The Home · The Soul

Ohana

On days like today, my lungs slowly turn into wet cement bags and my trachea swells up so much that it pushes against my esophagus and I develop a gaggy cough. It is 90-something and New York City humid, and has been for the last three days. I finally capitulated to my need for oxygen and turned on the air conditioning.

My new place is cool and dry. It’s a sunken first-floor apartment – up to its eyeball-windows in cool, cool dirt. While I am getting an air conditioner for days like today, I scarcely need one, so the bill will be low. And it’s dry. An oscillating fan should do most of the heavy lifting.

The predictable things are happening – I had to run to Ikea to exchange a bed (the picker had given me full- instead of queen-size), and the air conditioner I DID order turned out to be the wrong sort. I regret to say I am relying on Amazon for much of this move (I know, I know, I’m sorry) – part of its devilishness is that it makes things SO DAMN EASY for its customers. Yes, I read the New York Times article. I read the articles in response to the New York Times article. I have previously read Hamilton Nolan’s articles on Gawker about warehouse workers.

And yet. I fall onto the path of least resistance and compromise my conscience because I am In A Hurry. Tomorrow is moving day.

Bernardo has lined up the 22-year-old son of our friend Kim, and I’ve hired the van (again). Tomorrow all my books, clothing, and furniture will zip around the corner. Smaller things will come in dribs and drabs as time goes on.

Bernardo explained to John, Kim’s husband and Bernardo’s best friend, that we weren’t breaking up, but that I really needed “space”. That’s true enough – but in terms of square feet I’m trading a three bedroom house with a finished attic and basement for a two room apartment – with a kitchen the size of an iPhone, and a bathroom. It’s less about physical space and more about emotional and psychological space…and autonomy. When you live with someone who has tremendous needs like Gina does, you don’t get much autonomy. (Bernardo’s not taken a proper, Gina-free vacation since 2008. In ten years, he’s spent one night away, while I stayed with Gina. But Gina is also a massive source of anxiety for me, in ways that – because he’s her father – Bernardo doesn’t feel so much.

I consider us all a family. I still feel strongly that I am Gina’s stepmother. But the notion of “family” is a fluid thing. In the eternal words of Lilo, “Ohana means family. And family means nobody gets left behind.” Including me.

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