Thursday, April 5, 2012


How to Plan for a Better Spring

1. Move. In January. Move into a new apartment high in the sky that you have to walk up six flights to get to. Have it be small, have it be full of your sibling’s furniture, your sibling who moved away from this small place to the big wide yawn of California. Have it be haunted by their ghost, by strange noises, by loud neighbors who shout like murderers at football games, who scream with strange pain when they climax with hookers. (Yes, they have to be hookers. They can’t be girlfriends. These women, these girls, have to sound young in the hallway through your door, they have to seem smoky and lazy, they should probably be named Dina, but they can have other names too.) Make sure there is one cockroach, you think it’s the same one, the one your sibling told you about, who appears sometimes on the kitchen counter, sneaking around inspecting the dirty dishes that no one else will clean, because you live alone for the first time. Begin to almost find this little bug cute, to treasure its odd, clicking, menacing company. Begin to think that maybe living alone isn’t as fabulous as all your friends promised it would be.

2. Record the entire season of Whitney on DVR because no one is around to see you watch it.

3. Go to brunch! Oh god, go to brunch. Go to brunch when you want to, especially go to brunch when you don’t want to. Go to brunch when the thick, mucusy fingers of last night are still prodding and squishing at your brain. Go to brunch feeling a little bit to the left of yourself, go and see your friends and smile and share in some tired laughs and poke your fork at the cold eggs in front of you and envy the french fries on the plate of the person next to you.

4. Steal one of their french fries. Make it seem cute or coy if they catch you. Especially do this if you have a small but abiding crush on the person sitting next to you, even though their boyfriend or girlfriend is sitting next to them, seemingly not paying attention, guzzling their own mimosa, laughing at some other conversation, but of course they are watching, always watching, noticing. Put the person sitting next to you in danger, continue to be coy, to be cute, touch their shoulder. Feel if they pull away or if the warm pulse of them seems to draw closer toward you.

5. You must go to a bar! After brunch, you must stagger off with a few of your brunch friends and you must sit in the darkest corner of a quiet afternoon bar and you must have serious, nodding, hazy conversations about the intransigences of life, you must try to remember what weekend it was — When you were all upstate? When someone broke that vase? — when all those funny things happened. Sigh when you remember, feel a little old, but also cozy that you are all feeling old together. Feel okay about the winter. Hope that there’s some snow falling when you leave.

6. Stay out. It’s imperative that you stay out for, oh, many more hours. You should, if possible, bounce from one group of friends to another, and then maybe to just one friend, who lives in some little corner of the city and with whom you can burrow for a few hours. Or many hours. Drink sour wine named after a black cat or its yellow tail and begin to feel thick and hungry.

7. Don’t eat! You already ate brunch, remember? You’ll be fine. Potatoes are fortifying! You had so many potatoes.

8. Decide, eventually, that it’s time to leave. This can be done once your friend has fallen asleep on their sad, crumbling temporary couch that has been temporary for five years, or it can happen just on a whim, a little dull electrical flash in the brain that says “Go home.”

9. On the way home ask a stranger for directions in an accent that isn’t yours. Revel in the way they seem proud of themselves for giving you, foreign made-up you, the right directions in this sprawling city.

10. Get in a cab and maybe fall asleep, you’ve had a long day. Or don’t. Maybe fiddle on your phone and send an ill-advised text or two, someone must still be awake, or just stare out the window and watch all the buildings, there are so many buildings here, as they lurch by beyond the glass. If you do this last thing, think about home while you do it. Look at the sky for snow, find none.

11. When you get out of the cab, run across the street toward your apartment, barely miss traffic, and then, just as you’re almost to the curb, slip or dip or stumble or fumble or do some stupid thing, something that your tired, wine-heavy hands aren’t quite ready for, and land face down on the sidewalk.

12. Feel the strange feeling of your forehead resting on cement.

13. Pull your head up, check for broken teeth, find none, feel relieved, but then see the steady spatter of blood as it drips drips drips onto the sidewalk.

14. Stand up, put your hand to your forehead, pull it away and look at it. Is it covered in red? Good. You’re on the right track.

15. Freak out! Oh man, freak out! Make a sound, from the back of your throat that presses through your pursed lips like a dying motor’s hum, and try to get someone’s attention without, really, trying to get someone’s attention. Decide what’s worse: Creating a scene or bleeding out right there on this street, at four am, when the day had started so auspiciously, with stupid horrible brunch.

16. Decide that it’s a hospital you should go to, not home. Hail a cab. Make sure to wave your bloody hands in the window, be sure that the driver sees them, sees the panic in your dripping face, so he can drive away.

17. Walk your damn self to the hospital instead, sit there for hours, thank yourself for having a job, thank that job for giving you insurance, grow bored, sober up, fiddle once again with your phone. Sit more. Sit some more. Sit forever. Watch the drunken yelling bums wheeled by in the ER, feel not that much different from them. Watch the nurses. Think about hospitals, the general idea of them. They’re nice, aren’t they? All these people caring for one another? Just because they should. Finally fill out some forms and get stitched up. Feel embarrassed. Walk home. Squint in the sun and stare at everyone enjoying their mornings. Wonder what it would be like to be them, looking at you.

18. Stay inside forever! Or what feels like forever. Hide your sad, bandaged face from the world for a few days. Order delivery. Thank the internet for all that it's given us but specifically for the way it can conjure up food with a few wordless clicks. Begin to feel crazy, but beautifully so, operatically, like a novel. Fancy yourself Emily Dickinson, wasting away somewhere in western Massachusetts. Change your bandages, examine your scabs, wonder about scars. Secretly hope for scars. Be oddly glad when one starts to emerge, a purple crescent moon right at the widow’s peak center of your forehead. Wait. Sleep.

19. Begin the next week like you own it. If possible, you should have gone away for the weekend to see your family and now be glad to be back in the city. Your face has cleared up for the most part, maybe you are Wolverine you heal so fast, and you’ve ordered new glasses (the old ones are serviceable, but scratched, and you didn’t like them anyway), and this is a whole new week.

20. Have Monday.

21. Have Tuesday.

22. Begin Wednesday with the same odd enthusiasm. Sit and do your silly work.

23. Hear the phone ring. Look down at it. See that it’s a friend, an old friend, a really good friend, calling from California. Answer with a bright hello.

24. Then have the bottom drop out. Make sure you can’t tell if you’re sitting or standing. Make sure you don’t understand, that you stammer dumb questions, when your friend’s boyfriend tells you that your friend has died, that she’s suddenly just — What is the noise? The action? A pffft? A whiffff? — left the Earth.

25. Make sure it’s a good friend, a unique friend, an infuriating and difficult and creative and challenging and altogether irreplaceable friend. Make sure she was doing so well the last time you talked to her. Don’t forget to immediately regret how long ago that was.

26. Be numb. See friends. Gather close. Huddle. Pretend to light a candle. Want to take a bath, though you haven’t taken one in years. Dream that it’s a dream. Wake up on your couch. Drink, rinse, repeat. Eat food. Eat a lot of food. Spend money. Take one walk to the river or lake or ocean or whatever bit of water is nearby and look at it and wonder how old the water is, wonder how many times it’s just lapped up there while someone stood looking at it, thinking about time.

27. Forget you were ever worried about your stupid face that you fell on.

28. Drive north to a funeral. Rent a car in the city and make a road trip of it, you and your friends. Try to forget what it is that you’re driving toward. Fiddle with the radio as stations go in and out, sing along to old songs that you remember, sing along to new songs you will now never forget.

29. Make sure it snows. Make sure it snows so that, though you’d like everything around you to be flat and easy and smooth, a sea of calm asphalt, everything instead is slow and skidding and lurching and cold and hard. Realize the obvious sad metaphor. Chuckle grimly at it. Drink in your hotel room. Try to forget why you’re in a hotel room.

30. See her body. See her family. See her boyfriend. See old friends. See the snow. See the sun, peeking through the clouds in a cemetery near a Rite-Aid. See the mud, see the long slow line of cars, see the food at the reception, see the podium where people will line up to speak about this friend. Be sure to say something halting and awkward yourself. Be sure to tremble as you do it. Be sure to try to forget why you’re standing at a podium in a hotel conference center in the first place.

31. Drive home. Feel things, feel her, getting farther and farther away from you as you drive south. Look at the big sky in the windshield and remember for a brief guilty second how much you like driving, just being in a car, zooming away from one point to the next, a little bug, a beetle, some scurrying thing chasing the light.

32. Get back to the city, admire its strange gray teeth, the jaws of its bridges. Look at that same ocean or lake or river and remember the water. Feel tired. Feel blue. Feel older. In order to do this properly, you must absolutely feel older.

33. Drop off the rental car, walk back to your apartment, juggling your luggage and clothing on dry cleaner’s hangers. Show sympathy to a friend when the subway they need is blocked off by mean plastic tape. Shrug your shoulders. Hug goodbye. Say see you soon. Press into each other. Walk upstairs.

34. Put your things down, sit on your bed, and finally, after a week of frustrating dryness, why couldn’t you do it when everyone else could, cry. Just cry. Just cry so much. From tiredness, from ache, from realizing how smart and stupid and ephemeral we all are. Make a promise, there by the window curtain, to do things differently from now on.

35. Don’t do things that differently, that’s too hard. But do go away. Go to California, go to Peru, go to the middle of the ocean on a big white boat. Go somewhere, for a week. Try to wriggle out of the past like a snake from its skin, flee from your old self, wave goodbye. Goodbye! Say goodbye a lot.

36. Get back early in the morning a week later, take a cab back to your house, marveling the whole way at the city waking up. Lie down, sleep. Later when you go to get coffee or cigarettes or food or to just be with a friend and quietly sit, notice that there are white buds on the trees. That everything has suddenly flowered while you were gone. Smile at that. Be sure to smile at that.

37. Begin the next week with a new thump in your heart. Enjoy the longer days. Look up at the sky and be surprised by its blueness.

38. Give your seat to a family of tourists on the subway.

39. Go see a musical.

40. Nod your head when someone says it was such a mild winter. Not because you agree, but because their saying it means that it’s over. Means it’s April. Means we’ll all soon put on shorts and sunglasses and, if we’re lucky, if we're the luckiest people alive, head off to brunch.

Richard Lawson is a senior writer for The Atlantic Wire.

80 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan

Wow. Just... thank you.

Lily Rowan

And I'm sorry.


incredibly good@n

Reginal T. Squirge

I really enjoyed this.



Thank you.


Now I want to cry! And have brunch! So much brunch!


Explaining unexpected tears to coworkers is harder than one would think.


Whoa. . .

I think this needed a trigger warning for "thing you shouldn't read if you don't have time to be in a weird-but-beautiful poetic funk for the rest of the day".


Yeah, no words. Just so good.

Laura Yan@twitter

Oh, oh, this. The brunches. The tired laughs. The small talk. The going away. All of it. This is perfect and beautiful and sad and true. But it is spring, isn't it?


Oh, Richard Lawson. I want to be your friend and this was so good.


this was lovely. I'm sorry about your friend.


I had to make an account after lurking forEVER because of how much I like Richard and his writing (fan from Gawker to the Atlantic, sorry I'm not sorry). Thankfully I'm alone in the cube farm today because wow.

Faintly Macabre

@triplea I started reading this and thought, "Ooh, this is good! Who wrote it?" And then I saw it was LolCait! Richard, please stay.

barbara millicent roberts

Richard, this is lovely. Now I feel like one of the luckiest people alive


Brunch must be better in NYC than it is in DC. Brunch is just a hassle in DC. You can't ever have just breakfast, it has to be effing brunch with effing lines around the block for mediocre effing french toast with some whimsically bland topping. No thanks, I can make bacon and eggs and hash browns at home and NOT have to wait an hour for the waiter to notice the bottom of my coffee mug's like the goddamn Sahara.


@Emby The point, you have totally missed it.


@Emby you are going to the wrong places. trust.


@Emby, your mistake was going to a restaurant in DC expecting to eat food. Restaurants in DC are good for a lot of things: having a place to catch up with your friends without needing to clean your apartment; getting ideas for your next remodel; macking on the waitstaff or listening to an earsplitting live band, depending which restaurant you choose. But everybody knows to eat before going to a restaurant in DC. 


@Fflora Well hold on a minute here. As much as I don't want to profane this incredibly wonderful and moving piece by engaging in a discussion of brunch, there are a bunch of absolutely fantastic restaurants in DC with truly stellar food. Much like Emby, it seems you are going to the wrong places.


@Emby Make a day and go to Kitchenette on... Amsterdam and 123rd? 122nd? In West Harlem. The creme brûlée French toast will be tempting, but get the gingerbread pancakes instead.


@cherrispryte I hesitate to profane this discussion too. Let me just say I know a restaurant or two in DC that's been known to serve food, even good food, but these aren't the kinds of places where mere mortals tend to go for brunch. 

Passion Fruit

That was wonderful, thank you. I especially liked 35, "Try to wriggle out of the past like a snake from its skin, flee from your old self, wave goodbye. Goodbye!"


Oh, Richard. You were already my favorite and now I'm crying from "Try to wriggle out of the past like a snake from its skin."


Richard, I am so sorry about your winter. I am glad spring is coming.



Davis B.

:( but also :)


This = the best.
Losing a friend = the worst. But this piece = the best.


This is my spring right now, so aptly describes my whole world and life and what I'm going through. Thank you.


23-34 are...so unbearably true. Thank you.


Thank you. In going through a remarkably similar period of mourning myself, I curse my lack of creative writing ability on a near daily basis. But reading your beautiful account is cathartic in all the right ways. I am so, so sorry for your loss and hope that this April is, in fact, NOT the cruelest month. For both of us.

Bridget Callahan@facebook

That cockroach thing, and the stealing french fries thing, best moments.


*sniffle* Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.


I've not even read the article yet, I just came down here to write HELLO RICHARD! And welcome to the good side of the interwebs.


Sorry about your friend, Richard.

(But always glad to read you.)


My cockroach sibling died in my entryway, and I have left her (her!) there for days because, well, I sort of nod at her when I come in. "Hi, Eva." (Eva!) God, she got fat toward the end there.


"Or do you think you can shut grief in?
What--from us? We who have perhaps
nothing to lose? Share with us
share with us--it will be money
in your pockets.

Go now
I think you are ready."

-From Tract by William Carlos Williams


@cuminafterall Shoot, the spacing's messed up. Oh well.

Did my fair share of wailing while reading this poem last night-- a week after a very unexpected death. Thanks for sharing, Richard.

oh, disaster

This was wonderful.


This was amazing - thank you.


I loved this Richard...it was perfect. Thank you.

rags mctattershanty

Richard, when you lost your friend, I remember thinking about how horrible it is to go through that. Then, a week later, I lost one of my close friends, too. Everything you described above sounds and feels just like it is. But it's Spring. It's time to sit outside and eat brunch, thank god.


I'm so sorry about your friend, Richard. Your Gawker recaps frequently made me cry from laughing too hard, and to evoke the same reaction with such an opposite, beautiful piece about loss...you're an extremely talented writer.


This is lovely. I too lost a young, close friend very unexpectedly this Spring, and this piece was incredibly healing and accurate. I'm very sorry to hear about your friend, and thank you for writing this and posting it.


@BabbityRabbity This part especially: "Feel tired. Feel blue. Feel older. In order to do this properly, you must absolutely feel older." Nothing makes you feel like a Real Adult more than loss.

Blackwatch Plaid

@BabbityRabbity When my father died this year, I aged about a decade in 6 months. I'm only 20, but I'm suddenly so much older than everyone I know. It's a strange feeling.


@glittercock I'm sorry to hear about your father *hugs*. It is a really weird feeling, I remember suddenly seeing everyone I know who hasn't grieved as really immature, like they worry about the dumbest stuff. And then feeling shitty for feeling that way. And then just feeling super old, and never ever wishing that kind of maturity on anyone at all. It's a roller coaster of weird emotions.

Library Ghost

Richard Lawson, you are one of the greatest writers on the internet today. I have been reading you since your first residence at Gawker, and I look forward to reading much more for many years to come. Thank you for this, and my condolences.


@Library Ghost What she said. I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad you are willing to share.


This reminds me of that line from Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen (remember that one!):
Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.
The kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.


Yeah, this does feel like something an uncle would forward me in like eight months.


I remember when Richard tweeted this as it was happening to him. I feel like I lived through this with him, in the way that completely psychotic stalkers feel that way about people they stalk psychotically. (I am not psychotic, yet.)

sugar cubism

This made me feel ALL the feelings.

It was wonderful. I was a little unprepared for what it did to my eyes and my breath but it was wonderful.


thought catalog?


@Rubyinthedust yep. YEP. so much this.


the luckiest people alive
may I never again feel like by spending time with my friends I am "wasting" it, and feel guilty about that for some reason. may I remember the strange, chest-tightening, eye-tickling sensation I feel right now, of wanting to cry but stopping myself because I am at work and somehow feeling the sensation behind the facade all the more intensely for that. thank you richard.


Beautifully sad. Sadly beautiful.


This is deeply affecting - thank you. And I'm sorry for your loss. But, thank you.


Richard Lawson I love you!!


Oh Richard this is so raw I feel like I saw you through the blinds. I am so sorry you lost your friend. You still sound broken. I hope spring helps. This was really beautiful.


Before I read this, but had seen the author's name, I wanted to come down and scream it in all caps with tons of exclamation marks because, Richard, I love your writing so much. But now having read it, I want to do it more quietly. Like psst... richard (!).

This is beautiful.


"Self Help" is one of my favorite books, too, Richard!


Thank you for writing this, Richard. It rang so true. This phrase especially, "What is the noise? The action? A pffft? A whiffff? — left the Earth." Just beautiful.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me


Veronica Mars is smarter than me

ALL CAPS ==> All The Feelings.


This is the most devastatingly beautiful, courageous, and moving piece of writing that I've read online in a long, long time -- and one of the most honest descriptions of loss that I've read, probably, ever. Richard, you have described, to an eerily uncanny degree of resemblance, my own winter... and my hopes for spring. I've interrupted my work to read this five times in a row. And I don't regret that for a second. Thank you.


Richard, I've fan-lurked your writing for years on various websites and was thrilled to see you pop up here! Thank you for this beautiful, gut-wrenching piece.


I registered here specifically to tell Richard that this was beautiful, wonderful, and devastating. Probably the best thing he's ever written.


I was having a bad day and now I'm thinking about my friends dying. I don't have enough friends.

Still glad I read that. Gonna listen to Swans and bludgeon the sadness out of me, now


Yes, Whitney! Whitney is my secret vice. Don't tell on me!


Long time fan of your writing. Sorry for your loss. Thank you for helping me understand mine.


Why am I not surprised that something so wonderfully written was by Richard Lawson? /end inappropriate fangirl musing


Oh wow, that really caught me by surprise, but then, that is what death often does. Sorry for the loss of your friend, I know how hard that is.


All the relatives and the one friend I've lost passed away in spring so I feel quite weird around this time of the year. Summer is where it's at for me.

However, this piece is really beautiful and I'm really sorry for your loss.

Zachary Little

I still read this a couple of times a year and it moves me every time.

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