Footsie

The first thing I noticed about him was his height. He was tall. Not freakishly so, but tall enough to make my knees a little weak. We talked a bit of shop over oysters and Manhattans. His job, of course, was more interesting than mine so we mostly talked about him. His career seemed dreamy – filled with music and big names. His brown eyes made me blush and the whiskey made me slutty. Naturally, I found myself back at his apartment.

He was a lot older than me – nearly twice my age. He lived in a tiny studio apartment on the east side of town. It was more or less a janitor’s closet with a kitchen. It was cheaply renovated and featured the same flashy fake marble flooring I had in my apartment. He didn’t have any furniture. The only place to sit was on a thin mattress that looked like it came off of a futon. A couple of pillows and some crumbled sheets were laying on top of it. “Oh, that must be the bed” I muddled under my breath. We met online – Tinder more specifically. I really shouldn’t have given him the benefit of the doubt after seeing his apartment. But he was handsome, and I’m recklessly shallow – so I stayed.

He took me up to the roof of his apartment and kissed me slowly – thoughtfully. When he pulled away and I looked up towards the sky, I could actually see a few stars. Inside, he poured me wine and told me stories about being a teenager in the nineties. It made him seem so cool in a way I’m embarrassed to admit. I Imagined him and his friends being like the cool kids in the teen dramas I would watch on tv as a child and it made me weirdly envious.

Just before I let myself get swept up by his cool charm,  I noticed something odd. He really liked feet. He touched my feet more than anything on my body and although I would try to politely wiggle them away – he would always find them. “Sorry, I have kind of a fetish.” He giggled mischievously. “Oh, I don’t mind.” I lied, giggling back. I thought it was weird, but it was still better than watching New Girl alone in my apartment, surrounded by cats. 

I went out with him again. We had a nice dinner and laughed and talked like old friends. He was incredibly hyperactive. He had such a surprising amount of energy that I wondered if he needed adult Ritalin. People who can’t still generally make me very anxious but I felt at ease with him for some reason. I trusted that because he was much older than me, that he was the level headed man I needed in my life. Then, he finished the evening on my feet.

“Well, at least it wasn’t on your face.” I have always loved my cousin’s strong sense of reason. “But my feet…isn’t that kind of weird?” Foot fetishes were a new topic for my circle of friends. We mostly all had the same confused reaction like, why feet? and honestly I still don’t know. He didn’t either – because I asked him. Even though I was slightly horrified by the mental image of him sucking on my toes, I went out with him again. New York City has significantly lowered my standards.

On our third date, we ate Indian and his eyes swelled up like grapefruits. Not from the Indian but from my cat, Pippin, who had decided to curl up on his face while I was in the other room. He didn’t even push him off – he just let it happen. He just sat still on my couch, with a cat wrapped around his face, well-knowing he was allergic to cats. It should have been a red flag. He still managed to be charming though, even through the sniffles and coughs. He left my feet alone, and I was incredibly relieved. We spent a lovely evening together, but the morning would prove to be much different.

In the middle of the night something truly disturbing happened. I woke up and skipped out of bed and into the bathroom. I looked down just before I disrobed and what I saw horrified me. There, in my toilet, lay a gigantic, disintegrating turd. I nearly vomited. My roommate still wasn’t home from being out the night before so it couldn’t have been anybody else. I flushed it down and shoved my head in a towel and screamed. I walked back into my room like nothing had happened. I climbed into bed and tried desperately not to wake him. He rolled over and put his arm around me, pulling me closer. I wanted to climb out of my skin.

Just before he left, he kissed me on the cheek and called me kiddo. I shuttered. We didn’t speak again after that. We didn’t need to. I was lonely from my last break up and looking for love in all of the wrong places. Fortunately enough it was not with a middle-aged man with a foot fetish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Awakening

If you haven’t read The Awakening by Kate Chopin, you should. But you probably won’t so let me give you a quick synopsis. A Woman, living in turn of the century New Orleans finds herself stuck with two children she cannot stand and a husband who pretty much ignores her. She hates her life because it wasn’t one that she chose. One summer while her husband and children are away she takes up a lover. Her lover leaves her, as most men do, and she is unable to return to society – so she drowns herself.

I read the book for some class in high school. No one understood it. They thought the main character was a soulless she devil who should have shut up and been grateful that she wasn’t a seamstress. Even at 15, I got it. I never wanted to be that woman. I vowed never to lock myself into a life that someone else had chosen because it was the “appropriate” option. Now, at 25 I’m realizing that I have spent all of my adolescence and early adulthood doing exactly what I wanted to stand up against.

I feel an immense amount of pressure to be in a romantic relationship that’s going somewhere and to have a career that’s on the fast track to take me places. But I don’t know where I’m supposed to go or, where that somewhere is. I never took the time to learn myself or what I really wanted from life. So here I am, working in customer service, online dating, and continuously floundering through life.

I’m terrified to pursue writing, or music, or anything that makes me really happy simply because I do not know how. I have spent my entire life following directions and therefore never learned how to take the lead. I’m lost.

I made it to New York – I did that. I live under a train and beside a Popeye’s in a less than desirable part of Brooklyn, but I made it. I view the wealth and glamour of the city from my fire escape but I am not a part of it. I’m still the same shy little girl who never got asked to play kickball. I’m just watching from a far, fantasizing that I’m part of the game. I know, it’s disgusting that I’m sitting here wallowing in my own self pity – woe is me and so it goes. But I’m trying to understand what’s behind it. Why didn’t I just ask to play with the other kids? Why don’t I just try? Why is my fear of failure and rejection so crippling that I have spent years attempting to settle into a life that wasn’t meant for me? We could blame it on me, being a millennial, an upper middle white class girl born and bred in suburbia – I never had to try so I simply don’t know how. That however, is just a piece of it. The simple fact is, I never knew being my own person was an option – so I just chose to ignore the urge. I pushed it down and stomped on it until it was nothing but a squashed little dream.

“You’re not traditional, Liz..” I can still hear him say it. He stood behind me, zipping up my bridesmaid dress, gently wiping the sweat away from my neck. “You can find someone else, you can get married, you can have all of this…but I just don’t think it’s for you.” Hot little tears welled up in my eyes and I stared at the ground and then back at him. “I get to have this…I get to be like everyone else.” It came spilling out of my mouth so fast, that I didn’t comprehend my own words. On the outside, I had been a perfect daughter, friend, and suburbanite. I deserved to have what all of the rest of them had – a shiny rock on my ring finger and a man who would take care of me and impress my family. Someone so smart, tall, and perfect he could distract everyone from all of my flaws. A man to make me a lady – a partner to ease my family’s fears.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I may never have that – because it is never what I really wanted. I will never be successful at working 9-5 pushing papers, processing orders, or planning holiday parties because it is boring and I actually hate it. This is my awakening. I am opening my eyes and greeting a new way of living – one that I alone have chosen. I am accepting that the life I want for myself is untraditional and that my path is unpaved. I am taking in and coming to terms with my own expectations of myself – I am getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and using my fear to move me forward rather than shying away from it. I will be a writer with a voice that offers support and ignites change – I will love late in life and know that when I do it will be on my terms. I want something different and that is okay – I am okay. I am coming late to the party but I have never been one to be on time.

 

245 Tompkins Avenue

I wouldn’t have called it my dream apartment. From the outside, it looked like it had survived 3 hurricanes and a zombie apocalypse. Each of the three apartments had two matching balconies located on the far side of the building which faced Tompkins park. At one time, it was probably a lovely place to sit and watch the kids walk to school or see the distant sun setting over the cityscape. But as the years flew by, the iron gates of these tiny terraces had become so rusted through it was a wonder they hadn’t fall right off the of building.

There was a stray cat living in our hallway named Tiger. I could tell by her cries for attention and food that she had probably belonged to someone. But people are cruel and they will do what they have to survive, leaving poor little Tigs on the street to fend for herself. My roommate has a bigger heart than she does a brain and would often let her into our apartment, to play with her cat, never considering the diseases that she could be carrying within her sticky, matted fur. The neighbors let Tiger in through a hole in the roof and most days she slept on the stairs. Occasionally there would be a perfect round turn waiting for us in the hallway. Although, we were never sure if it was Tiger’s as they usually looked big enough to be human.

The apartment on Tompkins was the only one Kelly and I could agree on. Our third roommate, was off on some cruise having the time of our life, and expected us to choose her a room and work out all the details amongst the two of us. She is violently irresponsible. Kelly and I hated each other from the get go. She, a right-wing Texan who loved processed food and Jesus, and I, a liberal feminist were bound to have problems. We agreed on the apartment solely because there were fewer stairs she had to climb than the previous options and I was tired of looking. After our first apartment had fallen through and I had been forced to live on my friend’s couch for a week, I would have slept in a box.

The closet doors hung lifeless from their hinges and there was a giant old mop sitting in still water in the middle of the living room. “It’s a real fixer upper, but the good thing about that is you can really make it your own.” Our realtor was young and vapid with sunken eyes and translucent skin. He paced rapidly and jumped from one foot to another as he showed us the apartment and I couldn’t tell if he was a heroin addict looking for a fix or if he was just unhealthy and needed to pee. Either way Kelly was smitten with him. She giggled as he accidentally pulled the handle off the “brand new” oven. I rolled my eyes and wanted to die. But we signed the lease anyway because I am inpatient and am great at making horrible decisions.

Kelly was gone when the blizzard hit. She had broken the living room window the night before in a high daze. She was one bong rip away from falling out of it completely as she attempted to smoke her last cigarette. She left for Texas in the morning without telling us anything had happened. So there we were, with in the middle of the worst snow storm New York City had seen in decades, with a broken window and a super named Tony who didn’t speak English or know how to use a power drill. We were fucked.

The window in my room was broken as well and there was a large hole in the wall where an air conditioning unit once sat. The only thing between my room and the outside world were two pieces of purple styrofoam and some reusable shopping bags I stuffed in between for insulation. When the city finally came to inspect our building they took the temperature of my bedroom and found that it was 45 degrees. It was St. Patrick’s Day and the warmest day we had, had in months.

Of course along with the broken window there was the lack of cold water. I know it may seem like you shouldn’t really need cold water in the winter but let me tell you, you absolutely fucking do. Without cold water to help regulate the temperature you are forced to bath in scalding hot hell fire. The landlord didn’t understand why this was a problem. “Who doesn’t want hot showers in the winter?! You crazy shikk…” He always stopped himself before he called me a Shiksa. As if being called a white whore was somehow worse than not being able to shower without burning my skin. For the record, words can’t hurt you like 300 degree water can.

The baby roaches, the black mold under the sink, and the rat poison in our drawers which made us all sick also contributed to our misery. Although nothing was worse than our landlord. He was a young, possibly inbred, shiesty Hasidic man who relentlessly harassed us for not paying rent on time (which we always did) and never shared with us so much as his first name. Each month the checks were made out to “Mr. Miller”. He did not have an email address or an office. We were to meet him out front of a small yiddish drug store and present our rent checks. If we had complaints, he always met us outside of our apartment building and brought his kids along. “You see, you see these children! I need to make a living, I have mouths to feed!” His children were some of the strangest looking kids I had ever seen. Looking into their classy eyes and porcelain skin deeply upset me. They never made a sound, they just stared at me with frozen faces as if holding their breath. I’m sure they actually were holding their breath. There is probably some strange rule that Hasidic children are banned from breathing the same air as gentile whores.

We broke the lease after a grueling 4 months. Between the unlivable conditions and my disgusting roommate leaving odd cups of milk to spoil in the fridge and leaving giant shit stains all up the back of our toilet seat, I had, had enough. After I had packed my things and moved them into my new apartment, I stood in the room and looked out onto the crumbling balcony. In that moment the room was actually beautiful. Bright light poured in through the windows and left it feeling sunny and warm. What a shame it was that it had been neglected for so many years. I said goodbye to first chapter of my New York City experience and I won’t go back, not even to check my mail.

Broke & Basic

I squatted awkwardly under the bathtub faucet, waiting for the icy water to trickle out into my cupped palms. I collected water, I splashed it about my body. It went on like this for several minutes until I felt clean. The cold and hot water didn’t mix in my apartment and all that could be endured was a frigid little stream. Shivering and crying I did my best to keep it together. There I was, on the edge of absolute failure. It was one of the most real moments of my young life – and all I could think was, I’m a rich girl from the suburbs, how did I get here?

There is nothing glamorous about New York. I am not Taylor Swift, and it had not been waiting for me. I fought my way here above all odds and everyone’s better judgement (including my own). But damn it, I was here. Even if I was hating every minute of it. Since my arrival in January,  I have changed apartments twice. Once because our landlord simply never returned from Israel to let us move in, apparently that’s more common then you’d think. The second because our “Beautiful Bedstuy Apartment” was deemed unlivable by the New York City Housing Authority. We needed to vacate, fast. It was decided to be un livable due to roaches, broken windows that were never going to be fixed, a diseased stray cat named Tiger living in our hallway, and of course the scalding water that rained down upon us from the shower head like hellfire. Of course, my roommate Kelly, who I and my friends lovingly renamed Smelly Kelly, contributed to the apartment’s foul conditions. She was the type of girl who saved everything – even old milk. She would leave glasses of it inside the fridge or under her bed for days. She smelled of sour cream as if she was actually bathing in it. She was every Texas stereotype I could dream up rolled into one larger than life human being. She was a gun toting, Jesus loving, racist who didn’t recycle. She was truly the embodiment of my every nightmare.

Then there are the boys. Oh, New York boys! They come in every size, shape, color, and background but they all lie the same way. There was one I liked. He was Dominican with dark, smooth skin, and had a smile that could make me weak in the knees. Amy Schumer once made the comment that every time Latinos speak it sounds like they’re cumming. Now, I understand what she means. He could make the Pledge of Alliance sound like the dirtiest thing you’d ever heard. He was filled with passion and oozed sexuality. I thought I was in heaven until I realized that I wasn’t the only object of his affection. He loved his best friend. And not in a BFF, get a tattoo, and give a speech at each other’s wedding kind of way. My internal alarm went off until when he invited his friend on our date. He friend sat back in his chair and he asked me what it was like for us to kiss and whether I work out, and what my favorite position was. They were close – very close. The two of them might as well have been holding hands under the table. Needless to say, I left before the proposition could even be made.

Worse even so than my two spanish papis, my foul roommate and the broken down roach motel we shared, was the job. Sweet Jesus did I fuck up the day I accepted that job. Now, hear me out. I had just moved to NYC and I had been burning my way through all of my savings (my credit card). My other prospects had fallen through and I was desperate for anything when I decided to suck up my pride and enter the cruel world of customer service. I just really didn’t realize how cruel it would actually be. My boss, a plain looking English woman from the dodgy end of London looked innocent enough. She was kind and warm in our interview. She regaled me with tales of her company’s success and the devotion of her loving staff, and honestly, I should have seen through the bullshit. At this point, after being in New York for a few long months I should have known that nothing is what it seems and everything is shit. But, I am 25 and naive with no sense and stars in my eyes so I took the bate. Her favorite term of endearment for us is “pathetic” and I and the other brainwashed twenty-somethings spend our days being screamed at by wealthy designers for being physically unable to overnight their fabric from Thailand. All the money in the world and they still can’t figure out geography. But, I am sure the globes in their studies are for looking, not for learning. So I spend 9 hours a day sitting at my desk awaiting my 30 minute lunch so I can step into the Chelsea streets and be free to chain smoke and eat my sad banana lunch.

My life is changing, so naturally my blog has to do the same. I have decided that I can no longer use the bulk of my posts to discuss my unsuccessful dating life. Because well, I may never have a date again. So instead I’ll focus on my current love-hate relationship with the city that never sleeps.

Breakfast of Champions

I passed by him on the street on the way to the bar where we were set to meet. I looked at him, made eye contact, and continued walking completely unaware that the tiny man who brushed passed me was the same one I had been messaging with. I sat down at the bar and ordered a drink, I checked my phone, and began to anxiously slurp down my beer. When I saw him walk towards me again, I thought seriously about pretending I didn’t speak English. Unfortunately, I am defined by my basic whiteness and couldn’t fake another language if my life depended on it. So instead I stood up from the bar stool and said hello. He pressed my face unapologetically into his small, bony chest. He smelled so strongly of stale cigarettes that I gagged a little.

He didn’t look much like his pictures. He was much smaller and worn looking and if there was ever any light behind his deep brown eyes, it was gone now. He stumbled a bit before he sat down and explained that he had, had a few beers before leaving his apartment. It was 5:00PM. I had always heard that Australians drink to excess but it was clear by his fifth vodka tonic that he had a real problem. He kept the bartender close, snapping at her and demanding service every time she tried to stray from his eye site. He became increasingly loud and brash as he gulped drink after drink–grabbing my inner thighs, making fun of homeless people sleeping in subway cars, and proudly telling stories of how he almost died three times but always came back. I wondered if he had left the bridge he was guarding in order to go out with me that night. He was so crude and unwashed that he could have been a character from a Brother’s Grimm fable.

At one point he alerted me that he needed to “drop a load” and I thanked God silently as I finally had time to escape. “You should really get out of here. He’s getting pretty aggressive.” The bartender looked at me seriously. “Did you meet on Tinder? I’ve seen this a lot. It’s not going to get better from here.” I nodded, jumped off of my stool, and ran out onto the street. Even after he informed me that his goal in life was to be able to sit on his ass all day and drink and asked me if I like giving blow jobs in the same breath, I still needed reassurance from a stranger to be able to get up and run for my life. I swear, my midwestern politeness will absolutely be my downfall.

Later that week he texted me. “What happened? I really liked you, I thought things were going well.” At first, I thought he was the med student I went out with a week earlier. I walked out on him too, shortly after he ordered me a vodka Redbull and pulled up pornographic images on his phone and slid them across the table for me to see. Okay, bro you might as well have just put roofies in my drink too. I felt genuinely sorry for Aussie but at the same time I knew that anyone who would seriously suggest feeding LSD to homeless people for sport was not the sort of person who warranted my sympathy.

I didn’t think about him again until he was standing over me, ready to take my order. My friend was in town and her, my roommate, and I all traveled into the city for a day of brunch and museums. We stopped off at a beautiful restaurant close to our destination. Excited to be out of the cold we all shuffled into a booth and dusted the fallen snow from our hats and shoulders. “Hi, welcome. Can I get you ladies something to drink?” Oh fuck. He didn’t recognize me at first, and I wondered if he would at all considering how completely belligerent he was throughout our date. He took our drink order and left the table.

“No, oh my God, no. We are in New York City. There are MILLIONS of people in this city…how is this happening?” My friends looked up at me, alarmed. “That’s him…that’s the guy I went out with.” Neither of them could believe it. Honestly, neither could I. You could really see how filthy he was in the light of day and it made my stomach sink and my skin crawl.

He finally recognized me when he placed my mimosa in front of me. His face became bright red and he walked straight into the kitchen without dropping the rest of our drinks. Needless to say, the service wasn’t very good after that. Some poor, half asleep bus boy was forced to bring us our food and refill our coffees. It didn’t occur to me until after I finished my $17.00 meal that he could have easily spit on it without me noticing. Welcome to my dating life, even in the most amazing city on earth, it is still so awkward and pathetic.

We begged the bus boy to bring us our bill but my Tinder date had already grabbed it and was moving from table to table with it in his pocket, making us wait 30 minutes before finally dropping it. He was helping the table next to us when he tried to nonchalantly hand it to me without making eye contact. He sort of handed to us behind his back while still chatting with the other table and spilled my roommates mimosa all over her in the process.

The entire meal, much like our three hour date was painful. It was like watching a car crash. You squirm and turn in your seat and hold your breath until it’s over. We walked out onto 6th avenue and continued our journey to the Upper West Side. I vowed I would never log onto Tinder or another dating app again as long as I lived, and I didn’t–for an entire two weeks.

Welcome to New York

I sit down at my desk to write, as I’ve done millions of times before. But today is different; I am different. No longer am I stuck in the grey stillness of my hometown, a town that is unsettling silent and slow. I left that place six weeks ago and already it’s hard for me to remember it. Since arriving in New York I’ve conquered the bustling subway commutes to and from work, I’ve learned how to be patient with people even when I find them intolerable, and I’ve lost love—although it was probably never mine to have. I didn’t step into the city and automatically feel at home or even that I had made the right decision by moving here. Rather, I felt afraid and overwhelmed and about a million other emotions connected to fear and regret.

I was welcomed to New York in a number of ways by many different people. I was greeted by my best friend and her bright smile, by my cousin with a loud laugh and long drag from a shared cigarette, by a broken window and a hole in my wall, a blizzard and frozen pipes, and finally with a whisper between the sheets in broken English. I never made any big declarative statement congratulating myself on stampeding towards my dreams—because that’s not what it feels like. It feels more like moving from a passionate affair right into a marriage. You’re in love, but you also had no idea what you were getting yourself into.

Sometimes in Brooklyn you can see the stars, they begin to show themselves just after 7:30PM and hang low over the park that sits caddy corner to my building. Sometimes at night I would stand on my back porch in Columbus and count them. Too often the trees or the orange glow of the city would block my view, but on a clear winter night I could still see them. It’s these little pieces that help keep me connected to my old life and give me comfort when I’m feeling lost or alone. It’s easy to feel that way here, regardless of the fact that I am usually actually lost.

The people are different too. They shuffle into the subways in herds with their headphones in and heads down. They all stand in close union with one another but are still alone in a world all their own. I watch them, and they watch me. We study each other silently as if there were glass in between us. The people move fast here. They push, run, and shove to get where they’re going, but they’ll also stop everything to answer a question or to point a stranger in the right direction. This is a characteristic of New Yorkers that I find particularly endearing.

The boys here are different too, I won’t call them men because most of them haven’t gotten that far. You have your wealthy ones, the son or grandson of someone who once mattered, but now all that is left is a handsome trust fund and a few entitled brats nursing from it. You have your poor ones; the ones who know how to work but grew up in a place so different from yours it might as well have been another world entirely. There are some that are fast and aggressive, born and raised in Queens or Staten Island or Harlem. They’ll kiss you hard, in the middle of a sentence without questioning it. Or, there are transplants who make jokes across the table in English so broken you can’t help but kiss them back, because you’re different too and you know what it feels like to be homesick.

I feel like I’ve brought little with me that was mine. One thing I made sure to bring was a portrait of my grandmother. I made my dad claim it for me in those few strange months between the death of my grandfather and selling his house. In the portrait, my grandmother is wearing a pale pink sweater with a white collared shirt underneath. In small letters in the lower left corner it reads, Captuto, Italia 1965. I assume she must have been in Italy when it was painted, but I don’t know and I never felt the need to ask. I like keeping her a mystery. Once when the howling winds slammed so hard into my building that my window broke I cried to her and asked for help. I knew she couldn’t here me but I figured it was worth a try, at least until my landlord could come and fix it.

Sometimes I yearn for the quiet stillness of home, or the small luxury of a personal washing machine, a car, or a bedroom wall without a gapping hole in it, plugged up carelessly with pink insulation and Styrofoam. But I also know that by spring I will have forgotten what easy living was like. The biggest change has been within myself. Looking in the mirror, my mirror, in a room that I recently inhabited, with things that are mine or aren’t mine, wearing clothes that are new, and thinking with a mind that is constantly changing makes it difficult to recognize myself. I like the girl looking back, I just don’t really know her yet—but I will in time.

Spilled Milk

spilled-milk
I quit my job. I spent the last two years working my ass off for something that literally didn’t pay off. It wasn’t a smooth departure either. I’m not saying I flipped my desk or punched my boss—just imagined it. It was messy but so is everything I do. Now, I’m back in food service. Catering for a large local company. Serving shrimp skewers and steak to the Columbus elite. I hate rich people. Standing against the high top tables, spilling scotch as they wave their hands around—congratulating themselves for being better than everyone else. It’s not ideal but it pays the bills, while I’m waiting to hear back about a job in the city.

Catering isn’t ideal and neither is he. He’s waiting for me there—in the city. By waiting for me, I really mean ignoring me. We never talk anymore, and even when we do it usually ends in an argument. I’m all alone in another non-relationship. Needless to say, things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine in my world. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a hamster cage. Endlessly climbing through the tunnels and up the latters, only to fall back down into a pile of my own shit and wood shavings. Lately, I’ve just been sticking to the wheel, running to nowhere, too proud to give up, but too tired to try harder.

I’m itching to leave but I’m also terrified. I don’t think him and I will make it so I’m trying my best not to add him into the equation. It’s really just about the money. At the end of the day, it’s always a numbers game. Unfortunately my skill set doesn’t guarantee me a livable wage. I know you don’t get into non-profit work for the money, but how awkward would be to stand in line for food stamps with the clients you serve?

I catered a business school reunion last night, it was terrible. Some man old enough to be my grandfather with the libido a frat boy told me I was pretty and placed his clammy wrinkled hand on my low back. I cringed, he smiled, and I refilled the water.

I walked into the venue with my hair knotted on top of my head—wiggling uncomfortably inside my oversized shirt. I almost threw up when I saw him. Tattooed from head to toe, slouching by the computer. The last time I saw him I was getting money from my ex for an abortion. There was fighting and screaming and his face had gotten in the way of a shoe I was throwing. When I saw him last night—we didn’t exchange hellos. He took one look at me, pulled out his phone and began to text furiously. Great—now my ex knows that I serve mini quiches to wealthy bigots for a living.

Life isn’t great—but I’m getting by the best way I can. I no longer have to deal with coworkers who are a dangerous combination of bold and stupid, I have time to write, and even though I spilled tomato jam all over a woman wearing a dress that probably cost more than the down payment on my car—I still have my dignity, for now at least.