Non-fiction Stories

The Most Perfect Day (Since the Last Most Perfect Day)

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“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.” – COLETTE

I spent the better part of yesterday scrawling notes in a journal as if preparing for a test, albeit one with less tedious material than most. Getting lost in an interview with James Salter, I wrote down some of his words in the hopes that they might fly out of my own mouth and reinvent themselves. “I like Europe because the days don’t punish you there,” he was telling someone in 1993, as I chewed a slice of mint gum with more enthusiasm than I would’ve in public. This truth of his is one I’m adopting, I decided, as it evoked some youthful long lunches spent by a lake in France with adults in a wine haze, and me concerned only with chocolat sans Depp and avoiding the water.

Sometimes I feel invigorated like this—the words of an author send me spiraling into a kind of blissful state where for once I’m not thinking about what I’m doing but simply doing it. Taking notes I may never revisit, stretching out syllables in my mouth for no greater purpose, falling into a Wikipedia black hole only to once again realize how little of the world I know. The theme hovered on France this time, though I didn’t plan it that way—I scribbled Colette in the margins and wrote READ HER in unsteady, capital letters. Not eloquent, straightforwardso more likely to mean something to me in the long run.

My apartment, usually too small and egging on ugly strains of thought, seemed to open up a bit—briefly pretending it was some ideal kind of aerie, with perfectly pale sunlight, and the temperature lingering inexplicably on a number much cooler than the norm. I felt wide awake, but not perky: drumming along with the pen and paper in a way that is nearly foreign to me now, no thanks to the computer’s reign.

Later, I slipped on thin sandals and slinky shorts, left my greasy hair for the rest of the world to deal with, and headed downtown to see an old friend—because how else is one supposed to end a Sunday so terrific it makes you feel like a Salinger character (the quirks fleshed out but much less tortured)? I’m pretty sure I ambled for the first time in my life, a delicious and forced motion meant for screen sirens or unstable drunkards. I noticed storefronts and the scent of grilled meat, mixed with something like lime, and happily forgot to check on my own features drifting by the domino set of dirty windows. It was not an afternoon for insecurities.

A slow glass of Sancerre and a few crowded blocks later, and I was sharing chilled chunks of watermelon on a rooftop with my friend [a term inadequate for describing first loves—but probably less cloying than ‘first love’ itself]. I could mention the New York City skyline if I cared but I don’t because it’s old news to me, like the history between me and this person I’ve known since sixteen—when I was wretched but tricked him somehow into thinking otherwise. It’s strange to think about the ways our lives have rearranged, drifting apart, but still together somehow–though these thoughts are a weird of blend of happy and sad so I try mostly to avoid them.

We talked about greener desires, the way new faces sort of turn us on but, then again, do they? Everyone’s a bit awful and loneliness is always unclear. I think I’ve grown up, I say, but still find myself toying with men who don’t play it straight. I wonder if perhaps this is more like growing down, further away from that youthful romantic peak which hindsight has rendered sublime. Luckily, this didn’t do much to deter my mood, infallible as I wandered back uptown from one shred of nostalgia to the next.

The evening was sealed not by skin on skin but with soupy frozen yogurt–the contents of which will probably kill me someday, but whose delights win out for their quicker response times. I manage in the moment to avoid this concern, caught up instead with the greater danger of how much this day might haunt me on all the lesser ones I’ll have to wade through.

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