Time is like that shirt I keep putting in the dryer, convinced it doesn’t shrink, though it does every time, little by little. Little by little, it changes. The hem rises, the sides pull in, the collar at the neck becomes unforgivably misshapen. The fibers grip onto each other and squeeze tight, and they do so with such a sneaky slightness that I wonder if I am imagining things, if the shirt didn’t look exactly this way when I bought it at a thrift store in California two years ago.
Two years ago.
February 11th, 2010.
I moved here in the middle of a violent blizzard, in one of the only planes making it out of Los Angeles in a series of panicked days, specifically those of a New York Fashion Week variety. Famous people wanting to sit front row. Stylists flying over to tease the hair of beautiful, overpaid fifteen year olds sitting in foldout chairs calling boyfriends in foreign countries. The entire plane filled with absurdly beautiful people and the occasionally famous: Kelly Osborne, that Stylist who works for That magazine, Jared Leto in first class with his black leather jacket and his blue eyes rimmed in Kohl. Me and Jared Leto and all of my old hopes to live a new life traveling on Virgin America flight 41.
February 11th, just yesterday. February 11th, forever ago.
Sometimes it feels like I was eleven years old just last Monday, listening to The Smashing Pumpkins in the back of my mom’s near-vintage Mercedes while she drove me to middle school. I’m still in the sixth grade and Valdas Karalis and I are standing in the middle of the road and he hands me the ruby red tie he wore to mass that day and I take it home and forget to give it back to him. I still have that tie, hidden in a sock drawer along with Christmas presents from an ex-boyfriend I can’t stand to use or throw away. That ex-boyfriend feels further away than middle school, his gifts less immediately relevant than Valdas’ tie.
Time folds over on itself. Last year and three years ago and the ten years before, lights and darks and hand washables, thrown into some bastard washing machine while they bleed into one another, leeching logic out of everything.
I fill my palm with a sea foam goo and run it through my hair, taming an otherwise Dolly Parton-inspired, post-jetlag mop of blonde ends and dark roots. It smells like being in Paris. It smells like standing in a bathroom looking in the mirror at a naïve and blissfully happy girl, toes wet from the lake of water that had spilled from the Parisian shower and onto the green tile floor. I am not yet twenty-seven and I am alone in a white hotel room waiting for someone to come home, but this time does not feel recent. No, this time does not feel recent at all.
My feet are cold. My feet are cold, right now, here in New York a year later. My same feet in this different time. The pink nail polish, that’s the same. The look in my eyes, that’s different.
I feel the weight of the bottle and worry about running out, not because I don’t have more – I’ve purchased two more bottles on two subsequent trips to Paris – but because this is The bottle, the one I purchased for the first time on that trip. It’s been with me since a time that feels as though it’s never happened at all. But the bottle is proof, I think, the bottle is proof that it did, and if I keep the bottle, the very same one, then I am not crazy, I am not insane. Here, the aftermath feels real. The event feels like a story I made up about a luckier girl and a colder winter.
I’m holding onto evidence. I’m keeping plastic bottles and ruby ties, salt and pepper shakers and nubs of white chalk because, for as long as I keep these things, time will not move. Time cannot be so far away, you see, because just yesterday I was standing in the middle of that street, just yesterday I was barefoot on that tile floor. I have proof, I say, and I hold these totems up with aging hands, doing my best to avoid the mirror’s argument.
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