I’m leaving, but it’s not what you think. There will be no long dramatic prose goodbye (it’s short). There will be no tears, no regret. There will be no anger or bitterness. There is just time and opportunity and circumstance. There is just a yes that suddenly became a no. There is just a new job waiting in Los Angeles and the proximity to family that tends to eclipse even pipedreams, even 4 AM last calls, even the idea that I could fall in love with you, even a skyline I am actively in love with, still, despite everything. Who knows, I might come back for it someday. But for now, just for now, I am headed West. In September I wake up in Los Angeles. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still August; we’re still here.
The August essay series is almost entirely about becoming. That wasn’t a word I used in my initial call for pitches, yet, one by one, each piece emerged as a story about a scenario that shook the writer to their core. We don’t get to choose the traumas that shape us, we usually don’t even realize they’re traumas until they’re over and the shock subsides. We don’t get to choose the cities or people we fall in love with. We don’t get to choose the moment we fall out of love with them, either. Sometimes everything shortcircuits at once; sometimes a light flicks on in a room you forgot about. All of life’s unexpected electricity buzzes on in that jolt of light—a current through a fraying wire. We do get to choose whether we follow the light or not.
Like each of these essays, my time at Brooklyn Magazine was both beautiful and brutal. I did some of the best work of my career here and went through some of the most hellish circumstances. After years of feeling like I had to scream just to be heard, I learned that sometimes I need to be silent. After learning to be silent, I learned that sometimes I need to fight tooth and nail to make sure someone else gets to speak. I learned that being the one in charge is way more difficult and far more rewarding than I ever suspected. I learned that imagination outstrips fear and that kindness has the ability to eclipse hatred. Every time.
I learned all this and more by reading and writing and editing with and for and through all of you. You—you’re the ones that make it. Here is Brooklyn. Love it until you can’t anymore. And when you can’t, know that it is never a leaving as much as it is a becoming. Know that when Brooklyn puts you back together again, it’s okay if you need to take your hot-glued-heart elsewhere. And it’s okay to do it without trying to undermine the unspeakable power of this place, or any of the other places and people that taught you about becoming yourself.
Giving people the space and dignity to talk about their wounds in their own words is one hundred percent an affirmation of their healing. That idea has been the main impetus behind this essay series, and much of my own work as an editor. I can’t think of a better way to end my time as an editor here than by pointing you toward other voices going through that process, they are below. Darkness, death and grief, these things are inevitable; light is a choice. Choose light. Even if it means you have to leave.
“I do it because it’s The Right Thing To Do, but when I help him to his bedside commode I cannot look him in the eye. We are miles away from each other. I am afraid to be tender. I do not tell him how much I love him. I do not thank him for all he’s taught me. I cannot force myself to tell him that it’s going to be okay. On this night, our last night alone together, it’s 2 AM and he’s wide awake, and he wants to play Yahtzee. His once full gut hangs off his bones like gray putty. I roll my eyes and I am not gentle when I tell him Please. It’s Time To Go To Bed. His voice cracks. Come on, I’m not gonna hurt nobody.”
“When I was a kid I never knew anyone else going through the same thing. Later in life I’d meet a few of them. People who wanted to be invisible, whose homes were not homes. Most end up with a thick skin, though some remain as timid as they were when they were children. Others become monsters in their own right. I’d like to think that didn’t happen to me.”
“I start to spend every night I’m not working with Jonathan. It’s so easy for him to impress me–I still don’t know the city at all. I trail behind him like a small child as he takes me to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park. On the night of my birthday, he tells me, “You’re something else.” It’s the perfect thing to say. What I want is to be something else. I want to be older, successful, satisfied. Being with Jonathan unfolds in front of me as a shortcut for becoming all of those things.”
“I got home within minutes of my sister’s call, and the whole neighborhood was already standing in front of our apartment. The news spread like wildfire. Phone lines sparked throughout the city, Have you heard about Teena? It became a sick recurring theme: The calls that kept coming, and coming, from busybodies and bill collectors and supervisors asking why my sister hadn’t shown up at work; and the calls that had to go out to family members and friends, letting them know what they had likely already heard through the grapevine was true. Phones are neutral things, but it felt like they turned their backs on me that day.”
“We’d pack into a cramped two-person booth while coffees and hot chocolates were brought over, no matter the weather. “Those were your grandmother’s favorite, too,” my mother would say, gesturing to my short stack of silver dollars drenched in syrup. In that moment, I would imagine my mother’s mother: Sweet, traditional, the long-suffering matriarch. What was it like raising a headstrong daughter like my mother, only to have her come back home after a failed relationship and live under my grandparent’s roof just so that I could have a family and a home. What was it like for my grandmother to take my mother back home even then, when my very traditional grandfather did not? I’d never know, because I’d always been supported.”