That Was Called Love

by Chloe Caldwell

199 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, New York

I am walking down the street towards Bedford Avenue with my brother at night.  I have lived in Williamsburg for roughly six hours.  I tell him I’m hungry.  I tell him that my stomach is empty.  He tells me I live in New York.  He tells me to get used to it.

My brother and I keep a typewriter in our bathroom, in front of the toilet on top of the radiator.  In black Sharpie we have written: Please Continue The Story.

I sleep with my brother’s friend from The Strand Bookstore on the futon.  He is suicidal and musical and has long hair and a nose ring and I fall a little bit in love with him.

My mother comes to visit.  I am having a hangover from heroin.  She comes into the café I work at on Grand Street.  I am behind the counter.  She sits at the counter.  I have my hair in braids.  There is no air conditioning.  I am almost crying and want to reach out for help. A few days later I get a letter from her about how much she loves me and I fall in love with her all over again.

I sleep with a French man who is a thief and I fall a little bit in love with him.

My brother is leaving for Europe and I am sitting in the bathroom writing him a letter on the typewriter and crying.

You move in the day he leaves.

It is morning.  It is Brooklyn.  You tell me if I am always in a rush then I should make my eggs in the microwave as opposed to the stove and you show me how.  This is something so useful to me that I will use forever and this is why I love you.  Your computer is playing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and is resting on the garbage can.

We buy something we call The Jam Box at Urban Outfitters.  It is a metallic gold cooler with a strap to wear it like a purse and also a chord to hook up an iPod to it.  It is fifty dollars.  We decide it is exactly what we need in our lives.  Not to mention a great conversation piece.  We split it.  Twenty-five and twenty-five.  For months we walk around listening to The Unicorns and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

We sell our clothes most nights on the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 6th Street with a sign we made that reads ‘Cheap Shit.’  One night I am drinking rum out of a Coca-Cola can the cops come and walk me home and give me a ticket.

We decide to go to bed early one night and wake up at five a.m. to jump in the East River.  We do it.  Then we walk across the Williamsburg Bridge.  We are sticky.

The suicidal musical longhaired boy decides to die that summer.  You are with me when it happens.  You are with me when we walk to the bar.

156 India Street
Brooklyn, New York

We move in the day after Halloween.  We are never home at the same time.  You paint half of the living room teal.  I paint the other half.  You paint half of the kitchen coral.  I paint the other half.

We have a party and leave a bucket of black paint out for free use.  Our teal walls now have black drips, dicks and words all over them.

We do not have a couch for months.  We do, however, have a black trunk that we found on the street.  You write the words ‘DANCE TRUNK’ on it in purple paint and we take turns singing Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ to each other.

It’s my birthday.  We are loud.  We go downstairs and across the street to the bodega by the G train.  You are drunk and steal a forty.  The man behind the counter catches you.  When we get back to our apartment there is a white piece of paper on the door that reads: ‘WTF? You have neighbors.’  You take a pen out of your purse and write: ‘Neighbors have birthdays.’

We are sleeping in the bedroom we share.  In my sleep I kick your bike that was leaning against the foot of my bed.  It falls on you.  You scream.  You leave it there and keep sleeping.

I think I flush a hairbrush down the toilet but I am drunk so I am not sure.  Our toilet does not work for seven days.  We live with a metal bowl on the toilet and piss into it and dump it down the bathtub or sink drain.  One morning you shit in a bag in the living room.

You are sitting in a rolling desk chair.  You are wearing a headdress.  You are wearing a magenta silk short robe from Victoria’s Secret over your clothes and I love you.

I start buying Zebra Cakes every time I am drunk which are most nights.  You like the 99-cent tortilla chips.  We wake up hung over with wrappers scattering our apartment.

I tell everyone at a party that Brie can actually get you high.  Everyone makes fun of me but later you tell me that you know what I mean.

We host something that we call Breakfast Club on Wednesday mornings with our neighbor and we drink champagne and smoke joints and eat eggs before starting our days.

We both call out of work.  It is snowing.  We want a snow day.  We pretend that we are Devendra Banhart.  We cut out pictures of him and put them on chains.  We hang pictures of him from the ceiling.  You decide you need more trinkets.  We make jewelry out of our combined junk jewelry.  We go to the Polish liquor store.  We buy Beefeater gin.  We have a circus and jump on our trampoline.  We prank phone call people.  We write and record songs.  We take the subway into our jobs in Manhattan in the morning with headaches.  I always dare you to get off the train at the wrong stop and walk to the wall and back, to see if you can make it before the subway takes off again.  You always do it.

We did a lot of cocaine at the bar Grassroots and now we are waiting for the L train.  I am wearing a black skirt and fishnet tights.  You are standing too close to the subway tracks fucking with your phone and you drop it in and the back comes off and the battery comes out.  I jump down to get it.  I see a rat.  I stay down there with the pieces in my hands and hold my arms up and yell, “I’ve always wanted to do this!” before some guy helps me out.  The train comes ten seconds later and everyone who saw what happened treats me like a hero.

We buy bikes from K-Mart with your tax return check and get drunk and see who can balance on them in the kitchen the best because we’re too afraid to ride them outside.

We have no groceries.  I eat condensed cooking cheese soup and you catch me when you come home from work.  You laugh for twenty minutes.

It’s your turn to make breakfast.

It’s my turn to make breakfast.

You’re wearing my jeans.

I’m wearing your jeans.

I am writing.

You are painting.

We are reading Bukowski and Burroughs in our separate beds in the bedroom we share.

You give me a toy brontosaurus and say it reminds you of me and I don’t know what you mean by that but I keep it on my windowsill for three years.

In the middle of the night, you steal a Christmas tree from where they are selling them on the street so now we have a Christmas tree.

I sleep with a man from my memoir class and I fall a little bit in love with him because he tells me that I am Batman and you are Robin.

We are sitting next to each other cross-legged on the floor drinking Bloody Marys.  We have just done our laundry.  We are counting our underwear.  I have thirty pairs and you have twenty-four.  We have an awkward moment and then I ask you what you have been doing for the past six days.

We are walking around the Southside of Brooklyn.  It is hot out.  We are wearing headdresses and drinking Sparks.  The cops pull up.  I tell the cop that I just got back from Berlin and in Berlin there are some neighborhoods where you actually get tickets if you are not drinking on the street.  He believes me and waives the ticket.

We get a mini keg of Heineken.  We do speedballs of oxy contin and cocaine.  We are playing catch with a five pound weight. I throw a curveball accidentally and smash my computer.

I come home from work one night to find the apartment condemned.  The fire escape had fallen off.  Our wall had crumbled.  The Titanic.  The shipwreck.  The cops.  I call you.  We cry.  We go to the bar.  We order Johnny Walker Black.

2809 65th Street
Seattle, Washington

My friends in New York call me daily.  All I do anymore in Seattle is talk outside on the stoop to my friends in New York.  My roommates in Seattle ask me if I am doing cocaine.  My roommates in Seattle ask me how many minutes I have on my phone.  My friends in New York tell me they are exhausted.  My friends in New York tell me that they are at bars and that they are exhausted.  My friend in New York tells me she stole a few dollars out of the Habitat For Humanity box to get a coffee.  My friend in New York tells me she forgot to steal toilet paper from The Film Forum.  My friend in New York tells me he snuck into an Australian girl’s purse and finished all of her cocaine.  My friend in New York tells me he lost the journal that I gave him at a boat base and he walked up and down the East River in the dark looking in trashcans for it.  My friend in New York tells me she may or may not have had an orgy last night.  My friend in New York tells me she is going to Dunkin’ Donuts with a guy she met on the street that loves Leonard Cohen.  My friend in New York tells me she is reading my writing to a guy on a roof in Bushwick while they listen to P.J. Harvey.  My friend in New York tells me she had sex with a guy last night and that he told her she was “like an amusement park.”  My friend in New York tells me the warehouse party he went to last night was fun until he accidentally put his cigarette out in a girl’s eye.  My friend in New York tells me she is in a hot Chinese restaurant and thinks she just got her period and should she get crab legs?  My friend in New York tells me she is sitting in Tompkins Square Park, alone and restless, and that she should go home and do laundry but doesn’t want to leave the Lower East Side until something magic happens.  She says that there was an Asian dude playing Oasis songs, which was great, but not enough.

Last night I described New York to a rock climber in Seattle.

“It sounds like, New York is for you, what the mountains are to me,” he said.

I fell a little bit in love with him for saying that.

CHLOE CALDWELL lives in upstate New York. Her essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Freerange Non-fiction, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. She is forthcoming in The New York Times Townies blog, and writes a column called “Love & Music” for The Faster Times. Her essay collection, Legs Get Led Astray, will be available from Future Tense Books in April 2012.

12 thoughts on “That Was Called Love

  1. I love this. It moves so nicely, forcing us to really examine what love is all about. I especially liked the line about the toy brontosaurus and that entire paragraph – those are such simple, yet poignant lines about what love was to this narrator. Awesome.

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  4. So beautiful. I particularly like:

    It’s your turn to make breakfast.

    It’s my turn to make breakfast.

    You’re wearing my jeans.

    I’m wearing your jeans.

    I am writing.

    You are painting.

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