by Nate Smith
Regina Spektor called it “Eet.” It’s something akin to the feeling of entering a room and forgetting the reason for doing so immediately upon arrival. For some reason, this feeling strikes me when I’m otherwise occupied on a mundane task, usually cleaning or homework. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve forgotten something important, and I begin to feel a vague frustration.
The feeling came to me most profoundly during a stay with a friend in New Jersey, an intense and humbling tsunami-wave of something I couldn’t put my finger on at the time and still struggle to describe. Perhaps, because such an emotion feels like a mental limbo of sorts, it lends itself especially well to the Garden State, which struck me as a vast liminal space; at once close to and far away from New York City. From the house of my friend, ninety minutes by train and two hours by car, one could see the distant shimmering lights of the city at night.
It was at a Cheesecake Factory of all places. For what it’s worth, that also was the first and only time I have ever eaten at a Cheesecake Factory. I’m not sure if I will again. The inside of a Cheesecake Factory to me feels like a liminal space in the sense that, like a Vegas casino, it exists completely separate from the world surrounding it. While you’re there, it feels as if time is standing still and you could sit forever reading the laminated, oversized menu. I don’t remember what I had wanted to order but they were out of whatever it was and at that moment I realized that Cheesecake Factory at that shopping mall in New Jersey, felt like the most nowhere, nonexistent place of anywhere I had ever been. I left, unsatisfied with the food and somewhat rattled. The feeling continued to plague me faintly for the duration of my stay.
I don’t mean for this in any way to imply that New Jersey is a forgettable or meaningless place. For me, it was nothing to do with any specific qualities of the Garden State, rather, it was the powerful sense of being in-between different but extremely similar realities, to the degree that I couldn’t quite tell them apart. I realize as I’m writing this that I’m not sure even what point I’m trying to make. Perhaps there isn’t one to be made.