As a little girl, I never looked up at the stars because there weren't any there. They only existed in children's books. I didn't even know what a constellation was, that complex relationships between each star, until I was a teenager at a music program in the middle of what felt like a primeval forest. The meeting didn't go well, especially after I was told all those stars were already dead and we were just getting the news through twinkles thousands of light years old.
But a constellation of little moments and brief memories suddenly splayed against a busy life.
The little baby girl toddling fiercely down Second Avenue, proud parents dressed smartly in Expensive Bohemian, beaming proudly and me grinning at the baby, but realizing they wouldn't know what it would be like to have every single person on the street know that baby's business until it was in its fifties.
And that made me think of Gary, who when he was little living in the tough housing projects on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge, would look into the Courtyard and think, "Oh this must be the Garden of Eden." After his family moved in, there was nothing he or B. or any of the other siblings could do without his parents hearing about it. Even after he moved to the East Village, even after he moved back to Grand Street, even after that time in Israel, even after... Everybody knew everything.
Even living in his own apartment in a different building than his family on Grand Street his mother called one day, recounting the several people who asked why he had come home so late the night before.
Watching that baby, I remembered the last time me and Gary spoke, bumping into each other on Second Avenue. He was going to attempt to fit into the world he had been born into but had never quite felt at home in. He died before it could happen.
There had to be a picture of the Courtyard, I thought, the place where nothing we did went unnoticed. I remembered there was one of me an almost teenager, but the only one I could find was me in the little skirt I loved so much and wore so proudly. It, like almost everything else we wore, was a hand-me-down and I remembered the day I understood things were changing because it wasn't fitting the same anymore. But like so much of those years, I didn't know who to tell and so that moment like so many went unspoken and into a quiet reservoir of silence.
And that made me think of an old friend, recently back in touch, telling me about the moment he claimed the clothes he always knew he was born to wear, not the dresses forced upon him because everyone saw him as a girl.
And that made me remember, remember so much of how me or Gary or this old friend were seen and yet unseen, witnessed and yet not known.
Maybe that fierce baby girl would never know what it was like to have billions of eyes on her life, but maybe her parents would always see who she was. ** Related Posts:
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.