I return home after the seventh “test run” for employment. The seventh unpaid afternoon spent chopping brussels sprouts and tearing kale, washing dishes and making potato salad. It’s the seventh afternoon I’ve wasted doing all sorts of silly, menial tasks in an industry I have no intention of pursuing a future in. I’m sweaty, and tired, and still unemployed because I’ve already decided I can’t bring myself to take this job even if it’s offered to me. It would feel like giving up on myself. I’d be ignoring the six years of education I’d worked hard for, for what? Eight bucks an hour plus tips, one day a week? I just can’t. I hate myself for knowing my own inability to settle.
I make the hike out of the subway station, into the damp heat. The streets in my neighborhood are putridly familiar: welcoming in the sense that they lack overwhelming movement, hostile in their distinctive rotten, garbage-y, piss smell. No one rushes as I make my way down the few blocks towards home.
I pass a few groups of stoop sitters, and even a couple guys barbecuing sausages and hamburgers on a grill set up on the sidewalk. I attempt a smile, but I can tell they see the frustrated sadness in my eyes. One guy holds his hand to his chest, calling after me in a Caribbean accent, “What have you down guhl? Don’t no one have da right to put dat look in dem eyes.” I smile feebly, shrug, and keep walking, but it makes me feel better to know that I live in a New York neighborhood where there’s still a little humanity left.
Once I get to my building, and climb up to the fourth floor, and make sure no one else is home in the apartment, I take off my sticky shoes and pants and socks and bra, and without really thinking about it, I settle in the middle of the living room in my underwear. Despite my nakedness, I’m still sweating, and the moisture settles in slick pockets between my breasts and the ripples of my stomach. I don’t stare at anything in particular, but I notice a fat fly buzzing near the basil plant in the window. “How long has that thing been alive?” I wonder. I glance at my bookcase, at the couches, at one of my photographs of Utah hung on the wall. I try to remember if I have any tomatoes or avocadoes left in my drawer in the fridge.
I can’t help but recognize how ridiculous it is that I’m stuck in this meditative frustration. It’s hard not to feel disappointed in the path I chose that led me to this moment.
It’s painful, realizing you’re just like everyone else.