My name was on the list. I wore a nice skirt. The venue was nearby my vegan yoga hostel. Copenhagen on a late summer charm offensive. That expressive Baltic sky, ridiculously vast above all the curated minimalism. My first time in town, first time seeing a local friend since our high school exchange student days twenty years prior. I’m still not sure which served as the real excuse: the Nicholas Nybro fashion week invitation or that backyard party. Either way, a beautiful stretch of windswept days nourished in equal measure by nostalgia and anticipation. Isn’t that the goal? Balance. I was living it then. Yet, forgive my Hamletism… something was rotten in the state of Denmark. I had packed my depression and anxiety; in lieu of an unseasonably needed sweater I was beginning to layer them up.
In retrospect, there was no foreshadowing. Just evidence. First, my taste buds going as shared meals became a mental exercise rather than a sensory experience. I think oh this is wonderful we’re at my friend’s favorite restaurant. Such-special-occasion. I do not register the flavors, the textures, the mood. I confirm the RSVP with the PR person. I pitch the story to editors. I’ve written about Nybro before. His stuff is difficult, whimsical, proper fashion. I would wear a skirt. For several years my friend had bravely battled debilitating consequences of an accident. They felt well enough this summer to host a birthday party. A rebirth party, as the inside joke goes. I can’t believe I get to be there. Twenty years of baring witness to each other’s lives. A decade of writing about fashion. Two invitations. Balance.
Next, I’m restless, in knots. You’d think muscle cramps would signal pause to a brain. No rest for the wicked. The unraveling commences unimpeded. De-stress, exercise, eat healthy. At least try. Hence, the vegan yoga hostel. (By the way, totally a thing and an absolute delight.) I follow the mantra. I stretch and go for a sunset run along the city’s three lakes: Sankt Jørgens Sø, Peblinge Sø, Sortedams Sø. Disconnected from the sea, these urban bodies of water suddenly seem… false. Sø, sø false. Artificial, as anything nowadays. Impostors, as I am. I am not a good runner. I am not a good writer. I am not a good friend. I am spinning out of control. I stumble. I fall, falling, fallen.
The day of. Nicholas Nybro. Spring-summer ‘17. I wear the damn skirt. Clowns, every last one of us. The show is at a steakhouse. As guests are seated at the tables, a dozen characters in athleisure couture are sulking in corners, dusting off their imaginary artifacts, lip syncing to some bygone karaoke. Twice as old, twice as fab. Not a twink anymore. The silkscreen prints are merciless. My tongue is too dry for this tongue-in-cheek-ness. Most folks around me clearly know the faces. “You saw Ghita Nørby?!” My friend’s friends would later ask. The characters slowly make the rounds. Different ages, bodies, all pretty in pink. It’s going to be an apt statement on pop culture’s obsession with youth. I’m going to look up who these people were. I can’t wait for the actual show to start, the whole collection, the full vanity fair. Suddenly, Nybro appears. The bow, the applause, the lights. It’s over. The gust of fresh air outside slams my mind shut.
It was coldblooded, genius. And I missed it. The whole (anti)consumerist carnival. The industry’s obsession with itself. How many looks does it take?! Those f*cking gowns billowed past me three, four, a gazillion times and I did not see them. I was looking for something next. I am looking for someone next. I am not a twink anymore. The audacity of showing garments merely for what they are. Clothes. Freakish or flattering, in the eye of the beholder. How could I ever tell anyone that I sat a steakhouse table, hungry… and missed it? Slaughtered by Nicholas Nybro. Me and my skirt. I shall never speak of this. The shame. I wore it well into the night.
The day of. My friend’s party. Waking up, I miss the eye of the storm by a few winks. At breakfast, the panic greets me, full blown. I should call and cancel. I should change my ticket and fly. I should just die. There is nothing vegan about these shoulds. It’s carnage. I search for vestiges of reason. Manners. “It would be unconscientious to miss a dear friend’s rebirth party!” Unconscientious. Not all is lost if I can still access exam-grade vocabulary. I cling to it for dear life. Then I am struck down by a choice of two clean shirts. I sit and stare. Minutes go by, crawl, whiz. I’m running late. “Ok, what’s a conscientious fashion choice then?” I exhale the absurdity. I put something on and soldier out to the bus stop in a blizzard of self-hate. “…and on top of all that, showing up to a party emptyhanded…” I veer into a flower shop. I pick a bluish blur. It should be bigger! I ask for two bouquets rearranged into one. One big bluish blur. I float out towards the sea.
I can’t remember the bus. Or the address. My memory is visual. My friend’s place is a block from the stop, the second building, the bottom doorbell. I will never make it. I can’t outrun the storm. I don’t know where I am anymore. I stop. The crying that takes over is brutal, and bitter. I cry with abandon. Tears run freely and passersby exhibit concern. I can’t fathom being approached, can’t stomach the idea of having to produce an explanation, a justification, another lie. I bury my face in the bouquet. It’s wrapped in a large sheath of brown butcher paper and fits me like a cone on a sick pet, in reverse. I cry into the dense damp void. Out of the void, first comes the scent. The timid fragrance of summer field flowers. It slows my breath down. In. Out. In. After a long while, I squint. The petals and stems come into focus incredibly close to my eyes. All tiny, fragile, distinct yet intertwined. I stare; breathe and stare, breathe. “Whether ‘tis nobler…” Come again?! Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or… The flowers were reciting Shakespeare, to my face, inside a paper cone, in broad daylight on a Copenhagen street.
I listened. I was coming around. Nicholas Nybro, my friend, me. Those three city lakes. To be. It’s always to be, isn’t it? The untold private courage it takes to live public lives. And, vice versa, for so many people. There is no dressing the part. The macro, the micro, the ridiculous human scale. Balance is never static. What happened in Copenhagen? I got my face out of that bouquet, checked the mirror of the Baltic sky, spat a few leaves out and hailed a taxi. My friend’s rebirth party was everything. I made a toast to growing twice as old, twice as fab together.
What connects us to each other, to anything is the sometimes willful getting-through, sometimes the accidental perseverance, the undoing of layers of (self) doubt, deceit and b*llshit to see right in front of us… the always impossible beauty of now.
Nicholas Nybro, I’m sorry I didn’t report on your ss’17 collection. It was and is stellar.
And dear reader, won’t you buy someone some flowers today?