Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

In the Hospitality of Friends

“Anna has a cold today, so please be forgiving,” they told us before Act I of Anna Bolena. If they hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known (perhaps the mark of an inexperienced ear), for her voice soared in luscious bel canto through the Metropolitan Opera House last night. I experienced this Donizetti masterpiece for the very first time, with its choral wealth, and beautiful duets and trios.
Sharron and I had spent the whole day on our feet – walking High Line Park in the morning, then dancing (four hours, for me), then walking to the Lincoln Center. Our orchestra level tickets were for the standing room seats, behind the senior citizens and the uber-rich.
Every time I walk in to that opera house, I remember my first visit – I was 20 (not so long ago) and I remember being stunned by the exploding cloudbursts of chandeliers, the rich maroon walls, and a stage that seemed big enough to drive a bus onto.  I saw Turandot.
Now, Anna Bolena, clocking in at three and a half hours, long enough to remind me of my body’s weakness as my feet and legs began to complain. But when Anna goes mad at the end, in a jaw-dropping, demanding solo, there was no ache anymore, only her incredible voice.
Today is the end of a four-day Fall Break. I saw so many friends, old and new, and found myself observing and participating in the minutiae of their lives and relationships. More than once I was struck by the way worry or anxiety tempers even the most generous of joys. My own temperance too on the way through DC, being in a city that has held so many memories and frustrations, an intensity of self-absorption, and I left wondering if there would be a next time. On the other hand, I doubt if I had any joy this weekend more simple and easy than riding the DC bikeshare down Pennsylvania Avenue with a friend I've known for over 21 years, my skin drinking in warm sunshine.
I stopped in Richmond, too, for the first time and found it sweet and relaxing – more a product of Kara’s excellent hospitality than the city itself.
In New York, too, I found the deep pleasure of good meals with friends, the generous comfort of my friend and her sharp mind and finding we had more in common than I knew. She and her kind husband’s Brooklyn apartment, offering me warm soya milk and the most high-pressure showerhead I’ve ever felt. It helped that the warmth of an Indian summer lingered in the days I was there. Bryant Park, Brooklyn ice cream, local food, walking the High Line, Lincoln Center. Soaking in the way the flat sunlight brought every texture and surface into constructed clarity. I danced two days in a row, (joy!), on the second day pushing until under-practiced muscles began to give out. I could be so much stronger than I am. You see, even I temper myself.
Now I must pick up on responsibilities reneged, pull the burden off of friends and classmates who I put much upon. Time, which has paced alongside me so easily these days, will begin to race again.  Sleep remains elusive.  What has crept back to me in these days is the sensation of awakeness. The feeling of my partner’s pulse jumping in his hand, the floor whispering under my dance shoes, the melody of an easy foxtrot winding in my brain. Around the city, I looked into the eyes of the people around me, trying to see them, delighting in the way their consciousness looked back to me, or didn’t.
Fall break – such a misnomer. It was a break from school, yes, a break from Durham, and everything happening there. But it was a plunge too, an investment and commitment toward something new, and a recommitment to the friends who made their homes mine. 
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