And now for something completely different. A series of 100-word “postcards” from my weekend solo trip to New York City.
I don’t have a sippy cup. I’m out of wipes. I’ve ditched the snack trap of crackers. I maneuvered the airport minus stroller wheels. I ordered one meal, just one, exactly what I wanted, and no one’s finger has poked around to dig out the juicy tidbits. I am a liberated woman. I don’t hear any see-saw syllables of “ma-ma”. I don’t feel a fuzzy head rubbing my neck and chin. I don’t smell the intoxicating blend of milk-graham cracker-sweat-wet diaper-shampoo. I don’t see anyone with thumb popped in a mouth underlining two blue owl eyes. Sometimes freedom is sad.
An invisible tight rope stretches from the apex of the Brooklyn bridge to my rooftop terrace and then swoops off again into the night to anchor the neon needle nose of the Empire State Building. Along the tightrope, I feel the city’s quivers: salsa beat from impromptu dance lessons on the stoop five stories below. The gush of coals settling in the pizza joint’s brick oven. Tremors of taxi doors opening, closing, opening again. A twang of stress strums down the tightrope, and I glance to the sky to see a plane’s lights swooping below the indolent clouds. Our wine wallows as we watch, silently, the plane fly low, heading for the Empire’s needle. One morning nine years ago has stolen the innocence from this moment. I swirl my last sip of wine, watch the legs run down the glass, and set it back on the table, unfinished.
“Can I take First Ave?” the taxi driver asks in a Jamaican accent. “Did you like the chimichurra?” asks the caterer in a Vietnamese accent. “For here or take away?” asks the barrista in what can only properly be described as a bored accent. “Ackjoiah slakjwn hvoi welahrj?” asks the man I pass on the street in a Romanian accent. “Do you prefer the Provençal rosé?” asks the waiter in a French accent. “Do you want ice cream or cupcakes?” asks my friend with her southern accent. I ask in my flat Midwestern accent, “Can I come back?”
Little Friend has said her first verb: “broke.” As in, “The toy broke.” I hear this news filtered through the reverb of cell towers as I walk past the prows of Flatirons. The phone scalds my ear. 371 miles away, from under a blueberry bush netting where she is stuffing berries alternately in her mouth and down her dress, I hear my daughter laugh, say “ma-ma” and tell the story again: “broke.” My sandal strap aggravates a blister. I push open a door to air-conditioned paradise and order a coconut ice cream cone. I urge, “Say it again, Little Friend.”
I shouldn’t have looked up, because when I did I noticed half the people in the room were standing on their heads. Seriously?! Two bullets of sweat collided on the tip of my nose and splashed onto the mat. My hip flexors laughed at me as I twisted my legs and pondered the impossibility of lifting my torso, legs, and toes skyward. I settled for child’s pose and let the sweat pool on my shoulder blades. In the stillness, a concert of breathing emanated from the yoga participants. At regular intervals, the floor shuddered as metros rattled through Union Station.
A weekend away. I am pondering the impunity of disregarding the clock, forgetting nap times, forgoing meal times, and ignoring bed times. I am stalking New York streets at 1 am, watching skeletons in high heels suck down cigarettes, frat boys rove in packs, seven-year-olds challenge men to skateboarding duels. I’ve slipped out of my skin for a weekend. I’m cavorting, a stale city breeze tingling my raw muscles and bare ligaments. I’m anticipating the familiar comfort of re-donning my motherhood skin, reading Madeline, and kissing a little girl as she twists a bedtime nest in her blanket.