Stockholm Syndrome

She sat on her vintage gold and silver velvet striped chair and looked out the window. She always wondered who lived in the apartment complex adjacent to her. Not in front of her apartment, but to the east side, overlooking the parking lot. Home to the Wyckoff Medical Center interns and their Toyota Camrys, the home repair trucks, loud work related phone calls at 6am and silent dog walks at 6pm. She never sees people come out of that apartment. Nobody in the neighborhood sees people in it, either. The windows are small and a little too far apart, crookedly placed above a line of unfinished paint, marked up with tags and black and white graffiti paint. Only one of the windows is lit a dingy pale grey-white, no visible light source to be found. The fenced off part of the parking lot is almost prison like, inhumane. It could be mistaken as an abandoned warehouse, had it not been observed in the eyes of a San Francisco industrial district native. It was simply one of the few untouched archaic edifices left, the last amount of character barely clinging on to the cement walls before succumbing to the reworkings of gentrification.

And yet, the people that live in Bushwick/Ridgewood greet in the mornings - yes, even to the young white girl who looks like the people who displaced much of the neighborhood's families and homes - without second thought. They let their kids play in the broken fire hydrant fountain in the summers, have cookouts on street corners with fresh elote and tacos, meet their in-laws for beers and laughs on their front steps outside. One thing that was for sure was that she always felt safe. The $2 Bud drafts and pool tables at golden, red and brown clad Carmelo's. The conspiracy theory reads and pistachio madeleines at Molasses Books, lethargic-euphoric walks home after a Kava Bar visit. They were only a hop and a skip away, another moment of time to be passed in to memory and lived for nothing more than what it was, just like the kids on the street in the summertime. She found less and less excuses for not going out. Maybe it was the kind of ease of Bushwick that she was desperate to recover in herself.

She bought her baby bamboo plant for $8 at the deli on the corner of Stockholm and Wyckoff St, an enclave blindingly gleaming with Heineken advertisements in the faint moonlight. It seemed to suck all of the color out of the mellow burnt orange of the Wyckoff Medical Center and the Baskin Robbins that always ran out of butter pecan ice cream. The shop owner said she picked a good plant, although it's likely he would say that to reassure all of his buyers of their floral purchases. It was particularly hard to find among the plethora of plants on display - large palm leaves, purple succulents in matte ceramic pots, roses gathered in clear wrap for a pending lover, forest green thick foliage, carnations in every shade, tiger striped aloe and cactuses with spiky red tops that looked like crimson lychees. It was shyly tucked under an array of spiky green plants, the only plant with a shiny teal ceramic pot that had rocks instead of soil. Brooklyn sure isn't the environment for a bamboo plant, but there is hope in trying. The landlords cut down the vines that trailed from her backyard to wind up her window bars anyway. She wanted there to be something to look out at other than parking lot. Life.

And life there was. Fall was beginning, although she felt much of her internal world ending. Revising, at the very least. Her morning paintings had grown ravenous, furiously thrashed with strokes of royal blue and coral green, dripping red and yellow from the underside. Her nighttime journaling had become obsessive, incomplete, of denial instead of reflection. And she couldn't stop thinking about the tarot reading Bella gave her, the one where she had pulled The Tower for her “future” placement, signifying something to come that will be demolished. She looked at the future side of her aura reading, too, saturated in magenta (guidance, innovation) to overcome where there had previously been a white and blue halo surrounding her head (higher spirituality, communication). She remembered the guy she dated over the summer, explaining to him about her artistic block that manifested in overthinking and the books she had read in attempts to dislodge it. He laughed and told her he would never read a book in his life again. She looked at three weeks' worth of The New Yorker on her table, mind-flipping through hours of personal essays for her own book someday, perplexed. Wondering why she felt the configuration made sense in the first place. Then again, nothing makes a considerable amount of sense when you're 20 years old.

This was all to say that the only amount of sense that grounded her could be found in the places she took for granted when she was too busy obsessing. On a run to the Ridgewood church by Norma's Corner Shoppe and the record store, nestled just to the east of the M train overhead, a stop for a five minute history lesson or goat cheese sandwiches on herbed potato rolls. Bushwick bore a simplicity and pace of life that came and went, and when you only know how to constantly function on workload autopilot, this could be a good thing. Looking out the window in her little chair at night became a reason for stillness. The moon became obscured by the thick blanket of taupe fog that gives New York City its characteristic polluted glow. All the blaring lamppost in the parking lot did is stare at her back. There was nothing to be said. But there was a little bamboo plant and some white sage in an abalone bowl, a Debussy record resting against a pile of sweaters. She shut the window, lit a match, and held it to the sage to burn white smoke across her room. It could have been weed smoke, witchcraft, incense, depending on the time of day, the mood in question, the stress of the present or coming day. Her mind always ran a mile a minute, and whether that was to her detriment or not said much about smoke and time spent staring out windows.

That night it was her silent prayer for all her fellow bonafide nihilists, the troubled young artists, to try to find some hope where it feels so easily lost. Even in disturbed 321 Stockholm, where the dead cat was found in the backyard and memories decide to have minds of their own. Her mental health was on the shelf again to get things done. The urgency of relief from an often nonexistent threat, working towards an impossible goal, a life that is just too many steps out of her reach. She was learning to navigate everything from school to her perceived purpose in life, at the pace that occurs as naturally as the man who watches the Deli plants from 8am to 10pm or the Wyckoff Medical Center interns who get in to their cars at sundown one step closer to their rightful permanent position at the hospital. She glanced carefully at the wobbly bamboo plant. Maybe she felt out of place, just like tropical foliage that rustles from the subway running underneath every ten minutes, always running out of water at the worst of times. But that wasn't going to stop her from growing. Or, even better – from the life that was passing by, just outside her window, right in an exposed brick three story apartment that crookedly, unforgivingly, stands with pride in the heart of Bushwick. Integrity bore a new face that evening, and just maybe, it could stay that way for a comfortable while.

She grabbed her computer off the foot of her bed, lined in copper fairy lights, got to work in her vintage velvet chair, and set her alarm to 8:00 am once again.

Sasha BerlinerComment