The End of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better.
Berlin is grey. Berlin is always grey. Except when it’s bright green, which lasts for four months a year, but then it’s not Berlin, just summertime. I say I like the grey because the grey Berlin is the one that exists in novels and short stories and memoirs: side streets comprised of pink six-floor apartment buildings with big balconies, an older German couple leaning out their living-room window to watch the passengers get on and off the streetcars, a florist’s shop on the ground floor owned by a Vietnamese family selling three-foot-long ginger flowers. I say I like the grey, and this is true most of the time. I’ve found myself in a situation I can only describe as embarrassingly, definitionally Kafkaesque—after quitting my job to write full-time, there was some paperwork I misfiled or incorrectly filed or forgot to file, and now I’m receiving letters from the customs office saying I owe someone (the government? the health insurance company? the collections office?) thousands of dollars. Lovely Michelle with her fluency in Bureaucratic German called the health insurance company on my behalf, who told her to call again on Wednesday. On Wednesday, she called again. They told her that the matter would need to be resolved in one of their offices. We went to the office, faces red from a brutal December wind, bringing with us a large pile of paperwork and documents and invoices. I think it’s fine now. Maybe not.
I don’t think I’ve changed much since January. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I didn’t read as much as I should have, and I’m still often impulsive and angry and fickle. I drank a lot of wine. I cried an average amount, but mostly over things that don’t make any sense. I try and do the things that will make me happy, but I have no idea what those things are. I am very bad with money. I am trying to be more ambivalent about my appearance. I am trying to be less shy. I am trying to speak less.
My favorite movie that I watched this year was The Last Picture Show, because it made me feel all of the emotions I can’t quite put into words. I listened to a lot of Joan Baez and a lot of George Harrison. I saw Salomé at the opera and Alex G in Neukölln. I gave up on veganism (again) but will never give up on vegetarianism (since age 7 and a visit to the cows of Pineland Farms). I went to many places and spoke with many people, and yet I remain near-clinically agoraphobic when I’m in Berlin. I miss America. I miss America so much, no one place in particular except the Dunkin Donuts drive-through and the dive bar. Nevertheless, I remain afraid of Californians. I think my childhood cat is going to die soon, but my mother doesn’t want me to know.
In February, Charles and I went to Scotland. In June, I quit my job. In September, I saw Nathan and Peter and Ryann in New York and Aidan in Maine. In November, I wrote a book. In December, Charles and I hosted a very perfect Hanukkah party at our apartment. I took six-hundred-and-two film photographs this year, minus the ones I still need to get developed. I’ll miss living in an odd-numbered year. I am ever-full of opinions and ambitions and persuasions, some of which feel worth sharing.
There is nothing better for one’s mental and physical health than a brisk walk up a steep hill. Thoughtful gift-giving is one of the highest forms of love. Art is meant to be felt and thought about, but not solved. Always take the window seat. It’s important to feel bad sometimes, but unproductive to wallow in self-pity. Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Please and thank-you are the most important words in the English language. There’s no use in running to catch the bus, another one will come. Punctuality is a lost art due for a revitalization. I miss a lot of people. Presentation is everything. Waking up early is a necessary evil. Most people we speak with are either helping us or need our help, and thus it is the highest honor and best use of our time to be of assistance to another person. It is good to leave your phone at home as often as you can. It is good to be bored. Owning files is far superior to streaming services. The library is a perfect place.
For my first post of January, I’d love to dispense some advice, but I’ll need your help. If you have a problem with love, work, family, dreams, sex, or friendship, send me an email (terrortwilightbypavement [at] gmail [dot] com) with “DEAR CHARLIE” in the subject line. I’m hoping to respond to 3-5 with extended answers.
I hope you all have a bright, messy, sloppy, loving, shiny New Year’s Eve where you look beautiful and adore all the people you’re with. I’ll see you all in the New Year.
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