Marcy (and The Masturbator)

Our very best boy Dylan died in April, before we moved to New York. Living without him has been agonizing. Dylan was the kind of dog people write novels about. He was a Lassie, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller kind of dog. Dylan was the kind of dog who only seems to exist in fiction,  who changed his people irrevocably, had a preternatural intelligence and loyalty that ran deeper than oceans. He was also exceedingly handsome, to the point where it was unusual to be out in public without garnering compliments. He was the kind of dog who makes you believe in God. Dylan truly was the best damn dog who has ever lived.

We waited a long time before adopting another dog. It was hard. We resisted the urge to rush into adopting out of grief. We made ourselves really feel and process the loneliness and the utter emptiness of life without Dylan. Those first few hours and days were all but unbearable. We laid on the couch clutching his toys and each other. We drove to the secret spot in the mountains where we got married, just the two of us and Dylan, and spread some of his ashes in the icy winter river.

God, it was awful. And it was beautiful. We found that elusive grace that can only emerge from grief.

We waited until we were in New York and the sharp edges of our pain had dulled. And then we decided to adopt a pup. We spent hours perusing rescue organizations. We found a dog. A labrador basset hound mix who looked absolutely ridiculous and I loved instantly. We had a Skype interview to prove our merit as dog parents. We signed up for the next adoption event.

Adoption Day was the gloomiest, stormiest day I’ve ever seen in my entire life. A longtime desert-dweller, I was not accustomed to the kind of persistent torrential downpours that are somewhat common here. It was miserable. We thought about our trek all the way out to Brooklyn, about slogging a new dog all the way back. We thought about cancelling. We thought about Dylan, and we knew it was time.

Around the corner and onto the train, cold and sopping. But on our way! And then it happened. The thing all women Subway riders are warned about. The masturbator appeared. He came in from another car and sat right across from me. He looked me dead in the eyes and stuck his hand down his baby blue sweatpants. He leered. And he started stroking.

And I froze. I was furious at myself, but I didn’t holler at him. I didn’t stand and deliver a triumphant feminist manifesto. Instead, as it always does when I’m uncomfortable, my face turned into the grimace emoji. I turned my dripping wet grimacing face to my husband who, still chattering away about our Dog Day, hadn’t noticed The Masturbator. I reached out. He looked at my Grimace. He looked at The Masturbator. And then Daniel stood and delivered the Feminist Manifesto for me! Gosh, I love him.

Daniel hollered and berated and all the while, The Masturbator kept jerking it. He didn’t stop, not even while Daniel loudly yelled, “We can ALL SEE YOU. Get your hand off your junk. You don’t do THAT in HERE.” My beloved husband, protector of all. At the next stop we, and everyone else in the car, promptly exited and reported The Masturbator.

We were now cold, soaked, sexually harassed, and late for the adoption event. Maybe it was all a sign that today just wasn’t the day. But, we had to. We just had to keep going. For Dylan. All the way to Brooklyn on the delayed trains. Off at Marcy Station, on to a little dog store by the river.

There were puppies. There were oldies. There were tinies and mediums and bigs. All kinds of dogs! There was a scaredy in the corner, refusing to look at anyone, and a Happy Lab who charged at me with a full erection (honestly, I couldn’t escape men and their boners that day). And then, there she was. That weird-looking beauty. A stubby little basset hound with the head of a Labrador. A Bassador. Our new best friend!

I turned to point her out to Daniel. But he was on the floor. And the scaredy from the corner was creeping into his lap. The little girl who had refused to look at anyone all morning nestled into Dan’s lap. She was a black lab with a fresh pink heart-shaped scratch on her nose and a splotch of white fur on her chest. Our new best friend.

We named her Marcy. After the Station and the highest peak in New York. A peak her big brother Dylan loved to climb.

How to Move to New York City

So you want to move to New York City! Your vagabond shoes are longing to stray to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of– the greatest city in the world? Queue up that Frank Sinatra/Jay-Z/Lin-Manuel Miranda playlist and let’s get you here.

  1. Start telling everyone you’re moving to Manhattan. Jump right into this. Speak it into reality. Most people will assume you are moving to Manhattan, Kansas.
  2. Schedule a tour of your local sewage facilities. There’s no better way to begin acclimating to life in NYC than to get yourself used to the acrid pungency of human excrement. Hey, everybody poops. Some people do it in public.
  3. To be successful in New York, you need to master the art of looking professional in sticky heat. Wear your work clothes into a sauna. Practice delivering an important presentation with your outfit plastered to your skin. Nailed it!
  4. Begin Rat Desensitization. Shrieking at rats is the fastest way to out yourself as a non-native. Attempt to watch the documentary Rats based on the excellent book of the same name.
  5. To prepare for the Chilly Months, put on your puffiest coat, fill two large bags with various books, electronics, and food items, then attempt to walk down several sets of stairs, through a narrow turnstile, and into an extremely crowded room in your most slippery pair of socks. This will simulate the experience of getting on a train on any given Winter workday.
  6. Recruit some of your friends to yell unexpected obscenities at you. Attempt to perfect your best, “I have cotton in my ears and love in my heart” face. Do not engage.
  7. Think about your finances, because it’s all fun and games until you realize living here is unfathomably, ludicrously, untenably expensive.

You’re probably ready to do this!

New York, New York

When Dan and I first met, I was in the process of giving away everything I owned. I’d been playing with the idea of taking on that postcolonial ritual of former English majors– teaching English abroad. I’d had a bad year and was desperate for a major life change. One of my friends had successfully moved to Prague the summer before, and fleeing the country seemed like a plausible next step for me.

I’d been in the middle of trying to pawn off clothes and tchotkes I didn’t want to move, when a friend said, “You know, you might as well have some fun before you leave.”  I’m sure my face turned into a perfect imitation of the grimace emoji, as it always does when I’m uncomfortable, but by the time I drove off into the icy dark, my friends were scouting out and scheduling potential dates.

When I first met Dan, I told him I was planning on leaving. And when he asked, some time later, if I’d consider waiting… well, I think I’d already withdrawn my applications by then, anyway.

But the idea of moving somewhere new stuck with us. We were living the most perfectly charmed and idyllic life. We had great jobs, amazing friends, a big house with a profligate vegetable garden, the most loyal and handsome dog who ever lived, and easy access to some of the most beautiful wilderness in all of America. And like a deranged Belle we kept shrieking, “There must be more than this provincial life!”

And that’s more or less how we came to be living in New York City.