AT TWENTY FIVE
My mother never quite grasped the concept of greeting cards. To her, they were forms of communication she would never understand like email. Rolling my eyes, I nudged the card off the counter and let my head drop to its surface. I was still nursing a monstrous hang over; the last thing I needed was a phone call from my very perky, very southern mother so we could go through the laundry list of things I had yet to accomplish.
"So let me get this straight.” Nell, Clarissa’s coworker, leaned over her sandwich and displayed her bad habit of chewing and talking. “None of us remember what happened last night?”
Taylor sat uncomfortably in front of a plate full of what the owner of Bellucci’s thought he’d like for breakfast. Annoyed by his constant shifting, Clarissa grabbed onto the back of his chair to keep it from moving. “At what point did he come into the picture?”
“The name’s Taylor.” He poked at his sandwich and grimaced.
Too sluggish to move and too hot to function, I lay in bed for a full half hour virtually melting into the sheets and cursing global warming until an unfamiliar shrill from down the hallway forced me out of bed. Comfortable in my own apartment, I decided that in the event of such smothering temperatures clothing wasn’t necessary to wander around my own home. Boldly, I stretched out my legs and entered the kitchen in only my underwear expecting, at most, to find my newly acquired husband behind a bowl of cereal.
As luck would have it, this was not the case.
The Big D was Brenda Alayne’s euphemism for her divorce, the same divorce she flaunted in front of her friends in the Garden Club, the same divorce she brags about to her church hens, the same divorce so devastating to her pride that she has to call it The Big D. That, apparently, made it sound so much more monumental than it had been. I often wondered if she enjoyed the attention from being divorced more than ever being married to the man with Such High Social Status.
The trip down to Georgia was, unfortunately enough, a familiar one. After the last three years of what I thought would be sheer disconnection from my somewhat shameful southern roots (to which I only admit when hammered out of my mind) had turned out to involve regular ventures down I-95 to Roswell, Georgia for inconveniencies like holidays, birthdays, family reunions (read: family drinking night), and those all too familiar “feel good” trips. Our venture to Roswell this time around would fit under the last category, only the feel good would be happening on my end of the deal for the first time, not my mothers.
Taylor burst through the door, gasping under the weight of our luggage. My mother, distracted from spreading mayonnaise over her bread, snapped in his direction and cooed. He was, as she would tell her Gardening Club over cocktails during the next few days, a tall glass of water, a hunky chunk of man meat.
“Well, is this the lucky man?” She stood up, clacking her heels across the hardwood floor to greet him.
“I’m not quite sure,” he said as he blushed, kicking some of the luggage aside.
“Well aren’t you delicious.” Brenda Alayne Wexler leaned towards him and cupped his face in her hand. “I guess my good taste rubbed off on my Pih-puh.”
“He’s almost as gorgeous Dubya, mhmm.” Large Broach added, commencing the inevitable worship of quite possibly one of my least favorite men alive.
“Now Dubya, there’s a real man,” Brenda Alayne nodded in accord.
Clarissa cocked her eyebrow and mouthed, “Seriously?”
As far as the Gardening Club Divorcées and Brenda Alayne were concerned, Taylor and I had been happily married for the last few months. The scowl on my mother’s face (that meant, and I’m fairly certain on this one, she had expected something like this to happen since he was, after all, from New York) was waiting for me to react with some horrified gasp or a naïve claim such as, “That’s just his secretary,” or “She’s just his sister-in-law, very touchy.” While I should have immediately committed myself to some melodramatic diatribe against the woman who was occupying my husband’s time, while I should have assumed my role of Worried Wife, I could not risk my husband thinking that I was actually attracted to him.
Because that really would ruin the whole plan, wouldn’t it?
“You’re twenty-five, successful, quite rich—“
“—and you still live with your best friend from college in a small apartment in Manhattan?”
“You sound like Brenda Alayne. Stop it.”
“Are you just afraid what might happen when you find someone you do like?”
“That’s absurd,” I scoffed. “I’m already married, I don’t have anything to worry about anymore. It’s the perfect situation really. I mean, the way I see it we’re all going to be divorced at some point anyway, so why not marry someone who isn’t attracted to you at all? That way, you’ll still get the benefits—"
He didn’t argue, of course, because he had never wanted to be there in the first place. He never even wanted to be legally bound to me either, but there wasn’t much I could do about that at that point.
We sat silently for a while longer, kicking the surface of the water and the leaves that hadn’t been fished out of it since the fall. Eventually, I leaned back onto the concrete, feet still wet, and stared up at the suburban night sky, full of the stars we never saw in New York. I hated Roswell, and I hated being reminded of why I left it in the first place.
We got off at Washington Square Park and made our way towards the fountain where far too many NYU students, hopefuls, and general bums lounged around with their pants rolled up and their feet in the water. A few yards away a group of people crowded around this one guy who was standing on a box. He was preaching or rapping or something that involved the flagrant waving of his arms in the air and persuaded the surrounding crowd to bob their heads accordingly and in sync.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked him as we watched the group from a safe distance. “I mean, technically we are grown up, but didn’t you ever want to do it all over again?”
“Yeah, about that—“ I said, looking back at my desk. “Did the intern get into my desk the other week? I can’t stand that kid. ”
She didn’t answer, only pointed to the shaded glass door with a sneer.
When I walked out ten minutes later, I was unemployed. As was Clarissa. Apparently, Sylvia thought she’d come down with Clarissa’s fabricated Chicken Pneumonia when she broke out with a nasty rash on her stomach. Apparently, Sylvia was just allergic to the crab cake’s she had some sketchy Atlantic City seafood joint, but she wasn’t aware of this. Fearing for her life, she tried to research the illness Clarissa had told her we both had and when her search came up empty handed, she caught on to us.
“You know what I heard today?” Clarissa asked as she munched on a macadamia. “I heard from Nell that you were harassing one of those peanut guys today.”
“Really? Was she sure it was me?”
“What did you do to the peanut guy, Piper?” Her eyes grew wide.
“I paid him for his nuts; that’s all.”
“He’s too good for you!” She started walking towards me, waving her purse above her head as though a warning that soon, she would be hitting me with it.
“Yeah, well I’ve got the marriage license!” I flashed the rock in her face again. “Where’s yours?”
Lizzy let out a primal scream and knocked me onto a conveniently placed sofa against the wall. Then, tackling me, she straddled me and started wrestling for my left hand. “Give me that ring!”
Fighting off perhaps the most expensive item that had ever been placed on or near my body, I shoved her off the couch with my heels. “Eat bar dirt, skank!”
Really, I should have been ashamed, but the booze was clouding my judgment.
Neither of us had ever dabbled in experimental and non-habit forming drugs before, so when we found ourselves crouched in the corner of a bathroom stall with two NYU kids and a joint. I, at least, felt a little sketchy. Perhaps it could have been the hairy brown ooze collecting by the drain in the floor, or perhaps it was the abundance of the phrase “I love pussy” scrawled into the paint of the bathroom walls that left me with the sensation to bathe for a week straight. Whichever it happened to be, I tried to focus on the fact that in a matter of minutes, I probably wouldn’t give a damn.
“I got this potent shit in Costa Rica,” the guy hummed, holding a tie-dyed lighter up to the end of the joint. “Will absolutely blow your mind, ladies.”
I spent the next week on that floor, watching reruns of Felicity and drinking moderately decent beer until I passed out so I could wake up and do it again the next day. Clarissa must have gotten tired of it, no matter how much she wanted to be sympathetic. One afternoon, in the midst of another round of season one, Clarissa disappeared from the apartment and I was interrupted by a buzzing from the doorman. I told him to let up whoever was downstairs regardless of the fact that I wasn’t expecting anyone. Worst case scenario, someone had come to put me out of my misery.
Soon, the bartender returned with this lovely little drink called Lust, winked at me, and told me he’d keep the tab open for as long as I’d want. Great. The last thing I needed was outside encouragement to keep drinking.
Another fifteen minutes passed and I was two Lusts into the evening, feeling a little tipsy and a little bit sexier than when I walked in. I was about to order a third when my favorite underage girl bounced into the room wearing an even slinkier dress than I. She was once again attached to Taylor and meticulously wiping the corner of her mouth with her thumb.
I brushed away the blueberry goo and caught what appeared to be a familiar sparkle. “What?”
He moved out of his seat and assumed a position on the floor.
Slathered in chewed-up muffin mix was The Rock, the hefty engagement ring I’d chucked at his head months before, the orgasmic princess cut diamond that I’d shown off to practically every woman who passed me as a reinforcement of my fiscal achievements in life.
“Oh, my God.”
1: How It Should Be: Ben Kweller
2: Knock 'Em Out: Lilly Allen
3: Black Horse & The Cherry Tree: KT Tunstall
4: Bartender: Regina Spektor
5: Die Alone: Ingrid Michaelson
6: Without Your Skin: Keaton Simons