It took a glass of wine and a call to my mother to get me into Manhattan. I had successfully passed through lunchtime (for mysterious reasons a great anxiety trigger) and my oh-shit work is over I have nothing to distract me was the next hurdle.
After the wine and the talk, I got myself on the bus, on the subway, no problem.
Then the sidewalk in front of Carnegie Hall didn’t scare me, not the glossy building across the street, waving and dizzying, or the dark. I waited for my friend, and looked up at the grocery flower display out front of an apartment building I used to visit, twenty years ago. New York charms: in winter, the Christmas trees out with us, in warm weather, the cut flowers in their bins, waiting.
We had a couple of hours of a string quartet, lost in musing, under the chandelier, at the faces of each player, their bow hands, their shoes, listening for the second violin part, which is the best, their ring fingers, three of four were married, who was a little fat, who was tall, the different browns of their instruments, a bow hair that, loose, caught the light. The ideas of the music. Beethoven bridge between old-fashioned and modern, between us and them, right?
We went two doors down to the Russian Tea Room, through their frosted revolving door.
The famous restaurants and bars of New York are the task of my forties. Sardi’s, Bemelman’s, now the Russian Tea Room. I have hardly any more money than I had my early trips into the city, but now I have appreciation for a proper drink, properly made.
We ordered caviar and vodka.
The vodka was poured into tall, thin glasses. The bartender explained how each one was different. I tasted each one, and each tasted exactly like vodka.
The room was greener than I had imagined. There was some red, but there was also green. All restaurants should be red inside, and all other indoor walls should be white or yellow.
I looked over at the booth where Louis CK had sat with F. Murray Abraham, filming a scene for “Louie.” Certain episodes of “Louie” have made me right again, and “Amadeus” is, of course, everything for us who are mediocre.
On the way home we argued about death and sat opposite two hoodied guys. One messed with a pill bottle and then both slumped over in reverie, perhaps to ride the 2 all night.
I have never ridden the 2 to the end.
The Russian Tea Room has glass cases of Russian stuff for sale, nesting dolls, glossy, gold and red painted this and thats. Little price tags. It enchants me how places Fancy New York in my mind have their own clumsiness and kitsch.
I tasted the orange-pink caviar, bubbles on bread and cream cheese. The pills of fishiness squished like vitamin E gelcaps.
And that was enough of that.
Six weeks on higher dose of SSRI. When the antidepressant is working, it shuts a trap door inside my brain, and the room of horrors, I don’t even know if the demons are still down there. I don’t know, and I don’t think about it, even. They become like a bad, flat fiction. I don’t think about how I might need to drug myself, I get to think about how I might want to drug myself.
Last week at church I had a bout of panic, and I decided this week to stay home, sleep in, lounge. This was totally unlike me, to let myself off the hook this way, although my doctor recommends it. The first time I went to see her, and talked about the panic, need-to-flee feeling, she said, “Well, then you should go!”
That sounded completely crazy to me.
She has a very nice black dog, though, and I like petting the dog while she writes my prescriptions, and I like that she is 1,000 years old and her home office is in a luxurious doorman building, with a crummy packing-tape-mended chair.
When I finally got up and out today, I ran into my neighbor. I went a couple of months without seeing him, which was odd.
“So many people in and out of the building! I’m glad you’re still here,” he said.
“Oh, yeah,” I said.
We passed an old lady he said hi to, I said, “I haven’t met her.”
He said, “She used to watch my daughter. And she’s known me since I was this high.”
Somehow we were talking about being 25.
“I’m so glad to be older,” I said.
“I’m not, those were great times,” he said.
We talked about these kids today, and about New York, how he wanted to leave, but had deep roots there, and I said I envied his roots here, and I didn’t say, why does anyone want to leave?