"I used to be a preschool teacher, but I got fired."
“Well, I decided that I wanted to have a socially conscious class. So we learned about apartheid in South Africa. Then we learned about homelessness. Then we made mother’s day cards for Trayvon Martin’s mom. And I think the principal decided that it was too much for three and four year olds, because she told me I wasn’t a ‘good fit.’ But honestly, I was just shining too bright for them. And now she’s going to see me on Humans of New York, and she’ll be sorry!”
"What are the flowers for?"
“My friend gave them to me to cheer me up.”
“Why did you need cheering up?”
“It’s been a rough week for several reasons. It began with me crying while reading a poem in front of a bunch of people.”
“What was the poem about?”
“It was about my best friend attempting suicide in my house, then me having an abortion a few years later, then that same friend successfully committing suicide, then me getting pregnant. It’s sort of my reflection on the cyclical nature of life. And how we are a lot more connected than we understand or admit. The poem is titled: ‘I realized last night that, for the first time in my life, I am finally really willing to be an organ donor.’
Sweet sixteen One summer afternoon, about out the door for family dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Went to check on my bestie Jenie, staying with me for the summer, kicked out of her own house again, one more time. I had a feeling. Are you sure you don’t want to come with us? I said, peeking into the top bunk of my little brothers bed. No response. Motionless, unconscious. I ran to my auntie, doctor frances, downstairs. “She’ll be okay,” said doctor frances. We called the ambulance anyway. “She’ll be okay, “said doctor frances, again, after they wheeled Jenie away on a stretcher. Jenie went to icu, had her stomach pumped, went to rehab after that.
We pretty much pretended nothing had happened.
Time passed. Lots of things happened.
One winter afternoon, the ripe age of 22, my mom dropped me off at a portland clinic, 10th floor of an office building. “babies are expensive,” my single-father boyfriend had said. i took his word for it, and took the valium and the vicodin from the nurse, listened to them read me quotes from other girls in my condition about how happy they were with their choice. I lied back on the table, sucked in the nitrous greedily as the doctor sucked out my “unwanted growth,” as they called it. “youre so calm, ” the doctor said to me. They sent me to a “recovery room”- and lying in the bed, looking at the poster of the Eiffel Tower at sunset on the wall above me, and the rainy grey oregon sunset sky out the window beyond, I knew I had just given away any good karma I had gained by saving my best friend’s life 6 years before.
A January evening in Istanbul, on the couch, totally stoned on afghani hash with my second Turkish boyfriend, I picked up a phone call from old friend Melinda, now married with 2 kids in Spokane Washington. She sounded far away. I knew something was weird—we hadn’t talked in years. “Dane went back to Vegas for a few days to finish a job,” she began. Dane, Jennie’s high school crush , and new husband. “Jenie stayed in portland, in their new house with their two dogs. When her dad went over to say hi, check on her, he found her in the garage, in the front seat of her 4 runner. It had stopped running by then— run out of gas.
The dogs are okay, though.”
I couldn’t afford to fly back for the funeral. My little brother stood in my stead, scattered some flowers on her casket.
And now, here I am at 31, 37 and a half weeks pregnant. Round 2.
from march 4th onward, This new life inside me, a whole second self, spontaneously generating, it seems, organizing itself around some miracle principles. I felt it from the very beginning, the very moment of first meiosis.
Really, like a veil dropped, or lifted, or something. I was walking across a field at a spa outside Poughkeepsie and I felt the shift. It was wild.
Life is wild. Death is something else.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to declare
I’m finally willing to be an organ donor. I never was before. but i can surely say if it comes down to it I am ready to give the pieces of me to others. Take my kidneys, take my heart, take my myopic eyes
The lines around the self, the borders between you and me aren’t as obvious as they may seem
We are all connected. Some more obviously than others
So please, Take what you can from me
Bury the rest at sea, someday
It all comes back around eventually.
"When I was younger, I was terrified of being abducted by aliens."
“When did you outgrow it?”
“I never really did.”
"I just try to have fun."
"What’s the most fun you’ve ever had?"
"Can’t talk about it. I’m still waiting on my court date."
This woman was sitting across from me last night on the subway, working intently on a crossword puzzle. The man next to her leaned in, and said: “Can I help you?”
“Not if you want to be my friend,” she said. “One time I spent all day on one of these things, and the motherfucker next to me shouted out the last answer.”
I was photographing in Penn Station late last night when I heard screaming and loud music. A huge crowd of people came around the corner. Everyone was dressed in costumes and bright colors. One dude was dressed as a rabbit. Another had a giant, flashing, neon sword. Everyone was laughing, dancing, and singing, as very loud dance music blared from a portable sound system.
“This is a new type of dance party!” someone shouted into a microphone, “Join us!” The participants fanned out through the station, encouraging onlookers to join them. “Don’t just stand there!” said the man with the microphone, “This works better if everyone is dancing!”
I approached two participants along the edge of the crowd.
“What is this?” I asked.
“We’re not exactly sure,” they answered. “We joined two hours ago, and still haven’t quite figured it out.” After a few more minutes of dancing in Penn Station, the dance party moved on, heading for another location…
My kind of party. This should come to the Duffy boat.
"English is a very precise language. I like to use it when I’m describing technical things. But when I’m talking about my feelings, I find it easier to use Spanish."
"Why is Spanish best for describing feelings?"
"Latin people have a lot of feelings. So they have a lot of words to describe them."
"I’m working on transitioning back into the corporate world after owning my own business."
"What did you learn from trying to start a business?"
"You have to have a partner that’s committed to the work, and not just the idea of having a business. Everybody loves to think of the title, not a lot of people are willing to write the book."
"Drama is a constant of human experience. There’s really no way to remove it from your life. I could just stand here sweeping, and it wouldn’t be too long until some lady started yelling at me because I tried to stop her dog from peeing on the flowers. Drama comes out of nowhere, like a meteorite."
"If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?"
"Try your best to deal with life without medicating yourself."
"You mean drugs?"
"I mean drugs, food, shopping, money, whatever. I ain’t judging anybody, either. I was hooked on heroin for years. But now I’ve learned that every feeling will pass if you give it time. And if you learn to deal with your feelings, they’ll pass by faster each time. So don’t rush to cover them up by medicating them. You’ve got to deal with them."