• Joseph Kolb

A Room of One’s Own; Graduating Long Island

I know A Room of One’s Own is mostly meant to be for women, but despite that it still resonates with me. At the bare minimum, yes absolutely I need a place where I can have a fixed income and my own private space and absolutely no outside distractions or inside distractions (internal distress; anxiety; overthinking). In some ways I think I need complete isolation because there are too many things creating ugly obstacles in my mind. In other aspects, I appreciate what sweet Virginia says regarding gender, in her explanation of man-womanly and woman-manly. I’m all for nondualist perspectives, I need more of them in my life so I can drench myself sopping wet in them and hope it soaks into the skin. It is because of her thoughts on this, on needing to open the mind to all emotion, masculine and feminine, that I find it okay to use the essay for myself (as a man).

A Room of One’s Own makes me see that I have cut myself off from emotion — this is what overthinking does, believe it. Sometimes I can rouse excitement in myself awake, and it feels like bringing a fire to life, the way I have to lean my face right down to the coals and blow air deep and careful, guided, until the flames rise again. Sometimes it’s like I need to completely leave my body to get anything good on the page. It becomes this process which feels so organic and free but also completely devoid of any second-guessing about what I’m saying. How can I explain this?

i.

I arrive at Catherine’s going away party on 66th with a bottle of red wine for myself to drink. I hit the door with my fist but sadly it doesn’t collapse at my touch. Courtney’s voice: “Is that Joseph?” I enter and we litter the air with sounds of joy before I reveal my Merlot. What? Catherine doesn’t have a bottle opener? Screech! I need to remember my own forgetfulness. I waver in the middle of the room, sweating heat, begging somebody for a bottle opener. There’s a new backward smile on the inside of my mouth, and I pant heavily in the place where my laughter should fill.

Even though I came two hours after the party started attendance is still sparse— people are lining the perimeter of her apartment chatting. No one gives me the time of day, really, which is fine because it’s mostly people I don’t know. I sense they sense I’m there. For a moment I can’t even tell if they’re talking anymore. In my head I’m this expanding mass of frenetic, joyful energy, but in the present moment I probably am (unfortunately) exuding six different shades of needy. Catherine’s sister gives me a screwdriver and, at her suggestion, I take it to the shower and push the cork down hard into the bottle. The prophecy fulfills itself and red wine sprays everywhere. I took forensic science in high school and the white tile walls are like learning about blood spatter analysis.

Catherine is moving to Los Angeles to get her MFA in creative writing. It’s exciting, because a year ago she was talking about going back to Long Island for the degree, which in a lot of ways would be like going back to purgatory without realizing you ever were in purgatory in the first place, which is kind of a problem because you can only get out so many times before your fate is sealed and you start watching Islander games for fun. But she’s not going back. It shows growth, or that she has people in her life that aren’t afraid to pull her aside and ask what are you thinking?

Courtney grins, “Is that wine?” My undershirt is thin and soaking and I have to close my button-up to hide it all.

“It’s water. But I don’t want anyone to see my wet chest.”

She laughs once. “Wet chest…”

Courtney and I stay near that night which is pleasing, makes me into the deep purr of a cat. She’s graduating on Sunday and moving back to New Jersey to live with her parents while working. It’s all very exciting, fresh feeling, citrus. She’s the only other one there that I’m really friends with, the only one that will do the cha cha slide wearing big goofy faces with me while everyone else looks away.

After I finish off most of my wine we go to a bodega for more beer, and Red Bull. (She’s tired. Everyone there is tired. They need to wake up. We want to wake up and be drunk.) We slowly browse our selection, the shelves and shelves of cans and bottles, until Courtney raises up a long finger.

“What,” she asks, mouth only slightly agape, “is this?”

Behold the liminal beverage: Bud Light Orange. Behind the frosty sliding fridge door it is neon, almost threatening to become translucent.

I don’t feel shame when I go to corner stores or liquor stores or grocery stores or bodegas with non-LI friends and choose Bud Light Lime, or even worse, Lime-a-Rita, or any of its Rita-ended siblings. All I can say is, “You can take the boy out of Long Island, but you can’t take Long Island out of the boy.” It rests in me like a dirty snakeskin, like Will coughing up the Upside Down at the end of season one.

“We gotta get it.” So we return to Cathie’s apartment toting our sacred beverages to find that a thousand people have shown up (finally), and enjoy for a half an hour or so showing off our rare drink. It tastes better than lime, which is satisfying in itself. We spend the evening switching off between the two flavors.

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©2020 by Joseph R. Kolb