July 18, 2019

My Unchanging Life

“Friday evening, 8 p.m., early summer, New York City. I sit at my desk, face aglow in Macintosh luminescence. On the desk sits the detritus of the hour, of the day, the week, the season. There is dinner of sushi in the little takeout tray from the supermarket. There is leftover coffee in a mug from the afternoon. There are books and notebooks and checkbooks. There are pens and lip balms and hair ties and postage stamps and unmatched earrings and a MetroCard. There are a gazillion paper napkins for some reason. There is a computer modem whose lights flash with the irregular, listing cadence of a heart murmur. There are several Word documents up on that glowing screen, each competing for attention, not so much with one another, but with the email interface to which all roads lead back.

It is 1997. It is 2017. It doesn’t matter. It is both. In 20 years, my life has come full circle, 360 degrees for real. People often say 360 degrees when they mean 180. They say full circle when they’re really talking about a semicircle. It’s an oddly human error, as though they can’t quite grasp the concept of a human being turning on an axis as readily as the earth itself. But in my case, it’s true. At 47, my life looks uncannily the same way it did at 27.

How did I get here? Nearly two decades ago, I moved from New York City to the Midwest and then to California, where I came as close to settling down as I’m probably ever going to come, which is to say I got married. Nearly two years ago, the marriage ended, and I got in the car and literally drove through my life in reverse. I drove west to east, backward in time, until I landed right back where I started: alone in a scuff-marked apartment in a clanking old Manhattan building much like the one I occupied in my twenties, eating supermarket sushi at my desk and trying mightily (yes, on a Friday evening) to complete a writing assignment that was due a week ago.”

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