“Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted—wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.”—Nicole Krauss (The History of Love)
1. Run away to Brooklyn. Rent an apartment with a claw footed bathtub. Commute to Manhattan during the week and put in hours at a menial publishing job. Drive home to New Jersey on weekends to swim in the pool and cry to your mother. Smoke Gauloises on the fire escape. Let yellowing issues of Rolling Stone and Vogue pile into a protective fortress around your bed. Listen to Cat Power. Fall asleep mostly naked beneath the duvet watching Sportscenter and drinking earl grey. Date a Yankees fan and kiss his hands on the 4 Train into the Bronx.
2. Run away to Barcelona. Eat milk chocolate magnum bars and drink cheap champagne. Burst into charming fits of laughter whenever you get embarrassed about butchering the Catalan language. Wear denim cutoffs, Dr. Pepper chapstick, and very little else. Go dancing at 3 a.m. Whiten your teeth. Tan your shoulders. Braid feathers into your hair. Perpetually wake up with sand caught in the thin cotton sheets of your tiny bed. Listen to the Rolling Stones and kiss all the longhaired boys you can get your hands on without ever having to apologize.
3. Run away to Los Angeles. Sublet a studio in Venice three blocks from the beach. Listen to top 40 radio. Go to Chateau Marmont and charge drinks you can’t afford to a long-dormant credit card. Sleep with a television actor who lives in the valley. Sleep with a musician who lives in Bel Air. Break things off with both of them when gas prices begin to rise. Find Gilda Radner’s star on the Walk Of Fame and swallow a sob when you see the filthy cement around her name is cracked. Walk through the Venice Canals until the sun sets and you forget your own name. Call your mother crying from the parking lot of a 24-hour Ralph’s supermarket. Tell her you want to come home.
4. Run away to Paris. Gaze at the pink and pistachio glow of macarons in the window on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Listen to Joni Mitchell. Meet an Argentinean man in the Latin Quarter for drinks. Melt into his accent and kiss him goodnight, but return to your apartment alone because his face doesn’t look enough like the man’s you are trying to forget. Get lost in the Richelieu Wing of the Louvre, admiring Napoleon’s fine red damask. Walk alone along the Seine in an old dress, ten-dollar shoes, and an Hermes scarf. Fumble with the locks on the fence overlooking the river. They all have lovers’ names etched into them and the girl who left the red heart-shaped lock has the same name as you.
5. Run away to Martha’s Vineyard. Write heartbroken stories during the day in front of a large fan that blows curls of humid hair across your tired face. Take a waitress job at The Black Dog at night and try hard not to drop too many trays. Learn to ride a moped. Pretend you’re a Kennedy. Listen to Carly Simon. Eat hand-churned ice cream out of waffle cones. Visit the flying horses and consider how many girls just like you have sat on the same horse clutching for the same brass ring. Get stoned and dance barefoot down the length of the eroded Jaws beach. Date a Red Sox fan. Yell at each other during baseball games, and then kiss and make up between tangled sheets.
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive. It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human. It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!” It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children. It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back. It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”—Oriah Mountain Dreamer