I Moved to Brooklyn the Other Day, Part One
It happened almost overnight. It took years. It was quick. It was eternal. It happened. It didn’t happen. It never stopped happening. It happened once but I forgot. It might happen.
When I was a child, I reasoned as a child. I picked out Blockbuster videos as a child. I stirred up shit at the local dive bar like a child. I ate grapes like a little asshole, complaining about the seeds and the peel and the color and the stem.
I grew older, and I grew older. I refined. I shut up about food and ate it. My feet drug along the concrete a little, smacked against the concrete a little.
Then I got younger again. The world is scary. I got a minor diagnosis and wept. I was told I was not talented and wept. I lost social battles and wept. The world is scary. I was seven again, and lost, and afraid, and always calling my mother.
I moved to Brooklyn the other day. I’ve made a list of all the reasons. When I’m old, they make me feel proud and brave. When I’m young, they make me sob with ineptitude. I call my mother.
Reason one: Because I wanted to. Proud, brave. Sob, inept.
I moved out of my minuscule apartment in Lancaster City, feeling young and scared, three feet tall, holding tight to the side seam of my mother’s jeans. I ripped my last name off the mailbox, and underneath, the name Harriet Beiler. My character in my indie mini-series that we filmed at my place. I feel old. Wise. Proud. Accomplished.
Time is an energetic old man who dances on your grave in a coconut bra.
I think about that poem ‘Courage’ by Anne Sexton. I think about the day when I will put on my carpet slippers and stride out. On days when I feel very old, I can almost feel them on my toes. When I’m young, I sit in the fetal position and stare at the slippers from across the room, murmuring to myself in code. Affirmations, I guess they’re called.
Young, or old, but rarely in between. Which is what I actually am. The first thing I put out in my Brooklyn apartment is a figurine of a young girl that my great-great-grandmother gave to me, before she died at 108 years old. I put it up high in my bedroom, so I can greet it with my chin in the air, boldly. The women in my family live a long time. I stick my arrogant face up to God and grin.
Lancaster was a fantastic place to be born, a fantastic place to have left as a young child, a fantastic place to have returned to as a young adult. I hold it in my jacket pocket like a shiny rock. “Stoltzfoos,” I say now like a stranger. New Yorkers look right through me. They don’t know about it.
I was sick for a month before I left. There was going to be a big party. I was going to tell everyone in town and let them hug me. Then I became very ill, and the party was cancelled before it was announced. I went unhugged, and quietly left, a real Irish exit. French exit? A real universally preferred exit. Everybody was left off the hook. I bowed out.
I’m young and I miss the library on Duke Street. I’m old and I miss the rainbow cakes on Duke Street. I’m young and I miss the man in the cowboy hat. I’m old and I miss the woman who was mean to me once. I’m still ill. I lay on my Brooklyn couch now. It’s all idiotic.
The old man in the coconut bra shakes his hips.
Shawna Stoltzfoos is a writer, actor, and filmmaker, and the creator of the mini-series Young/Lancaster.