The day before we took this video I sobbed at the dentist. Sometimes I have to cry, but common courtesy keeps it to a few little starlet tears. Other times I’m in the dentist office and I think “fuck it, go off.” And so the tears come.
As I get further away from my last drink, I am increasingly more attuned to my appetites. An old sensation appears. I want to be happy. I do not want to feel sobs choked down my throat through every waking hour.
I have not ever been a legal adult who felt that way.
I walked to Sephora the next day. Do you ever notice how all your makeup runs out at the same time? Sometimes I wonder if my household items organize shifts while I’m at work.
I told the associate that I needed tinted moisturizer. We walked over to the NARS display. When I was 22 and newly sober, I distracted myself with an experiment in non-monogamy. It was a fun experiment that involved a hot guy, new restaurants, and an immersive education in what it means to be a type of New Yorker that no longer exists. My coping mechanism for any potential jealousy? Simply do not think about it. One time, though, I saw a NARS lipstick on his desk. I thought “she must be powerful.”
Since then, I’ve always associated the brand with a sharp, organized, purposeful sense of femininity. I never tried the lipstick for myself. Part of me worried I would need a secret boss bitch badge to buy NARS cosmetics.
Standing in front of the display in Sephora, I asked the associate “Are you sure this won’t make my skin break out?” before we set about determining shade.
The world isn’t made for me. Groundbreaking, right? What I really mean is I am not wired for it. My synapses feel too reactive. When that imposed peace which took me out of myself faded, when Spring fell into Summer and I went back to work, I thought to myself, “This is going to be uncomfortable.”
I braced a little, preferring to stay soft in the knees. I distracted myself by savoring the subtleties of each individual moment. They warp, bend, pull, like warm taffy. In some moments you’ve run away to the Jersey Shore and you’re getting high in the porta potty at a National Guard beach. In other moments you watch the apartment you just formed an intense emotional attachment to receive renovations so intense that it’s unrecognizable. Maybe you steal the bathroom mirror to rescue your memories. Maybe you fuck a stranger in the forest to see if you feel anything.
I commuted from a studio visit in Jersey City to meet Grant in TriBeCa. I’d momentarily contemplated whether to walk to the PATH train or take a car, but I know that when my mind outright asks me to walk, it’s because the muse wants to strike.
Walking up Newark Avenue was a singularly electrifying experience. The lights, the life, my heavy black lashes: The happy drama of human existence. Imagine if anyone could understand how much work it’d taken to get here? Imagine if I could just play it all in reverse?
I told Grant the video’s premise. We set off for Times Square at 10:30 PM, open to possibility.
I have always loved talking to strangers. I’m hungry for their conversation, hungry to watch their eyebrows react to a well-thrown curveball in the pitch of my voice as I reach a punchline I hadn’t even known I’d been driving at.
The NARS and Newark Ave. and New York, New York all swelled together as I sank into the groove. That mood is the opposite of crying at the dentist. In that mood, I am inevitable. My energy slides from thought to matter in minutes. As I danced across 42nd Street, one person yelled, “I love it!” Feeling my moment, I seized it. “I’m filming a music video, do you want to dance with me in it?” I grinned.
Nando and Benjamin told me they were professional dancers.
I want to live in a world where everyone takes the time to help the people around them. I lived in that world for thirty minutes while we caught our footage. Sodik let me ride on the back of his bike. A group of skaters offered their best tricks. It felt like a fever dream.
Some recovery programs espouse the saying, “Play the tape forward.” I’ve been thinking about playing the tape backward. I have spent years hurling myself against the structure of my own personality, and in these two and a half years since I first quit drinking, I have painstakingly experimented with how to make a life in which my logic and feeling harmonize.
We all smile under the weight of our experience. This honors that.
THANK YOU! To everyone who helped.
Shot by: https://www.instagram.com/wwhhiitteeddeeeerr/
Dancers: https://www.instagram.com/nando_cabrera_/ & https://www.instagram.com/benjamin_sanc/
Skaters: https://www.instagram.com/kiids_photography/ & https://www.instagram.com/bailmankid_666/ & https://www.instagram.com/fernando.the.skaterr/ & https://www.instagram.com/forbiddenexistence/ & https://www.instagram.com/officialsiickmiind/