03 July 2005

the second person offers promises

of a job. You see a friend at a barbeque, the kind with people you've met at least twice but whose names you can't remember. You knew your friend would be there because it's at her girlfriend's apartment, so you're not surprised. You've been here before. There is a large backyard covered entirely by a tree with flowers so pink and feathery you swear it's either not real or transplanted from some tropical location. The ladyfriend says there's one in her front yard back in Oregon, but she can't tell you what it is.

Your friend spends a lot of time picking up half-dried specimens and proclaiming the flowers' pathetic beauty. They fall apart as soon as they're in your hands. This friend at the barbeque was someone you went to college with, the second person you met at your orientation, someone who you crushed out on as a first year, someone who sent you beautiful blank squares of translucent red paper in an envelope that appeared to be made of gold. You turned them over and over under your desk lamp and gave the envelope a good search, unsatisfied and titillated by the lack of words. This was before you knew she had a lot of money, and you were impressed and wondered where one found paper like that, or how one came to the idea of sending blank missives. Then you began to realize that this style or brand of flirting was a way of life which inspired devotees, countless crushes, and imitative followers for this friend. Money is good, or helpful for this way of life. Money becomes psychological sex/war paint in this game. After all, how difficult can it be to send out blank pieces of very nice paper or buy next-day plane tickets to Paris if you can afford it. After graduation, your friend works very hard in university publishing and ends up working on a master's, associate editing for the publishing arm of a sexy indie mag and a stodgy book review, both of which you read quite often.

This friend makes her way over to you and your ladyfriend mid way through the party. Way more attention is being paid to the tropical fruit drinks than the food. There ensues a brief, breathless, and hopelessly je ne sais quoi declaration from the friend about "summer," loving it, personifying it, then eulogizing it as though it were dead, not simply passing. Then you and the friend begin reminiscing in earnest. Talking to her, you remember the blank paper and the coy way she drops her chin to her chest and lets her eyelids fall half-closed. This friend always looks exhausted in a pleasant and indulgent way. When her eyes are on you, you can't help feeling indebted to her, as if she were the power station and you were the family of seven who'd left all of the lights on. A great deal of effort has gone into this moment of her smiling and listening—to you. Which is the same for everyone, and yet, this moment with you becomes most meaningful. This effect is also achieved through the position of her mouth, which is most often smiling and eerily still, but not phony, as she reveals her attractive and well-formed teeth. The smile is still there when her lips do close but they appear pressed together as though she must fight back the urge to tell you something intimate and earth-shattering.

You tell her about the stories you've been reading, much like the stories you've been writing, which have been shrinking, shrinking, and she says, glowing, leaning forward a little but not tooo much: "I love it. Please, keep writing those short short stories." You tilt your head, enamored briefly of the impetuousness of her tender statement or by the statement behind her tender impetuousness, and then right your head in order to knock the fact that she's not read a one of your stories back into the prominent position it deserves (that achy little spot between your eyes). And then she asks you if you do any copyediting. "Sure," you say, almost adding, who wouldn't? She offers you the possibility of a copyediting job at the aforementioned stodgy review. Part time. By the hour. On demand.

Allow yourself that certain unassuming connections exist between you and people and places which are suited by metaphors ranging from a hair to a highway. The degree of intimacy has nothing to do with the likelihood of "meaningful" contact or "useful" exchange. Your friend could get you a job. Or another friend could get you a job. (You have friends!?!) No, things happen as the result of guts and foolishness, class (the social kind), money, some bragging, drunkenness, maybe a little bit of luck, or a stickiness of mind that's fortuitous—which is just a fancy word for luck that's ripped off from the French.

You might have, shall we say, potential. Sparkly flakes or dim flowers. You tell your friend, who's beginning to look around for something urgent to remove her from her chair, that you are both lazy and inspired. She smiles back at you when she rises and you think there might be something useful at the bottom of that dumpster there, the one that appears tailor-made for its location. You see this possibility as a problem, a tiresome inconvenience, given the overwhelming contents of said dumpster.

Lacking the patience for exploration or the sense of adventure necessary to throw care for your ______ shirt to the wind, you are temporarily but decidedly unimpressive. You try another fruity drink. Mango and Rum, this time; Not Vodka. You sit back down, deserving of many adverbs lacking any action to be modified: slowly, coyly, loudly, sourly, poorly. The wind washes over and the strange tree drops its weird tropical flowers in your drink and you pull bits of them from your ladyfriend's hair. You kiss her cheek and roll her hand between yours. Then you hear your friend say to someone else, "Pennsylvania. I love it. Please, keep living in Pennsylvania."


Anonymous K G D said...

Um wow, it's like backstory come to life...Anyway, the reading tanked due to other festivities (apparently in New York they do firewroks the night of July fourth, who knew!?). You've inspired me to update the K page.


04 July, 2005 22:56  

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