Volume Five: Bye lines.
tl;dr: The Only Email Not Talking About Snow, Björk and Four Other Common Nouns
How was that? Did you feel the warmth? Do you feel acknowledged and beckoned? Good. Enough with the hellos! Today, we’re talking about goodbyes.
In animated nightmare movie, Monster House, the titular house is haunted because a woman was, quite literally, cemented into its foundation. As I was perpetually moved and new growing up, I similarly cement an outsize amount of meaning into physical places.
Which brings us to my upcoming move. I’ve lived in my apartment for nearly three years on a month-to-month basis. Enthusiastic commitment isn’t exactly my strong suit. Neither is gracefully handling the burden of infinite choice.
While I’ve been adjusting to the idea of not being able to pack my life into three suitcases on a moment’s notice—I ordered a couch yesterday!—I’ve been thinking about this quote from Anxious People by Fredrik Backman:
“When you’re a child, you long to be an adult and decide everything for yourself, but when you’re an adult you realize that’s the worst part of it…. You have to make choices and be chosen by others, every second, the whole time.”
Luckily for my tendency toward place-based nostalgia, I’m only moving down the block. I’m sure the pigeons who have taken up living, dying, loving residence on my balcony will miss hearing me watching Love Island at 4 a.m. Unfortunately for them, I will not miss their disgusting, guttural coos. That said, I might miss the apartment’s ephemeral cat decor a little bit.
A momentary alliance, a planetary alignment
In 2018, an adored confidant, Nicki, invited me to spend an evening saying, “Hello! Welcome!” over and over to people attending a cocktail party at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. If I donated my voice to the cause of helloing and welcoming (really, only five consonants and two vowels of work per greeted guest) for his events company employer, I would be granted the honor of swanning around as a party guest afterward.
The woman I hello’d and welcomed next to that night—another volunteer—was not named Angelica Comet* (reminder: asterisk’d names are fake names), but her real name follows the extraterrestrial theme. We ran out of h.’s and w.’s after a thirty-minute verbal sprint and were released from our duties. My friend was not—he continued to clatter around the museum’s courtyard, real responsibilities clinging to his clipboard. So Angelica and I walked around the venue, finding lots of opportunity tucked away inside the other 24 letters.
She was a photographer, and a damn good one. I wasn’t much of anything yet. We stared at a giant photograph of the moon, sipped and sampled, watched a dance break out in the center of one of the exhibits, wandered into a meditation room (where heeled, gowned attendees sat on the floor, transfixed by tranquil projector scenes of middle America until a meditation facilitator shook a bell near their heads—unleashing them back into the boozy fray) and spied on a caricature artist who existed to make people into worse versions of themselves. Then, the night ended, we exchanged social media handles and settled back into our respective life contexts.
According to the milestones of her life that are easy for strangers to clock, she’s moved, fallen in love, gotten engaged, gotten married…It seems like she’s doing okay, if getting ever further from my flashbulb memory of her. The other day, I saw a photo of her with her child, and it made me so happy I almost cried. I was so taken aback by that admittedly strange reaction to a stranger’s joy that I’ve been interrogating why for weeks.
Where I’ve landed is on the idea that a, “farewell,” and a, “goodbye,” are really quite different from each other, regardless of which word is said out loud to categorize a parting.
With the latter, the convergence of two people can be reduced to a universal slip of the tongue. A goodbye is a mutually assured ending. To not be continued.
The former, however, is the type of pausing that means you always, genuinely hope that someone is faring well—regardless of maintained relationship or changed circumstance. An ellipsis. An, “It’ll be nice to meet you tomorrow.”
An investment in celebrity.
There’s something to being a nonperson in a space that’s doused in candle light and plays jazz every four songs or so. Rooms like that always hold a sense of rising action that may or may not be realized.
One day, the rising action that befell me manifested as Seth* the drinking dancer.
“I saw her here,” the man who had been barstool dancing next to me for the past several songs said, by way of conspiratorial introduction, “I love her. Isn’t she amazing?”
“Yes, she’s so good,” I said, not knowing the song or the singer at all.
“She sometimes brings dates here,” he said, hair so blonde and so piercing that I almost want to describe his eyes that way too, “I’ve seen her twice.”
“Did you talk to her?”
“No, no, I could never talk to Björk. I love her so much. What’s your name?”
“Nicole.” Ah, Björk. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a photo of her, so I will never see Björk in this bar.
“I’m Seth. I’m a dancer.” A real one, apparently, when not limited to a wobbly barstool’s wooden shimmy and shake.
“If you talked to her you could make her into a regular, you know.”
“But it would be rude…”
“No, no, don’t talk to her as a fan. Just treat her like she’s me; give her a real regular’s welcome.” He protested more, followed me on Instagram as a diversionary tactic and continued talking about how much he likes Björk. I decided to break out the big guns before he committed to a walk-out song. (He and the bartender had been debating song selection for that purpose.)
“If you talked to her, you wouldn’t be stuck talking to me, Seth.”
Checkmate. He probably didn’t remember too much of our goodbye that particular tomorrow, but I hope to see him around with Björk (after I’ve studied photos of what she looks like) in a distant one. If I do, I’ll know that my instigation, at least, leaves a lingering impression.
A slightly neurotic non seq.
The latest round of New York internet doxxing featuring a man who reportedly wasn’t good at goodbyes (among other things) compelled me to share an easy way to audit some of your own personal data on social media. Warning: This is a little less whimsical than usual, but sue me baby, it’s tax season!
Basically, social networks like Instagram and Twitter will send you a zip file of data they’ve collected both from and about you—you just have to request it.
In the file, they break down every post you’ve made, advertisers that use your data or have added you to their audience lists and keywords they internally label you with to sell you things. Note: In Instagram’s absolutely terrifying case, mine included a ton of mental health keywords that were really accurate. There’s no option to remove them. On Twitter, I believe you’re able to make edits.
Here’s how to do it on the two I mentioned:
On browser Instagram (not the app), go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Scroll down to Data Download > Request Data Download
On browser Twitter (not the app), go to Settings and Privacy > Your Account > Download an archive of your data
It takes a few days for them to send the file, but… do it if it’s of interest? Sip a beer on a cold night and take a tour through the museum of yourself. As one subscriber of this neuesletter tends to rubber-stamp our in-person partings, out of a belief we’ll never see each other again, “Good luck!”
It might not be the Portrait Gallery, but maybe you’ll find something worth remembering (or, at the very least, sending Meta a mean email about).
That’s all, folks. And other bye lines.
I’ll probably touch on this topic again because this was pretty loose, but say it again with me, “Sue me baby, it’s tax season!” That’s a two-in-one catchphrase/conversation-ender that I adopted a few years ago to excuse personal anarchy in the space between January and April. Usually, no one challenges it. If they do, shout a well-timed, “Buzz off, bucko!” at them, and email me in the morning.
Now, here are four other things, themed off of notable lasting notes.
Something to fold: Another great conversation-cauterizer to throw into a group chat is, “ok emily… go back to paris…” In other words, Summer and I started playing French Wordle. I guess letters until I stumble across any French five-letter word at all, basking in the certainty of failure all the while. I have won twice, anarchy wins, etc.
Something new: For tales of strange goodbyes and strange hellos both, put on the most compulsively listenable podcast I’ve heard in forever, Normal Gossip. It’s half smart discussions about the role gossip plays in our lives, half great gossip submitted by strangers. While you’re thinking about people and the way we operate, check out this brand new collection of microfiction, “Notes On Being Human,” by Nice2MeetYou friend Barbara—romance author extraordinaire and one of my new favorite people to talk writing with.
Something borrowed: Read this piece shared with me months ago about Irish goodbyes—a.k.a. micro-ghosting. “To commit to the Irish Goodbye is to insist on being remembered at your best — telling a joke on the balcony, mixing a good cocktail at the bar — rather than at the always-awkward departure, rummaging through a great pile of coats before struggling into your own.”
Something coming soon.. or like, eventually: “Talk to you SOOOOON.” “SOON.” That’s the security-inspiring way Jake has ended phone calls with me for forever—it’s his birthday today! Say it to him! Speaking of security, a new Vivid Fever Dreams song called Security dropped on Friday. STREAM IT NOW. Daniel, the living & breathing person behind VFD, agreed to write a theme song for this neuesletter that he keeps saying yours truly will have to “spit bars” on, so… stay tuned for that soon (in the loosest sense of the word).
And, that’s a wrap for January! Oh also, I’m looking for friend-of-a-friend artists (any medium, loosest sense of the word) to ask one specific, secret question to in February for Vol. Six. Send suggestions my way, and I’ll slide into their DMs.
Good luck! See you soon! And, as always, it’ll be nice to meet you tomorrow,
-- N. Graney I
P.S. Lucky penny for your thoughts? I recently read Tender is the Night with no prior understanding of its plot because it has a character named Nicole in it, and I live for the thrill of projecting myself onto mean sentences like, “…but for Nicole the years slipped away by clock and calendar and birthday, with the added poignance of her perishable beauty.” Send me whatever your brain’s been occupied with before my poignant perishable beauty perishes for good, and I’ll give you a cent for your two cents.
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