nina. july 11-16. july 17th.

nina was here.

i just dropped her off. and i guess it makes sense that i sat in the car, that moment of heat and stillness, with the windows up and the car turned off in the summer afternoon sun, finishing off 'wide eyes' by the local natives. getting physically uncomfortable.

went inside a silent empty house, straight up the front stairs to my room, where i turned and slid the bar lock that keeps my 1898 bedroom door closed, because the crystal handle doesn't catch the latch. turned my fan on high, cranked the wall unit, and got under the covers, grabbing blacktop for the first time in a solid week, aside from the occasional bank account balance check and weather report.

i was laying there, in my silent empty house completely alone for the first time in maybe ten days, with only the hum of the air conditioner in the background.



my brain has been going in a million directions for the length of my vacation. and for the days before that. it's constant noise, thoughts so loud i literally hear them in my head like i'm listening to a mix of songs in headphones.

maybe a tenth of the time i have a song stuck there, where i hear it playing while i do mindless things like taking a shower or doing the laundry.

i always find a way to fill the silence. even if no one else can hear it.

and occasionally when no one else can read the 160 characters bouncing off of towers through the sky from one place to another.

it's been interesting to walk around on a daily basis not using my face to express how i'm feeling inside. but they eyes. they never lie.

this week with nina was fantastic. amazing. incredible.

it was physically demanding. exhausting. delicious.

i feel happy. sad. tired. alone. quiet. stoned. pickled. sunned. depleted. relaxed.

i remember trying to recapture days following the last trip. spending time with someone means that you don't have time to write about your adventures with them. until days later, when the vacation is like a series of snapshots in my mind's eye. little snippets (of the... folk singer at 18) of places you went, food you ate, things you saw, the way you got there, the beer you drank, and floors you danced on. the beds you slept in.

nina is an incredible capturer. she takes a lot of pictures, unlike me, and has a fantastic memory, also unlike me. i always realize after the fact that there were a hundred pictures i should have taken, in an effort to remember it all months from now when we don't feel like this anymore.

my snapshots are already all mixed up. i can't remember which thing happened on which day, so this recap might not be entirely accurate. i'm doing my best.

that first day we walked. a lot. we took the bus to the science center, walked that. then we walked into the city, from one end to the other, up further away from the deserted streets below the city to the busy tourist-filled streets of the city proper. we learned science. we ate. we drank a beer. we shopped. we walked beyond the opposite end of the city to dinner with all the out of towners. and then took the train home.

the kicker of the day was finding a swank lunch spot, after walking up a block to smoke at nina's suggestion, and running into joey with a pretty girl and his dog.

i thought it was funny that the first person i ran into the city that day was one of four people who lives in this city that i have fucked, three if you exclude my ex husband. one point five million people live here. what are the chances? i thought it was ironic that she had a face and frame to attach to a name, five hours after hopping into my car at the airport.

after that happened, i became increasingly aware of people we were passing on the street.

dinner that night was loud, rowdy fun, until the check came. in an effort to move on and let it go, let's just say that i was sober when i left. we played scrabble on my bed before going to sleep.

the second day we walked even more. we walked up to south street, on a thrifting expedition.

we went to the magic gardens. in the eight years i've lived here, i've passed it fifty. the mood has never been right. every time i think of harriet the spy, and i have always wanted to go. but i'd never gone.

we decided to go. and spent an hour, safely, taking tons of pictures of everything inside. it WAS magical. it was a great way to wake up at ten in the morning. the sunlight caught in the glass, colored light reflected out onto glass tiles, to bounce infinitely in the narrow passageways that made up the space.

the juxtaposition of the gardens and trees against the city buildings in the background blew my mind. we were both so glad that we went.

we had lunch. we had a beer.

she picked the table that i sat at, on my first date with matthew.

we walked. we saw touristy shit.

nina had a beautiful moment in the park along the way, with her feet bare in the pennsylvania grass. tiny associations in her brain.

we walked and saw more touristy shit. the liberty bell in the drive-by three minute fashion. the outside of the mint.

we went to the cafe that serves the peets coffee i love so intensely. we were both feeling tired and in need of fuel, and sat in the air conditioning to talk and drink iced coffees before going back out into the oven that was center city.

and she looked at me, sitting at the cafe table, and said, 'you know it isn't you, right?'

and i shook my head, chin wobbling.

and i fucking started crying. big, warm, embarrassing tears. while miley cyrus played on the tv in the background. it was ridiculous.

thinking, 'no. i DON'T know that it isn't me...' and tried to put it out of my head to enjoy the next segment of my day.

we were passing all the places that create a billion tiny associations in my brain. good ones. bad ones. happy ones. sad ones. places i wish i could teleport back to, to the first time i was in them, creating the associations, just to relive them.

our second beer was in a bar in old city. some bar made to look old, where the lights kept going out. i chose the victory summer love, because it's a recent favorite, and because, subconsciously, it gives me hope.

we walked outside the bar and i caught sight of the bar across the street.

the bar from that first night, when i knew things were amazing, but hadn't yet kissed him. driving there, when i let chills run through me when he held my hand for the first time and we smiled at each other, slightly drunk on wheat beers, in the back seat of my car.

for a minute, it became hard to concentrate on conversation, but i snapped out of it, turning the knob on the associations down to a low hum in the back of my mind.

our dinner was in the italian restaurant ever and i found, which has the best fresh garlic pizza i have ever tasted. the real deal. and the second most incredible bruschetta i've ever had. the food was incredible. we had a great time, resting bags of thrift store finds on the booth seat. dazed and hungry, chatting the way two best friends do in a restaurant on a summer afternoon.

on the way there, i pointed out where i had seen ever that day when i sped past him and his girlfriend on my bike. she already knew, an accurate mental picture from her last visit here.

it was another amazing day of walking more than i can ever remember walking, probably most closely matched by days of walking in theme parks with nina in our college years.

the third day was the incredible bike ride.

it was about a twenty mile ride, along the river, from my old neighborhood up past the museums, past the grandstands where we watch the regattas. past the neighborhood where i set my first novel. up to the brewery for lunch and a beer. the photo booth.

biked back to the house to change and get ready for our 'spa day'.

things got a little crazy after that. trying to get seven people to one place in a hatchback. trying to carry on conversations down a row of seats six wide. it didn't work, really, and even though all of us had fun and enjoyed ourselves, it wasn't quite the mixing i had imagined, and it left me sad that there wouldn't be any more on this visit.

from there we clown car'd it over to no gringos for a fantastic dinner. for every day since that dinner, nina reminded me of how mind-blowing it was. i'm glad to have shared it with her. it was awesome.

and outside, smoking after eating with nina and kit, they got another cry out of me. tag teaming me, the way you want your best friends to. in a funny, loving way. the way that makes you laugh cry. cracking a joke at a critical moment. smashing my face between their boobs to make me laugh. which was better than last summer, when the best way to snap me out of it was to simultaneously punch me in the boobs.

stupid boy heartbreak hangups. and their mammary implications.

day four was the first of two 'flop days'. but on this flop day, we had to ease into the flop by first biking across the city and north, to a small pocket of yuppy shops and gastropubs. we shopped for a while, and landed in a bar i'd never even noticed before. and as luck would have it, there was a scrabble board.

so for the first time on our mutual vacation, we had two beers in one place. and split a huge basket of fries that i couldn't even help finish. anyone who knows me knows that i never let a fry go to waste... it was obscene. and WONDERFUL.

and we played scrabble. and for my daily cry that day, it came while playing devil's advocate. trying to focus on little lettered and numbered tiles. trying to strategize how to beat the one who always beats me in real life scrabble. it came when i said, 'i am glad it's happening now. because if i was six months in, i really can't imagine how i'd be doing...' imagining myself six months from now, fetal position in my bed, paralyzed and unmotivated to find the feeling again, to move.

vacation was like having a really long weekend. lately, my weekends have become this dreaded thing. open free time to worry and obsess and cry and overthink. before nina arrived, i was terrified of the time off. as wonderful as vacation should be (and IS), i was afraid to not have additional distractions. daily rituals. the norm. slightly less alert, due to a slight caffeine decrease.

luckily, i was able to be relatively un-mopey. nina was the best distraction. funny, too... she was exactly like a personal trainer. literally and emotionally.

breaking the cycle of bedridden weekends wasn't easy for me. but nina was the reason to not lay around, and she pushed me further than i intended to go. and at the end of each day, i felt better for doing all those things. exhausted, but better. getting all that exercise, not wasting my time - maximizing it.

we rode bikes, came home after hitting trader joes and a salvation army and a cigarette store, and went back into the rooftop pool. it was also fantastic. wonderful. perfect.

and yesterday, day five, we went onto the roof when we woke up, for some early morning coffee-laced sunlight. again, amazing. instead of flop day, we decided on shop day. we'd learned of a thrift store in new jersey that was to be so totally amazing that i got over my innate hatred of new jersey and fear of driving there, and we headed over the bridge.

this trip didn't disappoint. first, in the getting lost sense. though nina luckily spotted the store when we passed it, unable to get to it from the road we were on. one right side lefthand u-turn later, we were there.

opening the door to the store sent us both immediately back to thrift store vacation we took in miami, which happened to be the same weekend ever proposed to me.

if it hadn't been so well organized, we would have been overwhelmed. but we shopped it like champs. like professionals.

about twenty minutes in, i got a text. i was so shocked by it that it honestly didn't register right away. an inquiry to how my vacation was going, and a note about how his week was going.

it threw me off my game for a minute, and brought more confused thoughts to my brain. but i swam through them, and stared at amazing finds for hours after.

and one heaping shopping cart full of clothes later, we were starting to max out, and decided to try everything on before finishing the rest of the aisles to thin things out. and realized that there was no dressing room.

what fucking amazingly huge awesome thrift store has an all sales final policy, and NO GODDAMN FITTING ROOMS??? so we did what any champions would do. nina decided we'd just make a dressing room. surely it had been done before.

we nabbed a sheet from bedding and draped it in a corner of the store between two racks, and tried things on in tandem as quickly as possible. and about four dresses in, we were busted. and they told us we couldn't do that, and to take it down.

so, being 30-something rebels, not our former 20-something rebel selves, we tried on one more dress instead of the rest of the clothes. and took the sheet down, trying to figure out where to hide and try on clothes inside the store.

and she saved the day a second time, in the little girls' section. between two round clothing racks, we draped the sheet, and took turns blocking the middle changing area with our selves and our heaping cart. renegade thrifters. guerrilla thrifters.

we did it. we tried on every single thing, and hung each other's rejects back up, and made piles of keepers to total later. we spent almost four hours in there.

by that point, we were starving and tired, and drove home to eat a cheesesteak. got slightly fatter, and grabbed beers and went to the rooftop pool for a second round.

again. lazy. amazing. warm. cool. breezy wonder. so great.

we changed and played a game of scrabble with aubree, made some food, got ready, and piled into the car to go dancing.

it had been a while. after an hour spent trying to figure out what i'd feel comfortable and cute wearing, i made it out the door. getting ready felt like work. nothing felt right. it was all the inner dialogue, playing itself out in how i presented myself to the world at night.

once i was there, i was fine. i'd beaconed out invitations for group drinks, unanswered. so i expected nothing. but i'd be lying if i said that i wasn't wishing for something back.

and we daaaaaaanced. and it was fantastic. not like the other ill fated nights when we found ourselves in clubs with music that wasn't right and an age group that made us feel even more grandmotherly. everything was great. even the sufficient buzz i achieved off of three beers.

and we closed the place down at 2, and went for late night dinner at the turkish place mike frequents.

smoked hookah, ate falafel and chicken and lamb (i tried it. and i LIKED it.), followed by a stupid amount of baklava. a very sugar crashed ride home later, i was the most tired i'd been at any point in the vacation, as i should have been at 430 in the morning, and passed out quickly.

slept in, woke up, nina packed up. we went to brunch at favorite bar, which was rough for me. i woke up panicked. nervous. anxious. sad. stressed. part work, part boy, mostly nina's departure. and sam was a little weird, as per the brunch usual. and i just felt really socially awkward and super uncomfortable. we had coffee and ate brunch. i nibbled off of hers, really. my stomach was jacked. i thought it would be another day of not being able to eat. but i nibbled.

* * *

and made the frozen indian food dinners i'd picked up at trader joe's and had dinner at i guess 8 last night.

and had a mini dexter marathon with aubree, because funkhauser had returned to homeostasis.

i'm still thinking about how i feel about homeostasis.

two more weeks of homeostasis. then i go home. and as happy as i am to go home, i'm dreading it.

when i go back, aubree gets left behind. it's been a rough morning today, thinking about everything i haven't had time to think about. but thinking about the fact that aubree only has one more weekend in the house is breaking my heart.

she made the last couple months tolerable. she takes a look at me in my broken condition, cracks a joke, makes me laugh, and either leaves the room i'm in or doesn't.

this house is going to feel dead without her breathing life into it. i can't think about it.

when i go back, my time will be split between pool days, beer afternoons, and ailing grandparents. it's going to be kinda fucked up. the combination of aubree and grandparents makes me not even want to go. i need to work on getting excited, making plans for the time that i am there, and try not to worry about the rest.

the fact that i just had a week off, have two back at work, and then two more off seems retarded. but that is the way the summer operates. this is when i have the time and ability to get up and walk away from work and not watch everything fall apart.

my dreams last night were strange. i can remember the one about ever. i think from writing about it last night, it worked its way in. him and his girlfriend, passing me on their way into my living space somehow, carrying a box of tampons, pregnancy tests, and things in a hospital 'patient's belongings' bag. it was like i caught them coming home from a trip to a clinic. the girl was ugly. ever looked like shit. i woke up from that dream feeling really strange. there were others, because my sleep was interrupted. i lost them, though.

i got up and got dressed today. made some coffee, enough for only one cup, because i made coffee only for me.

and when i felt like having a beer, i grabbed the apple instead. there is a fine line between not enough and just right, and an even finer line between just right and too much. today, somehow, i got it just right.

and now i'll kill a few hours watching soccer with aubree even though i could care less about soccer. i'll probably have a beer or three. and some snacks.

vacation is over.

in about seven hours, i'm going to have to lay down and try to sleep, because i've got two 445 mornings, tomorrow and tuesday, and a 545 on wednesday. right back to it, just like nothing happened.

my brain is flooded with all the thinking.

this week will be my best effort to try to stay afloat.