Minutes spent commuting, daily: 150
I made my landlord cry. It wasn’t intentional, and I really wish I hadn’t. I was running late!
I blame it on BYOB. Setting an alarm on a Saturday is already tragic, but being woken up by a disrespectful roommate, her fat college friend and her VERY tragic divorcee mother on a Saturday is pretty much unforgiveable. On my way into the living room they all paused from their snacks and slack-jawed yockeling to say “Oh, we had no idea you were home!” as if that qualified for an apology, which was obviously never offered. What did I expect from three women eating M&Ms at 8:45 am?
I made nice with the friend and her mother and warned them that it was very important I leave the apartment by 10:30. They had to exit at the same time and assured me it would be no problem. …at 10:45 they all piled out of the bathroom, again offered no apology, and took off to buy tickets for the Rockettes.
Picking their hair out of the drain during my hot-water-less shower, I quickly decided I needed to get over it. Bad roommates happen, it doesn’t have to ruin my morning, even if they made me a bit late. I can be the bigger person. Not if they keep eating those M&Ms, but I can try.
Fortunately getting ready to head to Hoboken to meet Georgia Ann’s parents (who were spontaneously visiting from Georgia) is a very simple process: I don’t even have to bother with hunting down my coat, because I still don’t have one! Weather Man had sent me a thin spring jacket and the Professor had offered me his coats, but in a foolish attempt to avoid using men to succeed I denied both these offers and vowed to find a self-sufficient way to keep warm. Running everywhere works.
Running out the door I ran into Landlady, the most extreme stereotype of a neo Jewish Brooklynite I’ve ever encountered. Armed with such golden phrases as “you’s guys gotta close the fuckin’ door”, this woman takes no shit from anyone and loves her “babies” that rent from her. She was also horrified to see one of her babies rushing into the 20 degree afternoon with no jacket. When she questioned me I briefly and politely explained that there had been a shipping snafu with the coat from Michigan and that my family couldn’t afford to ship it again. And then the real questions started, and before I knew it she was asking about my mom’s transplant and my ugly money situation. Landlady can relate, when her husband left her and her young daughter she struggled to make ends meet. She told me about spending the last of her grocery money to buy her daughter a Christmas present, and how she still couldn’t afford to buy the doll her daughter really wanted that year. Her eyes began to well up as she told me I could never understand the sacrifices my mother has made for me. I nodded and said that’s the beauty of unconditional love, and Landlady cracked a smile before breaking into downright sobs. I had said a magic phrase, and she sat on the stairs and told me about what a great boy I was. And how proud my family must be of me. And how late I was to meet Georgia Ann’s family. Fuck!
Having no luck with the bus and being confused by the Chinese vans (I know you can understand me, dammit!), I hoofed it to the subway and called Georgia Ann to warn her of my extreme lateness. She said it was fine, just hurry, and I bounded up the stairs to the subway to discover it completely barren. No Manhattan bound trains this weekend. Walk ten blocks further into Brooklyn, then head north from there. Great.
Two rivers is just too far to travel for sex. That’s why I can’t sleep with people from Jersey, I can only cross one river for play. Unfortunatley friendship knows no such stipulation and crossing two rivers to meet the parents of your best friend in the city is necessary. Even if the parents are “good ol’ boys” who’re now in their 60s, have never been to NYC in their lives, comlain it’s too cold anywhere outside of Georgia, and demand to know why you’re not eating any meat at lunch.
Though all those facts are true, Georgia Ann’s parents were also remarkably sweet people. Her father went out of his way to connect with me after lunch. I made coffee in her apartment and he asked if I was handy at interior decorating, which is fairly subtle for an older Georgian gentleman. Her mother was very interested in my job and what drove me to move to New York, and Georgia Ann just did her best to keep me from swearing. I only said “fuck” once in a three hour time span, I deserve some sort of medal.
After putting her parents in a cab for the airport Georgia Ann and I met up with her roommates, had way too much wine, and discovered that Ben & Jerry’s delivers. That’s right, delivery ice cream, one drunk dial away at all times. And her parents wanted to know why I moved to NYC!
The next day I received a call from my sister in Michigan, who was with our mom on her way to watch a touring version of the Rockettes. THE ROCKETTES. Except for one small problem, an uncovered pick-up truck lost a package which got wedged underneath a small car. In the blink of an eye four cars are piled up on eachother, one has flipped three times and precariously come to a halt, another flipped on it’s side and scraped 300 feet across the highway barrier, and one had been side swiped but never flipped. That was the one my family had been lucky enough to be in.
After my mother’s transplant a slew of medical complications became apparent, including enlarged organs that mean the slightest jarring could cause intense internal bleeding and kill her. My sister pulled a screaming woman from a car in fear that it could explode, called an ambulance, and dialed me knowing that if anything had ruptured internally our mother had ten minutes to live. …Never has a hangover in Hoboken been so overshadowed. A few hours later and I was in Brooklyn, talking with my mother, who was safe in the hospital and undergoing tests to combat some accute kidney failure, but otherwise in good health. Thankfully.
A few days later and Georgia Ann was in a cab herself, headed to Connecticut to visit friends. I had the option of staying in Brooklyn and being painfully alone for four day or heading to upstate New York to hang out with BYOB and her friends. I chose the soul crushing lonliness.
I woke up Thanksgiving morning and braved the massive crowds (apparently the Asians love Thanksgiving, who knew?) after finding out both of my Chinese delivery restaurants were closed for the holiday. Great. An hour later and I was seated alone in an otherwise packed Vietnamese restaurant, literally wedged into the corner table and watching what can only be called “Vietnamese Idol” on the television. I ordered my Thanksgiving bean-curd and poured a cup of tea as the kind restauranter explained that he had to take the extra chairs from my table, there were simply too many families at the restaurant. I’m pretty sure that’s when one of the singers did a cover of “Open Arms”.
Since Landlady thought all of the roommates had left for the long weekend our heat wasn’t working properly, so I made the most of it by baking cupcakes and sitting around a space heater for a few days, reading old magazines and working on crossword puzzles. Somewhere during the third DVR’d movie of the day, I realized I had received a package in the mail the day before and had never opened it! I did have something exciting to be thankful for, unopened mail!
Before slitting the box open I saw that it was from Georgia Ann’s family, which was incredibly surprising. Inside the box was a Christmas card and a handwritten note from her mother, which explained that they were impressed that I had done so much on my own and that they felt I shouldn’t have to struggle to get by simply because my family can’t afford to help me out financially. The note asked that I simply accept the gifts in the box. Underneath the card were two brand new half-zip sweaters, in well chosen white and brown, both very thick and soft. How sweet of them! I was genuinely touched by their unnecessary kindness.
Grateful that the unexpected gifts were modest enough to accept, I shivered next to my space heater and ate another patheta-sad Thanksgiving cupcake. I grabbed one of the new sweaters and pulled it over my head. And that’s when I saw it. Underneath the two sweaters, a brand new black leather Kenneth Cole winter jacket.
And for the first time the facade began to break down. I grabbed my phone and called my home in a hurry. I wanted to hear the familiar voices of my familly, my mother’s voice would be tense because of the stress of making Thanksgiving dinner and my sister would be irritated that the parade on TV had too many commercials and my uncles would be getting high in the carport. I wanted to admit that I wasn’t doing as well as I said I was. That moving on your own to the country’s biggest city is hard. That not having the money to travel to visit loved ones or even afford multiple meals a day is tough. Admit that I, Burkeman the Wunderkind, was struggling. To tell them that New York is everything I hoped it would be but that you have to admit that life isn’t effortless, that roommates suck sometimes and friends have more money than you do. I wanted to talk about the chance that I might fail for the first time in my life and sometimes it’s scary. Sitting on the floor, next to the space heater, wearing a sweater from someone else’s mother, alone, surrounded by cupcakes that I couldn’t afford to frost and left-over bean curd, I called home for the first time in weeks. But of course no one answered. My sister wasn’t worried about the parade, my uncles weren’t high in the carport; my mother was sitting in a hospital bed in Henry Ford, getting tests run on her spleen. I hung up the phone, looked at my new jacket, and admit that my wave of self-pity was already over. These 8 cupcakes aren’t going to reluctantly eat themselves.
[but it’s to no avail and i don’t want the bail, i promise you everything will be just fine]