I had a friend with an apartment on Prince Street in Soho.
That sounds like the opening to Out of Africa. (Hmm... It could be the opening to something.) I was just thinking that it was about this time of year when I visited him there. My last visit to NYC, spring of 2001.
My friend John was very excited about the prospect of me moving up there and getting an editorial job, and he was helping me meet with folks at like Newsweek and stuff. (Don't get excited, it was just LSU alums. Nobody famous. At least not at that point.)
It was very cold, and I have a picture of me freezing on top of the WTC six months before it hit the ground. It was my third trip to NYC in less than two years, but I wasn't going to move. I didn't want it badly enough, and I was married with a husband on his way to med school at the time.
I remember John took me to some way-off Broadway play where all the actors ended up completely naked at various points. I have no idea what the name of it was, but we met up with some of the cast at a little diner after. They kept going on about how much I looked like Drew Barrymore, and John was indignant. "She is not fat," he snapped.
John was from Port Allen. Same city as that little Tracy Porter kid who made the winning play for the Saints at the Superbowl. John's apartment was huge by NYC standards and his rent was only $1,400 a month because of rent control. He'd been there since the '80s. I still can't believe he gave that place up to move to Atlanta.
That night at the diner, I just remember thinking how one of my sorority sisters used to say I looked like Drew Barrymore, and I'd never taken it as an insult.
Six months later everything changed. It was Sept. 11, and I was working at the paper in Shreveport. I remember standing out in the newsroom with the rest of the staff watching Matt Lauer covering the nightmare. Then I went back to my office where my phone was ringing off the hook with friends demanding to know what was going on. I just work here, I thought.
One month after that my (sorority) little sister Tove was killed in Amsterdam after being hit by a tram while she was riding her bike. I remember getting the email from her (bio) sister Jenny telling me what had happened, and I went straight to the phone and called her.
I had no idea what time it was in Sweden, but I couldn't believe it. Somebody had hacked into her email account and was playing the most un-funny joke of all time. But it wasn't the most un-funny joke. It was the most un-funny truth. We sat there kind of stunned, and I eventually hung up the phone. I don't really remember our conversation.
An hour later, as the email was being discovered by our other sisters, my phone started ringing off the hook again. What had happened? Had I talked to Jenny? But Tove just got married! She was going to have a baby! And she was always so healthy!
It was surreal. I had just gotten the thank-you card Tove'd sent me for her wedding present. I'd given her some of those giant bath-sheet towels we all loved so much. I remembered how one time Tove had fallen in the shower at her dorm and hit her head and we all had to rush her to the ER for stitches. Jenny had been so scared, and we'd all joked about what a klutz Tove was. Another time she got a speeding ticket, and Jenny just knew she was going to get deported. Tove was larger than life.
I sat down and scribbled out some letter to Jenny that I couldn't even read through my blurry eyes. I wrote how I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't. I wrote about how badly I'd wanted to be at her wedding that summer, but with the move to Shreveport and all it had been impossible. And I hadn't saved enough money to fly to Amsterdam...
I mailed it without even proofreading. It probably made no sense.
Another month later I'd be filing divorce papers from my first husband.
First Husband was a darn good guy, too. He's a neurologist now in like Lexington, I think. We keep in touch. That one is filed under the category "my bad." But not that it ended. That really was the right thing to do. And we're both happily remarried now with kids.
Not sure why my thoughts just headed down that dark little memory lane. Sorry, kids. The good news is that by this time 2002, I was surrounded by an amazing group of friends in Indy who slung me over their backs and carried me until I felt like I could walk again. You guys were amazing. Love you~
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