I am here now, alone in the quiet of a Monday morning, not going with everyone else to work. I’ve pulled myself off the track and now there is nothing else except the white walls of my room, the white shelves that came from my parents’ house, holding mostly books from college English classes – poetry collections that span a few hundred years – Dante, Milton – the thick book of translated Japanese poetry with the picture of the sunflower on the cover. I like my collection of paperbacks. I don’t open them all the time, but I like having them there, steady companions, reminding me who I am, what I want.
I sit at the white wooden desk that my mother got for me as a child. I have a manual white portable typewriter you can carry around in a grey case, inherited from when my mother tried to teach herself to type. It types in small, cramped pica type, not the fuller Courier that most typewriters use.
I am here on W. 91st Street up on the fourth floor, and it seems like the right place for writing.
I don’t think too much about how to pay the rent. Maybe I can learn carpentry. So many artists have interesting off-the-map skills. I want one of those. Being a secretary is the worst thing I can think of, but this is what I have always done for cash.
I help two women clean up their apartment. They have been living together as a couple for 20 years and are splitting up. They have grey hair and I can tell they like me for my youth, energy and prettiness. I work mostly with the one who is moving out, she is the more quirky of the two, the one more at a loss. The one staying in the apartment has something tidy, organized, academic about her, a collection of ancient clay figurines from archeological digs lines her long window sills.
The one I help is an artist of some kind. She tells me about two carpenters she knows and I ask if I can apprentice with them. They are two young men doing fancy cabinentry in wealthy apartments. I tag along a few times, sanding, bored, I quit.
I do write a little. I describe the walk I took in Van Cortlandt Park, starving for greenery, taking the subway as far out of the city as it would go. I describe the gentle rain, the pencil-yellow leaves on the path, the abandoned car in the woods, the angry woman in the black tee shirt who glares at me as she passes.
This writing thrills me.
I move into a smaller room in the apartment to lower my rent and then when Natvar, my yoga teacher, the man who runs the school I go to three times a week now, the man who greets me with a huge smile every time I arrive, where I sit and drink tea after class with the same group of four or five who listen to Navar’s stories – when he says wistfully that he needs someone to rent the back room, I volunteer. It will be even cheaper than where I am now, and I will be helping him.