Post from this Wednesday that I forgot to actually publish:
Today I felt my teeth in my mouth with my tongue and registered how crooked they’ve slowly become, despite wearing a retainer every night religiously since I was 16. It is particularly sexy to pop in your retainer before sleep at the age of 29, my friends, trust me. I remember my orthodontist telling me he could take off my braces early if I just wore the retainer…and now, my teeth have shifted. They’re not terribly crooked but they’re not the $5000 smile my parents scraped together for. I felt bitter and small today, once-pliable but pathetically shriveled, with my mildly crooked teeth and minimum wage job, despite wearing my retainer and working hard for a master’s degree, both feeling like slightly broken promises. It was a pity-me day, where I wanted to cry about things that right now aren’t worth crying over.
Then I went to the Japanese market on the way to the park, stopping in to get a soda and a little red bean paste mochi and a bag of snacks for a friend. I tipped even though society doesn’t dictate my need to do so, but we’re all struggling and if I feel like I can spring for a $3 soda I can surely leave a tip for a cashier. How neat would be it be to be wealthy enough that if I wanted I could leave $20 here, there, anywhere for people working right now? Fuck, I’d leave $100 if I could. This city is rife with money, I walked past an Aston Martin outside the butcher’s shop the other day and a Mercedes that tricked me into thinking it was a Maserati with the grill this morning on my way to work (you know these things after living in a posh Swiss city for two years).
My friend was waiting at the corner of the park after I left the market, dappled sunlight coming in through some trees, and it was strange not hugging her. We walked, awkwardly watching our distance, and found a little meadow to sit in near some daffodils and a thick bush where a few small birds huddled inside, protected and rustling around. She was accepted to Cornell for a PhD program and one of the first things I asked was if they gave her a decent funding package, because if I know anything (other than how to bake a decent pie and spout useless facts) it’s that you never, ever go into a PhD program that isn’t guaranteeing you decent funding, in writing. She’s brilliant and hard working and thorough so they gave her a good funding package, as they should. Later I wondered if that was something I’d want to go after.
Here’s the thing. Right now, we’re all talking and thinking about what we will do when this is over. I already knew that by spring 2021 I needed to have a decision about a PhD program made. The fact that somebody I deeply admire got into a program and is actively going to change their life’s trajectory by pursuing it makes me tilt my head in that direction, tipping my cap at them but also getting ideas. Is that something I want? Or do I want to try and get out from under this shit-wage thumb that’s holding me down? Do I want to pursue a career? A lot of us are blessed with options, which we end up seeing as a curse, in a world where options are often few, skimpy, and more a devil’s bargain in one way or another. I’m lucky to feel like a withered empty shell on more days than I’d like to admit, because I get the time and space to be a pissed off little crab. That’s a lot more than most people get.
It was wonderful to sit in the park and talk to somebody who isn’t my boyfriend. I love Logan but he’d agree with me that other people are awesome. It was weird to sit a bit farther apart than usual from my friend, but it was grand to see how the sunlight hit her face and have the weird lilts in conversation as we’re the first people we’ve social distanced with other than our partners in a month (and my coworkers, but seeing as we can’t really do any after-work bonding, it still feels weird to consider that socializing). I missed talking to a fellow historian, a friend, on a warm spring day. It was balancing, normal, comforting.
On my way home I called Costco. A poor, horribly busy woman answered and helped me get contacts shipped to my apartment, even though she was handling all the phone calls at the store that day, and I wanted to give her a hug. I wished her luck before hanging up, and while I know that in Canada it’s a stereotype to be nice, she wasn’t just nice- she was kind. She helped me, was honest about how busy she was, but never once made me feel rude or even a bother. I bought fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and some chestnuts at the store on my way home, dashing in and out quickly. The chestnuts were random- I remembered the smell of the roasting chestnuts in the piazzas in Lugano in the fall and winter, and what a weird time that was in my life; a naive American girl trying to pretend I was graceful and glamorous in Switzerland. Right now is a damn weird time too, so why not impulse buy some chestnuts? I’ll report back on the results.
Things are strange and today was a sad day with a happy ending, and hopefully the rest of the week isn’t quite so emotionally fraught. I hope that you are all doing okay right now, maybe not thriving (that feels too optimistic and almost flippant) but getting by and finding ways to smile and feel joy. Joy is a scrappy friend, we need to hold onto it.