A Girl Grows in Brooklyn
by Maria Prudente
You will meet me in the summer. I am your happy place: the promenade. You will graduate conservatory and go to Rome. When you return, you will visit me often. You will watch the grass turn from green to shades of orange and red to white and back to green again. You burden me by fall; crying and laughing and talking for hours on end. I wonder how it’s possible you have so much free time. The proposals and photoshoots around us make us distant but in the off hours we grow close again. You can’t wait to show your parents what your life is like outside of conservatory performances. They will buy you over-the-knee tan riding boots and you will wear them with all of your outfits until they are so worn years later cobblers refuse to repair them for you. You will feel frustrated and pained because they were so loved by you but they are boots and boots are things and you will find much in life, beyond your boots- beyond repair.
I know you so well. When you visit me, you walk down Montague Street and cross over to Pierrepont. You match my pace down to the Brooklyn Bridge though you sometimes cut out sooner to Pineapple Street so you can catch a glimpse inside the old brownstone homes at night. You will only make out the tops of wallpaper décor lining the high ceilings of what you think are reading rooms or gift-wrapping rooms. You are like a little spy taking note of every light fixture and artwork hung on the walls and the windows covered with shutters big and small. There is calm for your soul walking in the red of the sunset between the maroon brick of 4 story homes where you up and down and up and down follow the uneven tree-lined sidewalks back home to Baltic.
You come often with your best friend Bradley. You two scan the doorways and doorknobs before studying the ground as you walk to me where I hear you plan your lives. It is sweet, the ideas of your mantles and your faucets and visitor guest towels. Your young faces to the tip of Manhattan and the right of your profile to the Brooklyn Bridge will guide me through your future homes before you return to your homes in other people’s names. You both will lean on each other and celebrate each other. Bradley is such a good friend to you.
You will turn 21. Francesca and Bradley will bring you Mike’s Hard Lemonade and you will take a sip before you wander here alone to be with me. You will begin a pattern of feeling astray on your birthday. You will become fixated on your age. One day you will simply be an age and that will make sense to the people around you and you will no longer be considered “the mature one” because everyone will have grown up too. You will study the lines on your face and the fat in your thighs and you will regret that you once studied the lines in your face and the fat in your thighs.
You will try to quit me. You will threaten me and yell. You will bang on all of the iron gates and thrust your fists into the air as if this air owed you something special it didn’t owe everyone else. You will tell yourself lies. You will think about the many others like you out there that seem to be getting it right and wonder why you are stuck here with me getting it wrong. You will abandon me. You will abandon Baltic. You will leave behind everything you own. You will have nothing but some crop tops and gold-buckled bright orange boots that hurt your feet.
You will sign with a group of four men called talent managers in Los Angeles and live on an air mattress you bought for thirty-four dollars at the Burbank Mall. Uber will not exist and you will be carless because you are careless. You will sleep nightly thinking of the better life you had envisioned before your plane landed and you will hate the life you flopped down into: the orange and yellows of it all and the tall, lanky DJ who tried to kiss you when you didn’t want him. You will stand up for yourself when this happens. You are lucky you are sober and you realize this could be a bad situation. You will plan your escape from this party immediately and you will need a ride home and ask two angry kids on coke at a party because you feel unsafe and it’s 3am in Virginia and your parents are sleeping and you have $5 in your bank account. And you are supposed to be an adult. You will remember crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and miss home because I am home. You will grip the sides of the car as they speed you home to North Figueroa -the sweaty gap toothed one speeding down Sunset Blvd. and the platinum blond picking a fight with him. You already obsess over death so you naturally plan for this car ride to be your end: at the mercy of the sweaty gap toothed one and the girl with dirt stains on her skirt and you, dollars short and without common sense, in the back.
The Williamsburg replica that is Silver Lake will make you nostalgic for home. You will listen to Channel Orange because you are the “Lost” track on Frank Ocean’s album. Your friends will visit you and feed you because you wither into nothingness. You will scour the area for rivers that reflect skyscrapers and for concrete that holds the wet of your tears and the blood from your heels of the shoes you wore and in the rooms where you poured everything out for them and they rejected you. What of you, have you any left? You are 22 with so much in front of you so please come back to me. I miss you. I chose you. If you stay, it could wreck you.
You chose you.
So, you chose me.
You will meet a man with a beard. He will have an accent. You will come here drunk off red wine and realize you are falling in love for the first time. But he lives an ocean away and he is only here a short time. He is your winter. He is several years older than you and this love will mean something different to him. You are young but you will understand this. You will try and end things with him over coffee. Then you will get the stomach flu and one week later as you lay your head on the toilet seat, you will think about what he’s doing. Who you think of when you throw up must be who you really care about. He will receive you with open arms. You will be scared. The beachy sound of Best Coast will play at a coffee shop the day he leaves you and you will study his face to remember. You will love him for many years. You will never grab hold of it the way you once had it or him.
You will come back to eat sundaes at Brooklyn Pharmacy with your next big love when you are 25. He will have a man bun. He will be happy you took him to your old neighborhood or at least he will act happy about lots of things he does with you. You will never know with this man. You will go for a walk and show him memories of us. You will sneak away leaving him alone for a moment to walk over to say hello. You look at me and out at the water and out towards the bridge. You remember when life was a lot lighter. You remember when you were softer. Your face. Your heart. Your eyes. His eyes. His heart. His face. The one with the beard.
The ride to Manhattan comes to take you away and you think you can put this place away. You feel ashamed you’ve let go of me but I see you have found someone new. He does not understand your past so you rush him toward your future. You think he is your forever. You think he loves you back. Except he hasn’t broken you yet. And he will. You will learn a different kind of heartbreak and you will bleed and bruise for a while. This heartbreak will wreck you but it will create you.
You begin to visit me less and less. You’ve grown so hard and sad. I see you jealous of the children who make up fun games and crowd around me. You snarl at the lovers who hold hands and touch each other’s faces like soap opera actors. You begin to look at lovers as people who need better hobbies and see them as weak and uninventive. You are so lucky to be alone and untethered that you will no longer worry about becoming a wife and a mother. These ideas flee your being and you forget them. You learn to bury them. Until much later you remember them. Slowly, you will remember them. You will grow emotional when you see babies but you will take solace in that it will happen for you when its right.
You will return to me when you are 28.
Your eyes still sparkle the same. The trees have wondered where you wandered but don’t worry with me they still stand. I have been watching from a distance. I see you live uptown now. Why don’t you come to visit me? I wonder how it is you have no free time? The new parks are finished now and I look for you on every Sunday. You loved to visit Sunday. You will feel the cold iron under your arms and the dry wood under your legs and remember how we used to think through things together. I have missed you. I sense you feel you’ve never left. It’s nice to see you soft again. I see you’ve made some changes.
About the Author
Maria is an actor, singer and writer currently studying at Columbia University.