Drifting

Radha Mitchell

Such a strange day. After finally waking up from jet lag sleep I puttered about in my apartment accomplishing only one of the five things I wanted to do before leaving to talk at Career Day at that high school way the fuck out in the outer boroughs. I thought I was giving myself plenty of time by leaving an hour plus for the commute but on my way into the city I realized that the train I wanted to take only leaves once an hour so now I was officially late. I am really trying to correct this lateness thing. I hung out with a friend of mine a few months ago who told me that his therapist said that lateness is “beyond rude” and that’s really stuck with me. But I’m fighting against decades worth of bad time management and narcissism so we’ll see where this all lands.

I opted for taking the subway the whole way. There were these very loud teens in my train car – I suppose they should have been in school but what do I know. I find loud teens on a train reassuring, charming even. All that life pushing the decibel limit of good taste. I love it. I like to pat myself on the back for being into it, like I’m some cool dad. Keep screaming, kids! Staring at my phone, I pored over the different possible outcomes of my lateness. I might be 7, 12 or 17 minutes late depending on which bad decision I made. Suddenly the kids were screaming about somebody riding on top of the train. I had read about this a couple years ago in the paper so I was hip to it being possible, but still, it felt refreshingly renegade, or like the closest I’d ever come to Spider Man. Our adventurer dropped into the space between the train cars to readjust his… headphones? Impossibly enough, yes. He was surfing the train to a perfect soundtrack he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss. Don’t look at him! shrieked one of the girls to her compatriots. Superhero guy had on grey leggings/sweats that gave him a lot of room to move and he was up and out of sight soon enough and the kids were gawking once more. I wondered if he would tumble off the side, affording me my first ever real life “I saw a guy die once” story. But he was fine. Later, though, they held the train for a bit at the station cuz there were “reports of someone riding the train.” Duh. We saw the guy. After the investigation was “resolved” we were on the move again and they played an automated message saying “Please don’t ride outside the train,” but those announcements are ridiculous.

Career Day was underwhelming. Let me tell you, if you ever worry that you’re riding too high on the SUV of your artist ego go talk to a group of high schoolers about what you do. That’ll bring you back to earth. I took it in stride, the kids napping or on their phones or gawking at the images of my work like they were the most useless things ever. After about twenty minutes of this the teachers waved their hands at me and said ok that’s enough, we have to move on. Wow. Next up after me was a lawyer who likes to dance in her free time.

I walked back to the train through the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world. I feel like I’ve heard people say about this area, It’s like being in _______! and you plug in the name of whatever country stands out to you. For me, it just feels like being in New York. Diversity comes as no surprise. It is overwhelming, though. The squeeze through the people on the sidewalk is real. I was looking for the train I never take, power walking so that I would at least have made it to one thing on time that day. I found the entrance in a space between buildings made remarkable by its patch of dead grass and tall weeds. The train platform itself held a special melancholy of cracked pavement and few passengers. I scanned left and right for a ticket machine. Can I buy one on the train? I asked this middle aged white guy. Yeah. There’ll be a penalty but yeah.

As we rode back into the city we passed stadiums and parking lots and scores of squat houses out of which at one point I saw this goth exit and walk down the street in platform boots. Can’t believe there are still goths. So much work to assemble the layers and the makeup and the hatred of sunlight. Who knows where a goth goes at 330pm? The train pulled away. Then we were in a tunnel for a long time and I wondered if there are still mole people or if once there’s a book about your subculture you all disperse.

I was starving. I wanted to go to the gym. I had to sort out the food to workout timing cuz I didn’t want to puke on the treadmill. There was a salad place. Suddenly I remembered my friend J who I’d just seen overseas. He’d looked so healthy and springy – he said he was doing paleo. In a fit of transatlantic co-dependency I decided right then and there to do paleo, too. But first I had to find out what it was. I got an app. Ok. Basically eat everything I don’t ever or don’t like to eat. Perfect. I sat and ate my “this will fix me” lunch while working briefly on some work email, a task that takes every cell of willpower I can summon.

This is all taking too long to tell but the day was so full of words.

After a reasonable amount of waiting I walked down the street, went up the flight of stairs and got physical. I figured that now that I’d gone paleo one serious incline speed walk on the treadmill should take care of the rest and I’d wake up the next morning with my waistline from fourteen years ago. I thought about all of the great advantages my new skinny self would bring. Photo shoots, invitations to movie openings, access to the hidden stock in the back of the very expensive clothing store, and, of course, gangs of men throwing themselves at me. I huffed and puffed my way up across no distance to my new life as fit 20somethings triathloned around me. This gym is so great I thought. Nobody bothers me and they had the presence of mind to get TWO pec decs.

All of this was just about gearing up to go to the play I’d heard so much about. __ had raved. It was at a theater I’d never been to, a new space. It’s always a shock to walk into a theater that’s been recently built rather than hearing about another one closing. What Faustian bargain gives any arts organization the opportunity to acquire real estate here? I walked in and noticed right away the thing I’d heard about how there’s barely any space to hang out in the lobby. Oh shit I was seeing a play. Actors go see plays. Suddenly very articulate overexcited enunciators were all around me greeting each other as if it had been centuries since they’d last seen each other. I glumly slalomed through them to get my ticket and thought I should go to the bathroom cuz I’m sitting in the middle of the row and it’s a two and a half hour show so I went to the other side of the lobby to the bathroom, rounded the corner, and there she was, her cherubic face looking straight at me and then smiling as if I was the one being recognized. I must have looked puzzled – I’m sorry do we know each other? almost came out of my mouth. But of course I knew who she was, even though she does have that name that eludes you at first. I instantly felt bad for her in some way. I’m sorry you’re not as famous as you maybe are supposed to be. I half wanted to go up to her and tell her that the movie she’d been in about the drug addict changed my life, sort of. Well it helped to tip the scales. The scene where the photographer almost does drugs but then picks up the camera instead. The recognition came fast and I’d half gasped, quietly, in the movie theater, thinking that’s me fuck that’s me.

She was there with a guy who I guess was her boyfriend and their gay best friend. They sat a couple of rows in front of me. Every now and then I checked to see if she was enjoying the show. Of course she was. We all were. The play was so fucking good.

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