A bit of context for those who haven’t been following the recent events of my life closely: In June, my husband Jordan and I moved back to DC after 5 years in NYC. Our daughter’s name is Alison. And last week, our beloved 16-year-old dog, Cosmo, passed away. Just some key things to know going into this…
It is like driving through a ghost town, driving through DC. There is the old apartment building that Jordan and I lived in, with Cosmo, when I was 25 years old, until I was 29 years old. There are the blocks where the ghosts of us are walking, so much younger. Cosmo still spritely, a spring in his step, a smile in his eye. Still working at PBS, driving to Alexandria every day, just awakening to the artist inside me, certain I would never have a child.
Now, look at me: I am back, a mother now, an artist, almost 10 years self-employed, still struggling to make it all work.
Back then, one night, Jordan took me to a street corner just to scream, just to let it all out. I was so stressed out at work. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know what was next. I was anxious and depressed, but I didn’t know it yet. I hadn’t discovered improv.
It’s like I was an alpha version of myself. A shadow. A paper-thin copy. An iteration. A foreshadowing. Shadow. Ghost.
Are we always ghosts of our future selves?
When I was pregnant, I remember feeling like this maternal part of myself that had forever been grayed out was now coming into focus – getting activated. Are we all pieces of clay, slowly finding our shape?
It is so weird to be back here, still. Disorienting. Right now I am sitting in Tryst. Where I used to come. Even after 30, when we had moved from the place on 20th over to the place on Lanier, and I was self-employed, and improvising, blogging, I came here, then, and that was long ago, too. Cosmo was still with us. He was with us until last week, through all of it, every move, every low point, every fun weekend trip. Everything.
I used to come here. Over there, across the room, is 32-year-old Amanda, so young, so wrapped up in her work, her blog, her life. She has Cosmo to go home to, and Jordan, her wonderful Jordan. They are never having kids; that life looks so unappealing.
Meskerem is across the street. They used to go there, on date night. That time they saw the woman’s butt crack. Tried the honey wine. Gross.
Or Bardia’s – the time the waitress left right while we were sitting there. We just saw her put on her coat and go.
Or the Reef (gone now, can’t link to it), all the nights drinking there – never weekend nights because god, Adams Morgan on a weekend night was like a frat party, but on a Wednesday… wonderful. The time Kate and Wendy took me there for my birthday, and I had two martinis on an empty stomach (even though it’s a beer place), and then we went to Jyoti, and then they had to hold me up on the walk home through Kalorama Park, and hold my head while I puked. Jordan came home and found us like that, and Kate was drunk too, and she said, “I want a steak.”
She was a vegetarian.
She has three kids now. I have one. Wendy has two. Wendy makes cupcakes. Kate went to nursing school. Jordan and I went out on a date the other night, to Chez Billy, in Petworth, a neighborhood that’s new to us. We never went to Petworth when we lived here before. There was the blog, the Prince of Petworth, but the area was “edgy,” and not on our radar. Now we live there, because it’s near Ali’s school.
We liked Chez Billy because it felt like Brooklyn, which is where we lived from the time I was 34 until earlier this year – 39. We like everything in town that feels like Brooklyn. We like Brooklyn.
We like Adams Morgan, too, but as much as it feels like slipping into a wonderful old sweatshirt to be here, it also feels like putting on a costume, dressing up like a ghost.
Those people don’t live here anymore.
Petworth is alienating. Well, 16th Street Heights, which is where we technically live. Or 14th Street Heights. We live somewhere.
It doesn’t feel like home.
We are living in a ghost town. The ghost of our dead dog is everywhere. The ghost of our youthful, sheltered, young selves – everywhere. I drive past an apartment building where Kate’s friend Mary used to live, where Christopher Hitchens used to live, where we got drunk that one time at the Christmas party with the preppy people before we went over to Washington Improv Theater to see our friends perform.
We used to have improv rehearsal every Monday night, and then we’d all go to Axis (R.I.P.) on U Street. Andrew was there, he’d give us half pours if we wanted more but not quite a whole one. We all got the veggie kabob. Everybody knew our name.
Michelle’s in the Bay area now, and Aparna writes for TV, and the rest of us are here with our kids.
When I hug Alison, life expands. But there is a way in which being a parent still feels like putting on a costume, even three years in. When you’re so sure you don’t want to do something for so long, and then you do it….it’s disorienting. Like coming home after being away. Like coming home to yourself, changed, different, same.
A ghost town.