Monday, December 20, 2010

February 6th, 2004: This city sucks.

did you read the Prologue: Death at Dawn

7 years earlier.

February 6th, 2004
This city sucks. It really does. I fucking hate this city.  I never have felt more alone.  I bought this journal on Spring Street today, from some leather lady who sold it to me for $20. It seemed like a lot to pay for a journal, but maybe it will be some sort of comfort to write in it. I don’t know if I can make it another month. It’s not just hacking rent and brushing away the cockroaches on my toothbrush, or the mice crawling around at night, it’s that I feel like I failed. I can’t survive here; it’s the fact that I might not be right for this city and this city might not be right for me.
Thankfully have an angelic landlord who thinks I’m cute and hasn’t kicked me out yet.   I feel guilty even buying food when I haven’t paid my rent yet.  I guess I’ll stay here until I get kicked out.
I don’t know, maybe I was crazy to leave Iowa. Maybe I should be on the cattle farm and helping my family and forget this dream of living in New York City.  I am so sick of starving and eating peanut butter and jelly each day. If there were cows in Central Park, I’d go there and slaughter one just to devour some steak, if I could.  Actually, I’d feel stupid slaughtering a cow in Central Park. I don’t miss the farm life. The “heartland” really has taken a beating during the recession and some days I wonder if we’ll lose the farm all together. After being here, I can’t imagine ever working on the farm again. Rounding cattle sounds like a joke, telling the workers lunch is ready, and watching the sweat stain the shirts of my brothers’ backs and little Mary Anne feeding the chickens and playing in the coop.
At NYU when I told people I was from Iowa they pictured tumble weeds and The Wizard of Oz, I corrected them and explained that The Wizard of Oz didn’t take place in Iowa, it took place in Kansas, and how Kansas and Iowa were different places. I tried to keep my Iowa pride, but no one here seems to care about where their food comes from, they just want it fast and warm. Who I am kidding, these girls grew up carrying Coach handbags. Even the ones who eventually became my friends laughed at first at the idea of being from a farm state asking, “What do you do there?”    

Once a farm girl, always one, I guess. I never quite spoke their fashionable language.
We have the Internet in Iowa so I knew what they looked like. I obviously had never owned a Coach handbag. But fashion is now everywhere, even on farms. I did have some of the hottest leather riding boots in a 300 mile radius in Iowa, but try telling that to girls who grew up in a world where strain is unloading the dishwasher. In high school on the weekends I would wear my boots while I broke in a few younger horses, but in this city they have no idea what breaking a horse is all about.  They’d think I was someone who hurt animals. On the farm those logos and patterns are not as important as the weather, the land, and how much the value of cattle or hogs, corn or soybeans has risen or fallen this week, month or season.
When you grow up knowing something about horses, cows, hogs, and soybeans you either stay on the farm and continue feeling satisfied with what you know, or you get out and start over.
I was a little sad thinking about Dad driving back to Iowa by himself and the long drive. It was nice to reminisce about my childhood and our memories of Mom on the drive in. He had never been to New York City and I could tell in his voice that he was proud of me, but also a little nervous to leave me here alone. I kept convincing him I’d be fine as we unloaded my things from the truck and carried them into the dorm.  I didn’t hug him goodbye too tightly, I could already feel the eyes of my dorm mates on me.
Lying, and telling Dad I couldn’t make it for Christmas was best.  Spending the holidays in the city alone wasn’t so bad, I went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and went ice-skating, and worked on New Year’s at Sugarplum’s. I made out pretty well in tips.
I’m not ready to tell Dad that I got kicked out of NYU and lost my scholarship.  He really wanted me to get my Business degree.  I’m scared to see the disappointment on his face, knowing he was expecting me to be the first one in our family to go to college. He would be so pissed to find out about the things I’ve been doing for money lately. At least I found this piece of shit studio apartment in the Lower East Side for just $1,300 a month.
$1,300. It would sound like a lot of money to Iowa folks, but in this city it’s a very good deal. But still, just surviving here is tough.
I really don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. When I think about the person I want to be it becomes blurry.  Why do you have to know anyways? Why can’t you just not know your purpose in life?  Everything moves fast here and there is a lot of pressure in this town to do something great here, and the hustle and bustle of the streets, the sounds of sirens, the honking horns of cabs, make each day go faster. My heart beat goes faster. My brain worries. I feel scared. I need to figure out my shit.
I wish I could tell someone about how lost I feel in this city. It’s crazy how in a city of so many people, I still feel lonely.  No one even says hello to you here. People even look at you like your crazy if you ask how that person’s day is. They think you are weird if you say thank you or simply hold a door open for someone. Or they want to sleep with you, just because you said hello!  Just because you buy me a drink or give me a bigger tip doesn’t mean I’m going to spend the night with you.
Finding a decent boyfriend in this city is the hardest thing. Everyone wants to just get laid, and fuck around, and even when you meet someone cool they’re always seeing someone else at the same time. How do you stay strong, how do you keep your head high? I need strength to get through this.
Money is always on my mind.
My money from Mom’s estate is almost gone. I can’t tell Dad about it though. I can’t believe I waited 12 years to get the money and then I blew it in less than 6 months.  Of course with not being in the dorms anymore, I needed it for rent, but those clothes at Bloomingdales, those shoes at Saks, those weekly manicures and pedicures, taking cabs instead of the subway every day, the invites that I accepted every time to brunches in SoHo from the girls on my floor in the dorm, and spending $45 on breakfast every week! Trying to act like I didn’t come from a place where dirt on your hands means you had a good day.  But I had to do it to make friends, be a real city-girl, become a material slut, or I thought did.  That was so stupid. Now that I am not at NYU, I hardly hear from any of them anymore.
I’m a SugarPlum girl now. It sounds so ridiculous. I’m not 100% proud to dance there, but it’s good money.  Dancing pays a lot more than being a hostess at restaurant usually.  And I’ll feel like a total failure if I go back to Iowa without at least some cash in my pocket.
After I left NYU, one of the rich girls there suggested I work at her Uncle’s ritzy restaurant. But $15 bucks an hour standing around as a hostess was bullshit and my shins were so sore after each shift.  $15 an hour sounds like good money in Iowa, but not in NYC.  Money goes fast here.  A drink costs $15. The other hostesses were caddy sluts and aspiring actresses, one was secretly having an affair with the owner of the restaurant.  The whole time I just acted like I gave a shit about their gossip, listened and nodded, listened and nodded, and sat a bunch of beautiful rich people.  Sometimes I made an extra $60 for getting a few rich people their coats from the coat check during my shift. That was a nice bonus, but it was rare. And if I got in before my shift I could eat for free. Not the fancy food, but the regular food in a cafeteria style that was prepared for the workers.  
I’ve worked my way up from having to hustle guys for a dance to now having a lot of regulars. The regulars typically treat me a little better, and it can be more consistent business. But I still have to act like I care about how crappy the stock market is.  Sometimes I leave feeling pretty, but other nights I just keep my head-low with my coat collar flipped up and jump in a cab like it’s a foggy gray dream that I only half remember.  Going topless for cash sounds terrible, but it isn’t that bad, it’s just something I can’t tell them about.  Dad would kill me. And Big James, Nick and little Mary Anne would never believe their sister is one of “those girls.”  But for right now, I am.  Big James probably couldn’t handle living here alone either.
At least I get Vogue each month. It’s the biggest luxury. But at the same time it haunts me. It makes me feel full of imperfections looking at these perfect and flawless models on each page in the latest fashions. I know they’re airbrushed and touched up images but it still makes me feel old, like time is going so fast.
~Viv

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