LETTER THIRTY

September 14
New York City


DEAR FRIEND,

Not exactly sure why, but this letter has been hard to write. I think because of our too-long silence—that gap between that night I saw you in Toronto (what was it July?) when you rode your bike, drunk, away from my house, and when you wrote me last—I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. I think I’ve forgotten how.

I have been trying to write. It’s been nothing but false starts for weeks. I must’ve began this letter 15 times at least. Each time didn’t feel right. I wanted my August letter—my first letter of our new year—to be big and meaningful, but my attempt to write something good ended up with me writing nothing. The truth is a lot has happened since that night when you turned down my all too kind offer to let you crash on my couch. Since that night, and since getting back to New York City at the beginning of August I have had my pockets full of little bits of paper, all my notes and scraps of ideas about things I wanted to tell you…Walking north on Broadway at night. Breathing in deeply whenever somebody exhaled cigarette smoke… A year, a year, a year… Here I stand, on a quiet hill overlooking a train yard and the last Canadian sunset I’ll see this year… Tonight I saw fireflies in Manhattan! And so on. All August my pockets were full with bits of a letter I never wrote. And now it’s September.

Can you believe we’ve been writing for a year. Do you remember Frans and deciding to do this whole thing? Do you remember Black Irish, where we really decided? Remember wandering around South of Queen last summer, and sitting in that parking lot on those concrete steps? Do you remember that last time I saw you before I moved? You took me to a statue of a horse. You were so insistent we see it. And we did. I have a picture of you sprawled out under that great bronze stallion looking like a young, drunk writer who wants to look like a young, drunk Paul Newman. That night we got so drunk neither of us could roll a cigarette.

It feels like such a long time—a year! But actually though, it feels like no time at all. I look at myself now and I am—and am not—that person who moved to a shitty studio in Queens one year ago.

I wanna to say that it was a real pleasure seeing your handsome face when I was in Toronto. Coming home was weird, as it always is now, but this time for the first time I noticed how much I missed New York. In my last letter I talked about the existential discomfort of going home (whatever that means to me now) but what I didn't include was the feeling that struck me the moment my dirty sneakers got off the train at Pen station. Pen station is probably the worst place in New York City. Actually, maybe it’s a shade better than the Port Authority Bus Terminal—which is a literal incarnation of hell. A year ago when I moved here I hated this city. What did I call it? This filthy city—something like that. I didn’t know where anything was and I missed all the comforts of Toronto. But when I got back, a few weeks ago, my first thought was, goddamn I love this city. I didn’t really realize until I had left and come back here, that the whole time I was gone I was kinda tense. I relaxed, strange as it sounds, soon as I got back to this filthy city. It’s vile here, the air is thick and humid, and it’s ten thousand degrees, and everything is still too goddamn expensive, but I missed it. I don't know where this feeling came from, or what to do with it now I have it, but there it is. New York has won a bit of my heart. Now if only I could find a cheap barber I’d be set.

I did enjoy my time in Toronto though. Truly. I can go into Fall feeling proud of this summer. This summer was a good summer. Seeing you, and seeing all my friends, getting up to some actual shenanigans and foolishness when I was in the city, was a genuine blast. I miss you all so much. Thanks for inviting me to see that movie. Sudden, impromptu, unplanned—the complete opposite of me—this is why we’re friends I think. You are so much of what I want to be. Rushing from my house, hair wet from a 30-second shower, and running down Bathurst so I could get to The Royal in time—I haven’t had that kinda fun in ages! And thanks for bringing beer. I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but sometimes when I’m doing something—like right when I’m in the middle of something—I realize that I am in the middle of a story I will one day tell. Do you know what I mean? Like, it sorta clicks that right then, in that moment, I am doing something cool and fun and exciting and important—to me—and I’ll look back on it and tell it to people I meet about it, and it’ll become a memory that I cherish. Most of my trip back to Toronto this year was like that, but I gotta say meeting you midway through that double-feature and drinking covert beers in the pale-blue cinema light that was pretty spatular. That was a story I’ll tell. Thank you for that. 

Here I am now, back in New York, back at school, and I feel myself living in the last glory days of my life as a student. This is it. One year left. Then I’m out. I’m done. I’m about to be flung into the world with my fucking embossed piece of paper and I lifetime of debt—and I can’t wait! But at the same time, I want to make the most of this year. I want this to be a good year. I want this to be a year of possibility and all sorts of nice life-improving sentimental crap. We've both talked about nostalgia so much over this last year of correspondence, (because we're both uncertain, narcissistic young men, free-falling into life and desperate for the comfort and security of our imagined past), but now I’m finding myself nostalgic for the future. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Where will we be this time next year. Next Labour Day? Who will we be? These questions terrify and thrill me.

Labour day it seems will be our day. Our anniversary. We, two underpaid creatives, have made it our special day, which, in my mind, is what Labour day is for. I like that. I think next Labour Day we should try, if we both happen to be in the same city, to sit down together and have a drink—make it a tradition, you know? Next year, this year, last year—time, time, time.

One year ago I was living in a crappy in a studio in Queens. One year ago I didn't know anybody. I was alone in a city of eight-and-a-half million people. Last week I went for drinks with friends. Last week I was at a party and I met a girl. She was married. Then I met another girl—different party, married too. (Damn these married girls.) Last week I got invited to hang out with one of my instructors. Last week the cool kids asked me if I wanted to get lunch. This last year has been hard. I haven’t always loved it. I’m in debt. I’m still mostly alone in a city of eight-and-a-half million people and the weight of that is on me going forward. But now I know where to get good coffee for a buck, and I know when to switch to the express train when you’re going to Brooklyn. There is great uncertainty in front of me. Maybe less than last year. Maybe just different. Who can say. (Maybe that uncertainty will always be there.) A year ago I was by myself toasting to the chaos of life and shouting “Fuck it, I’ll deal with it later” at the sky—and you know what? Here we are a year later and all I can do crack another goddamn, fuckin’ beer and look towards god and shout “Fuck it. I’ll deal with it later.”

So here’s to living the New York dream. And here’s to another wild year. 

H