Side Effects

This is the thing about arriving in New York; nobody tells you about the side effects.

Artisanal cocktails in a Swedish bar in Chinatown, waiting half an hour for each round and paying twenty-five a pop. End of the months spent counting every dollar.

And your mother, she just doesn’t get it.
“Honey, that’s more than I’ll ever make.”

I sigh and won’t tell her about how grossly underpaid I am, or how I spend half of my money on rent alone.

Side effects. The things you have left behind that still come back and haunt you. Like the memories of living alone, in a studio three stops from the city center. Octobers spent hiding from the world. Red wine and one long goodbye.

I thought it was all a dream. And who’s to say it wasn’t?

We poured shots, mixing tequila with sambuca like we would be young forever. I felt like everything I wanted was just a drunken wish away.

And it kind of was.

I wished for New York so bad until I didn’t. When the day arrived, I stepped on that plane. Hungover and confused; New York could sense it. It took everything I had and gave me cheap replicas in return.

It’s like when you chip a nail and try painting the flaw away. But you can tell from the outlines; what’s broken can’t be fixed. The sweet smell of acetone, just wipe it all clean and start over.

Side effects. This city paints a thin line between anonymous and nobody.

Would it be better to make it big in a small town than be mediocre in the greatest city in the world?

I am so great at these facades. See what I’ve dreamt up, mixing Instagram filters and media mentions and LinkedIn posts. Doesn’t my thousand dollar patent leather boot just scream I’m a big city girl now.

The one that made it.

The one that got away.

Blah blah all that.

Can I tell you a secret? I hated New York. I was sick and anxious, hiding panic attacks in the dressing room of Forever 21.

But nobody tells you about these side effects.

And so you keep on scrolling along, one illusion at a time.

Christine Göös
Tiny Island

Meet me on that tiny island off the marina,

Shoulder to shoulder
your weight presses into mine.

My old lover,
didn’t we think we’d have all that time?

The sea black, October gloom.

We are everything we’ll ever be
and nothing, so soon.

My old lover,
tiny island you are.

Christine Göös
Pawn Shop

You are my treasure

my emerald and gold

- I get jealous when others wear you.

Because when they do,

they wear you down.

Christine Göös
The Wait

Waiting for things.

Food delivery.

Turning thirty and then never aging again.

Getting that big break.

Getting your period.

Blood results. Callbacks.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

(and you bet it’s a Manolo)

Shots at the bar,

ten more at the clinic.

The first summer night in Brooklyn.

W-2s. Tax returns.

Bonuses, raises,

and hair that grows past your shoulders.

The L-train. Credit score.

Cold brew on a Monday morning.

Falling asleep with something to dream about.

Christine Göös
San Marino

The early aughts. We’re on a family vacation in the outskirts of Ravenna. A rental and a spontaneous suggestion: day trip – San Marino, it’s a country of its own! We get in the car; papá, his girlfriend, my sister and I. The air is ochre, drawing stark contrasts with the baby blue sky. I breathe it in through the open window. We don’t waste gas on air-conditioning.

On the way, we stop by a rustic road-side restaurant, family-style. The parking lot nothing but a rocky front yard. We’re the only patrons but papá has his dad gear on and insists on moving the car to a quote-unquote better spot. He drives it swiftly onto an unfortunately placed metal bar. Hiss as the tire breaks. Puttana-di-sua-madre! More swearing ensues. We go for lunch anyways.

The neighbor helps us with the spare tire, a comically tiny thing that gets us just about as far as the Rimini airport to the closest Herz. More swearing. It’s expensive to exchange a rental. We’re still going to San Marino if it kills us.

Finally, at the bottom of the lilliput state, papá announces that we have exactly fifteen minutes to climb uphill and see San Marino before e poi sbigniamo a casa. We try to argue. We’re not in a hurry. We’re on vacation. But there is no changing his mind.

So we run. We run up the rocky roads, passing idle groups of tourists, dodging street vendors and children. Sweaty. Out of breath. At the top, we finally pause and exclaim: che bella vista! Then we have exactly 30 seconds to take a picture and hurry back down, jump in the car and drive back home.

Christine Göös

I am my sister’s keeper,
protect her from the wolves.
I locked the doors, I shut the blinds.
But the wolves remain within.

I am my sister’s keeper.
No-one guards her like I do.
When she runs, I lend her shoes.
When she cries, her tears I dry.

I am my sister’s keeper
and her history is mine.
Arm in arm, she sleeps
to my twisted lullabies.

Christine Göös
Dress Rehearsal

The show starts in ninety minutes, einlass in an hour. The girls need to be ready: primped, perfumed and poised by the time the crowds well in through the main gates of the circus. I sit in the corner of the dressing room, which, in reality, is an antique wooden caravan complete with a long makeup table and bulbs tracing the outlines of the mirror.

The ballerinas are all British. This was the time before the shows replaced them with cheaper labor from Russia and Kazakstan. These Kates, Janes, Maries are in their early twenties. Girls, really, but to me, they are the incarnation of the ideal female specimen. Lithe, long limbs. Flat stomachs result of hours of dance exercises. They exist on a diet of muesli and yogurt – fat-free because it is all the rage in the 90s.

I spend my entire summer in that narrow caravan just observing. How they comb their long, full hair under the hair net and place imaginative wigs, number after number. How they slip into the tiniest thongs I had never seen anyone use as underwear before. How they paint on their show face and help zip up the backs of their glittery ballgowns in all shades of pastel. It’s a dream.

Then there is the penultimate number right before the finale. Powdery, sky-high Marge Simpson hair with rococo costumes. Cornucopia-filled tables as dresses. I run back to our caravan and hand in hand, my sister and I ask to have costumes just like the ballerinas. We find cardboard boxes to perforate and cover them with nonna Daisy’s tablecloths. Checkered with flower and tomato and eggplant motif. We run around the circus grounds, showing off to everyone and anyone. We are convinced we’ll grow up to wear the real deal, one day, glistening in the circus ring spotlights. Every summer we practice as if we’d soon become part of the troupe. But we are not artists and we lack the discipline. We’re outsiders. Private people, they call us. We arrive at the dress rehearsal but it will never be the premiere for us.

Christine Göös