The Tuesday morning meeting is actually an enormous impediment to the day, and means that everybody has to get there at least a half an hour earlier than they normally do, I’ve got two inboxes and two fax machines full of things to do, but I love it. I love watching everybody come in to the conference room one by one, sluggish, laughing and drinking coffee and shuffling papers and putting on glasses. There are so many women I work with who offer such different models for professionalism. I mean, yes, there are 2 or 3 men in the room, but mostly the room is full of women, and this feels safe, I feel safe here. There are women coordinators and managers and directors and they all have different styles of business casual and different email protocols and different ways of talking to their employees, but there are so many different examples of competence and ambition and generosity and that is overwhelmingly assuring.
I’ve grown confident enough in the role, at least, to start making comments under my breath, later one of the other coordinators laughs quietly when she hears me. Two directors tell me I’m a “rockstar” for my work last week and I duck my head, genuinely embarrassed and genuinely gratified.
I have lunch with my boss in the restaurant at work. She is intimidating and smart and has a deep voice and blonde eyelashes and I want her to like me and respect me and teach me everything she knows.
I call Lauren around 7:00pm, “I’m walking North on 6th, what are you doing right now?” The three of us sit around laughing and drinking wine, I order Thai food in to her apartment from a restaurant we can see out her window.
On the train home, I exchange stares with a man. He’s tall and dark-skinned and handsome. He stands up to get off at the next stop. Mouths, “You’re beautiful,” I smile, I know, I saw in the train window, my hair a wild halo around my head, I started riding the bus in 8th grade, I’ve learned this ten years to trust the reflection in the dirty dark glass, anyhow why do I have to explain, yes, I’m beautiful, yes I’ve been told, yes I know, no I never believe it, yes I trust my reflection in the Subway windows. We pull in to West 4th street and I mouth, “Bye,” he smiles, shakes his head.
On the next train there is a woman and a man singing and it’s not irritating it’s beautiful. When they finish, another man walks through the car selling water bottles, “and positivity,” he says. He keeps up a running patter on positivity, “Here, I found another positive person!” when someone trades him a dollar for a sweating bottle. Something about 333 angels chasing away the devil. Everyone on the train laughs, makes eye contact with each other, it’s a rare moment of casual camaraderie on the late night G train, though it stops at Jay St and isn’t running at night this week. I get off and walk the rest of the way home when I can’t find the shuttle bus stop.
After 10:30 on weeknights is a different world, and it was my only one for so long that when I walk late now, I feel almost a homesickness for that other country, even though I wouldn’t take those hours again for anything. Out now are the aspiring artists without set schedules who have been in the bar too long drinking too much, the couples who had unexpectedly good dates and are dragging them on, the occasional rare overextended coworker happy hour, and anyone who works in the service industry. Everybody else is at home, asleep or watching Netflix or loving each other. In windows, bartenders and waiters close up, flip chairs over, I feel twinges of familiarity and nostalgia like missing old friends. Men in bars wave at me and I wave back; after all, these are my people. It’s not my world anymore, but it was for so long that I think I’ll always have a visa.
My boss asks me if I’m done with the weird hours, service, operations, front-of-house side of things and I hesitate for a minute before the same old honesty rolls out firmly, “Yes.”
I’ll keep my late night visa, but I wouldn’t trade it for the happy hours, for the rush hour train rides, for the morning meetings, for the business casual and the waking up to a sun just rising. I wouldn’t trade late nights for a lunch hour in the midday sun and grocery shopping on weeknights and feeling a part of this world again. For swinging down Varick street at 9 in the morning in a pencil skirt and blouse, hot $1 egg-on-a-roll in one hand and Etta James in my headphones and the feeling that this world is for me. This is the best world, you can tell because they’re only doing track work on the G line after 10 pm on weekdays.