On Waking Up in Midtown

This morning I watched my companion roll out of the top bunk at 5:55 a.m., having set her alarm on the other side of the room because, for her job as a teacher, “you just can’t be late; there are actual consequences.” I was left in her fairy-tale studio, where I stumbled out of bed at 7:50 and could still make it to morning Mass–I was within walking distance of church and work for the first time since college. I brushed my teeth while staring at an Italian poster for Roman Holiday. Gregory Peck and I locked eyes as I tried to scrub away the post-bourbon dryness. My friend and I had fallen asleep discussing the various choices that had brought us to this place: single, working, religious, deeply critical. As I tried to gather up my belongings, excise what was mine from what was hers, it all seemed to blend together. We are one in this strange project: that of the modern Catholic woman, the intellect, the ambitions, the deep anxieties that seem to fuel more fervent prayer, more wonderful love. Oh, I admit, I do not love this life! May God make me more grateful. And yet as I looked over her lotion, her duvet, as I scribbled a note to her on a post-it, how could I but love the simplicity she represented, the dogged faith? Who is not delighted in finding a soul-mate? Another young woman who is wiser than her alienation, who prefers books and sleep to the appearance of an organized life, who pours you almost straight bourbon and lets you stay over and says things that get her labeled as “intense,” as if we care, as if we’re still trying to please anyone but God.

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