Stuck in the Mid­dle

Hello Mr. Magazine - - BELONG TO SOMETHING - By Tyler Raftery

It’s that ex­haust­ing vac­uum be­tween op­po­sites: to pil­low-snug­gle on the couch, watch­ing Roseanne with a dozen day-old Dunkin’ Donuts, or to join your friends at a club, let­ting Top 40s spin you into a hang­over. You love both, but nei­ther sat­is­fies.

Some morn­ings you wipe the mois­ture from the mir­ror and stare yourself in the five o’clock shadow, won­der­ing if it makes you look sexy and sharp or like a col­lege stu­dent late to his first class of the day. You open your closet to be struck with the gust of petty in­de­ci­sion. Gray or yel­low? Jeans or khakis? There’s no red car­pet to grace. Anna Win­tour can’t see you (though Grace Cod­ding­ton prob­a­bly can). Your day be­comes a nu­mer­i­cal laun­dry list of carbs, calo­ries, and min­utes spent on the tread­mill.

You re­mem­ber pack­ing the night be­fore leav­ing the West Coast for New York City. A day later, suit­cases barely emp­tied, a boy knocked on your door and said, “We’re go­ing out. Come, but don’t wear that,” ges­tur­ing to your blue ther­mal. You go along, think­ing these boys can wipe the grease from your fin­gers and make your re­flec­tion a lit­tle more pleas­ing.

You find a new hair­dresser at a pop­u­lar sa­lon. You ask for a mod James Dean, but you get a busted Cyn­thia Nixon. You find three sea­son­ally ap­pro­pri­ate out­fits that fit your budget, and with a sales as­so­ciate’s en­cour­age­ment, you pur­chase all three.

You go out with those boys again, this time to the crowded Down­town club. You ini­tially don’t plan to go, but they in­sist Tues­day is the new Satur­day and the old Thurs­day, so you swal­low a shot of some­thing and you’re out the door. You make your en­trance with a look frozen in your eye that screams, I stoop to con­quer, also where’s the bath­room? Wal­lets empty.

You’re in front of your eco­nom­ics class four hours later, dis­cussing the so­cioe­co­nomic im­pact of ma­jor flood­ing in ru­ral In­dian com­mu­ni­ties. Though ev­ery syl­la­ble trips on your fail­ing gag re­flex, you some­how man­age to get through the en­tire class, the next two classes, and even a lit­tle home­work. Then, you do it all again.

Two years later, you and your boyfriend are in bed with a piece of cheese­cake. He falls asleep, his head on your shoul­der. He snores, kicks di­ag­o­nally, and twists the com­forter tightly around his body. It’s Satur­day night, 11:00pm. Your de­gree hangs on the wall in front of your bed. Your friends text and call, tempt­ing you to come out; you’ve al­ready missed one bar fight and free shots from Amanda Le­pore, and for a sec­ond you con­sider it.

Maybe you go. Your boyfriend stays home. You end up meet­ing a pro­ducer who works at Bravo, an ex­change stu­dent from Florence, and a lo­cal mu­si­cian with some face tat­toos. You can’t hear their voices, but you hand them your phone any­way and they en­ter their num­bers. The friends you know have paired off or dis­ap­peared, ab­sorbed like stars into a taxi cab galaxy, and you re­main. Your Con­verse are scuffed and whiskey-soaked, and you’re wear­ing ev­ery­one else’s cologne. The lights go on; it’s 4:00am. You leave.

Or maybe there’s a Roseanne marathon start­ing at 11:30. Tyler Raftery, a re­cent grad­u­ate of The New School, now lives in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area. When he’s not stalk­ing the neigh­bor­hood corgi, copy-edit­ing, or writ­ing, he’s cop­ing with his wan­der­lust. A Twit­ter new­bie, fol­low him @TylerRaftery.

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