I’m sitting at my desk, tapping my pencil to a song that only exists in my head. Chris is in the cubicle across from me and is slightly snoring, with her huge sunglasses covering her eyes like a sleeping eyelet. Her elbow is perched on the desk, and her closed eyes are staring directly at the computer screen. Anyone walking past would have thought that she was just reading something very intensely. I know she’s not though, and not only because I hear her snoring, but because I know Chris.
Chris is one of my best friends. She has dark, curly hair, and brown eyes that are covered by huge black glasses that make her eyes like pillows. She can be most found in Toms or just socks, and has this purple shirt that she always wears; it makes her boobs look huge. She’s the kind of person that will tell you that you are being a bitch, nothing pretty about it. I love her.
We met at the office actually. It was my first day here, and I had just seen Jeremy for the very first time. I can still remember how his eyes kind of lingered on my face, and how all of a sudden; my stomach fell out from beneath my dress, and was lying exposed in front of everyone on the cream carpet. Chris picked it up, smoothed it off, and said, “Sorry Honey, he’s got emotional problems”.
She was making a joke, but I took her words to heart, because I have emotional problems, too. PB& J. PB&J. I kind of did this awkward laugh, then stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Rachel”, and I accidently sounded British.
“You’re British? I’m Chris, we should get married.” I kind of just looked at her, and smiled in a way that said, most likely. “I’m not kidding. I really want to move to England and I’ve—“
“Take me out to dinner first, jeez.” Her eyes lit up, and inside me I think she saw someone that she’d been waiting for, the friend that would hold her hand when her dog died, who would laugh with her when she got her first ticket and how she bitched out the police officer, who would dye her hair bright pink, and when she regretted it, die my hair pink as well, who would make her tea and toast when she was feeling sick.
“Tonight Newbie, we’re going.” She winked, and walked to her desk. This conversation may sound like we’re flirting and that we’re lovers, we are. Just kidding, she’s in a long distance, open relationship with her boyfriend Tucker since high school.
But at dinner, we found out we were the same person. And lets just say, day two on the job, I had someone to sit with at lunch. Day two was also the first time I ever talked to Jeremy.
My eyes wander over to Margaret. She is in front of me, and even though I cant see her, I can hear the buzz of her iTunes playing “Pretty Girl Rock”, and hear her rolling about in her office chair obnoxiously. She’s constantly moving, tapping her fingers on her desk, shredding her extra paper into perfect strips, scribbling notes on her binder, and that’s just been the past five minutes.
One time, the entire office was silent, busy working on Land of Marigold by Terrison. It was due the next day, and everyone had an urgent assignment, whether to proof the entire book, create a cover, or fact check it, as it was science fiction. All that could be heard were the charismatic tapings of fingers on keyboards. We could have been doing anything, but that whisper-like typing made us sound efficient. And then, breaking the magical work world we all lived in, there was a whimper. An obnoxious whimper. A cough. A large self-pitying moan. And then a CRASH-WHABAMM, and an echoing wail that consumed the whole office.
We sat there, wondering if we should pretend it never happened, if by laughing at her we would be making fun of her, if she was hurt and something truly terrible had happened. Right before we made our decision, there was this squeak of a “ha”, and the office erupted into untamable laughter. It was an orchestra of snorts and hiccups and silent snickers and beer belly rumbles. I almost fell off my chair laughing at her for falling off her chair.
And then we started working again, like nothing had happened.
But, we couldn’t hold anything against her. Margaret is kind of brilliant, so we have to respect her.
I remember her dress from the Thanksgiving Office Party, how it was this awkward, dazzling orange like pumpkin pie and her lips were a heavy red like Native American blood. She came up to me, and did those ridiculous wiggly eyebrows, with her pupils drawing a hypothetical dashed line from me to Jeremy, and a heart in the air. Did she know?
My heart started hammering as I tried to relive every interaction I had spontaneously planned, and even the ones that were actually spontaneous, to see if I had been too flirtatious, or obvious, or obnoxious.
Maybe it was that one time when I was carrying a huge pile of printed copies of a story for the 1 o’clock meeting, and I just so happened to be walking past the Graphic Design area, right in front of Jeremy’s cubicle when I dropped everything. I laughed nervously and bent down as seductively as I could while trying to pretend it was an accident. And Margaret was walking back from the bathroom and saw the whole thing.
Or when I handed him his coffee when he asked me, “Rachel, would you mind handing me the coffee”? Or when I AIM messaged him about a novel, and Margaret walked past, saw who I was messaging, and winked at me?
I look down at my computer screen, feeling my face flush at the embarrassment of my immaturity and not letting things just happen. Images of me in all stages of life pass onto the screen, and just as quick as they occurred in reality, they are gone. A picture from the Halloween of my senior year of high school comes onto the screen.
I remember that weekend. Rather dull, or so I thought for the Halloween weekend of my senior year. I was expecting exactly what society was expecting: crazy parties that look like Playboy parties because there are so many girls in lingerie and bunny ears; cases of beer; loud, slurring music, and the people having sex in the bedroom upstairs. But no. My Halloween weekend was quite the opposite of that. In fact, it was so PG, that when I came home Sunday night, I told my sister everything.
There was nothing to hide. I wish I could lie about that weekend, make it sound legendary, like everything changed, or I did something that I’d never done before, like I went to an open house party at Olivia Green’s, and I’ve never done that before. I got really drunk for the first time, and in my highly intoxicated state, I told the guy standing next to me, who’d I’d known since middle school but always been too afraid to talk to that he was extremely attractive, and so he asks me to dance. We start grinding, and the next thing I know we are making out in his car parked outside. But, I can’t.
All I can do is tell the truth, and hope it’s entertaining. I went to three parties over the course of two days. I did not wear anything slutty. I did not drink any alcoholic beverages. I did not touch any boys. I did not even trick or treat. I was a good girl.
The first night, I was a Las Vegas Show Girl. Sounds promiscuous, but there you are wrong. My costume was an extremely long white t-shirt that fell to my knees, and on it was painted a gold and black bikini. It was one of those bikini shirts that make you look like you are wearing a bikini, but really you are wearing a big white t-shirt with tights and heels. I moved through that party, however, like I was wearing just that bikini. I was so insecure and unsure that I wore a brilliant green sweater over the entire outfit.
And when we walked in to that sadly empty house, to an ecstatic “OMG, you guys came!!!” by Barbie. Her thick, black lashes weighed down like curtain on her empty window eyes, looking in on a world of fuzzy pink slippers. We played 10 fingers like middle schoolers, and just before we turned thirteen we stopped Spin the Bottle, since there were only two guys there. At roughly 8:30, one and a half hours later, Barbie’s mother arrived home, and the party ended. At 8:30. We dipped, and drove to this secret bridge over the freeway and watched the cars speed by.
The next night, I was Sarah Jessica Parker from Girls Just Want to Have Fun. I wore blue moose socks, purple feetless- tights, high-waisted shorts, cow shirt, and an old grandma vest. The worst part, or the best part was that I could have worn that to school on some random Tuesday, and no one would have thought twice about it.
I wore it to two parties. One, there were ten people, including her Mom. We ate candy, talked about college, and conquered an empty dance floor. Two, there were more adults than children. It was a family party. And I was there, without a family, a car key in hand so that drinking was not an option, and I only knew three people. It was quite the experience.
Yes, I’ll admit. I’m pretty cool, three Halloween parties in two days. I have friends, and I really like them. But, the alcohol, the drunken sexual exploits, the mistakes, the regrets, there are none. I wake up the same person, well kinda. Sometimes, I really just want to do something reckless, like tell my crush that I like him, or kiss someone.
But that was High School, and this is now. This is Los Feliz. This is Sammy Ginsberg, the girl who drinks vodka like water and has flashed all of Los Angeles while standing on top of her apartment building. This is the girl I am proud to be.
No longer scared of boys. That was my excuse in high school. There was this guy named Kevin, and he liked me. And I thought he was okay. But, he just threw himself on me. He was too easy. I know that the boy is the one who is supposed to like a challenge, but I like them, too. Or at least, I like to have a crush on the guy before he has a crush on me.
That’s probably why I have such a big crush on Jeremy, because I had a crush on him first. Just like Anthony in High School. I had such a big crush on him. It consumed me. When I closed my eyes walking to the girls’ locker room after lunch, I saw his brilliant smile, and it made me giggly and content. That first time I saw him, sitting in the sun, his dark brown hair gold, his blue eyes sparkling with life, and I could imagine him in my front seat.
He was almost my first boyfriend, or the closest I got to one all of high school. I told him I liked him. It was over video chat. I rushed it, I really did. I just never thought he would say what he said. I never thought that he might like me back.
We were playing truth or dare late one Friday night. “Did you ever have a crush on me,” he asked. My heart trembled. He knew, he knew. And I thought, why not? What is the worst that could happen? He say’s no.
I decided to tell him, to reveal my sleeve. I mumbled, “I used to like you.” I dropped out of the screen and onto the floor.
“What?” I had talked too fast, not made sense. “Sammy, just tell him”, my friend Mary said. So I stood, and faced the camera.
“Please, Rachel,” he said, “I want to know” with the background of a dark study and books.
“I liked you.” “I liked you, too.” He liked me, too. My heart expanded, and I felt my cheeks flush.
We even went on a date. It wasn’t an official date, but it was almost there. I called it a ‘running date’. I wanted to go so badly that I made my mom drive me over on Christmas morning. My hands had been shaking all morning, and when I got there my eyes were all teary because I couldn’t believe that I was actually at his house. I felt dizzy. And it was just the two of us.
That was the first time I was alone with a boy, well a boy I liked. It did not go well. I was so nervous and trying to be original. At one point, as we ran, I asked him, “What are you thinking?” How cliché was that, and yet I thought it was romantic and enticing. I was not myself, because I did not know myself. I was blank and waiting to be written on. Worse, I really wasn’t physically fit for our running date. We ran three miles, and for 2.5 of those miles, I was trailing behind, my heart even faster than when I first saw his face, glistening with sweat. I don’t think I was wearing deodorant. We didn’t even hug at the end. My mom picked me up, and took me home.
I keep looking back on it, wondering what I could have done better. Was it me? And I come to the same comforting statement, if he really liked me though, he would have messaged me the next day, and laughed at me for being so uncomfortable, so awkward.
Looking back I think it’s hilarious. But back then; I didn’t quite understand that if he didn’t message you the next day, he didn’t like you. And so, my heart inflated with what could be. I saw myself jumping onto his back and him carrying me around school. I saw him holding me in his arms, kissing my neck. And then, when my friend told me he didn’t like me, I was devastated.
I got over it quickly. But those first thirty seconds were tough. I felt myself deflate, my balloon heart with a big gaping hole in it. And the air just kept pouring out, until I didn’t care anymore. I had known, but to hear the words that was painful. Although, without that moment, I don’t think I’d be the same person.
Without my whole time at high school going as it did, I never would have attended University of St. Andrews, and decided to party as hard as I did. I never would have taken full control of my life, and teased the line between what I could do, what I would do, and what I should do.
I never would have done what I did today, at lunch. I told Jeremy I liked him, and this time not over video chat.