Sure, I could sit here and tell you all that the reason I took a month off was because I got malaria or knocked up Brooke. But then when my mom called and was like, “You got Brooke pregnant?!” and I responded with, “Cough cough. Who’s this?” all my lies would eventually unravel and I would be forever known as the boy who cried malaria baby.
So instead, let me explain.
When I moved to Miami, I took a different job, although in truth I probably could have stayed on with the old law firm and maintained the same dedication to my paralegal job even from 1,300 miles away, the only difference being that I wouldn’t be able to make copies, which, in truth, I didn’t do even when I was there. I would leave stacks of documents on Crazy June’s desk with bold-faced post-it notes like, “COPY OR ELSE. TWO PLEASE.” I didn’t enjoy making these vague, though utterly polite threats. But June had been working there for many, many years and was very, very crazy and had come to the confused conclusion that the office was her second home, and clearly she didn’t do shit in her first home, because that was her modus operandi here: I don’t do shit.
So I took to strong-arming her, which many people will tell you isn’t the best way to deal with elderly women, but what I think they mean is that it isn’t the most humane way, because it definitely is the most effective way. The one time she mentioned something to me about how aggressive my notes were, I told her that it was legal speak I had picked up from a recent trip to London. I also told her that Brits are more sophisticated because they drink tea instead of coffee, and she was satisfied with this line of reasoning.
Why I would want to leave all that behind is beyond me, but when the time came to pick up and move, I made a clean break with New York. I quit my job, collected my last paycheck, stole a stapler and a mouse pad, and left.
Then was promptly offered a job writing for a New York company.
And while you may be saying, Well that’s the dream! You did it! It’s like Rudy meets The Princess Bride, THAT’S HOW FUCKING GOOD IT IS!, the truth is that writing for a living is no different than doing anything else for a living. (Except trafficking immigrants – it’s definitely different than that.) A job is a job is a job, and by and large if you have a hobby it’s probably different than your job. Like if you loved playing in garbage, and then grew up to be a garbage man, you probably don’t come home and play in more garbage. You do watercolors or make homemade beer. The same thing happened to me. For years, a blog post was the one thing I wrote everyday (besides my notes to Crazy June). Now, it’s the fifth or sixth. And when some free time to blog arises, I usually just want to drink scotch or take pictures of Puppy instead.
The holiday season (or what they call in my line of work “the busy season” or “the season that will make you wish you never learned to write, motherfucker!”) took this quandary to a whole new level. It didn’t help that I ate so much turkey (WILDERNESS SURVIVAL FACT: A 12-pound bird will feed two people for up to six days) that the tryptophan overload slowed my cognizant abilities by over 70%, but the fact remained that much like my high school girlfriend, I had to put blogging in the back seat.
Flash forward to last Thursday. In preparation for Christmas, Brooke and I flew up to New York, which is where we’ve been since last Thursday. The apartment we’re staying at here is a small one-bedroom, the kind of place a gypsy may use as her office for reading palms. It is, by all accounts, a standard New York City apartment: The bedroom door will hit you in the face if you’re too close to the edge of the bed, but there’s a coffee shop across the street and extra storage above the front door, so it’ll work just fine.
But then the other night, right before I drifted into slumber, I was awoken by noises from the apartment next door. In truth, I was awoken by lots of noises. I had forgotten this about New York, how when people complain that it is a “noisy” city, they don’t mean honking car horns or jack hammers – the mean that 10 million people living on a plot of land no bigger than most Midwestern industrial parks means that there is always someone no more than 20 feet away from you. They may be above you or below you or right on the other side of a comically thin wall, but they’re there, and they make noise. It’s why when New Yorkers see those scenes in futuristic end-of-days movies where Times Square is completely desolate they don’t say, “Oh my God, how creepy!” they say, “Oh my God, how peaceful!”
Which explains why, when I was jarred awake by strange sounds from the apartment next door, all I could think was “Armageddon, you tease.” All night long, the heater had been the main culprit of my sleeplessness, routinely unleashing a symphony of wheezes and farts like an old man playing cards, or me when I wheeze. The din was nearly unbearable. There was no use trying to fall asleep while the heat was coming up. Instead, you needed to time your sleep with the radiator’s off cycle, lest you drift off dreaming of tiny gnomes banging on the walls with tiny hammers or, during one particularly hefty outburst, a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.
And just when I thought I had succeeded, here came this noise from the apartment next door. It was a woman, definitely Japanese or Mexican, and she was either writhing in a bout of sexual ecstasy or standing in firm agreement with her boyfriend about a matter in which she is very invested and jumping on the bed. Her manner of agreement got so aggressive that I couldn’t help but laugh and think to myself, “OK! We get it! We all get it. You like whatever it is he’s doing.” She must have said “Yes” over fifty times. Was she afraid he would misunderstand some other outburst such as “Oh yeah” or “Uh huh”? It had to be an unequivocal “Yes”?
I thought this and other things and chuckled to myself thinking, “I can’t wait to write about this!” But then I realized that The Job doesn’t care about my Japanese/Mexican neighbor having loud sex, though I’m sure it would make for some good Water Cooler chatter:
Mike: “Did you see the game last night?”
Me: “No, but is it unusual for a Japanese woman to climax in Spanish?”
The Job is the job, and multi-ethnic neighbor sex is why we all need hobbies (especially if multi-ethnic neighbor sex is your hobby). There has to be room for both in my life, because the alternative is scary. I don’t want to be just another nine-to-fiver. I don’t want to waste away grinding out a pay check. Most of all, I don’t just want the only other thing I write to be a post-it note.
Even if it does say “COLLATE, BITCH.”