You mention to your therapist Dr. Schnauzenhauer that the months subsequent to the intoxicating frivolity of Christmas throw you into bouts of mild-to-moderate depression, a swinging pendulum that sometimes plunges you into the “tepidly suicidal” category. You expect Dr. Schnauzenhauer to look alarmed by this, but instead he’s yawning, or unsuccessfully attempting to smother a yawn. Impatiently you continue to explain why you don’t like January, February, or even March: everyone’s ill or on a detox (or there’s another reason they can’t see you for another seven weeks), a certain commercial holiday reminds you that you’re single, and your New Year’s resolutions haven’t been neatly ticked off like a bored housewife’s grocery list. For example, your fitness transformation — you were thinking Bette Midler in Ruthless People — simply hasn’t transpired and your Rosetta Stone series remains in its plastic sheath, idly unopened. When another Valentine’s Day commercial pops up, you emit an odd yelp-sob hybrid and call friends to suggest drinks, but they’re on detoxes or complain of sore throats and cough limply. You enjoy spending entire afternoons in Duane Reade staring at the endless rows of vitamins and all that packaging in a melancholy fashion that you hope is hauntingly beautiful. You don’t sleep well. You wallow in loneliness, save for the loud neighbors who are arguing or fucking, sometimes both. Your ear plugs don’t work and, as you drop another effervescent vitamin C into your mineral water, you debate whether to return to Duane Reade and complain to DeShaun the Manager about your ear plugs, but he’s already heard your complaints about the store’s excessive use of packaging and thinks you’re one of those bored, officious types. You should seek out a different brand of noise-absorption product instead. These thoughts aren’t helping you sleep and god it’s just an endless spiral of despair you wail, words drowned out by the proximity of over-ardent coos of passions that are too loud, synchronized, and harmonious to be anything but — let’s face it — an attention-seeking stunt. You’re just getting into things when your therapy session comes to an abrupt conclusion. The 59 minutes are up Dr. Schnauzenhauer says, beaming with joy. He says something about “visualizing your future happiness” as he ushers you towards the door and then “see it, believe it, grasp it!” as he closes the door in your face.
You meet Kevin for brunch. He fills your quota of ethnically diverse friends, although it’s a shame his name isn’t Chen, or Wang, or Wu. Regardless, he makes you feel gritty as you reject your white middle-class sheltered upbringing. So does DeShaun, although technically you aren’t friends with him yet. People see your blond hair, your cat Mister Whiskers, and your flagrant use of the Amex card that Pater gave you (those high school Latin lessons still creep into vocabulary), and pigeon hole you, presuming you spend every Monday night watching Gossip Girl, when actually you take private yoga classes then.
Kevin cycles over looking radiant, his dazzling eyes glint with a gaiety reminiscent of the sun filtering into Lake Michigan on a crisp Fall morning. Meanwhile, you’ve gained two pounds since Christmas and — deep sigh — nothing in Cynthia Rowley fits. Kevin’s a vegan, he works for a health food canvassing company and tells you about new fads everyone’s endorsing: “Wheatgrass shots are OUT,” he tells you emphatically as he chains up his bike, “it’s all about black ginger.” You tell him you’ve never heard of black ginger and he laughs, thinking you’re joking.
You sit down for brunch, order mimosas and tell Kevin what you would have told Dr. Schnauzenhauer if you had more time. You’re still typing up expense reports for overfed bankers in expensive pinstripe suits you complain as you study the menu, calculating the calorie content of each dish. You need a job that unleashes your creativity, but Pater doesn’t have contacts outside the financial industry. You sigh and press freshly manicured fingers to your forehead. You feel a light migraine is imminent.
You order another mimosa even though Kevin’s barely touched his first. The conversation progresses from work to sex, as all brunch conversations do. Kevin tells you about hooking up with his neighbor. She has a good supply of wine and she likes fellating him as he sits on her beige sofa sipping a zesty Zinfandel. You frown, you were certain Kevin was gay, but it’s too far along in your friendship to ask him something as basic as sexual preference. Kevin asks about your love life and you mention bumping into an ex. Well, you saw him and charged through closing subway doors to say hi and he said: My god you’re tenacious. What an odd thing to say, you laugh! Kevin looks at you sadly, as though he’s just heard his cat is suffering from jaundice and only has a few months left to live, pet months that is. You tell Kevin about plans to move to Brooklyn. You’re sick of Gramercy and its obvious conveniences, you declare loudly as you finish your mimosa and playfully push a forkful of quinoa and spinach round your plate. You have romantic notions of living in a poor-ish community where you’re on first name terms with everyone. You lubricate this fantasy with talk of bike rides, picnics, barbeques and tennis. Your life will be a Julie Andrews movie.
As you finish lunch you suggest meeting up soon, you miss seeing your Taiwanese friend, you tell him fondly. Kevin reminds you that his mother is American, he was born and raised in Connecticut and his father is only half-Taiwanese so technically…. He’s defensive when you invite him to a Cubism exhibit that no-one seems to want to attend. Why is everyone so difficult to pin down?! He talks about an avalanche of work, and life’s either exhilarating or exhausting, and time is precious. You don’t understand what his point is. You invite Kevin again and he shrugs resignedly.
As Kevin pedals away you feel light-headed. You have a tendency to drink and keep on drinking, if only you could stop at that euphorically happy still coherent moment when conversations make sense. You walk past Duane Reade and see DeShaun taking a cigarette break. You wave but he doesn’t see you. You keep on walking and feel a familiar wave of rejection wash over you. You don’t have many plans for the weekend. You’ll stay in with Mister Whiskers, maybe start on that Rosetta Stone series. Buongiorno!
You decide to pick up a treat for Mister Whiskers and a new brand of ear plugs. You turn around and walk back towards Duane Reade where DeShaun, who just finished his cigarette, quite suddenly breaks into a sprint down the street.
Hannah Sloane moved to New York from London four years ago and works in communications and marketing. She has also been published in Mr Beller’s Neighborhood. She is currently editing her first novel.