Stuck in the Middle
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.