A rather eventful week has gone by; we’ve recovered from our (extensive) sunburn, Nick turned twenty-three, I lost my wallet on a bus and have had to start afresh, carrying around my passport as ID and befriending a fabulous bank teller who, while canceling my cards, complimented the good taste of my transaction history (oh my life). We have gone boating in Central Park, antique-hunting in the Brooklyn Flea market, and drank deadly “texas-sized” margaritas from an outdoor café, which were then regretted for days. It has, to say the least, been anything but dull.
Needless to say, my usual crawl through In Search of Lost Time has slowed to a near-halt, and I have temporarily abandoned poor neurotic Marcel in a sea of dinner parties and socialite drama which he does not yet entirely understand. I promise, as always, to return, but with this week being an abbreviated version of my typical workweek, ending in my going down to Baltimore on Thursday to take my brother Harry down to college, I figured I may as well abandon all pretense, and post on something that both has everything to do with my own life, and fits in perfectly with my experience of the novel thus far.
Last night we cooked dinner for Nick’s birthday, and as we sat around the best meal I have had since graduating, discussed the implications and relative terror of entering our mid-twenties. Though this may seem a trite concern for someone even a few years older or younger than us, the shift from twenty-two, just finishing college and still close enough to your teens to identify as a young adult, and twenty-three, fully in the real world, with all of the weights and expectations of adulthood suddenly heaped upon you, can seem rather momentous. We all assured him he was entering his “late-early twenties,” laughed and cut the cake. But the prospect of growing older lingered with me, as most things unfortunately tend to do, and I thought back to my own childhood, when my mother would have to hold me as I cried, the night before my birthday, every single year, at the prospect of growing older.
And now you see how we have come, inevitably, back to Marcel. So much of what Proust does for four thousand pages is try to find a way to fight time, to slow its endless crawl, to use art and words and music to combat the deterioration and blurring of memories and experiences that accompanies the shift from one century to the next. Some would say that he succeeds, and, though I am far from reaching the end of these musings, there is something to be said for the novel’s longevity, its sustained existence, beyond the death of its author. I have long viewed writing as a way to preserve moments, to hold suspended and apart those memories with which I cannot bear to be parted, and perhaps, in a way, art does help us hold a place in time, stand still as the age progresses around us.
But I would argue that, even more than art, it is in each other that we find some sliver of eternity. I have had the great fortune, all through my life but especially in the past few years, of being surrounded by the most remarkable, clever, hysterical, loyal people I have ever known. And I find in my friends, more often than not, the ability to take a moment or period in my life, color it with laughter and absurdity, fill it with great food and music drifting into the summer night, and fix that point in time in a way that cannot be shaken. If we singly cannot fight time, I would argue, if art and words and memories fail, it is in the people with whom we surround ourselves that forever lies. And if we hold fast to those we love, age is merely another adventure.
So here is to my very best friend, on the occasion of turning twenty-three. Happy Birthday. I know without a shadow of a doubt that your life will be splendid beyond imagining. As Olivia says and Sam loves to quote, we are on a roller coaster that only goes up. And we will all be on that ride, together, from here on out. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Last Wednesday, when Sam and I were shopping for Nick’s birthday in Chelsea, we went into a pop-up shop called “Story,” that reinvents itself every few months with a new theme. It was thoroughly too hip for us, and we wandered aimlessly from gourmet, locally sourced dog food to plates engraved with the Manhattan grid. They were hosting some sort of evening event, and giving out free glasses of wine, which we naturally took, giggling to ourselves at the oddity of the situation. “Look at us,” I mused, “drinking as we shop on a Wednesday night. What are the things I drag you to?” Sam laughed. “Aren’t you so glad I take you to things like this, that you boys see me every night?”
“Why, are you getting sick of us yet?” he gave me a sidelong look, half-amused and half-curious.
“Are you kidding me?” I laughed. “We could go the next fifty years, seeing each other every single day, and I would never get sick of it.”
“Okay then,” he said, solemnly raising his glass, and looking me straight in the eye, “here’s to the next fifty years.”