"I am, for no discernible reason, wall-smashingly, knuckle-scrapingly PISSED. A quick survey of a few acquaintances reveals that I am not entirely alone in these feelings, but I am not sure to what degree this is a universal occurrence," my friend Alex
wrote on his Tumblr on Monday, so I promptly wrote to him, as he expected me to, to inform him that Mercury was retrograde and would be til the 11th. But even I'm not hippie enough to be wholly satisfied by astrology as an explanation for the weird vibes that everybody's been feeling in NYC this week.
The weather's been unseasonably hot and a guy tried to blow up part of Times Square with a car bomb over the weekend. It's understandable that people might be on edge. On Monday I was getting on the subway at Dekalb avenue, going through the usual mechanical motions, swiping my card to enter the system, when I realized that I was stepping into a crime scene. A fresh gout of blood on the ground, cops restraining a gibbering prisoner as a group of Brooklyn Tech high school students gathered to gawk.
I removed my earbuds just long enough to ask someone at the edge of the crowd if she knew what had happened; she didn't. I made the customary mental note to check the news when I got home, then forgot to, as is also customary.
You learn to shut out so much commonplace horror when you live in a big city, or maybe just when you live anywhere near other people. You learn to ignore so much ordinary thoughtless unkindness and rudeness. "Uh, the line's over THERE?" That kind of thing. It's possible to feel really inconsequential here; in a bad way but also in a great way — your problems and your pain are never the most problematic or painful in a 15-foot radius, you can almost always be sure. I had been feeling awful before I left the house on Monday, sorry for myself because my book — and let me just pause here to clarify that my critical take on my book is essentially DON'T HURT MY PRECIOUS BABY, YOU MONSTERS — has not, let's just say, been garnering universal critical acclaim. I don't want to get into that too much here, or anywhere — taking up arms against your critics is not a cute look for an author, though it is entertaining to anyone sitting on the sidelines. I liked Anna North's interview with me that ran on Jezebel yesterday, where she homed in on my refusal to write what I characterized as an "Oh goofy me, taking pratfalls" book. In And the Heart Says Whatever, I didn't hammer home my points or penitently explain which specific lessons my youth in New York has taught me, and I didn't end the book with a triumphant feel-good story about how I've found true love and now I'm a yoga teacher. This seems to have worked the nerves of a lot of the online reviewers who specialize in writing about what are called "women's books."
I try not to overtly mention this anywhere, though regular close readers of my food blog have extrapolated it, but the odd fact of the matter is that I have found true love and now I'm a yoga teacher. (For real.) And after I saw the bloody man's arrest, on Monday, I made my way to the Back Care yoga class that I assist every Monday night.
I made an informal pact with myself a while ago never to write about the yoga part of my life, and this promise has been surprisingly easy to keep. I know there are whole magazines devoted to yoga-related essays and journalism and that's cool but for me anything related to spirituality is deeply (ha!) private — and also maybe also essentially boring, in the same way that "a dream I had" and "a cute thing my cat did" are not super entertaining conversation topics. Also, I feel like there's a kind of doctor-patient confidentiality-type tacit agreement between me and my fellow teachers and students. So I will permit myself only to say that something happened in class on Monday and I was able to help someone who was having a hard time in a way that I wouldn't have been able to if my own life hadn't worked out the way it did.
It's rare for me to feel this way, but in that moment I felt like everything is working out for a reason.
I hope that's cheesy and homily-ish enough to satisfy my critics retroactively, but I suspect that it doesn't work that way.