Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Proposal

I was sitting on the north side of Union Square Park, happily killing time with a book before dinner. The main character was about to learn something important when…

“Hello?” an Asian American, NYU-looking student ducked into my line of vision. We made eye contact as I peered hesitantly over the book.

You think I would know, by now, that eye contact is a death sentence to remaining obscure.

I was required to speak. “Hi,” I said with an overtly awkward face.
“So… I love you.”
I laughed, again, awkwardly.
“No, I love you.”
I look around for a camera, or even a group of laughing friends. None could be spotted.
“Er… ah, did someone dare you to do this?”
“No. I knew when I saw you. I saw your red hair, 
and I knew I loved you.”

I eyed my frizzy curls. When was the last time I’d showered?

“So yeah, I love you.”
He seemed to speak as though he were joking; yet he was relentless in his quest for attention. I couldn’t seem to shake him with any number of coy remarks.

“I’m a man on a mission,” he stated firmly.
Yeah… and I’m a girl with a knife.

Then he smiled lightheartedly and got down on one knee.

“Will you marry me?”
“Oh. Oh dear.” Now the surrounding 15 or so people were watching as I calmly closed my book. The main character’s surprising discovery would have to wait until I’d disposed of Improbable Future Husband.

I glanced at the man to my left for moral support. The older Italian gentleman had tan skin and the kind of designer glasses you know cost more than my apartment.
“He-he-he,” he giggled at me.

“Unfortunately, I’m taken,” I say. Two can play at this.
“Oh,” he seemed genuinely surprised. “I see.”
“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that.”
“Well how long have you been dating?”

Persistent sonofa…

“Two years since May,” I shoot back, not batting at eye.
“Are you going to marry him?”
“You really think so?”
“Oh, I don’t know!” I say quickly. This conversation had become a long detour from my supposed afternoon plans. The neighboring Italian man begins to flat out laugh. “I am loe-king for da cam-aira,” he chuckles.

“Me too,” I say glancing around, half assuming the lovelorn bachelor’s antics will somehow end up on YouTube.

“Well, you might marry someone else. But I DO love you.”
“Well… I’m sorry I didn’t meet you first?”
“Can I give you my number?”
“Sure thing.”
“Oh! What’s your name?”
“Uh… Brit.” I couldn’t think on the spot. Obviously my name is Nicole and I’m from Nebraska!
“Is that a fake name?” he asked with a smile.
“Yes. What’s your number?”

He gives me his digits, which have a 718 area code – meaning he probably lives somewhere in the boroughs. Then he makes me label him in my contacts list as “Person I’m Supposed To Marry,” and he’s not content till the name is just so.
“Ok, now call me,” he says.

Blast! I should have known better.
I could probably take this guy (right?), and I could 
definitely block his number.

“So if you ever breakup with your boyfriend… call me?”
“Of course,” I say with a smile. He sauntered off, and I resumed my reading. A few minutes later the Italian stood up to leave. “Watch out fer those hopeless roman-tics,” he wisely suggested as he nodded his farewell.

The next morning, I received a short text message.
“I love you brit,” it said from Improbable Future Husband.

Well… there are worse ways to start your day. 

[Editor's Note: I realize I didn't spell "person" correctly in the above picture, but as I was slightly frazzled, I thought I would leave my grammatical error for effect.]


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What A Woman Thinks She Wants

 I find myself wishing I could posses a few luxuries in life. Here is what I imagine myself owning in the future: 

First, I would like a saltshaker. No more pinching sea salt from the palm of my hand. No longer will I accidently douse my eggs with one, over ambitious shake. I will own a saltshaker, and be content.

Second, I would like an icemaker. No more cracking ice that isn’t yet frozen. No longer will I spill half a gallon of water in the freezer because of one clumsy move. I will own an icemaker, and be content.

Third, I would like counter space. No more making my meals, squished within the confines of a microwave and a dish rack. No longer will eggs roll to their untimely death because room was limited. I will have counter space, and be content.

Fourth, I would like central AC (I know – I’m getting greedy). No more fans blowing sweaty pieces of hair from my forehead. No longer will I toss and turn in the stuffy and constricting night air. I will have central AC, and be content.

Fifth, I would like a job with benefits; an expanding saving’s account, a maid to put away my piles of laundry… and a puppy. A fat, fluffy puppy.

If I had these things, I would be content.

Except, I wouldn’t.

If I had these things, I would not be content.

If I had a job with benefits and a savings account, the thrill of living through my early 20's in New York would quickly diminish. If I had a puppy, I would be relentlessly tied down and begrudge responsibility.

If I had central AC, counter space, or an icemaker, I would be paying more rent and completely oblivious to the fact that premade ice is actually something you can take for granted. But if I had a saltshaker? Well, I’ve gone so long without one that I probably 
wouldn’t think to use it.

I will not be content because of these things.
I do not ever want to be content because of these things.
These are things. These are THINGS. These ARE THINGS.

I want to be content because I tasted every flavor of ice cream,
Because I rode the subway line in its entirety,
Because I found 25 cents and it meant something.

I want to be content because of the way New York 
smells some mornings,
Like bread and coffee; like summer and steel.

I want to be content because I walked through a bookstore as though the novels were my friends,
And they whispered to me their endings,
Quiet and excited; you can hear them speak.

I want to be hopelessly unsatisfied so that there is always, always something to look forward to -- except in those blissful moments when I am peaceful.

Because I’m just living, and breathing, and being.


[Editor’s Note: You may have realized that I did not contradict the maid I would like to have for my laundry.  That’s because I really would like one… no, but like really.]


Monday, July 23, 2012

One Muddy Afternoon

A deer tick was crawling on me as our train pulled into Grand Central Station.

The poor guy – he didn’t realize we’d smash him into an old water bottle when he hopped a ride on my sweatshirt. But as there aren’t very many deer in New York City, his death was imminent.

It was 8:22 in the morning when I tossed that tick-invested water bottle into a trashcan, throwing away the last little bit nature from a weekend excursion. We’d traveled an hour or so upstate for a “mud race,” and while I didn’t participate in the actual obstacle course (lack of money; lack of exercise), I was more than willing for a little camping adventure.

That Saturday, my muddy, smelly, and magnificent cohort traipsed through the woods as I snapped pictures of their efforts. Sun-kissed faces and splattered bodies exploded around the campground, while beer was guzzled and (questionable) meat devoured post-race.

As we sat on the side of hill, chasing the sun for any extra intake of its precious rays, I found myself feeling completely comfortable. We didn’t smell fabulous, nor probably look our best, but there was something incredibly peaceful about sitting in grass and being surrounded by enjoyable company.

(Note: I may not be a city gal at heart. Only oceans or stretching mountains "take my breath away," though a good New York rooftop does moderately accomplish the trick. Thus, sitting in grass is one of my favorite pastimes.)

Of course, that was only the beginning of the night. My extroverted side won out in the end, and I found myself playing beer-induced card games late into the evening with a kid who resembled Harry Potter, a dude who breathed like a pug, and two Long “Guy” landers, amongst other characters including my own friends. It wasn’t exactly peaceful, but just as refreshing.

Then dawn came quite quickly, so we packed our tents and called a cab – which apparently is possible anywhere in New York. He drove us to a train that reminded me of the Hogwarts Express, and we sleepily headed back into the city. I reminisced about the sunny hill and late night card games as Harlem approached.

Ah, the city. We escape from you wholeheartedly, yet always come running back for more. Your heat, your opportunity, your endless instability and stimulation… though maybe half the thrill is leaving you, just to see what’s new upon return.

Speaking of our city arrival, it turns out my deer tick friend wasn’t the only nature that wanted to come home with me. As I unpacked my sleeping bag, a creepy crawler waltzed out and into my apartment, earning a sincere squeal of disgust as I shouted, “Why so many legs?!”

(Note:  I may not be a city gal at heart. But doesn't it just fit so well for now? Give me these people and their stories any day -- except maybe on that one muddy Saturday.)


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No, I Won't Tell You Where I Live

It’s nearly 1am on the 4th of July. I’m standing in a crowded train, listening to a German man talk to an American guy, who is probably my age or older.  

The American is very polite, but it’s obvious the German is more into the conversation. At Queensboro Plaza the talkative European hops off the train, while me, a girl with a large bag, and the American Boy smile and shake our heads. It’s been a busy day, and New York dwellers often become the entertainment for visitors, but sometimes we still rise to the occasion to speak fondly of our city.

I turn my head slightly to the right. “Hiiiiii,” a man in his late-thirties says, making eye contact that cannot be avoided, even by one of the best gaze dodgers. (Me.)

Egads. I’m trapped. 
“Hi,” I say so briefly that you might not have heard it.
Oh, but he heard it.

“How are you?” he stands up with an eager expression. This is when I realize there is something a little off about this man. I don’t think he would hurt a fly, but you never know what someone is capable of, and I’m in no mood to chat it up after 4th of July festivities.

“Where do live?” he says.
“In Queens?”
“In New York,” I say. The whole train is listening. I feel the stares and baited breath. It’s awkward, but no one knows the best way to interrupt.
“Oh. I see, I see,” he nods vigorously. “Well I live in Queens. I can walk anywhere! I walk to Woodside, to Sunnyside, in Astoria. I walk all the time – I can really walk anywhere,” he says, looking up at me with expectant eyes.

“Impressive,” I say, like you might to a small child. I hate being rude, but I look away and hope he accepts this social cue.

“So where do you live?”
Social cue fail.

“I’m not going to tell you exactly where I live. I live around New York.”
“Oh ok, ok.” Did he get the picture? The American Boy and Bag Girl watch the scenario carefully.
“How old are you?” he asks lightheartedly.
I shift my weight from one foot to the other, hiking my book bag up with a free hand. After weighing the options in my head, I look directly at him and say with a not-so-pleasant smile, “I’m probably not going to tell you that either.”

Social cue accepted.
“Oh. Bye!” he says and sits down about three feet from me.

People on the train begin to talk again. “Well, points for trying,” the American Boy leans over and says with a grin. I laugh in response. “Yes, well you were getting chatted up earlier.”

“Hiiiiii,” the awkward man says, standing up again and cutting across our conversation. This time he’s closer but with his back toward me. My ally looks subtly in my direction, and I know he’s going to take one for the team.

“Hey man, what’s up?”
“Do you live around here?”
“Yeah. I do. I like it out in Queens,” American Boy says with more enthusiasm than he should have to muster on a late night subway ride – and for that I was thankful.

But the rest of their tête-à-tête is a blur. While the talkative man’s back is turned, a woman in blue, probably in her late 20s, grabs me carefully by the sleeve. She says nothing but she doesn’t have to. I let her lead me to a seat she’s willingly given up. (This is “girl code” at it’s finest, my friends.)

“Thank you,” I say.
She and her husband smile. “We thought about pretending we knew you earlier,” he says. “But you were answering all the questions well enough.”
“Yeah, we assumed your name was probably Katelyn or something,” Wife chimes in, citing a generic babies-of-the-eighties name.
“Close enough,” I say. “Yeah, thanks so much… just trying to get home, ya’ know?”

They nod as we watch the awkward man chat with American Boy. When the train stops at Broadway, the man departs and everyone seems to breathe a sigh of relief.
“We were literally going to follow you home,” Husband says, looking over at his wife. She glances at me. “Yep, we were like ‘alright… if he follows, we follow.’”

I laugh at the odd parade of people that could possibly have followed me back to my apartment. And while I wasn’t terribly worried about my safety, the collective kindness of a subway car was a nod toward the general greatness of human connections.

“The whole train was on your side,” Husband continues. He gestures at a family sitting across from us, who smiles in return. The father has his hand on a stroller, with a little baby girl inside. They don’t speak much English, but basic body language is universal, so I wave and smile back.

“I know, I usually have headphones. They're such a lifesaver,” I say.
Wife nods her head. “Oh yeah, I hate when I don’t have those things.”

Headphones are New York’s Novocain: They’re fabulous for blocking out immense amounts of stimulants and sometimes necessary for peace of mind. But headphones also make you numb or unaware – and that illusive apathy is always the great danger.

“Then again,” I smile, “If I’d been wearing headphones, there never would have been this little moment.” The phrase was said with a slight sarcastic twist and a roll of the eyes… but I meant it.

They laughed in agreement. I thanked them one more time for their help, and then we all walked off the train.

And no one followed me home. 

Yet somehow, in a city with 8 million plus people, this still happens.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ode to a New York Summer (in Pictures)

Don't worry about the temperature; just take it all in while you can. We blink and the summer's gone, with our lackadaisical mentality thrown into hibernation for another nine months. The heat is fierce, no doubt, but a calm haze settles over the city while the sun is high. 

And then we wake up at night. 

July 4th festivities in the greenery. 

Sweaty subway rides made better by balloons.

Union Square's green market snacks.

Classy summertime lady of the boroughs.

A sweet promise for the price of a drink.

No tables needed.

Thrifty, thrifty, all we've got is $50.

Surprise storms in the late afternoons.

And so we dance when we get the chance.

Wasting away when the sun is high.

Friday night boat trips around the island.

A Saturday summertime staple, not easily found.

Accidental pictures and accidental laughs.

Random edamame nights and two-buck beer.

Watching the blistering sun melt tar in the streets.

Getaway trips upstate to beat the heat.

Picnics in parks, porches, and pathways.

At that frenzied crux, when the night is about to obliterate the day. 


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Subway Rides and Rats

It’s that all-encompassing sticky kind of hot.

I’m waiting for a transfer on the subway platform of 42nd Street, Time Square. Everyone, including myself, has a sweaty sheen about them and the stagnant air only further advances possible heat exhaustion.

It’s 1am, so I can’t fathom how the temperature is this suffocating. The sun has been down for hours and still I sway side-to-side, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. There’s no escaping this oppressive air, and if I sit for even a second I’m positive I’ll pass out.

I’m also 100% sure we train goers are about to lose our minds. Nearly 14 minutes has passed, but still nothing barrels into the station with the promise of a seat and air conditioning.

The 19 or 20-year-old dude next to me looks down at the tracks as though he might jump. This concerns me for a second, but then I realize what’s caught this young man’s attention. He’s staring at the rats, thumping his foot to an imagined beat. Suddenly he begins rapping, with his eyes still locked on the vermin. I look over at him in annoyance.

“It’s hooo–ot in here, but I just drink my beer. And yooo rats don’t care cuz you don’t need no air. But you know; It’s hooo-ot in here…”

You get the point. This phrase continues to be repeated, over and over again.

After three minutes, I put my purse down and take my rings off of my fingers. Next I throw back my arm, and punch him in the face. He stops his ongoing, mindless ode to the rats and silence is restored.

No, that didn’t happen. It might have… but just then, we began to hear the blessed rumble of the train.

People on the platform stretch out their necks, leaning over the subway tracks, in hopes of catching that heavenly beam of line signifying the arrival of on-coming transportation. But the rumble gets louder and louder and yet, still we remain in the heated darkness.


The express train arrived on the opposite side of the platform. It’s only in service for two more stops, therefore, this faux transportation will not whisk me away to Queens. I want to punch the Rat Rapper out of sheer anger, even though he too sits in sweaty disappointment.

Next thing I know, a mini gay pride parade is waltzing down the platform. Yes, that’s right – a line of happy, rainbow-painted faces and short shorts is assembling. Believe me when I say I’m not stereotyping in the slightest, but only describing the scene that unfolded. [Note: A much less tired Britney remembered later that it was also Pride Week.]

Now if you don’t recall: I’m so sweaty by this point, someone could easily slide me halfway down the platform, and I’d be able to knock out that freaking Rat Rapper like a bowling pin. In basic terms, I look rough and totally defeated.

Then two men start to walk over toward me. I’m staring right at them, giving them the "warning-I-might-bite" eyes. And yet another two follow, until four equally sweaty gents surround me.

What happens next… well, it only happens in New York.

The men begin to jump up and down. “Smmmmile!” one of them says. “Smile girl, smile!” another chimes in. Then all four began to chant “smile, smile, smile” in a surprisingly deep, football-like tone. They look and sound so ridiculous; I can’t help but break into a grin, which inevitably rolls into flat out laughter. The man on my left begins to throw little bits of paper in the air, like a subway version of confetti, announcing our victory over the blistering summer heat.

Within a few moments the subway arrives and the parade waltzes on. 
Yet, I still couldn’t stop laughing the entire way home.
Thank God humanity knows how to save itself with a smile. 

Ode to Summer Subways:

Astoria, 30th Ave

Grand Central, 42nd Street

Harlem, City College

Union Square, 14th Street