I spent the afternoon of the day we met ardently cursing my life and its meaningless cruelties. I’d channeled my blame at Muni—because Muni made me 20 minutes late to the first interview I’d managed to land in a month, not my own nefarious attempts to remain half-unemployed, dirt poor, self defeated, or whatever. Dejected and dejectedly assessing the state of living, I sat surrounded by the rants of a schizophrenic man in an immobile street car. My misery was periodically increased by incoherent driver announcements suggesting a vaguely interminable “technical delay.” The schizophrenic man knew better—it was crazy because it was Monday. That, and because life was cruel and heartless.
Concerned by the rising potential for public tears, I had considered just skipping the interview. I figured I’d already lost it, anyway. Then I would have never met you. But, damn it, life was so hard. I looked ridiculous in my best imitation of business casual; I was 20 minutes late and a worthless waste of a human who, by way of being worthless, had made a bad decision to wear these ridiculous trousers.
Jerrett, you didn’t meet me like that. I’d been saved not by a positive assessment of the interview—which didn’t go horribly—but because someone had placed Purell dispensers at the doors of that office complex, as if to say: “Here, anoint thy hands and cleanse thyself of filth and suffering, and go forth in health and wellness.” Touched by the inhuman concern of a motion-activated, for-your-convenience machine, I felt blessed, embraced by meaninglessness. Because in your most absurdly dejected moments, life offers you Purell earnestly, and you accept it without irony.
Jerrett, you met me standing in the grey of the evening on that unfamiliar Muni platform. I’d triumphed. I felt alive in my anonymity, thinking smugly, no germs for me! I felt satisfied by the dreary-eyed crowd, by the forever lagging public transport, by my feet, pinched and tortured by shoes that had, thank Purell, not sliced into my skin and become filled with blood. I don’t look that dumb in these trousers, after all. But I ignored you, Jerrett, as you loomed in my peripheral vision, awkwardly debating whether or not to speak to me. Despite that touch of danger dangling from your chin—facial hair, a rectangular scribble that resembled the shocked remnants of a bikini wax—you appeared to be good-natured relic of the mid ninties. That “good Christian values” button-up shirt tucked into your belted, light-wash jeans, your sturdy, discreet shoes and those friendly stock-frame eyeglasses: I’d identified you as a talk-risk. I could have avoided you, but I didn’t. I had been freed—no, cleansed of my darker assessments, at least for the moment.
You must have wondered, who is this girl, rubbing her hands with a strange, possibly psychopathic satisfaction, smiling to herself at some private, possibly psychopathic joke? Maybe you were compelled to speak to me—more likely you were just bored. But, looming, scratching your disturbing pube-beard, you wondered how to begin. Ah. The ultimate San Francisco icebreaker: damn that scourge on our lives, Muni, for being late!
Of course I could sympathize. Muni, though a wonderful excuse, hadn’t been kind to me, either. I admit, though, Jerrett, I didn’t really want to talk to you. I wanted to revel privately in my sense that life provides Purell to cheer you in your most dejected moments, cleansing your dark, ridiculous mood with an antibacterial gel that simultaneously cleanses the microscopic filth from your hands. Something prevents your shoes from filling with blood at the most inopportune moments, when it would make a really bad impression that would be worse than being late. You were a distraction to my comfort and my solitude, and so, hoping to truncate further conversation, I said, “Muni is lame.” I stepped back, hoping to hide in plain sight by pretending to busy myself with some electronic device.
But life gives you Purell, and then you shake a stranger’s germ-swarmed hand. Long silenced, the pressure of unshared words and thoughts had been building within you. Like a can of soda that explodes in sugary, pancreas-depleting fluids after suffering a vicious shaking, the body of your introduction was ill-composed, erratic, and punctuated by an unbalanced giggle. You’d been waiting for the bus a long time—it’s not like this in New York, which is where you’re from originally, even though it’s crazy there too—you’re a cook but you still had to go grocery shopping that day, you’d gotten up at 7 that morning to take a test, but it’s been ten years since high school—what does that symbol even mean? Reading comprehension is hard—those questions, it’s like, what? But you guess they want you know this stuff before they let you in to culinary school—you’re a cook, and you know how to cook, but you might as well make some money at it, right, so you can work as a line cook and then open your own restaurant, but damn, it’d been a long day, and you still had to go grocery shopping.
You know that uncomfortable laugh, when you laugh instead of saying anything of substance because you have nothing of substance to say? When you have nothing to add but a “Yeah” (subtext: but why are you talking to me)? That’s what I did, Jerrett. But because I am so quick, I added what I thought was a smart conclusion: “Ah, well, that’s life, I guess!”
That reminded you. “Hey, have you seen that Orbit commercial?” I shook my head no, and you became totally incoherent in your giggling attempt to recount the ad, which, I admit, convinced me you were a psychopath. I’d been edging away, digging for my phone, uselessly hoping it would ring, but you were shocked by the fact I don’t have a television, and now you were intrigued. You couldn’t fathom how I might attempt to pass my time on earth, and when you asked me what I did, I couldn’t either. Don’t you hate it when conversations with disturbingly bearded, possibly psychopathic strangers reveal more about your life than you prefer to admit? Jerrett, don’t you hate that?
When I panicked and told you I try to read (which is a half-truth), you pretended to be impressed. “Oh, so you’re one of those people. I bet you got the vo-ca-bu-lree. I bet you’re super smart. I see! You’re like a librarian! I bet you could win the national spelling bee.” And despite my initial disinterest, which was not encouraged by that flash of panic (first that you might be a serial killer, and then that I actually do nothing to pass my time on earth), you had charmed me by your very determination to charm me. I wasn’t sure what you were basing your assumption on, but I was grateful that you assumed humanities was the study of human beings, and the fact that I majored in it made me a real people person.
Jerrett, you and I both knew our encounter had to end at that Muni platform, because that’s the way things work: you rub on some Purell and then you shake a stranger’s filthy hand. But I wish I had thanked you during our conversation. So thank you. Thank you for speaking to me, even though I didn’t want to speak to you. Thank you for not murdering me right away, even though that’s what I assumed you wanted. Thank you for attempting to flatter me. Thank you for not reacting badly when I couldn’t explain why I wouldn’t give you my number. (Tell him you don’t have a phone number and can’t be reached by anyone, ever!) Thanks for forcing me to take your number instead so that we might chit chat sometime, or maybe if I ever need your services as a cook for the nonexistent barbecues and dinner parties I throw for all my nonexistent friends. Thank you for supervising the entire process nonchalantly, the way a vulture nonchalantly supervises some ripe corpse splayed out to bake on the depleted soil below. Thank you, because you and I both know we’ll never chit chat, hang out, or enter a contract whereby you provide your culinary services for my pathetic social engagements, even though you’d name your restaurant—which would use beds instead of tables, because wouldn’t that be crazy in a restaurant?!—Jerrett’s Hobo Cuisine. Thank you for being a distraction to my solitude, and for reminding me in the best possible way that I don’t do anything to pass the time on this earth. Most of all, Jerrett, thank you for engaging in ritual with a fellow human. Thank you Jerrett, you quintessential, incomprehensible stranger, for soiling my germ-virgin Purell hands.
Our blog title has a far deeper meaning than any of us intended. As three recent graduates, brought together by the tempests of individualism raging within us, and Craigslist, we are trying to reflect on what exactly is to become of us. While we reflect on the end of our college years and assess where to head to next (geographically, professionally, and existentially) San Francisco has featured as the backdrop for this exploration of our youth.
After you finish writing a clause you punctuate with a comma and a space before starting the next.
Yeah, we’re nonchalantly intellectual like that. Kind of.
Fear is never going to go away. How you dance with it makes all the difference. —
Simon Beaufoy (screenwriter of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) called Bombay a “city on steroids”. This is my rebuttal.
Taken at Juhu Beach, December 2008.
The ladies of the Baller House finally have a blog-type-thing to vent about our twenty-nothing lives.
Watch this space for depraved and important things.