If you're wondering how things are going here, the answer is, not great. I still haven't found a part-time job to supplement my teaching, for one. The pickings are slim to begin with, and the few jobs I did apply to, I didn't get. I dropped a volunteer application off at the SPCA two weeks ago and even they haven't gotten back to me. I want to work for them for free, and even they don't want me. And, though technically I teach three days a week at the college, it's not like I'm working full eight-hour days. I teach for two hours a day, three days a week. This means that not only is the money situation becoming dire, but I am left with large, gaping chunks of time to fill. Like, massive, yawning caverns of time; motherfucking mountains of time that taunt me, as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, saying, "And what are you going to do todaaayyyyy, Rachel?" And usually, after a quick whirl around the computer reveals no new e-mail, and no new job postings on Craigslist, and no interesting looking yoga classes scheduled for the day, my answer becomes, "Nothing. I am going to do nothing today. Fine. Happy now?" And while technically it might be impossible to actually physically do nothing, you might be surprised how little one can manage to accomplish when one is massively under-employed and friendless in a new town. Nothing means I end up lying on my bed for hours, staring at the ceiling. Nothing is sitting in front of the computer, staring out the window, thinking how familiar this all feels. It feels a lot like when I moved home to my parents' house for six weeks after France. It feels like when I lived in France, pre-Hervé. It even feels a little like Boston, post-James. I've been here before, is what I'm saying, and in fact, I've probably spent the most part of my adult, post-college years in this very same situation. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but somehow it never feels anything less than soul-crushing.
And leave it to me to attend a giant, alcohol-fueled house party with my roommates (in a bright blue bell-bottomed polyester pantsuit, nonetheless), and spend the entire evening talking to an adorable (if slightly height-challenged) twenty-three year-old visiting from out of town. What, meet age-appropriate people who actually live in the same town as me? When I have a perfectly willing conversation partner that I have already latched onto right here? Let's just say, "I'll catch up with you later, I have to mingle," are words you will never hear me say at a party. Especially when the latchee in question was fun, interesting, and didn't seem to mind my relative height and age advantage, and kept offering me sips from his beer, even when it was the very last beer left at the bash. He and his brother were apparently staying in a tent in our backyard, a fact I was oblivious to until they showed up on our porch as my roommates and I were passing a saxophone around, taking turns squawking to someone's iTunes dance mix right before we left for the party. (There had been some drinking, someone mentioned they used to play the alto sax in college, someone else said, "No way, me too!," someone else said, "Get out! I did too! You know, I think I still have mine around here somewhere..." You know how it goes.) So these two brothers, friends of friends, I think, showed up on the porch, saying, "We were sleeping in the tent, and then we heard a saxophone..." So they came to the party too. And there we were, standing in a giant, cavernous room filled with crazily-dressed people we didn't know, and he turned to me and said, "So what do you do?" And it was just one of those things, those brief, weird connections that never happen when you want them to, or when it would be convenient, but suddenly you realize that you read the same books, and listen to the same music, and think the same t.v. shows are funny, and you can have an actual conversation without having to backtrack and provide encyclopedic references to explain what you're talking about. As soon as I said the words French literature, he said that he bought a Proust novel that he's been meaning to start. To which I replied, "No way, I'm in the middle of Swann's Way right now." (This after weeks of responding to the casual question, So what are you reading? with "Oh, Proust, gah, blech," and an exaggerated eye roll, thinking, Oh my god, they're going to think I'm so pretentious, only for them to reply, "Who's that?" or, "Oh, is she good?")
We all came back from the party together, late, and sat around for a while, the iTunes back on. An Iron & Wine song came on. "Which one do you like better," I asked, "this version or..."
"...or the Postal Service version?" he said. "That's a good question. But I do have a soft spot for Iron & Wine."
And then the saxophone came back out, oh yes it did, and with a vengeance, played loudly and probably unintentionally comically, not by me but by one of the drunker members of our group. And it just went on and on, and it was squawky and loud, my god, so loud, and there was no way I was going to be able to go to sleep with that going on anyway, so I sat up looking on bemusedly as my eyelids drooped. The situation escalated in ridiculousness, and at one point I started laughing and exclaimed, "This is so like Office Space!" And he started laughing too, saying, "Oh my god, you're right," and I was so relieved that I didn't have to explain myself, because at the same time, it was not at all like the movie Office Space in any way that was easily definable, seeing that in the movie there are no mentions of saxophones or wind instruments of any kind. But it was so nice to be on so similar a wavelength as someone else, to only have to express half an idea and have them say, Yes, I know what you are saying, and I think so too. At this point the gap on the couch between us had shrunk to nothing, and we were shoulder to shoulder and bare arm to warm, bare arm. I felt the tension mounting; I hoped he didn't notice I was breathing faster. We talked, heads tilted towards each other, his eyes open and honest and blue/black, almost all pupil. In the dim light he looked more childish than he had before; his scraggly dark blond beard couldn't hide his smooth, unlined face. By the time 5 a.m. rolled around everyone else had finally gone off to bed, leaving us alone in the living room with his brother snoring gently on the couch across from us. We sat untalking and unmoving for about thirty silent seconds before I stood up and said, "Well, I'm going to bed." And I wanted to kiss him, I did. I wanted to kiss him a lot, but that's all I wanted to do and I didn't feel like explaining that, and also, the last time I saw 5 a.m. I'm pretty sure it was because I was getting up to start my day, not ending it. At any rate, I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and so I left him and his brother to forgo their tent in favor of crashing on the couches in the living room, and I went to bed.
I laid there in my bed, but I couldn't sleep. Sighing, I kicked off my down comforter and walked into the hallway. I pulled some blankets from the linen closet and took them into the darkened living room, draped them over sleeping bodies. I was right; I saw that he had burrowed himself into a sweatshirt someone had left out, hood and all. Still August, but chilly already. He opened his eyes. "Oh wow," he whispered. "That's so nice."
I smiled in the dark. "So will you still be here in the morning?" I asked him.
"Yeah," he said. "I'll be right here."
"Ok, I'll see you then," I whispered. "Goodnight."
And I went back to bed, pulled the comforter to my chin, and slept without moving for the next four hours.
When morning came, they were gone. Brothers, tent, and car had all gone back to wherever it was they had come from, the only sign that they had ever been there a wrinkled sweatshirt and some blankets folded neatly on the couch.
I showered and dressed, ate breakfast, opened up my computer, checked my e-mail and the Craigslist job postings, gazed vacantly out the window. And what are you going to do todaaaayyyy, Rachel?
Nothing, I'm going to do nothing today. Ok?