Wednesday, May 23, 2012

cherish that antipasto

If I'm blithely sliding my fingers atop my iPhone screen in public, 70 percent of the time I'm just scrolling through old text message conversations. Either it's because I'm on the subway and forgot to bring a book with me or, more commonly, because I'm just trying to avoid making eye contact with humans.

Almost always, I end up scrolling to this text message I received from an unknown northern New Jersey phone number in November. It never ceases to fascinate me. Cherish that antipasto...

I have come up with a whole backstory here. It was sent a few days before Thanksgiving, so I'm thinking that this girl -- her name is Natalie, I feel -- hosts an annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner for her best friends from high school, who live in different parts of the country now (they all just graduated from college) but reunite in NJ for the holidays. She'd always had a thing for this guy Vince. They were never really great friends, but Vince comes to Natalie's yearly dinner because one of his friends dates Natalie's best friend. For the November 2010 dinner, Natalie labored over an elaborate antipasto platter, which everyone -- especially Vince -- made a point of complimenting.

She'd been waiting a whole year to see Vince and make that antipasto all over again. Vince wrote on her Facebook wall on her birthday in March: "hbd lady! can't wait til november. been dreaming about that antipasto," and Natalie immediately both "liked" the post and commented "lol you will not be disappointed!!" (she immediately questioned if unveiled enthusiasm was the right move there).

November 2011 finally rolls around. Natalie spends hours getting ready for the dinner. Her best friend has just gotten engaged to Vince's friend, which only makes her more anxious about seeing Vince ("we could, like, go on double dates," her best friend screeches, making Natalie's stomach turn). At the dinner, though, Vince is... distant. He sits on the opposite side of the table from Natalie. She thinks she overhears him mention a girl named Madison? When he leaves, he gives Natalie a pat on the shoulder instead of a hug. "Wait," she says. "Let me put the leftover antipasto in a Tupperware for you." She doesn't know what else to do.

She spends the entire next day debating whether or not to text him. "just make it abt the antipasto, that's safe," her friend Vicki gchats her. "also, i think he got a new phone so u'll need to get the # from fb..." Natalie goes to his Facebook profile, instinctively clicking through the pictures she's clicked through so many times before. Finally, she decides to go for it and text him. 
She has nothing to lose. 

Of course, she entered his number incorrectly into her phone -- I got the text instead of "Vince." She spent a few days holding her breath every time she got a text message, hoping it might be him. Maybe he'll suggest stopping by my place again while he's still home for Thanksgiving? But she never heard back. I'm hoping Natalie decides not to have her pre-Thanksgiving dinner this fall; a hopeful antipasto platter and a hopeless one are so often one in the same.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

julia's party

On Saturday I was waiting in line to pay for a bagel sandwich behind a mother and her two young daughters. The older daughter, probably about 10 years old, fiddled with her Sidekick phone. The younger one twirled around her mother, singing softly and pulling on her mother's t-shirt for balance. The mother took out her iPhone; her wallpaper picture was a professional shot taken of her daughters. She opened an e-mail invite to "Julia's 8th Birthday Party" (the font was large and pink). She turned to her younger daughter. 

"Kaylee, you just got invited to Julia's party." Kaylee paused briefly and then resumed twirling. "It's on Thursday at Battery Park so you're going to have to miss gymnastics." The older daughter looked up from her Sidekick, suddenly interested. Kaylee frowned.

The mom typed a response to the e-mail: "Kaylee will be there! She already has a present picked out for Julia!"

These same conversations happened 15 years ago, and they'll still be happening 15 years from now. The details may differ -- a tattered Roald Dahl book becomes a shiny Sidekick, a Power Rangers paper invite is now a mass e-mail -- but the tired smiles, the preoccupation with scheduling and planning, the pulling on t-shirts -- none of that changes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


About a month after I moved in to my apartment last year, I noticed this doodle drawn in my hallway about six inches to the left of my door.

My first instinct, naturally, was to worry that someone had "marked" my apartment as part of some nefarious scheme. I imagined some dude in a beanie crouching in the stairwell of my apartment building communicating with his partner (stationed in the van, obviously) via walkie talkie: "The target has been located, and the symbol has been drawn." 

Since I haven't been robbed or otherwise targeted in the intervening months, though, I guess I was wrong. (Unless it's some sort of simmering, long-term plot, of course!! Never say never!)

So I've come up with a few other theories:

-- Some really disgruntled delivery man was waiting for me at the door (while I was dashing around my apartment searching for jeans and a baseball cap in order to make myself "presentable") and he reached a breaking point. "Who does this guy think he is making me wait like this!?! I'm gonna draw some weird, vaguely cult-y-looking design next to his door! Curses onto him!"

-- Perhaps it had been there long before I moved into the apartment and I just didn't notice for the first few weeks. If so, might the drawing be a tag sketched by the previous tenant wanting to leave a lasting mark?? An "I may be moving on, but a part of me will always remain here in the form of this bizarre icon" effort?

-- Maybe - and, improbably, this theory is really starting to grow on me - I drew it in some sort of mind-addled stupor! Strangely I can actually see myself returning home drunk late one night and thinking it'd be funny to draw something next to my door (seems about right that my version of a "welcome home" doormat would be an alienating scribble). Also it just kind of looks like something I'd draw. "It's a stick man throwing a javelin. His name is Roger."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

invariably, the following

I'll be telling a friend about a heated back-and-forth I had with someone at a meeting, getting increasingly animated as I recount what each of us said (likely giving the other guy some kind of grating, weird voice). When I've reached the denouement, I'll say something like: "And then I was like... you are being so absurd right now." 

At this point, there's typically a brief pause (it dawns on me that there's probably only a 60% chance she was paying attention the whole time). Then, invariably, the following: the friend will ask "Wait, did you actually say that to him?" And I'll say, "No" ("of course not" implied by my facial expression). "I just sort of mumbled something into my coffee and took out my phone." 

Maybe the friend will then offer some sort of generic response ("next time he does that, you should say..." or "that sounds super stressful") and I'll nod and repeat "yeah, that makes sense" a few times. Or maybe she'll tease me ("what are you gonna do, blog about it?") and I'll give her a mock-offended glare and she'll launch into a story about something that happened to her. In either case, as I fiddle with my iPhone case, I'll wonder why I even bothered telling the story in the first place. Keep something to yourself for once.