From a strange and delightful boutique hotel on Chambers and West Broadway, with a 19th-century map of lower Manhattan carved into the shower tiles like a strange and unexpected hello, I know you gift: guess what, we lived. Happy almost-New-Year.
I'm getting married in sixteen days. Throw-a-giant-party married, rather than legally married, which we've been for a while now. My wife is right next to me, playing with fountain pen inks -- she acquired this hobby by contagion from some of our other writer friends, and I am showing the first signs of infection -- and god, I am so lucky, and here is one of the ways we lived: this time last year I was terrified we'd lose the ability to be married before we got to ever do it. And so far: so far not yet.
(So far not yet for a lot of things. Because of the good work of our own hands and voices. I have never in my life been as politically conscious as I have been this year, and I don't expect this to stop; I don't want it to. My friend Max says fight for the liberation of all sentient beings, and I want to add to that and say repair the world, the temple can always be undefiled once we kick the bastards out.)
But these small things, too: a woman I love loves me, and we have had our first full 365 days together, one entire trip around the sun, and we still love each other, and we build a life, piece by piece. Her book came out in July. We went to Sweden together in August. I got an agent and sold my book and used part of the advance to pay tuition on a master's degree in urban planning. We acquired tiny plants, and killed some of them, and didn't kill others. We bought ridiculous amazing octagonal black tableware. And furniture. And books. And after a while I stopped having to go back across the Atlantic and it's just been -- us, together, piece by piece. Even while the rest of the world seemed to shatter slowly.
I wrote -- not less than I planned to, though that's also true (my academic monograph is going to be Very Late, sigh), but differently than I planned to. I finished the novel and then I added nearly 30,000 more words to it in a structural edit after it was sold, and that was hard, and that was amazing, and I'm very proud of it, and very glad to have had the help of my editor at Tor, Devi Pillai, to show me what I could do. I wrote a grand total of two short stories. (Sold both, at least.) Wrote a lot of academia. Articles, classwork. Wrote -- 2/3rds of that academic monograph, some of which is really good, some of which is tied irrevocably to how I seem to have slipped out of the spinning wheel of postdoc academia and into a sideways other life where I ... am going to build cities that don't drown, and sometimes write about Byzantium and empires and dead languages, but mostly not.
I am complicatedly good with that slip, right now, in the heart of the city I want to serve. I am angry, and will always be angry, at the way academia did not value my labor enough to pay me a living wage and provide me job security of any kind, but was happy to publish me and invite me to present my work. I am angry at being denied. But I'm good with the choice I made in the face of that denial, which was to find a new way to be useful, and to learn, and to -- oh, to be terrible and dramatic about it, to find something worth serving. This city, New York, which I love. Other cities, too, but here first and here because.
(Also the more disciplines I marinate my brain in, the more layers my fiction seems to develop; god I'm excited about seeing what I can do with these new ways of thinking about narrative.)
In the Union Square Christmas market, last week, Viv -- my wife (I still can't stop saying that) -- found a tiny shop selling reclaimed artifacts from NYC abandoned buildings, made into jewelry. There was a necklace there made from a 1950s subway token -- one from between 1953 and 1961, because it was a NYCTA token, not an MTA one. I spent a lot of time this fall writing about the NYC subway system, for both non-fiction and fictional purposes. I bought the token-necklace. I will wear it. Sometimes the universe tells you you're doing the right thing.
I wasn't sure, last year, that we'd get this far. I wasn't sure that I would. I have not been strong. I have been positively friable. But: hey, darlings, we lived.
And it is a New Year, and this is the best holiday: throw yourself into the future. Hold hands and raise voices. Celebrate with me when we can. Reach.
Two songs to see us out, one for strength and one for joy:
see you in the morning, universe.