M is for Metamorphosis
Manufactured by: Bonnie
I’ve been naughty.
Tania and I took our last End of the Line Dining trip WEEKS ago, and I’ve been sitting on this post ever since. I wrote something right away then hated how sentimental it was, put it away and didn’t look back. After some gentle prodding from Tania, and some self-inflicted guilt, here I am with the full report…
There’s a lot on which I can blame my inability to write this post. First: I’m on a deadline. Wait, pause. I can’t tell you enough how happy it makes me to write those words: I’M ON A DEADLINE! Sounds so cool, doesn’t it? I was supposed to turn in a full revision of my novel to my agent on May 1st, and I’m running about a week behind on that too. Been mixed up with too many boys these days. Got the stomach flu. Got wicked drunk at a karaoke birthday party (where I straight slayed “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus). Had stacks of papers to grade. Had a book club book to read (didn’t have that read in time either). Had friends’ heartaches to attend to. Had articles to write for foodie ‘zines. Had barbecues to make an appearance. Had shit to DO.
I’m a punctual person (to a fault almost) but it seems to me that I’m about two weeks behind on life right now. I’m strangely at peace with this though. Strangely comfortable with the flux and the loose ends. My friend Ralph told me I have to be if I want to be amazing. And who doesn’t want to be amazing?
So, here I am. Tardy to the party for the first time in my life. But finally ready to recount the journey that was the M train to Forest Hills with my girl, Tania. I am going to preserve one little line from what I wrote before though and that is this:
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A NEW DIRECTION MAKES
We rode the M train to Middle Village (the other direction) back in December when my heart was freshly broken, when I was smoking too many cigarettes and replacing my new love for yoga for the less healthy options in life. Now this time around, as we rode the train the opposite direction to Forest Hills, I can happily say that I, too, was heading in new direction. No longer wallowing in the heartache (just enough to make this post a little bit romantic though), no longer in graduate school and no longer thirty-three. The M train in the new direction now stood for my Misadventures. My Meandering Mind. My Metamorphosis.
I’m still a sentimental fucker though, don’t you worry. Some things never change. Right before I took this trip, I was working on my novel, using a hard-covered Marilyn Monroe book as a flat surface on my lap. When I picked up the book, out fell a letter that I had written to Tania (and apparently never sent) dated September 11, 1999. That’s right, folks, fourteen-and-a-half years ago. The handwriting was frenetic (brain scrambled by my new found freedom in San Francisco, my extensive partying, and being head over heels in love). I was going through a phase where I capitalized all my M’s aNd My N’s. I doN’t kNow why? I’m going to share some little gems from that letter at the end of this post, partly because it goes along with what a difference a new direction makes, and partly because Tania has never read the letter and now here is her chance, along with you, our faithful readers of End of the Line Dining. Some of it is downright cringe-worthy. It’s hard to look at things you wrote so long ago and not want to travel back in time to slap some sense into yourself. But you can’t. We go along in the directions that we’re meant to. And have to trust that the crossroads come at just the right moments.
It was a sleepy Wednesday evening when we met on the Myrtle-Wyckoff platform to head to Forest Hills. Tania was fresh out of crazy times at work, and I was fresh out of crazy times adjudicating for FringeNYC. Wednesdays are always sleepy for me anyway because I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get to work on time in New Jersey, and that particular Wednesday, I just pushed through without an afternoon refresher nap.
There were two elements of déjà vu in the mix: 1) That we’d attempted this journey the month before with Stephanie, but ran into service issues and couldn’t complete it, and 2) We went to Forest Hills on the R train almost exactly a year ago with Bertie, Sarah K, Jen, & James Long!
So there we were again, this time just the two of us, and we boarded the train at 7:43 p.m. The train ride took one hour and one minute to be exact. Next to the eating experience, this was the biggest portion of our trip. We hadn’t seen each other since my birthday so we had plenty to discuss including: my recent foray into the world of online dating (whew, stories to come in the future, I’m just getting my bearings there), my upcoming deadline (the one that seemed totally manageable about a month ago and now feels like a stronghold), some future business deals that are on the table, future travel plans, and recent bouts of the death flu currently attacking New York City (I got it a few days later). There were some laughs and there were some tears (we do a really good job of crying together) (I won’t tell you who cried this time though), and one very weird hand job given by a girl standing next to us to the pole right by Tania’s face – lasting a good solid four minutes (awkward).
Then we arrived.
When we got off the train, we found ourselves retracing the steps we took the last trip. Not for any other reason than familiarity. The neighborhood looked different at night. There seemed to be more restaurants to choose from, but maybe that was just because they were lit and looked inviting against the chilly evening. Both of us commented it felt like a fall night, rather than spring. Something in the air.
I had the idea that we might eat at a Mexican restaurant. This is because our friend Anjali told me recently that she used to go out to eat in Forest Hills as a kid and there was a Mexican restaurant where she remembered liking shrimp for the first time. So when we found the Five Burro Café, it seemed just right.
We walked into the restaurant and the song playing was “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns n Roses. I took this as a very good sign. I also took the walls covered in kitschy decorations as a good sign (license plates, piñatas, chili pepper lights). We are both suckers for that kind of décor. After putting our margarita orders in, we decided to start with a half-avocado stuffed with shrimp and topped with “5 Burro House Dressing” and jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, breaded and fried, then to share the shrimp fajitas for the main course (had to get shrimp. For Anjali. And well, we both really like shrimp). The food was delicious and filling. By the time we got to the fajitas we were a little too stuffed (perhaps from our STUFFED appetizers!) to finish everything.
By this time it was approaching 11 p.m. and the thought of getting back on the train for an hour sounded painful. Tania sprung for an Uber cab. Our first time not taking the train back. But we figured we had ridden the whole line by then, we were good!
And so there I was, continuing to move forward. Not backtracking at all. I rode that M train straight from heartbreak in Middle Village and out into this new place I reside: on the brink of success and excited about the road ahead.
As promised, I’ll leave you with a piece of that letter I found to Tania. I was nineteen-years-old and a wild child. I’m still a wild child at heart, but somehow the more we push forward, the more we grow up. At least we learn a thing or two along the way. It almost feels like a different person wrote that letter but then it’s so obvious that it’s me. Just a little caterpillar. And while I still feel far from full-on butterfly, I know I’ve spent some time in the cocoon since then. Life is exciting that way. I left New York after my first year of college to head back to California. It was me travelling in the opposite direction. Back to where I came from. But with a new intention. At that moment I didn’t know that I’d travel to the end of the line again, back to New York, and start to call it home.
My heart is here.
September 11, 1999
My dearest Tania Lee,
So, Marissa’s here. She arrived earlier today, letter in hand… I just sat in Washington Square Park (San Francisco version) and read it before work. Accordingly, I have decided to devote the next six hours to responding (interspersed with a sprinkling of reservation calls and folding of menus – the joy! the joy!) (oh and I’ll probably take a break to enjoy the Moose’s employee meal at 4:45) – but now… of course I am rambling… Me? NEVER! Babbling Brooke has possessed the hand that writes this letter. Barbie pink nails and… where am I going? Ahhhhhh the introduction. An attempt to relate exactly how your letter made me feel- how it pumped me full of emotion leading to an explosion of memories and love and love and love and love. An explanation is what I have to offer. An explanation of the nine months I spent in New York. An explanation of my situation. And explanation of our tornado of a friendship. Yes darling, you ARE stuck with me. Distance cannot destroy the bond that is ours. Am I being too poetic? Am I even a poet? Whoa, where did that come from?
Ralph coaxed me to eat a bacon cheese burger from Wendy’s. A weak moment indeed. Speaking of Ralph, he’s on the phone right now, hold on. Another break another break. Holy Jesus. I need to get to the core of this stinkin’ letter. But let’s make another digression first shall we? I am in LOVE. So in love. Never thought it possible again (oh so tragic and romantic)
[Don’t you just love how I was nineteen-years-old and never thought it was possible to fall in love again? If I only knew how many times I would fall in love after that! And yes, that’s the same Ralph that I mentioned earlier in this post. The next moments in this letter are intensely private and belong to Tania and me… they’re just ours… some things are better left within the privacy of the letter and sent only to the intended reader, but I will give one more piece]
I was just remembering that last night I spent in New York with you and what a good time we had and how we could always have fun no matter what we were lugging across the city. My dearest friend… I will be coming soon. We will eat brie in the park to accompany our cheap wine. We will dance like the dancing fools we are. We will smoke cigarettes in unauthorized areas. We will take pictures. We will ROCK OUT.
See, sometimes we take new directions, but at our core, we’re always the same. Hopelessly romantic dancing fools. And sentimental as all hell.
Love you, TaNia, My sister-frieNd.