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Essay: The Small Epiphany in the Big Apple
A Recollection of a Moment in Manhattan
By Eleanor Fisher
It was August. In August, Ray Ban sunglasses attach themselves around eyeballs like suction cups. I was living in Brooklyn for a month, interning for the novelist and television writer, Adriana Trigiani, a native of Big Stone Gap. Adriana was a busy lady with a booming personality, by which I mean she had money and was Italian. I remember that watching her talk to other people felt a lot like watching QVC. If ever you find yourself in New York City in August, notice how everything appears to be continuously yawning from heat exhaustion. This is an unrealistic illustration, but the poor suckers that you hear about walking through the desert swear to see oases. I do not contend to understand everything my eyes see.
New York will not let itself resemble some sleepy baby for too long, though, regardless of how hot it is. The city does not stop because it cannot stop. It is a powerful machine that manufactures mainly two products: garbage and dreams. Like lots of little girls, I dreamed I would someday live in New York. Adriana Trigiani lives in a townhouse in West Greenwich Village, has a twelve-year-old daughter, a husband, and many purple lipsticks. If circumstances are ever such that I find myself engaged in a conversation about interior design, and find my contributions to that conversation to be lacking thus far, I hope I can remember to describe the Trigiani townhouse. Definitely a crowd pleaser. The décor is a chateau villa out of Alice in Wonderland. An abundance of white, pink and black stripes involved. Zero bathrooms on the main floor; two bathrooms in the basement.
The texture of the city at the conclusion of summer is a lot like a little kid’s flushed cheeks—smeared with boogers and sand. Not to say that the New York architecture won’t wow you, or that the pavements don’t glisten. In retrospect, everything shines in my memory like some dream sequence in a Hollywood movie. And yet, the boogers and sand of New York is the general lack of fresh air, feeling poor, and the squeezing my tucchus next to another person’s tucchus on the candy red seats of a subway car.
My body fit into size 16 jeans at the time. Due to the chafing dance, which happened between my thighs when I walked, I put holes amidst the crotch regions of four different pairs of Target-brand jeans that month. My body was seeking revenge by attacking the clothes in which it was covered. I might as well have been a tattered pirate ship ambling my way amongst the crowds. People kept coming at me and passing by in different directions. My health had gotten wrecked on bagels, dark chocolate, Chinese and, God knows, everything else delicious.
One night, while riding back from a book signing for Adriana’s new paperback novel, I noticed I was happy to be myself. Adriana, her assistant, and I were in a shiny SUV being chauffeured to Manhattan back from where her event had gone on at this bookstore in New Jersey. Adriana’s fans had been wowed by her stories and by her booming personality. I overheard their ooh-and-aah conversations from my spot next to the table with greeting cards on it.
In the SUV I sat behind her and watched her face, which appeared to be stony and distant in the side rear view mirror. I don’t contend to understand everything my eyes see. It is hard to pinpoint what inspired that momentary relief—that things were okay. But I was relieved to be merely visiting this glamorous version of life. I was relieved to be watching from the backseat of that SUV. The city would appear like a dream again once I returned to Virginia.
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