eight fingers, four on each hand, like a bad habit turned ritual of necessity. She closes her eyes and does not turn around because it’s not him, but it might be the closest she’s been in what feels like the most debilitating eternity of all time.

She stays there well into the evening, and watches the envious summer afternoon turn into a brilliant thunderstorm symphony, knowing if he were here with her now she would cup her hands around his gentle, angular face and say, “I am always proud of you.”

a short story someday

citrus winter

one day I’ll tell you
about the citrus winter
how it made me shiver
had to shed skin
to find a thicker layer
I’ll tell you about
the tips of the pines
how they came to resemble
my heartbeat lines
I’ll take you to september
where we’ll flirt with the coast
and the nicer weather
remind you not all souls will
dance together forever
I’ll show you the creatures
who light up the sea
in a part of the world
with bare feet and fruit trees
we’ll meet a girl named Jessy
who sews and makes tea
one day I’ll tell you
what it feels like to sleep next to
the man of your dreams
wake up hungover
too much wine,
too much cheese
one day I’ll show you what I mean by
you are the most beautiful thing
making maps out of freckles
swinging our hips
you’ll never feel like
you have to give anything to him
one day I’ll tell you
about the click of my heels
down foreign city streets
in a place as surreal
as the corner of your heart
where I’ll live the rest of my days
citrus winter, wild summer
tasteful spring, auburn fall
you and me
through the thick
of it all

– to my future daughter

the age I’ve always wanted to be

I lied to my online boyfriend about my age for three months.

He was sixteen, a sophomore in high school. I was thirteen, an established seventh grader. I didn’t see the issue, because in my mind, I was so not thirteen.

His reaction: a heartfelt text “age is nothing but a number”, and when he broke up with me the next day, via MySpace messenger, I sat in the profound anguish that if it wasn’t my age it must be something else, like my giant forehead or the way I bite my nails and crack my knuckles. I wasn’t thirteen, I mean I was, but I really wasn’t.

I felt this innate desire to be older than I was even earlier: at ten years old, when I would stake out at the July Fourth parade and stare at teenage boys with chiseled jaw bones and pretty girlfriends and genuinely wonder why they weren’t noticing me.  Ten fucking years old.

I’m twenty-five now, and for the first time since my alter ego and fake identity gave me access to all the wonders of being twenty-one while under twenty-one, I am lying about my age again.  I am twenty-two if I’m trying to qualify for the student discount at a spin studio, twenty-three if anyone around is still in the college bubble, twenty-four for any other encounters. Simply, never twenty-five.

And I don’t know why. What’s wrong with twenty-five?

The day I turned twenty-five, I had just quit my first full-time job in Los Angeles. After a liberating year of exploring a new city, learning and thriving in a new industry, paying my own absurd rent, enduring brutal commutes with Moth and How I Built This podcasts, I was ready to move on and I made that choice entirely on my own. It doesn’t bother me that some people think I didn’t give LA a chance. I gave LA a chance the minute I bought a one way ticket and signed my first lease. Nothing made me leave, and nothing made me stay.

The day after I turned twenty-five, I packed up my entire life in my mighty Honda Civic and three Home Depot boxes. I sold my brand new bed, the most amazing bed I’ve ever had (and that means a lot coming from a girl who grew up on a twin-mattress-turned-dog-bed) to a family down the road in Torrance. They came to my apartment to pick it up at 10:30 pm on a Tuesday for $100 cash and for some reason that was my favorite part about moving.

My friend flew out from Boston to take a road trip with me because I had to drop the car off with my brother in San Francisco. For five days, we tackled the central coast of California and the exquisite beauty of Yosemite, sleeping in a canvas hut in the desert, a haunted tipi on a wild horse ranch, a tree house on Wondernut Farm. The entire time we waited to make headlines: California Tourists’ Honda Blows Up, Girls Get Mugged, Fatal Attack by Mountain Lion, Life-threatening Infection after Friends get Tatted.

That didn’t happen. It was perfectly imperfect. I will look back on those five days for the rest of my life as the most insanely idealistic way to celebrate a birthday.

A month after turning twenty-five, I felt darkness. It was heavy and cold and slapped me hard in the face. A twist of reality that didn’t feel completely undeserving. I was unemployed for a month and a half, which is surely not a long time relatively but is unnervingly significant when you have nothing else going on. I started to apply half-willingly for full-time jobs in the area, knowing I quit my full-time job to avoid another full-time job and focus on my writing. And though I knew this and my applied efforts were lame, I still sulked in the rejection of “we are not going to pursue your candidacy at this time.”

Two months after turning twenty-five, I saw a sliver of light and grabbed on to it. I was making subpar excuses to swim in the ambiguity, and it wasn’t enough for me anymore. I had to do something, even if it wasn’t the next big something.

So, I snagged a waitressing gig at Russell House in Harvard Square. Between the time I signed on and my first day of training, I was offered a part-time remote marketing job and a part-time job as a kickboxing instructor. I called Russell House to tell them I accepted an offer somewhere else, because I wanted a job not three jobs. One abrupt week later, the marketing job fell through and I quickly came to terms with the fact that I’m not nearly theatrical enough for the kickboxing gig. From no job, to one job, to three jobs, to no job. It was cyclical hell, and I stopped talking to anyone about what I was up to because I clearly had no idea.

A couple weeks later, I found myself at Temple Bar. Scott, the General Manager, called me in for an interview and made me laugh for what felt like the first time in two months. Even though he accidentally told me that it’s nearly impossible to make a reservation at Giulia next door because it’s packed every day of the week, I took the job at Temple because I liked his vibe. On day three of my five-day training series, I saw a friend’s post on Facebook that instantly caught my eye and shifted everything around once more.

Now, three months since turning twenty-five, I’ve worked exactly one month at Temple Bar and put in my two week’s notice last Friday. In three weeks, I’m moving to Zürich, Switzerland for one year to work part-time as an Au Pair and part-time as a freelance writer (Thanks Zoë, for that Facebook post and for being you). Oh, and I’m writing a book. I have been writing a book. I know you can’t tell by the tone of voice, but there is no inflection there. There is no question mark. That is a statement, and it is a dedication to myself more than anything.

Twenty-five has felt like a carousel—no real sense of direction and no sign of passing the horse in front of you any time soon.  It has fluctuated the same way an ECG would during a 450-foot freefall (been there). And though quitting a stable job with salary for a year in Europe taking care of twins a few days a week and writing “a book” might seem like the exact cause to this carousel metaphor, it’s also the only time I feel old enough to take it on and young enough to get away with it. And in that sense, twenty-five is the perfect age. The age I’ve always wanted to be.