I spent a recent weekend at a cabin upstate with a group of friends (it was the same cabin, as it happens, that I wrote about last year, with the cicadas, and the indoor soccer, and the haunted house, and the 24 hours of perfect moments).
This year, we spent afternoon - which was clear and bright and warm - in the front yard, barefoot, half-asleep. The day before we'd worn sweaters; today, we found ourselves squinting in the sunlight, the grass parched beneath our feet. The sun burned our shoulders. Flocks of birds gathered en masse overhead. We stared. Awe-struck, we wondered when it had become summer.
There’s something about the New York City humidity that causes me, in very real and very inconvenient ways, to lose my mind. I find it hard to focus. I’m easily distracted. I’m scatterbrained. I cram too much into every day, or else I do nothing at all.
These are difficult problems to confront as a freelancer, as someone who manages her own work schedule, as an inhabitant of a city that moves at bewildering speeds.
It’s a challenge as a writer, as well, to stay present - to hear stories, to remember conversations, to recognize characters, to appreciate sensations: sights and smells, the heat of a 90-degree afternoon.
Two nights ago, it rained. There was lightning, I’m told, and thunder. But even though I’d been sitting perched on a stool next to my third-floor window, typing away on my laptop for hours, I hadn’t noticed. It was only when I got up to close the curtains before bed that I realized the streets were wet, that the books stacked on the sill were soaked.
Emily and I met for lunch last week, on a hot day on the Lower East Side. She had a plane to catch that night; I was coming from breakfast in Brooklyn and had a pile of work awaiting me at home that evening.
Still, after lunch, we strolled. We took photos, talked with strangers sitting on benches outside barber shops. Emily tried on a dress. Our faces grew pink in the sun.
“Let’s get ice cream,” Emily suggested, and we did. Her friend had just opened a new shop on Rivington, and when we walked in, he greeted her warmly. We took seats at the bright white bar. “How can I help you?” asked our host.
Forty minutes later, we’d sampled half a dozen flavors, including four full-sized scoops. I kept notes so I wouldn’t forget: pine nut with salt and pepper; Aperol sorbet; Vietnamese coffee with a glistening river of condensed milk. There was burnt honey vanilla. Cardamom lemon jam. Black licorice, which I was sure I’d hate, but devoured in seconds.
We amassed a small mountain of tiny plastic spoons in the bottoms of our cups. “Can you believe,” I said, “with everything we have to do today, we’re doing this?”
“I’m glad we are,” she said.
I took a last bite. It was a flavor made with raw milk, and my new friend behind the counter had informed me that despite being frozen, it would taste scalded.
This was a strange concept. I ate, and thought. I closed my eyes. I lost myself in the act of tasting, which, for a moment, seemed to require my full attention.
“Are you getting it?” Emily asked.
I looked up. Dropped the spoon in our pile. Yes, I said, I was.