I never saw Jess’ apartment when we both lived in San Diego. I guess probably because we were both perpetually up in the air, whether with living situations or emotions or just feeling ungrounded. Or maybe that was just me.
Anyway, it’s not a complete surprise but a mild and pleasant one to find how well-appointed her Providence place is. Dark wood floors and cabinets, walls the color of European butter, cleverly mismatched furniture and–thank God–enough of it. These hipsters with their ostentatious minimalism are poor friends to a nomad.
I love the words “well-appointed.” They remind me of my sophomore year tutor, Mr. John Tomarchio, who was known for his love of language and his love of food, specifically the kind he grew up eating in his mother’s kitchen in Brooklyn. He was a trained linguist who had been assigned to tutor my math class on Ptolemy, Apollonius and a little bit of Descartes, toward the end. I loved hearing him pronounce the words “pedagogical” and “univocally.”
(I still haven’t quite learned what “univocally” means or the proper use of it, but sometimes I pronounce it to myself quietly, just to feel its joie de vivre tripping along and bouncing off. It’s a word like a randy old man, who trips through life in the happy belief that he’s still the gift to womankind that he’s always been.)
On lucky occasions, a few upperclassmen got invited to Mr. Tomarchio’s house for dinner and discussion…you know, whatever upperclassmen knew that the unenabled don’t. A senior described this to me once, saying that he and his friends had recently been to “Mr. John Tomarchio’s well-appointed bachelor flat.” He said it with a facetious smirk, which is really the best way to use words like that–you have to give them their due, acknowledging that they are outmoded, if you want your appreciation of them to overshadow the suspicion of pretension warranted by their use.
I forget what I was going to say.
Driving into Providence last night gave me this feeling like Columbus must have had. To my suburban southern California-bred mind, this feels like the edge of the world. You don’t end up here by accident. And here I am. Every other destination seemed at least plausible. Now I’m in Rhode Island. How did that happen?
I feel like I’ve conquered something, arriving here. Standing at the edge of Hope Street and looking out at the barges, I feel indomitable.
And I’m happy to see Jess.
So I feel like I should come up with a better word than “shitty” to describe the underlying feeling brought on by reconnecting with her.
It’s nothing to do with her–can I make that perfectly clear? She seems wonderfully sure-footed, which is a different thing from circumstantially happy. It’s a hard thing to translate life from San Diego to Providence, she tells me; it’s cold as fuck here, and the living is not as cheap as you might think. But the happiness I see in her is nothing to do with Rhode Island. It’s that she seems to now be in charge.
The shitty feeling, for which I’d rather have a different word, comes from remembering the conversations that made us friends, the commiseration over helplessly codependent tendencies and haplessly brief romantic interludes. It comes from remembering, when I see her, how we met the perfect guys, with the same name, at the same time, and waded into that perilous territory with the same split odds of getting shattered or growing more whole. It comes from seeing where she now lives, with this guy, in this apartment that keeps the cold and the grey out, where I am only visiting.
The word I’ve settled on is “wretched.”
I don’t have to think about it, but apparently I want to. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, lately.