“Happy Friday!” someone
says, and we all clink glasses. We are
four working women on our third round at happy hour. Happy hour after work. Happy Friday.
How many happies do I need to declare, repeat and ingest until I can
feel it infiltrate my circulatory system?
When I was a child I used
to think that I would have to know everything by the time I was an adult. I would have to know how to do every
job. I thought all grown-ups knew
everything and they were given jobs and just told to do them, and this caused
me to feel great anxiety, although I don’t think I knew the word for the feeling.
Say I was assigned the
job of postal worker. Would I deliver
the mail by going down one side of the street and then the other, or keep
crossing back and forth? What if I
couldn’t find an address? If a dog threatened me, was I allowed to feel
Or they could make me a
pilot. How would I learn how to fly a plane? What would I do if there was a
storm? Would I have to have apartments in different cities that I flew to, or
would I stay overnight in hotels?
How about being a
surgeon? What would it feel like to cut into a body? Would I have to press very hard with a very
sharp knife? What did an open body smell like through a surgical mask?
my OB yesterday,” Deborah says. “He told me I need a mammogram, a bone density,
and a colonoscopy. I heard his practice
was bought by St. Johns so I think it’s just a hospital scam. I mean I’m only forty…” She trails off, either because she doesn’t
remember her real age or she doesn’t remember the lie about her age.
My mother cleaned
obsessively. Maybe that’s why she
smelled of lemons. I always thought the
cough was because of the cleaning supplies.
My father is remarried. He lives
in Warsaw. He doesn’t speak Polish and
his wife doesn’t speak English.
Deborah orders us another
round of drinks. She is going on
vacation – Europe for three weeks and then she’ll come back to the office. I wonder what her absence will feel
like. I’m sure she makes more money than
me. She works in our marketing
department. Her job doesn’t really seem
quantifiable. I’m hoping she’s feeling
joyous and generous and will ultimately pick up the tab for happy hour.
Deborah has beautiful
umber hair that’s pulled back into a small bun that’s secured at the nape of
her neck. She only wears three colors –
black, red and camel. She often coaches
us in a sisterly way about a twenty-minutes-to-get-ready routine. I listen.
I just can’t do it. I often have
bad hair days. And I have the same pants
in three sizes to accommodate my fluctuating weight. Deborah is a solid size two even after
popping out a child, now age thirteen.
The sun hits the
four-story building across the street and bounces into the corner of my eye,
causing me to see floaters and sun spots.
It distracts and separates me even more: I’m seeing things they are not.
The people in that
building make me nervous. There are
probably ten apartments on each floor – four floors – one or two people in each
apartment. Let’s say there are
sixty-five or seventy people in that building who all know stuff I don’t know
The girls are giggling about
the bartender. Jackie dismisses him: “He
uses way too much product. That says
something and it’s something I don’t like in a man.” The next round arrives and
she softens on the bartender. “He does
have nice tattoos.” Jackie is younger
than me. She’s twenty-three, very tall
and careless. She makes a lot of
mistakes at work and in life. She’s the
executive assistant to the creative director.
She is aesthetically pleasing, maybe even inspirationally so. She has an ethereal quality that could serve
her well through a lifetime. She goes to
Burning Man and Coachella. On her
Facebook page are pictures of her with flowers in her hair. She loves flowers even if they don’t last.
“Happy Friday,” we all
say and touch glasses.
I think I could be a bartender. I have good spatial judgment. I can consistently pour the same amount of
liquid into a glass. I currently have a
nice figure and I am passably congenial.
The other women seem to like me.
We go out every Friday night for half price drinks.
Laurie is talking about
her new kittens. She found them feral
and she has been raising them by hand.
She’s a customer service consultant to the company. She only works three days a week. I think that she’s in her forties. Never
married. “They are so cute,” she says in
a high sing-song voice. “The vet says
they think I’m their mother,” she says with pride. I’m allergic to cats but I don’t see the need
to volunteer this information. I always
try to think if what I say will further the conversation before I say it. I think this is a good skill for a job like
teacher or lawyer.
Deborah is ordering food
for the table, which is a very good idea.
I really hope she’s paying. I
think she must be because she’s ordering with some sort of imperial authority. I can hear the words “French fries” but the
rest of the ordering is done by her pointing to things on the menu and the
waitress nodding and writing it down. I
like fries so I think I’m safe.
I need to know my
food. I have interrogated waiters all over
Los Angeles. I need to know what’s in
everything that is going to be in me.
Sometimes I would even fake an allergy.
“I’m deathly allergic to parsley,” I might say. “Please make sure there
is no cross contamination.”
I hope the waitress puts
the fries in front of me instead of some weird food. Laurie gets up to go to the Ladies. Jackie leans in conspiratorially.
“Look at the girl over
there. The one with the hair.” They all have hair. We live in the land of never-a-bad-hair-day.
“The one with …” She hesitates, looking for a description. I venture my first words since we sat down
four drinks ago.
“The black girl?” I say.
Everyone freezes for a
second, then they all giggle. I feel
red. “Yes, the black girl,” Jackie
says. “I saw her in the bathroom of our
office building kissing another girl.”
Deborah is genuinely
shocked. I think it may be a generational thing. Jackie meant it as salacious gossip, which is
how she trades. But Deborah acts like
it’s a reportable infraction – creating a hostile work environment. That’s what she says. But the black girl doesn’t even work for
us. We don’t control the whole building,
I think. Not the other offices or the parking garage.
The food comes, carried
by two waitresses. Sushi, some sort of
slimy beef, edamame, and fries that land in front of me dotted with green
parsley flecks. Deborah shakes her
glass side to side and makes a circular motion in the international sign for
another round. I notice the black
lesbian making an invisible check mark in the air. Another man points to his empty water glass,
indicating a need for a refill. So many wordless gestures.
I wish I could find a
wordless gesture for what I want to tell Deborah but it’s too complicated. We would both need to learn sign language, and
at that point why not just talk?
The bar is four deep
now. The noise level is at eight or
nine. I feel relieved that I couldn’t
be heard even if I wanted to be and nervous that I have to say something. If my lips move will it be close enough to
being heard because I would have said it?
I feel the way I felt as
a child – anything could happen. An
Angel could descend to earth and tap me on the shoulder and whisper to me a
secret that could change the whole of humanity but I couldn’t tell anyone or I
would die. What would I do and why do I
feel this way?
I miss my mother. I would have told her the Angel’s
secret. I would have died for her. I miss Deborah and she’s not even gone yet. I have had a colonoscopy. My unborn children, the ones my mother will
never know, will have cancer tests. The
cough was a huge colon tumor pressing on my mother’s diaphragm.
I remember asking my
mother if she would still love me if I got a B on my algebra test. She looked me up and down as if she might see
something unnatural sprouting from me.
“I will always love you,” she said.
I want to remember that forever, but lately those words seem just like
Laurie returns from the
bathroom and Jackie, sensing the need to change the mood, jumps up and says, “I
know! Let’s take a selfie.” Jackie and I get up and pose behind Deborah
and Laurie. I can really feel the
half-price well drinks now that I’m vertical.
We all smile big toothy grins.
Jackie hands the smart phone to Laurie, who holds it out as long as her
arm will allow. Laurie has turned the
camera viewing so we can see ourselves.
I am mesmerized by Deborah’s clavicle. It’s like a delicate, primitive
musical instrument. She smells like
lemons, like my mother did. Laurie
presses the button with her thumb.
“One more,” she says, and we all knock heads
like we knocked glasses moments ago. She hashtags it happyhour and posts