Told Between Puffs, Orientation 2017
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
In which our hero reflects on a summer in the city.
As Verily took a long toke, the surface of the Hudson shimmered in the gentle light of the setting sun. The first day of classes was just a week away, and summer was drawing briskly to a close. He felt overcome by a sense of melancholy, and felt the familiar tug of contemplation as it pulled his mind towards the recent past.
At the end of May, Verily believed that he had undertaken all of the rites that were expected of a proper bourgeois of his age and provenance. After his Econometrics final, he had summoned an Uber VIP to the East Village to peruse closet-sized studio apartments, the peak of millennial luxury, before composing an email to Richardson Ingram III at Morgan Stanley to ask if anything was required of him before the internship began. “Dear Vary Variance,” Richardson Ingram III had replied cordially, “Thanks for showing initiative. Please try and bring an attitude of deference, and prepare yourself for the sense of inferiority and titanic workload that I will vigorously thrust upon you from the very moment you arrive.”
“Frankly,” Verily concluded, nursing an auburn mezcal mule and trying to muster tenderness as he looked into the sparkling green eyes of a beautiful art history major from Tulane, “the enduring absence of adversity from my life is by far my greatest impediment.” She responded with a fleeting blank look before directing her full attention towards the $20 cocktail he had paid for, which was a captivating shade of fuchsia.
Half the summer ew by, and he loved the intensity of his job and the disposable income it bestowed. The vice and glamor of New York were more available to him than ever before, and he looked to them for a salve to stem the loneliness that stole into his thoughts late every night as he returned exhausted from work. This was, as they said, peak: He had the corporate Equinox membership, the unlimited metrocard, the ‘alpha’ tinder profile, the relentless drive to work and succeed.
“The poet Frank O’Hara,” began Verily, over- ly conscious of the languid dark-haired literature major from Brown sitting across from him, “loved this city so much – he described subways and record stores as signs that people do not totally regret life.” The lighting was dim, so he couldn’t tell whether or not she was rolling her eyes.
He frequented clubby bars on the Lower East Side, and barry clubs in the Meatpacking District. He visited art galleries in Chelsea, having practiced stroking his chin pensively beforehand. On weekends, he went to brunch in the afternoons and trendy Asian Fusion restaurants in the evenings. He spent freely, but lived within his means. He went to expensive stores and browsed the wares with intent. He stared lustfully at the beautiful women in yoga pants that roamed his new neighborhood toting pressed juices and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. He went to see remastered Fellini movies at the Film Forum. He tried to read on his commute to work.
New York, thought Verily to himself quietly, taking another toke, is so intoxicating because of the sheer number of possibilities on offer. The people and activities are in finite, but those with the money for them have no time, and those with the time for them have no money. His dress rehearsal for life in the city had taught him that New York was an abstract impetus, that the intoxicant of possibility was what kept people moving so frantically.
Verily realized now that in his quest to absorb the city, it had ended up absorbing him.