The Curse of Brooklyn Couples

“What I don’t want, more than anything, is to become one of those people who is just ‘satisfied’ with the fact that they live in Brooklyn. I don’t want to fall victim to that, and I think now that we’re in a domestic situation, we have to be very careful. Because I won’t allow stasis to occur. And I don’t want to stay in New York for much longer.”

Before she could respond in a positive or negative way, he continued, “So many people are happy–feel an incomparable sense of achievement–just from moving to New York. They think it’s the end all, be all and that they’ve got nothing else to prove once they’ve ‘made it.’ Well, that’s not me, and it never will be. I want to move on to bigger things, I’ve got too much to give to this world to stay in one place.”

Sensing that he might finally pause long enough for her to get a word in edgewise, Chloe timidly offered, “Well, how much longer do you think we’ll stay then?”

Jared bristled at her use of the word “we.” “You can do whatever you want. You’re your own woman. I’m just telling you that when the time comes, I’m leaving and I won’t look back.”

This assertion rather worried her. They had, after all, freshly moved in together in a very expensive apartment in Crown Heights that was probably too small to cause anything other than domestic strife. Maybe that’s what was prompting Jared’s abrupt tirade: sudden fear of the implications of this level of intimacy. Maybe Chloe had nudged too hard about this plot point in their relationship. But it was, at the same time, too good an opportunity to pass up: that both of their leases’ termination just happened to coincide, making way for the chance to not live with a number of disgusting strangers, but, instead just one disgusting person that you loved. At least, that’s how Chloe felt. Hearing Jared talk now, she wasn’t so sure what his motives were in agreeing to move in, other than, perhaps, convenience. That was usually the best way to ensnare a boy. But Chloe hadn’t quite yet become fully aware of this fact, genuinely believing that it was out of tenderness and affection that Jared would want to live with her.

In spite of his diatribe about the especial complacency that came with being a Brooklyn couple, Chloe went about the motions of doing her “girlfriendly duties” that evening, preparing a dish of oven-poached sole with lemon caper sauce, using ingredients she had purchased from the corner market. That’s the thing about Brooklyn: its bourgeois grocers practically encouraged just the sort of contented domestication that Jared seemed to fear the most. How could Chloe have possibly avoided that which Jared wanted to? A succumbing to a 1950s lifestyle in the late early twenty-first century. She tried to soften the blow of what was happening to their dynamic by making her food as irresistibly flavorful and delicious as possible, sort of like Sarah Michelle Gellar as a witchy chef in Simply Irresistible. A movie that, among others, Chloe had, in her new lack of self-consciousness in sharing a space with Jared, freely watched without abashment. In the beginning of their relationship, she might never have admitted to consuming anything other than four-star films or that her makeup-caked face was anything other than natural. A co-habitative existence altered all the smoke and mirrors she had held up before though.

Jared, too, was letting himself go a little more. Walking around in his boxer briefs showcasing a hairy gut while drinking orange juice or some other such beverage from its carton. In short, things were turning very grim very quickly. The death of romance had been brought on by the death of mystery. And though Chloe gleaned no greater joy than the one that came from lying close to another person at night, the paradigm shift that was occurring between them began to grow increasingly worrisome to her. Soon, even her ornately prepared dinners weren’t enough reason for Jared to return home in a timely fashion, his new preference being to get drinks with co-workers or friends that would predictably lead to him stumbling home in a state of inebriation that made an active sex life practically impossible.

At first, Chloe chalked it up to that dissatisfaction Jared had spoke of: feeling the way other transplants to New York never could. He was not sated by being financially and romantically “successful;” no, there was something missing, and he had to find out what and where it was, outside of New York. Over the course of their twelve month commitment to the apartment, however, she came to discover that it wasn’t merely a desire to do and be more than yet another person who moved to New York and found himself shacked up, his previous ambitions sidelined. It was a desire to be free of her, for reasons even Jared himself probably couldn’t fully explain.

One night, toward the end of their lease, Jared arrived home remarkably drunk, even for him. The sight of several opened bills from ConEd, National Grid and Optimum set him off on a belligerent rant that concluded with the derisively sarcastic comment, “Here we are, broke as all get out–but we live in Brooklyn!” Chloe tried to assuage him by offering him a glass of water and a piece of cold pizza that they had ordered from the previous night. He swatted both away from her and persisted in shouting, “I’m leaving! Next week. I can’t do this anymore.”

Chloe demanded, “Where will you go?”

He shrugged, suddenly calm again. “Anywhere.”

“What about me?” she heard herself asking helplessly. And when it came out, she knew it must have sounded even more feeble and plaintive to him than it did to her. With the question hanging in the air like a thick film of pollution, she wished she could snatch it and put it back inside her mouth. Because she already knew the answer.

So maybe the curse of Brooklyn couples was the curse of all couples, often spurred by monetary squabbles: one party accepted life as it was–expected to be–and the other simply could not, wanting always something else unknowable. Or, to put it more succinctly, one was too intoxicated by love alone–the fanfare and mysticism that it was supposed to entail–and the other was not.

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