Magical Moments

image1(1)

{image, my own}

 

I just left the office to go on a short stroll during my lunch break. It’s my birthday week, and I’ve been wanting to get myself a gift (a-la “Independent Women” – I am slowly making my way through every single accomplishment in that song: shoes, clothes, rock, watch, house, car…!), been toying around with the idea of a new perfume. It’s expensive, so I’ve been slow to cave in and get it. Today was the day I finally caved. I went on a walk over to the perfume shop and gifted myself this bright, light yet somehow still bold, fragrant, free, fearless scent. Exactly what I’m working on manifesting in myself these days. It was only fitting.

On my walk, I passed by Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee, where 11 months ago I took shelter in during my lunch breaks when this job was too new and the growing pains were too much. I passed by Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, which is the very first non-commercial ice cream I ever had in New York City – in my second year, I lived one block away from the East Village location and devoured scoops of Earl Grey tea, espresso (no longer called espresso, now it’s just “coffee”), Sicilian pistachio, and my and my college boyfriend’s favorite: “Gianduja,” a creamy, hazelnut flavor, which they sadly no longer make. Across from Van Leeuwen’s is Three Lives & Company, one of the oldest and most special bookstores in the Village; I bought a signed copy of M Train there, and have yet to read it. Across the street from Three Lives is Julius’, one of the most historic gay bars in the Village; I last went there with a gay pal of mine, who poured his heart out to me about how he is still not officially out to his mom, and is in a lifeless relationship he feels too scared and guilty to actually leave (we had many vodka sodas that night). It’s really a lovely area to walk through, charming, and for me, full of memories.

I had forgotten that there’s a Sant Ambreous nearby there – but the orange and emerald facade is impossible to miss, and almost quite as fetching as it’s maitre’d, Alireza Niroomand, who was sitting at a table outside. I didn’t realize quickly enough that it was him, and looked back at his thick, salt and pepper hair. God, he’s stunning. I walked past, imagining and admiring his Instagram account, which I think and hope he curates himself because it is phenomenally artistic, eccentric, and funny.

Just a couple more blocks until the perfume shop, which has a very unassuming exterior. I walked up to the door and pushed it in, careful to not let it slam behind me. Two beautiful men greeted me from behind the register counter. The one on the right, wearing a white tshirt, white pants, a beige apron, and a white hat, asked, “First time?”

“No,” I replied, “it is not. I am much too addicted.”

They both laughed quietly.

I spritzed myself with the scent I came for. The guy on the right got up from his stool to help me. I wondered aloud if the roll-on smelled any different than the one I had just tested. “It’s more of a whisper,” he explained. “The spray is much more aromatic because it’s infused with alcohol, and that diffuses it.” I paused to think about which size I wanted versus which size I could actually afford versus which size would suit me right now.

“I’m traveling soon,” I mentioned. The guy still sitting behind the counter on the left chimed in: “Well, the smallest spray bottle is TSA approved, so you wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

“I know,” I said, “but I’m a pretty light traveler, and I want it to be as compact as possible.” He watched me. “I think I’ll go with the roll-on,” I gestured to the guy in the white clothes. He picked out a fresh tube for me. “I love your necklace,” he said.

“Which one?” I asked. I was wearing two.

“That one,” he said, pointing with his eyes at my silver one: round, short, near the throat. I held it between my thumb and index fingers. “It’s very interesting,” he said, still looking at it.

“It’s my name, in Arabic,” I explained.

He nodded. “What’s your name?”

I told him.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Ebi,” he extended his hand.

I wondered what kind of name that was, like where it’s from. He must have seen my wondering on my face: “I think it’s Arab in its roots too,” he offered, “although apparently it means ‘shrimp’ in Japanese. I know because when I went there, I saw it on the menus and thought, Hey, that’s me.” I smiled. I thought that was funny, that his name meant shrimp in Japanese, because he was actually pretty shrimpy in his stature.

He walked behind the counter to prepare the bottle. I approached the counter too and asked the guy on the left, “And what’s your name?”

“Brendan,” he said. We shook hands. “Do you want to put anything on the label?”

“Yes,” I said, and then thought about it. This was my birthday gift to myself, I wanted it to be something special and memorable.

“Do you want me to write it down anywhere?” I asked, because that’s what they’ve had me do in the past with other bottles.

“No, I’m ready,” he said, with this fingers floating above the keyboard in front of him. “Unless you prefer to write it down?” He began to look around beneath the counter, and then brought out a black felt-tip pen and a pad of paper that said “Don’t forget” on the bottom of each sheet. “Thanks,” I said, and wrote down my label.

27:faith>fear

I peeled the sheet off of the pad and handed it to him. He read it. “I’ve been thinking a lot about faith versus fear lately…” I offered. He nodded slowly, as if in understanding.

“You 27?” he asked.

“This Thursday, yeah. I turn 27.”

“It’s his birthday today,” Brendan said of Ebi.

“It is?!” I exclaimed. Ebi nodded. “Oh my god, happy birthday Ebi!” He smiled. “Thank you,” he nodded his head in gratitude. He looked up from the label he was preparing, and looking out the window behind me, said, “Fear is that powerful thing in this life…it is such a force. You have to shake all of it off and just live.”

I sighed aloud. “Yeah…I realized recently what a hold I have grown to let fear have over me in my life, and that’s not how I want to live it.” The two men nodded.

“Where you from?” Brendan asked me.

“…Los Angeles,” I smiled with a cringe, because New Yorkers don’t have an ounce of respect for people from Los Angeles. And as a converted New Yorker myself, I must admit I don’t either. Ha! 

“Oh, cool,” he said, “Where in LA?”

“Whittier. It’s the last town in LA County, bordering Orange County, far from the ocean,” I explained.

He nodded. “But is that where you’re from? Like, what’s your…?”

“Oh, I’m Armenian,” I said.

“Armenian…” he mused.

“I’m first gen, so the first in my family to be born in America. My parents are from Beirut. Their parents are from Syria…their parents (so my great-grandparents) were children who–get this–escaped the Genocide. Can you imagine? Being 3-4 years old and just walking with strangers in the desert, trying to escape? I was making mudpies in the backyard when I was that age. It’s crazy.”

“Oof, yeah man…” Brendan sighed. “That’s intense.” He paused for a moment. “The Armenians have been through a lot.”

Ebi nodded, “They have.”

It was so surprising in the most curious and special way, to me, that these two guys knew about the Armenians. They knew there was a history.

“What were your ancestors’ fears when they were your age?”

“When they were 27?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

I sighed, thinking about it for a second. “I think just feeding their children. Of which they already had many by my age.”

“We understand,” he said, waving his thumb back and forth between him and Ebi. Ebi nodded in agreement. “You come from a people who have been through a lot. You got to channel the strength of your past, into your future,” he observed. “Like with you, and your fear,” he said. “Think back on your mothers and fathers, and what they been through, and let it become a force to help you live freely.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“I think about that a lot, actually,” I started. “The relationship between the past and the future. The Armenians are a people that really don’t let go of the past. They hang on to the Genocide and harp on it, to the point that I don’t find it healthy or helpful. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, about 5-7 years now, and I just feel this obligation or something, to find the right balance between the two. I have a deep appreciation for my heritage, I respect it, the history, it means a great deal to me…but…”

“It don’t define you,” Ebi finished.

“Yeah,” I sighed, deeply, completely overcome by their understanding, by this connection that was forming right before me. I could feel it in the air inside that shop. I was also relieved by it, like a load had been lifted. It was like they each took a bag I’ve been carrying and said, Let me carry this a while, you take a break. I was feeling emotional.

“I get you,” Ebi said.

“I mean, I love being Armenian,” I continued. “So much so, when people ask me, that’s what I identify with, really. Even though I also really identify with being American–I know that’s something unique to me, not my parents, or their parents. But the Armenians, I find, a lot of them live in fear. They stay close to what they know, and who they know. They find comfort in familiarity. Like, I have Armenian friends who are really only friends with other Armenians. And I find that so bizarre. That’s all they know–they don’t experience other people and other stories, don’t explore other walks of life and other connections. It’s weird to me, and homogenous, and almost, even, gross. I love my culture, but I also love stepping and living outside of it too.”

They both listened.

“An old friend of mine once said to me, and I think she was so right, and still is, to this day: she said, You like to think you are in the peripheries of the community, but you’re just as much in the heart and core of it too. That’s the crux of your nature. And I think it’s so true. There are a lot of things I love about being Armenian and about the Armenian community, that I appreciate and honor…and yet, there are so many things I want to change about it too. That’s why I feel this undeniable obligation to stay near it. Maybe I’m part of that change?” (I felt so embarrassed admitting this aloud, because it reminds me of the whole Lena Dunham/Hannah/”voice of a generation” thing, and frankly, that whole thing kind of bothered me, ha! I found it almost arrogant, so I feel embarrassed admitting that I do, deep down, feel like I’m something…maybe not for my generation at large, but I do feel like, even in the peripheries, my space in the contemporary American-Armenian diaspora community has a destiny that I haven’t quite discovered yet. Ugh. Annoying, I know. Who the hell do I think I am?! I digress…)

“You are,” Brendan said. “I can feel an energy about you.”

I sighed. It felt so good to be so connected and so understood. I glanced down at the counter in front of me.

“Oh my gosh, I completely forgot to pay you!!!” I exclaimed. “I could literally sit and talk to you guys for hours.”

Brendan released a quiet laugh. “Don’t worry about it, we just here talking.”

I handed him my credit card.

Ebi spritzed a blank tester-paper with a small vial and offered it to me. I smelled it. “Hmmm…this smells like…” I sniffed again. “This smells like a dessert I’ve eaten before,” I said, still holding the paper beneath my nose. Brendan laughed. I sniffed it once more and then handed it to him. “Yeah…like marzipan or something perfumey and sugary-sweet like that!” I exclaimed. We all laughed. It feels good to nail a scent. Scents can be difficult to describe.

“Where are you from?” I asked Brendan.

“I’m from Queens,” he said. “My dad is Jamaican-Panamanian, and my mom is from Harlem.”

“Ugh, I love women from Harlem,” I confessed. “There’s just something about them.”

Ebi handed me another one. “This one I’m not sure of,” I confessed. I handed it to Brendan. He inhaled, deeply, then smiled. “Oh my god…” he said. “This smells like…” he started busting up, laughing. I couldn’t catch the name he said because he was laughing. “You know, that baby perfume from the 80s?!” he asked. Ebi and I laughed.

“Where are you from, Ebi?” I asked.

“I’m Nigerian,” he said. “But my parents are from Ireland. I say I’m Black-Irish,” he paused for a moment. “People don’t really say that or hear that, ‘Black-Irish,” but I do.

“I’m partial to Irish and Scottish people,” I admitted. “I know that’s so fucked up,” I laughed, “but I don’t know, I just didn’t really like London when I visited it, and I have never felt connected to English people. There’s just something about them…but Irish and Scottish people, they have a warmth about them that I can connect to…”

Ebi agreed. “Yeah, I know what you mean…a Guinness in Ireland just tastes different. You drink that and you can just not ignore the woman in the bar, with her fiery red hair, and you can’t not connect and talk and appreciate.”

“Warrior,” Brendan commented.

“Warrioress,” Ebi emphasized. “She fearless. You look at her and you see the Celtic chakras, the roots of her ancestors, in her face. She’s strong, but not aggressive, you know? She has a strength with grace.”

My heart was just smiling. I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to be part of this experience with these two men, who were so charming and down to earth and simple and remarkable. I loved the way they spoke about life and people and women. With such reverence. It was special. Someone had taught them, or somehow they had learned. These thoughts and feelings are not always inborn.

“What do you do?” Brendan asked me.

I sighed. He noticed. I laughed on the inside. I told him where I work, what I do.

“Oh, one of my former roommates went to school there,” Ebi said. “Studied film.”

I thought about those film students. “It’s definitely an interesting place to work,” I said. “I see all walks of life come through there…kids whose folks can’t afford anything, so they live in Flatbush with 8 roommates…and then there are kids who have never set foot in the Bursar’s office because their parents just wire money…it’s a lot.” I paused.

“You gotta get rid of that energy, girl,” Brendan said. Just came right out, and said it.

“No, I mean, it has its good and bad sides to it, you know?” I tried to explain. “I do like the work I do. I develop programs for master’s students, who are the most under-served population in higher education. So the work itself is rewarding for that reason. I’m content knowing I’m helping them have the best experience they can possibly have.” I paused again. “But…yeah, in the bigger picture, I don’t love the culture there.” I walked right up to the counter to be closer to him. “The real reason why I took this job,” I was almost whispering, maybe I felt slightly ashamed to admit why, “is because it was a strategic move for me in my career. I took it because I knew it was going to position me advantageously in the future. It’s a solid stepping-stone.”

“Yeah, but you got a goodness that you’re not able to channel in this job,” he observed. “I feel you. I feel your energy right now. There’s a…” he waved his hand up and down in front of his chest, palm facing him, as if to say: something masked, something heavy, something trying to break free. How was he so in tune? 

I looked at him. “You’re going to make me cry.”

He looked away from me, out the window. He got up from his seat and came around to the customer side of the counter to meet me, and opened up his arms to me. I took a baby step toward him, my eyes welled up. He hugged me. Part of me wondered if he just wanted to have my body pressed against him like that. Part of me wanted to just believe in the goodness of the moment. That this total stranger, was such a genuine human being, who saw me when he looked at me, who felt me when he heard me, and just so readily supported me in this experienced–no questions asked.

“Cancer soul,” Ebi remarked. “We are emotional creatures.”

“This is me every day,” I half-joked, wiping my eyes with a smile on my face. “I’m a Pisces moon sign too, so I’m a double water sign, emotions everywhere all the time.” Ebi smiled and nodded. “You are open,” he said, tapping his fingertips on his heart. “That’s how you take life, you are awake and open to what the universe holds. You feel the deepest.” He held the perfume box in his hands and bowed his head as he extended it to me.

“Thank you,” I said. “What are you doing for your birthday? How are you celebrating today?” I asked.

“I’m a monk,” he said.

“Oh,” I felt odd that I hadn’t picked up on that. But now that he said it, it made sense. There was something centered about him. “So life itself is the celebration…”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve been mediating on my rooftop for about a week now. I just go up there for 45 minutes, an hour. Just to clear my head and appreciate life.” I smiled at him.

“You guys….” I sighed. “I have to get back to work, but I really feel as though we’re friends, like I’ve known you guys for a long time.” They both looked at me from behind the counter. “We feel it to,” they said.

“It’s so crazy,” I began, “I have befriended every person that works here that has helped me pick out a perfume.”

“Really?” Brendan asked. “Who else?”

“Hm…this one beautiful girl, short hair, she’s an illustrator, total badass, very beautiful…I think her name is Christine? Or Christina?”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Brendan said. “Christina,” he looked at Ebi. “She’s awesome.”

“Who else?” Ebi asked.

“Um…another guy, who I think now works at the Brooklyn store, I don’t remember his name but if you said it I would know it…tall, skinny dude, long hair…”

“Nico?” Brendan asked.

“Yeah!!! Nico!” I exclaimed. I smiled. Brendan noticed. Nico had totally flirted with me when I walked into the store. Talked to me, helped me, smiled at me, laughed with me. I remember that day vividly. I wasn’t totally sure if it was just me feeling the vibes, though I had a good feeling that was just me being silly and defensive…before I left, he handed me a bag with my new perfume in it, and two little packets. “They’re for your laundry,” he explained. “For your delicates, or, whatever you want to use them for…” Men are so funny. 

“He’s cool,” Ebi said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I think there’s something about how you are all trained. You are taught how to smell and feel and tell a story, and you are so connected to people and to nature and this earth…you guys just have an alchemy about you that makes you awake, alert, open to the universe, and connected to life.”

“Thank you,” they both said. “That is so true. Thank you for saying that.”

I nodded. “Well, guys…” I smiled at both of them, putting the perfume in my bag. Brendan got up and walked to the door to see me out. I looked at Ebi, he had something to say, I could tell.

“Be a vessel,” he said. “In this life, we are each a vessel. A Godchild.”

“Godchild?” I asked.

“Yeah, we are each a Godchild. Miles Davis. Listen to it. We are each a vessel. Too much thinking, too much analyzing, will kill us…you gotta let go of that and let go of the fear. Be a vessel.” He put his palms together in thanks and closed his eyes toward me.

“I like that,” I said, musing on the thought. “Thank you.”

He smiled back. “Happy Birthday,” he said.

“You too,” I smiled.

I walked to the door where Brendan was waiting. He approached to hug me again. “Listen, take care,” he said, as we embraced. I felt like he wanted to say more.

I pulled the door open, looked back and smiled at both of them. We all said goodbye.

I walked down the street, and a block away I saw the orange and emerald green facade of Sant Ambreous again. Alireza was holding an elegant wine glass filled with a crisp Aperol spritz in his hand, while a photographer styled the photo. I put my hand up to my sunglasses as I approached them, and pulled them off of my face right as I passed their table. Alireza and I looked at each other at the same moment.

I passed Van Leeuwen’s, craving a scoop out of comfort and pure joy at life. I resisted the temptation.

I remembered that there is now a See’s Candies on 8th Street–a big deal for a California native to have a West Coast treat in the city. I popped in and picked out a single candy, my favorite: dark chocolate with vanilla-brown-sugar-caramel filling. The young guy behind the counter reached for a wax to-go bag. “I don’t need a bag,” I said, “I’m literally going to eat it right now.” His manager, observing nearby, heard me. The young guy looked at me, didn’t say anything except, “I’ll ring you up over there.” I walked down to the register and pulled out some cash. I handed it to him, and he handed me the candy. The manager walked over and pulled something out from below the counter and placed it in front of me: “a milk chocolate heart, wrapped in gold, for you,” he said.

“Thank you,” I smiled, totally giddy about scoring free chocolate.

I stepped out of the store and bit into the dark chocolate, amused at the childlike magic of that candy moment, thinking about Brendan and Ebi, our unique connection, how it will only be alive in our memory; thinking about the undeniable vibrations in the universe, the many frequencies we all inhabit and the constellations we form, and took a deep breath of my new bright and bold scent.

What magical moments, I thought. Birthday week is going well.

*

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s