It’s so funny to me how long it’s been since I’ve actually written here. It had something to do with the fact that I didn’t have any space that was soundproofed and was my own. My mom is taking over the basement at my grandma’s house, which used to be my domain, and I had to move all my stuff upstairs. I really didn’t have that much stuff, but the room upstairs is anything but soundproofed. Any conversation that is happening in the living room I can hear with perfect fidelity, unfortunately.
Michael and I moved into our new apartment on August 15 with our friend Sean. We’re still getting the place in order, but it already looks 10 times better. The place is in Chinatown and has a tremendous amount of light. From the living room, we can see out to a park across the street that’s used by the elementary school. Farther out, we can see the Manhattan Bridge. From our roof, we can see the Verizon building, the Gehry building, the spire of City Hall, and even One Penn Plaza far off in the distance.
It’s such a stress-free existence that I can’t even contemplate how we spent so long basically sharing a studio with Miria for almost a year. Michael lived there for almost two years. Moving was a big chore, complicated by the fact that the week after we moved I was going to go on a press trip to Colombia. Sadly, Miria did not help us move. Even though I told her that we were moving the next day, she proceeded to go out and stay out with this girl that doesn’t like us until 5 o’clock in the morning the day before the move. It was just such a crass display of the fact that she didn’t really care much about us.
Also, she was mysteriously gone during the entire moving process for about six hours. Truth be told, she did show up way later and helped us carry a couple of final things upstairs, but it was a token effort.
A few days before the lease was up, I ended up going over there to pick up a few items that she was just going to throw away. It was sad being in that apartment which had seen so much fun and so many parties totally empty. It got us both waxing poetic about the lack of fun parties in the city, and especially about how the Lower East Side had changed just in the couple years that we had all known each other. It was easy to be mad at Miria for her behavior on the day before we moved, but the sad thing is she doesn’t even really understand how insulting that was. She ended up apologizing to Michael, which I appreciated.
I wasn’t sure if she would get her deposit back, considering that she didn’t even bother to take out any of the nails in the wall, but when I went over to visit it was clear that the upstairs neighbors had apparently had some sort of water accident. The ceiling was all brown above the kitchen and water was coming out of the light sockets in the bathroom and dripping out of divots in the drywall over the kitchen. She was using some of the pots that we had left behind to channel the water. “At least they are getting some use, right?” she said, half-jokingly.
She and I ended up at the Bowery Whole Foods having salads for dinner and talking about the future. She’s probably moving back to that house in Nutley that her family inherited, at least for a while. It’s easy to criticize the Girls generation for having no direction, but I’m not exactly living la dolce vita either. I mean, I feel like I’m living a fulfilling life, but I’m not really sure what the definition of success is for my generation. Especially for people who come from money, what’s the motivation to work hard? Why bother? If Mom will just pay for another 15 years of college, might as well just stay a student forever. Unfortunately, I don’t think this works so well in one’s early thirties as it doesn’t one’s early twenties.
Will I miss our old place? I do, in some ways. Miria was always open to serendipity, to adventure. I’ll definitely miss that. She was always a pleasure to go out with, and someone who would be there to always let you bend her ear if you were having a bad day. Unfortunately, the drama with Jessica laid bare the underpinnings of our friendship, and the blatant transactional nature of some of our interactions. (It was particularly galling that, a week after our move, she wanted us to show up and carry her heavy furniture down.) I was tempted to use her lie and say that I had “work” (she has never, to my knowledge, had a paying job), but I felt pity for her. Michael, who was far more arrested by her behavior than I was, flat out said that he was sick of being the “reliable friend.” The Reliable Friend: she wouldn’t be caught dead in a photo with us for fear of offending Jessica, but definitely cool enough to get the call to do her favors.
The coup de grace was, when confronted with this, her response was “Well, she’s leaving soon.” Jessica’s motto was “I always win.” Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and caldron bubble. Why bother with all the plotting and scheming to get back at people who realized that they don’t like you?
If her method of retribution was to show us how she had no friends, just a bunch of people who do drugs together and use each other for favors, she’s certainly succeeded. I don’t need people like that in my life. I like having friends, not human fashion accessories. Why would I be friends with a bunch of trust fund losers going nowhere in life? Why would I try to compete with them by marrying some rich guy I don’t love? Edith Wharton could have written the story of her life, and with far more élan than it happened in real life.
During the days that we used to go clubbing, we were always conscious of the difference between our real smiles and what we would call our “cat smile.” The cat smile was the one we’d use when we were displaying happiness to others as an affectation. On those long hours of hosting at that bar we all used to hang out at, she’d have the cat smile plastered all over her face.”We’re just having so much fun!” she would say dryly through the mask of the cat smile and we’d laugh at the sadness of it all.
I ended up seeing her wedding picture, as some of our mutual friends had access to them on Facebook. I gazed over the German countryside in the background, the phrase “destination wedding” had been used. I took in the tacky, too-sheer dress she was wearing. Her new husband was radiating the kind of bland enthusiasm that bubbles out of people who have never had any real problems, but hers. Hers was shining all the way across the screen, back to everyone she had ever hated and hoped to get even with. The smile that said her struggle was over. The smile of freedom from 12-hour shifts at the café, days asleep and nights of forever. The smile was weightless. The smile that said she’d never have to deal drugs again. The smile was the ultimate con.
It was the cat smile.