It Hardly Matters

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's My Last Week in the Office

I've been watching clips of The Office all day. Geniuses.

Three more days! See you on the other side.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Seven Years of August Eighteenths

I arrive at 204 Mulberry Street, Apt. LA, greeted by J and her brindle boxer, Amelia, both smiling and a bit frazzled. J shows me to my new couch away from home in New York City. It's deep purple with massive pillows perfect for fort-building, if 25-year-olds made forts.

J makes tea. She takes hers with lots of milk and sugar like a true European. Mine's black with a spoonful of honey, how my-exboyfriend likes it. My San Francisco friends place calls to my brand-new brick of a cell phone and I don't know how to retrieve their messages.

A cigarette is smoked. Tea is sipped. Get ready.

I'm still dating L, but it's about to end. Not in some horrible way, just an agreement that the relationship is not moving forward. We're not in love. We eventually say these very words to each other at Daddy-O, the corner bar, munching on $9 chicken fingers and sipping gin & tonics. The bartender gives me mine for free, since I'm here so much.

It's fine. I am mature. I wanted something casual after the ex-boyfriend. And, besides, I wasn't used to dating someone who was intimidated by my bookshelf, by my babies, my collected works and my anthologies, my Villon in translation, my book of Nabokov's short stories with the blue butterfly on the shiny spine.

Up late again. Could've left after my shift, but decided to visit R at The Room to keep her company until 4AM when her shift was up. D's there, yelling and laughing, jumping on furniture to entertain us. D, our default bodyguard. We drink Sancerre and turn up the music, hoping the few remaining paying customers will leave so we can hang out without the burden of the duties of a 3AM Monday morning bartender--emptying ashtrays, lighting candles.

Stevie Wonder's "As" blares from the ceiling-suspended speakers. Loving you until the day is night and night becomes the day...loving you until the trees and sea just up and fly away... R says that she once wrote these lyrics down and gave them to her mom. To this day, her mother believes that she wrote them. I'm OK with that.

It's coming up. What am I supposed to do with myself? I don't have a shift at the bar, my friends are working, I have nothing to do but wander around and cry. I wonder if it's going to be as sunny and warm as it was last year. Maybe I'll go down to the West Side Highway and stare south.

They should really give everyone a day off. How do they expect anyone to get any work done when all we can do is picture people jumping out of buildings and firemen covered in horrible white dust and West Villagers dazed, faces covered in masks, carrying last year's H&M clothes and canned lentils to the church on Carmine Street because they need to help? Help what? Help who? There's no one left to help. They exploded into the sky and became stars.

We're finally off campus; we've moved to Brooklyn. From Daddy-O to Daddy's, from Joe's to Tony's. Corner bar: check. Slice: check. Oh, and for coffee we've traded that nucelus of neighborhood activity and intrigue, The Grey Dog, for the rattier, but cheaper, Phoebe's. We're too ratty and cheap for the West Village anyway.

We is me and C and his girlfriend. We don't live together, but explore Via Vespucci together. Well, C and I do. His girlfriend likes to stay indoors until sunset watching reruns of MASH. I used to do that until recently, except with Northern Exposure. But now I'm grown-up and go to work in an office and fall asleep before midnight.

Sometimes I sit in my backyard and watch the planes pass overhead. The people inside are so far from Earth, strapped in, hurtling. I wonder if I'll ever be able to fly again.

It's the Summer of Turning 30. We all have nervous breakdowns of varying degrees of intensity. We also go to Madame Tussaud's, throw roof parties, lounge on a pontoon boat, do shots of tequila, wear fake nails in public, smoke cigars, eat wursts and lobster and cheeses of the world, and generally stay out late. We hug, we dance, we take pictures, we tear up sometimes. There are tiaras and forbidden subway photography involved. I wear red stilettos a few times.

H tells me he loves me. The switch is flipped. He shivers when I touch him and cries every day for a year.

I go to Ikea. I go to baseball games. My 401k has kicked in and I have an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Dinner with friends, visits with my family in Massachusetts. It's summer.

I haven't seen or talked to him in 3 months. A length of yarn is pulled taut, unravelling at first, then snapping into two pieces of string, carried away into the air. In November, I'll go to MoMA after work on a Friday and then see him once more, the last time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New Haven

On the way back and forth between Grand Central and New Haven, I sat in the same seat on the train. It was the last window seat, in the last car before the dining car. Yep, right near the bathroom. I was traveling to meet my parents for a Mom's-60th-birthday weekend in Mystic, CT. Mom had decided last minute, at my prodding, to take a mini-vacation away from the encroaching lakefront neighbors on Lake Thompson, away from the dogs, away from our aging relatives, and stick her toes in the sand and sip on tonic-and-limes until the sun set. Delicious.

Both ways, the train was packed. Families featuring cranky babies and 10-year-old girls with pink Puma backpacks tossed soft coolers containing Sierra Mists and tunafish sandwiches wrapped in cellophane up into the overhead bins. Yalies in worn heather-gray sweatshirts broke the bindings of their previously-uncracked textbooks, then sighed. Downtown chicks in metallic flip flops and flouncy skirts, bra staps defiant and fabulous, texted their friends upstate to say that the train was on time and that they couldn't wait 4 th mojitos! They settled in for the 90-minute ride. I was Sudokuing like crazy, hoping no one would sit next to me. It worked. Well, for 10 minutes.

At Harlem-125th Street, a few people crowded on to the train. A sweet-faced, cornrowed man gestured to me and I moved myself over a millimeter to accommodate him. My iPod was on; no words were exchanged. He was on the phone. Talking loudly. OK. I can deal with this. After a few minutes he clapped his phone shut, rustled around in his duffel bag, produced a 40-ounce King Cobra, cracked it, and looked at me, smiling, offering. It was 10:17 AM.

Yes, I drink. A lot. But 10:17 AM? I shook my head ever-so-slightly: no thank you. Great, an alcoholic thug next to me for 90 minutes. Furious Sudoku.

I had a migraine. The numbers weren't fitting. My iPod battery was dangerously low. My seatmate was shifting, sipping, watching me stare at the grid populated with empty boxes. My jaw muscles flexed, teeth meeting in an unnatural grind. He kept staring. The pressure built, my teeth bricks against sawblades, sparks flying into my brain. I finally broke. Devastated, I flipped to the end of the book for a hint. Motherfucker.

I filled in the remainder of the boxes with excessive force, almost tearing through the paper with the tip of my retractable pencil. Smugly, he looked the other way to see what the dark-haired woman across the aisle had to offer in the way of entertainment. Rumblings. A bit of relief. They were talking. In between songs, I heard: "Are you a vet?" "Yeah." Then more words, like tiny knives stabbing the tips of my nerve endings: war, man, they send you out there and what do they expect? I am a terrible person.

He gets off in Bridgeport, after talking to the dark-haired woman for almost the entire ride. She is nice, she is a human being. I'm an alien with a completed number puzzle, an empty seat, an empty bottle of malt liquor, a folded flag, a broken heart. Bound for the beach, for my parents, my loving, wonderful parents who never had to worry about a son in the war. Bound for gin and tonics and sunset.

What do they expect?