A Weekend Like Many Other Weekends

In the midst of this weekend, I bring you the story of last weekend.

It was one of those weekends that started Thursday and lasted until Monday. First, the ukulele concert I had been looking forward to attending was cancelled due to extreme illness on the part of the ukulelist. “Dammit,” I said to myself, “Now I will have to participate in a Major Television Event.” I called up Greg, who lives in the neighborhood and is always up for a good time. “Want to go brown-bag it at the river for the sunset and then get stoned and watch the Friends finale?” I asked. “Oh yeah!” he replied.

On the way to the river, we reminisced about elementary school–the way the scent of cheap perfume and the Doppler effect of clicking high heels signaled the approach of a teacher. I remembered how my second-grade teacher had left our class alone numerous times a day to smoke. She was also prone to yelling and would routinely cause various kids in the class to cry, then schizophrenically hold them on her lap the rest of the day while their hiccupping sobs died down. All that stress must have pushed her over the edge, because the year after I had her, she had a massive brain aneurysm.

“Wait a second,” said Greg. “When I was in second grade, my teacher had a massive brain aneurysm.” We realized we both went to the same elementary school (P.S. 31 in Bayside) but never knew each other, since Greg is a year younger. We both remembered talking into an audiocassette recorder to make a tape of “familiar voices” to be played in a loop at our defunct second-grade teacher’s bedside in hopes of rousing her from her coma. I was terrified to talk on this tape, as I hated her for yelling all the time and believed at some deep level that my ill wishes had caused her massive brain aneurysm, though I realize now it might have been all the smoking and yelling that caused her massive brain aneurysm.

Then it was time for the Major Television Event. Network television really should not be watched without mood enhancement. Mood enhancement creates the much-needed suspense that is lacking from predictable network television. After Rachel left Ross at the airport and he came home to find her message on his machine, I became utterly convinced, via proper mood enhancement, that she had clearly died in a plane crash and the message on the machine was to be his final declaration of love from her. “This is fucking amazing!” I said. “They totally killed off Rachel in a plane crash.”

My viewing companions, Rebecca and Greg, disagreed and my theory was disproved moments later when Jennifer Aniston appeared to end the torture of Ross and Rachel once and for all. I realized that after ten years of dysfunctional behavior, there is no romantic release to be found in the people finally getting together. It is almost depressing. If they loved each other so much, why wouldn’t they have worked it out sooner? Or at least before they had a child together? After that much bullshit, wouldn’t you just be sick of the sight of the person? The best-loved sitcom of our time did not resemble real life at all.

We spent the rest of the evening embroiled in a very unproductive argument about the Constitution. I did not want to talk about the Constitution and several times turned the conversation briefly to the Beatles, but each time it was turned back by my conversation companions until I gave up on the Constitution and the Beatles and started doing the dishes. I didn’t really want to talk about the Beatles either. What can you say about them that hasn’t been said?

Somehow every drinking receptacle in the apartment had ended up in the sink, with none of the plates or silverware. Had we consumed nothing but liquids in the apartment all week? It seemed possible. We do not cook.

Friday night, I was supposed to have a drink with Holly. In this era of cellphones, no one makes up times and places to do things. Everyone remains deliberately vague until the last minute, hoping to be able to negotiate events in such a way that will not require them to get on trains. As Holly lives at one end of Gentrified Brooklyn and I live at the other, it is a long journey between our houses, and it is very hard to resist the urge to take a cab home. Hence, there is a lot of hedging around who is going to go where for the vaguely discussed drinks, and if you want to drinks to occur in your neighborhood, you have to offer enticements. Movies! Fine foods! Pirated CDs! Shows! Scenic views! Long-lost items from the other person’s wardrobe, magically returned!

Our drink-negotiating conversation turned into drinking on the phone while discussing politics. After quite some time we were both drunk and had begun trying to memorize the constitutional amendments, which Holly was reading aloud from the internet. It wasn’t going well because we were both drunk. I was also practicing handstands on the roof of my apartment building and between the noise of the wind and the earphone constantly falling out of my ear Holly was getting, understandably, agitated. We realized we had already had our drink together and it had been a very inexpensive evening out.

After a while, I retired to the couch. I was suddenly feeling morose and in one of those moods where I want to lie on the couch working my way through a bottle of red wine and three or four Dylan albums. I opened the wine, put on the Bob and lay down on the couch. I spilled red wine on my shirt. I rinsed the shirt out in the sink. I put on a new shirt. I lay back down on the couch and promptly spilled red wine on my new shirt. I rinsed the second shirt out in the sink and decided the answer was either not to wear a shirt, not to drink red wine, or to sit up. I opted to not wear a shirt. I zonked out on the couch for a while and awoke to find Nora, my doppelganger and college friend of Rebecca’s, shaking me vigorously.

“Wake up, Emily! We have to go to a party! I have to make out with a boy!” She was all dolled up and looked quite fabulous. “You have to make out with a boy!” I agreed. I had slept off my moroseness and most of my intoxication. I made us both gin and tonics and got into the shower. I put on some lipstick and a wifebeater. I have only recently learned to put the wifebeater on first, and then the lipstick, otherwise the lipstick gets smeared on the wifebeater. Thank god for wifebeaters. I would not know what to wear half the time without them. They cost $7 for three of them so you can have dozens. Tip: in bright sunlight, if female, wear two.

Rebecca, Nora and I tramped across Williamsburg to the party. When we arrived, it became clear that our sole purpose in this party was to deliver Nora to the boy she would make out with. She was in a long-term relationship until recently and is very excited to make out with boys that are not good enough or smart enough to be with her. We delivered her to the boy. I immediately registered him as neither good enough nor smart enough to be with her, but I am horribly judgmental. I made one circuit of the party, found the people with the hash, smoked the hash, found the Brita filter, drank all the water in it, refilled the Brita filter and returned it to the refrigerator. Once I’ve been stoned and hydrated at a party there is little else for me to do, unless I am interested in making out with a boy neither good enough nor smart enough to be with me. Nora darted over to us. “How do I do it?” she asked. “The boy is on the roof.”

“Go on the roof, sit next to him, and don’t fill in any awkward pauses with conversation,” we advised. We propelled her in the direction of the ladder that led to the roof and exited the party. “Ah, it seems like only last week that we were excited to make out with dumbass idiots we met at parties,” we sighed as we walked home. Actually, in one of our cases, it had been last week.

When we got home we noticed that a recent problem had gotten worse. This is the problem of the wind chimes. Somewhere near our apartment, the wind chimes chime loudly in the night. This does not bother me, as absent coffee after midday, after I have been awake for sixteen hours, I lie down and sleep for exactly eight hours. When it is time for me to sleep, I would find the sound of a freight train soothing. The wind chimes are but a pleasant tinkling noise that sends me off to be profoundly disturbed by my own subconscious. Eight hours later I open my eyes, refreshed (sans hangover) or regretful (avec hangover). Not so with Rebecca. As someone recently and aptly described, “She guards her sleep like a wildcat.” I am hoping that for her thirtieth birthday we can all chip in and get her a sensory deprivation tank to sleep in.

I was happily ensconced in my bed, looking forward to the kind of thick, dreamless sleep only hash can bring me, when I noticed the angry figure of Rebecca prowling through my room. “What are we going to do about the fucking wind chimes?” she lamented, peering out into the darkness of our neighbors’ yard.

“We are going to find them and cut them down,” I promised. “They can’t be far away.”

She stood expectantly by the bed. “We aren’t going to find them now,” I said. “We will find them and cut them down at the first light of day.”

At 11:30 on Saturday the phone rang. It was Megan. “Did I wake you?” she asked. I had asked the exact same question twelve hours before when I awoke her at 11:30 p.m. the previous night. She was calling to suggest that I host a dinner party and make an enormous salad. I love to make enormous salads and immediately agreed. I went back to sleep and woke up an hour later to begin gathering the ingredients for an enormous salad.

The dinner party was quite smashing. I have realized that the key to a successful dinner party is to tell everyone to bring wine. This way, you have lots of wine. Everyone was very drunk, due to the fact that we decided to drink all the wine in the house and most of the whiskey.

We all put on aviator sunglasses and attended a party. As usual, I ended up in the corner of the party talking to one person about art, love and fame. I much prefer this activity to saying, “What do you do?” to people I don’t know. After some time, we picked ourselves up and started walking home. “Where are we?” we wondered. “We can’t be far,” we realized. “We walked here.”

On Sunday I went to Long Island to pay my respects to my mother for giving me life. “Thanks, Mom,” I said, “for growing me inside of you and keeping me alive and giving me lots of love and making life fun and safe for me,” I said. “I like being alive.” “It was my pleasure,” she said. “I am so glad you are alive.” “Then I guess it worked out well for both of us,” I said.

While I was in Long Island, my phone rang. “I think I figured out something about the wind chimes,” said Rebecca. “I just wanted to let you know.”

“What did you figure out?” I asked.

“You know those things my mom brought us back from Uruguay, the little, like, mobile, made out of pieces of stone that hang from fishing line that we hung up in the window…”

“Those are WIND CHIMES!” I realized. “They’ve been in our own house the whole time.”

Moral: sometimes the fucking wind chimes are in your own kitchen, but you don’t realize it because you think it’s just “a pretty mobile.”

That night I went to see a show at Bowery Ballroom. My friend Franz was playing with the Hold Steady, who were opening for the Shins. I had decided that the Shins were my new second-favorite band, though I had only heard one song of theirs, “New Slang.” I had been obsessively listening to this song all week, ten or more times a day. The melody intoxicated me and the lyrics were like a sad fairy tale of my own life. Various people had told me that this song was different from all their other songs and the other ones weren’t as good, but as is often the case when people warn me about things, I did not listen. Franz kindly got me into the sold-out show, where I decided that the Hold Steady are my new second-favorite band, and none of the Shins’ other songs intoxicated me or were fairy tales of my own life. The Shins’ fans were all having some kind of religious experience I did not understand. All bands are cults, I decided, and if you don’t believe in the Word as It is Spoken by that particular band, none of it makes any sense. The religion is rock and roll but sects and preachers are many and various.

Monday night I returned from yoga class to find Pat Gallagher in the kitchen. Pat Gallagher is a very smart friend of Rebecca’s who intermittently appears in the kitchen. He says everything in a deadpan voice that cracks me up. He was wearing aviator sunglasses and smoking a cigarette out the window.

Usually people in my apartment wearing aviator sunglasses are wearing my aviator sunglasses. I have developed a weird fetish about wearing aviator sunglasses all the time and consequently keep seven or eight pairs on top of the refrigerator. I think it has something to do with my paranoia that everyone can tell what I’m thinking and that if I wear aviator sunglasses they will be scared of me and not fuck with me. That and keeping the unforgiving light of the sun from my largely nocturnal eyes.

“You look good in my sunglasses,” I said.
“They’re my sunglasses,” said Pat Gallagher, and removed them to reveal a huge shiner underneath his left eye.
“What happened?” I gasped.
“I got jacked,” said Pat Gallagher.

On our way back from a late dinner with Pat Gallagher, at which he told us how he fought off eight teenaged muggers without giving up his wallet, a massive rainstorm started. We took shelter under the BQE. I watched the lightning from under the overpass and saw the rain start falling with such force it bounced. I patted my pockets for electronics, gave them to Rebecca and ran into the storm.

I keep expecting these thunderstorms to wash me of everything that haunts me. I have set off a lot of explosions inside myself but the specter of my own personality rises like a phoenix from the ashes every time.

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