“It is hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that are. But it is easy to sigh. Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous.”—
Nathaniel West - Day of the Locust
I just recently realized that I’ve been reading a ton of LA-based fiction lately (The Big Sleep and now Less Than Zero), so I thought I should briefly revisit one of my all-time favorites. Los Angeles fiction is so rich and underrated.
The Oatmeal wrote this thing about why working from home is awesome. And also horrible. I worked from home today because I am sick and have been for-like-ever. And then I realized that I should stop being sick for the following reasons.
I actually did work from home. A butt load of work, actually. I hopped on calls, filled in Excel sheets and IM’d with coworkers all day long. What good is working from home if you can’t disappear for hours at a time while you sleep off your NyQuil? NO GOOD AT ALL.
I kind of watched Mad Men on TV in the background but not the whole thing because I was too busy working. But now I know I’m not going to rewatch it because that’s stupid.
I didn’t even take a lunch break. I had a piece of toast with almond butter and honey because I didn’t want to leave my apartment due to the sickness.
No. 1 Enemy: THE SUN. So here I am, sitting on my couch. I’ve got this nice little set up going on where I have my laptop on one mini table and my mouse on another mini table. I’ve got my notebook on my side so I can make TO DO lists. And then I feel this uncomfortable warmth on my leg and I look up and it’s the sun staring at me. So I scootch away from it because it’s a little too warm and I don’t want to turn the AC on. And then, not five minutes later, there is the SUN again. And I’m like, “Fuck you sun. Stop it. I was here first.” And then, MORE SUN. And then the sun gets on my screen and I’m like AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH FUCK YOU SUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! And then I melt into a heaping pile of disgusting illness, ruined forever by our star overlord. This wouldn’t have happened if I had gone to the office.
I AM SOOOO BOOOOOORED. I read all my blogs and half-heartedly watched all the TV I was going to watch. Now what am I going to do? Read? Pfft. Pfffffffffft. Yeah. PFFFFFFFFFFFFBT. Whatever. I am not as smart as I pretend to be. Anyway, it’s after work and I’m done with it but now I’m home already and NOW WHAT.
On the way, I crossed Second Avenue behind a young black man who was carrying a child. He looked like he was a teenager, probably not older than 15 or 16. A Latino kid on a bike heading north rode by, almost hitting the two of them. “Estupido!” he hissed as he passed. The black kid seemed stunned. He looked at the child he was holding, a two-year-old whose face was permanently affixed in that scowl that can only be endearing when used by the very young or the very old. “I ain’t even gonna say nothing!” said the kid to the toddler. “I ain’t even gonna say nothin’. Can you believe that? Not gonna say anything.” I wanted to reach out to him and tell him that no, I couldn’t believe it, that we both had the right of way, that the biker was the rude one and should have waited. But I said nothing and eventually passed him with my signature I’m-going-to-work-and-am-thus-walking-briskly gait.
I stopped at the coffee store I go to when I walk to work, Mudd. It’s on 9th Street between Second and Third Avenues. The woman behind the counter took my order. Iced coffee with skim milk, please. She returned and I picked out a blueberry muffin from their day-old pastries basket, half-priced. “You can have it,” she mumbled. “No charge.” I pocketed the muffin and gave her my change as a tip.
As I approached Union Square, I passed an old man who was smiling as he observed a group of teenagers across the street. I wanted to cry. He made me so happy. I want to be that lovely and admiring towards young people when I am old. He was beautiful.
I arrived at work and got in the elevator with a smirking man. He smirked all the way up to the fifth floor. He smirked as he adjusted the paper bag in his hand. I wondered if he always smirked that much or if I had done something that had merited a smirk. Maybe it wasn’t a smirk. Maybe it was a grin. Maybe he was being friendly. Maybe.
This afternoon, I went to get coffee with my coworker. We went to the Starbucks at Union Square. This Starbucks is more like a bus station than a coffee shop. There are always so many people there. Outside they were giving away free Stonyfield yogurt, two samples per person. They said something to every person they gave yogurt to, but I don’t remember what they said.
On the way back, we were crossing Fifth Avenue. A man with a walkie talkie stood there with his hands on his hips. “Please, ladies,” he said. “Please wait. We’re filming a stunt. Hold on. Hold on.” We waited. A crane with a camera passed, locked on a bicyclist riding down the street at a racing clip. The two girls in front of me squealed. “What movie is this for?” they asked. “So exciting!” The walkie talkie man shrugged. “It’s called [mumble] and it stars Joseph Gordon Levitt.” The girls squealed again. Velocity? I don’t know. I couldn’t understand him.
I usually listen to music on my way to work, but my headphones are broken. I am listening to New York more than ever now. I feel like I’ve missed out on so much.
Be careful of words, even the miraculous ones. For the miraculous we do our best, sometimes they swarm like insects and leave not a sting but a kiss. They can be as good as fingers. They can be as trusty as the rock you stick your bottom on. But they can be both daisies and bruises.
Yet I am in love with words. They are doves falling out of the ceiling. They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap. They are the trees, the legs of summer, and the sun, its passionate face.
Yet often they fail me. I have so much I want to say, so many stories, images, proverbs, etc. But the words aren’t good enough, the wrong ones kiss me. Sometimes I fly like an eagle but with the wings of a wren.
But I try to take care and be gentle to them. Words and eggs must be handled with care. Once broken they are impossible things to repair.
“Our lives disconnect and reconnect, we move on, and later we may again touch one another, again bounce away. This is the felt shape of a human life, neither simply linear nor wholly disjunctive nor endlessly bifurcating, but rather this bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumblings-apart.”—Salman Rushdie (via sometimesagreatnotion)
That’s the truth of it all. I am a year older and this is your life, Michelle Said! This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. Fight Club meets game shows. I am Michelle’s boundless enthusiasm for all things chocolate.
You wake up, you go to work, you come home. You meet up with friends and have dinner. You laugh, you drink, you eat. In that order. Rinse, repeat. And it feels good, it feels nice. These are your people. The restaurant’s music is too loud and the plates are too expensive.
But…Still, I just feel grateful that I am here and we are here and these people, these funny, clever, intelligent people are my friends. And these funny, clever, intelligent people are here for me! It kind of makes me want to cry, be maudlin, just shout and say, “I don’t deserve this!”
But New York, man. New York, you know? New York.
Somehow, I just feel so lucky. Maybe it’s the birthday in me. It allows me to reflect and think upon all of these people I know and appreciate each one, each person. It’s stupid, it’s silly. Everybody has it. Everybody has a birthday. And yet the feeling of love makes me feel so, well, loved.
April plucked a bottle of Australian Shiraz off of the shelf. The smoothness and weight of the bottle felt good in her hands. Liquid contained, curved like a spine. A fine present, a solid present. She walked to the front of the store and approached Cormac.
“Shiraz?” She presented the bottle to him, label forward, like a waitress.
“Red? Yes. Good.”
“You don’t know anything about wine, do you?”
“Nothing at all. Too uppity. I don’t understand the obsession.”
“Ah.” April dropped the wine to the side of her body and felt it thunk against her thigh, heavy and leaden. “Well, I don’t want to come empty-handed.”
“No, we should get the wine.”
We, she thought. Yes, we should.
April paid. She shuffled nervously through the rainbow of bills in her hand — the largeness and pristineness of the orange 50 contrasted sharply with the worn and weathered smallness of the blue fives — and parsed through the golden coins in her wallet before handing them to the cashier.
“Cheers,” she said, and winced. The word came out strange, foreign, clunky on her tongue. The “r” was so sharp and abrasive. She sounded like a Valley Girl, like someone from MTV, like someone who was paid to sound like an annoying American.
There is a knife-narrow quadrant of youth wherein a child begins to truly recognize the depth of the world around them, but has yet to understand any corner of it as something to be feared. Unknowns only exist as potential adventure and the imagination is freed…
My friend Michael doesn’t have a Tumblr on which to pimp his awesome contribution to BWDR so I feel obligated to do it for him. Go forth and read!
“I caught glimpses of people’s rooms: a white enamel jar against a window frame, a round wooden table with a newspaper spread out, a pleated shade over a green chair. What, I wondered, were the sounds filling those rooms? It never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing is strange as the last, and connected.”—Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Their bellies protrude outward in an intimidating fashion. Updates are daily. Where there is one there will soon be two. These are women I’ve known since we were girls.
One is Indian. She used to listen to R&B and wear glasses that covered half of her face. I was on a soccer team with her once. We used to carpool to school together, but we were never particularly close. She friended me on Facebook a few years ago and I noted that it said she was engaged. Then they were married. Now she looks like a creature aside from herself, with straight hair and colored contact lenses and pants to contain her skinny legs. Her stomach grows aggressively. I do not know that life.
The other has seen so much tragedy in her life. I have known her since we were freshmen in high school. She lost her sister and then her mother in the span of two years. She married a man she met while studying abroad in Chile. When we met she was into Wicca and witchcraft and we bonded over astrology and Tarot. Then she found God and we lost touch. She once told me that I should be more self-confident. She was always so optimistic. Now she is pregnant, swollen, posting updates about water retention and burger cravings, sometimes written in Spanish for her husband’s family. Her default picture is of her sonogram. I do not know that life.
The others, while not pregnant, are getting married at an alarming rate. They skip and race towards the future while I plod begrudgingly into my next birthday. I do not know those lives.