Thursday, January 28, 2010

3) 4th of July party

First, there was Iowa. In my life so far, I’m talking about. After Iowa, finally, there was college in Northern New York state, in “the foothills of the Adirondacks”, in the mountains, in the snow. It was New York, yes, but a village in the middle of nowhere where the closest city was Ottawa, Canada, still an hour away. So I did a semester in London. Then I did a semester in Copenhagen. Later I graduated, suma cum laude, and now I am here. I am this tall girl with bad hair, not blonde for the first time in my life (too expensive to keep up in the city); I am even taller now thanks to high heels. Now this is me, in Brooklyn, walking down the sidewalks pock-marked with black dots of scum.

I am going to a 4th of July party. I carry a bowl of cold tuna noodle casserole in a large Tupperware dish between my outstretched arms. It looks a little silly with the high heels, but the bowl is good, useful; it has its own lid. I got it from the PR people who send things to my boss at the magazine. I have acquired many things this way - cutting boards and pie tins, candles, cookie cutters, blankets and picture frames. I own household items; I own furniture these days. I tally up the things that I possess as I walk down Third Avenue.

A friend is having a party on her rooftop, only a few blocks away from my house. There will be a lot of people I know there from the publishing program. There will be people who got jobs in publishing and people who didn’t. Some of these people I like; some of them I scorn openly. I wait at a light and watch the cars drive by this dismal stretch of Brooklyn, passing nothing more exciting than a Taco Bell drive-through and a bodega. But it’s funny to me. Life is funny. Is that what my acquaintances will think when I tell them my plan tonight? Will they think that I am funny? I know it’s happening for sure now so I might as well tell everyone that I’m moving to Thailand.

I sit at a glass-topped table, an extra-large glass of red wine in front of me and I look around at all the people, laughing and chatting and dancing to 80’s music and I think: This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you and for all people. Do this for the rememberence of me. Why these words of Jesus Christ occur to me now I don’t know; what could be farther from the Emmanuel Lutheran Church ceremonies of my youth than where I am now? I look around Christy’s 4th of July party at all the people I sort of know, all these New Yorkers who, I’ve discovered, are no different from me, who don’t have anything any more figured out than I do. I guzzle my wine and I think that maybe they have it even less figured out than I do. So what if random Biblical quotations pop into my head every now and then, and I can’t shake this feeling that everything is floating away from me. I still have it more together than these people, who don’t even seem to have noticed the way things slip and fall away, despite all the books that they"ve read.

I’ve been at the party a couple of hours now. I’ve eaten, caught up with friends, and had a few glasses of wine, but I have yet to tell anyone about Thailand. I just sit and watch everyone talking and laughing together, and I take long, warm drinks from the heavy glass. Now that the time has come to tell it, I don’t know what to say. How do I explain it? “The truth is, I was doing yoga and my head opened up.” “What?” they will ask, and should I continue? “It opened up, as though there were an incision all around the crown of my head and then the top of my head tipped open and sunlight poured in. Sunlight, clouds, and salty sea spray. And even as I smelled bread baking below my yoga studio, and heard cars honking on Park Avenue, even as I was in the moment fully, I knew that I had to leave.”

If what I want is to look sane it probably won’t help me to say that, will it? I drink from my cup and drum my fingers on the table. Fern, my roommate, is drunk already and going home, even before the fireworks start. A good girl, that Fern. Never any puke in the bathroom with that one. She hugs me goodbye and leaves with her boyfriend. No doubt they will be long asleep by the time I return. I drink, talk occasionally. The sun sets. Christy puts her special dance mix on the stereo, the one she’s been working on all week, and, accordingly, people dance. I don’t move from my chair except to go down to Christy’s studio and smoke some weed with her and two drunk girls I’ve never met. Back up on the roof, I bum a cigarette.

A young man I knows comes over and sits down next to me. Eric is short, skinny, Jewish, a humorous and intelligent boy but obviously not attractive for reasons just elaborated (short and skinny, I mean). At least, he never was attractive. However now that he’s sitting next to me I suddenly recall Christy mentioning Eric’s new job at the New York Times. I don’t know where he worked before; somewhere nowhere. Now he’s here beside me wearing a suit. “Having a good time?” he asks. “How’s Park Slope treating you? I’m thinking about moving further in. Now that I’m in the Grey Lady’s pockets,” he says, and laughs. Maybe at another time I would hear his laugh as hollow, fake and self-conscious, which it is, but I don’t.

The evening of the 4th of July wears on and I talk to Eric through the haze of drugs, laughing here and there, feeling myself sparkle with laughter. My body hums at low volume in the humid night air. I turn my cheek to catch a breeze. One by one, fireworks begin to burst on the horizon all around. Manhattan glitters across the river. Eric takes my hand and leads me downstairs to find another bottle of wine. He can’t open it so I carry it around, flashing and sparkling at everyone until someone with more sober hands than ours opens it for us. We take it back up to the roof, sit out far on a ledge and watch the sky erupt. Eric flirts and flatters, his small hand resting protectively on my bare knee. I feel fine about it all now. I feel hilarious. I tell him about Thailand. Maybe I explain, maybe he does not ask for explanation. My head is so open now that everything has gone; the sun has come in but everything else has gone. Where did it go? Where did I go? Who is this girl, this drunk girl on the roof with this small boy in a suit? I am just as I’ve always been. I am completely new.

We are walking in the sprinkling rain back down Third Avenue, me and Eric. I am wearing my Tupperware bowl on top of my head. I rinsed it out in Christy’s kitchen and now it is my umbrella. Apparently Eric is coming home with me. I don’t know why Eric is coming home with me but I am happy. I am walking and singing and dancing in the rain with a Tupperware bowl on my head and I am moving to Thailand. I am moving to Bangkok! In less than a month I will be gone.

When I wake up the room is still dark and the sheets are damp. No. But yes, Eric is still here. He is getting out of bed. He has to go to work? Why does he have to go to work? I remember him saying something about having to work very early. It is a weekday; it is 5 am. Eric does not kiss me goodbye. He says goodbye. Perhaps he smiles; it is dark. He is still drunk and is going to work at the New York Times. I pass out again and when I wake up there’s nothing to do but face the fact that it was me who wet the sheets. Maybe Eric didn’t notice. How could he not have noticed.

Eric never calls and I’m glad. Of course I’m embarrassed about what happened – what could be worse? It isn’t the first time – but that’s not why I’m fine with him never calling. I’m fine with it because I’m not interested. I’m not interested in him and I’m not interested in anyone. I am not interested in this city or this country or what I am here or what is going on here. I am interested only in myself. I am interested only in Emily, in what’s wrong with her, and how I can fix it.


  1. I'm glad Eric never called. The texture of the story is restrained, yet intense. I envy your sentence structure, it's so tight it squeaks!


  2. Emily! It's so awesome to read your writing! I've been wanting to read it for some time now. :)

  3. Interesting characters...