fratres

This morning on the B train: listening to Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa, the kind of music that makes you feel as though you have stepped into a movie about your life that is significantly more grand and tragic and freighted with meaning than your actual life, as though you are the sort of person who is also more grand and tragic and freighted with meaning than you actually are.

It’s almost cold out, which no one except me is happy about, but I think of all the long dark nights ahead and walking home through the snow—maybe the first snow of the season, with the city hushing into stillness all around me and the sky suffused with the kind of dense purpled light that only comes with snowfall—back to my cozy, tiny apartment, candles burning among the tendrilly plants that line my windowsill, cat drowsing on the blanket-piled bed. Even when I was younger and went to a great many parties my favorite part of the party was nearly always the part when I went home. I am thinking more and more about monsters because I am not ready yet to write about monsters, because I’ve been circling and circling this monster book, which hunches in the middle of the floor glaring at me red-eyed and slavering, but I have a teetering pile of treatises on monsters now and the most magnificent thing I can imagine at present is a long sleepy Sunday with no one emailing me and nothing to do except listen to doom metal and go through my monster texts; but that day’s a while off yet, because I owe a lot of work to a lot of people and any days off at all are a long way away.

Sometimes I think about the level of labor it takes to live here, and wonder what my life would be like if I went instead somewhere quieter and cheaper, a place where I could write what I wanted to write when and for as long as I wanted to write it; but then I take the train home across the Manhattan bridge at sunset and look out at the rose-gold river and the skyscrapers turning to liquid silver and all the lights of the city glittering and think, still, after all these years, Holy shit I live here, and remember that I am not (maybe never will be) ready to leave. We find our places where we find them, and there is no home that does not come with its own kind of tax on our hearts.

Arvo Pärt came to New York this year, in May—the first time in thirty years, and I would imagine probably the last—and we went to the concert at Carnegie Hall. All through the audience drifted Orthodox priests in their bat-black robes and heavy crosses, moving soundlessly as ghosts between the glittering rows of wealthy people in their concert clothes, and even all the way up in the balcony the air seemed suffused with a very old magic, and from the first note I felt it working its way into my chest and pulling me wide open. I cried all the way through Fratres, the kind of crying that threatens to undo you, which is a lot easier to stealth at a rock show in the dark than in the middle of Carnegie Hall where it is both unseemly and discourteous to so much as rattle your cough-drop wrapper, but no one got cross with me that I could tell. Afterward Arvo Pärt came onstage and the standing ovation went on for ten minutes, fifteen—he kept trying to make a polite exit and people would only clap harder, until at last he had to mime going to sleep and the audience finally let him go. We were still so caught up in the spell we went to one of those gorgeous and stupidly expensive bars up in that part of town—high ceilings, leaded glass, velvet drapes tumbling down the walls, the kind of light that makes even rich people look lovely. The bartender asked us where we were from and we said Here, and he said Me too, and we all looked at each other and smiled—because, even though, none of us were telling the truth.