Musette called me when she got out of work. I told her what I had done. She was happy that I had done what she’d asked.
“I can’t talk long.” she said. “I’m on my way to the bathroom. I just wanted to tell you that my coworkers want to go to the bar after work and I was seeing if you wanted to come.”
I told her that I would and she told me to meet her downtown.
“Okay. 12:30. That’s when I should be getting off. There are some tables around the outside of my work. Meet me there.”
My map tells me that in order to make it to her work I need to leave my apartment by 11:25 so I leave at 11:10, taking the G to the A, and transferring at Hoty-Gjallarhorn. While on the A I keep hearing an announcement but can’t tell what it says. There is a family of people from another country sitting across from me. They ask the person next to me if the subway runs all night. He looks like he might be from the same country as them. He takes his headphones out and tells them that it does. The announcer makes his announcement again, and I can just barely understand him this time saying something about this being an express train and to transfer to the E. The guy sitting next to me tells the family across from us to get off and I follow their lead, getting on the E train. Inside of the E train, there is a directory that shows the stops the train will make but the stop I need is not listed. The announcer says this is a Queens bound train. I don’t want to go to Queens. I need to go to Manhattan.
The A train that I was on is right next to us. I can see it through the window. I get off at the next stop and watch the A keep going. There is a sign for the D. It is down some stairs. I have heard Musette mention taking a D so I go down the stairs. The train is there, waiting with its doors open. I quickly check the window to make sure it is going to Manhattan. Seeing that it is, I hop on. The doors do not close. An announcement comes over the speakers apologizing for the delay. There is a situation at one of the stations ahead.
A man rushes in, sits down, and then exits again, checking the window to make sure he’s on the right train. Feeling assured, he reenters and more comfortably reclaims his seat.
The train takes over ten minutes to depart. Once it gets going it goes at full speed. My stop is only a couple stops away. Unexpectedly I arrive with time to spare. I don’t however find any tables outside of her work. But I am pretty sure I know the area she is talking about. There are benches circling a bunch of planters with homeless people resting on them.
I take a seat and put my earbuds in. Next up is Beethoven’s Ninth. I press play but the music sounds muffled even though it is at full volume. I look down and realize that my earbuds aren’t plugged in and my music is playing loudly from my phone’s speakers. All the hobos are stirring. My phone is shining up on my face like a spotlight. Beethoven is ruined. I hurry and plug in my headphones, skipping to the next track.
I try to read David Sedaris but am too nervous. All of the hobos have been alerted to my wealth. So I get up and head to the Starbucks across the street which turns out to be closed. I don’t know where to go but am happy to be in Manhattan. I start walking around the Starbucks and end up behind a group of youngsters who walk so slow. Some of them keep looking back at me. They are taking up all of the sidewalk. I can’t tell if they’re new here or just arrogant. I stop and send a tweet, trying to let them get some distance ahead of me but they are so slow that I instantly catch back up with them. One of the girls looks particularly creeped out by me.
“If you’re so upset then why don’t you walk faster!?” is what I want to say but don’t. I just slow my pace and turn a different direction than them at the next intersection which seems to take forever to get to.
Musette calls. I tell her that I’m not at the benches.
“That’s fine. I just clocked off. I still have to change. Are you far?”
“No, not really.”
“Okay, I’ll be out soon. Also, about your work — will you just pretend like you still work there?”
I tell her that I will.
“I didn’t know what you were planning as far as that’s concerned.”
“It’s nothing really. I just don’t want to get into it with them right now.”
I head back to the benches. She’s still not out by the time I get there. I don’t sit on the seats with the homeless people, choosing to lean up against a wall instead, allowing myself more of an ability to run away if somebody should approach.
A bunch of people come around the corner. It’s obvious that they are Musette’s coworkers. I’ve never met them, but there’s something in their camaraderie that gives them away. Musette is at the end of the group walking with her best work friend, H, whom I have seen in pictures. She breaks from the group and comes over to me. The first thing she says is, “Oh, you wore your big jacket…”
I knew it was a bad idea. She always criticizes my appearance when she is nervous.
“Do you want to just go home?” I ask.
She says that it’s H’s last day on pm and that’s why they are celebrating.
“Do you want to get some cigarettes?” she asks.
“I… I mean…”
It’s been a while since I last smoked.
“This is a one time offer.” she says.
I won’t pass up a one time offer like that.
She takes me to a magazine stand. The guy who works there is closing up.
“How much are the Parliaments?” I ask.
“Do you have Camel Filters?”
“I don’t know if I have that much cash…”
“Oh, I have some cash.” Musette says, reaching into her purse and pulling out some bills which she hands me.
“I’m still fifty cents short. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I have fifty cents.” She says, reaching into her purse and pulling out some quarters.
I purchase the cigarettes and smack the pack against my palm.
H texts Musette, telling her that she has seats saved for us at the bar but when we arrive there are no seats for us. We have to sit at another table, separate from the rest of the group.
Putting our stuff down, we go to the bar.
Musette asks the question she always asks.
“What beers do you have on tap?”
There’s a whole row of them.
“What do you recommend?”
The bartender shrugs his shoulders.
“Just give me something you would like.” she says.
He pours her something.
“Do you want a whiskey?” she asks me.
“Sure.” I say, getting a well with a Coke.
We return to our seats. Her coworkers are looking me up and down. The first thing they ask is, “Did you work today?”
I tell them that I did.
“How was it?”
“Just another day.”
“Just another day at the library.” says a Hawaian girl whom everyone refers to as the aunt of the kitchen.
“Where do you work?” asks one of the guys.
“The Page Bookstore.”
“Dude! I go there like everyday!”
“Me too, man!” says another. “Their cookbook section is amazing! But, I have to admit, some of them are a little dated.”
“Well, the cookbook section doesn’t move all that fast, so some of the newer stuff may be in the back waiting to be put out once there is more space.” I say, rolling the pack of unopened cigarettes around in my hands, going into this mode where I’m, like, trying to nervously prove to them that I truly do work there even though they have no reason to believe otherwise.
Everyone besides us is drinking bottled beer except for this one tall, blonde lanky girl who is drinking red wine. She leaves very early on and Musette says goodbye to her, complimenting her on the Prada shopping bag she is carrying.
“Don’t get robbed!” she says.
“There’s nothing worth stealing in here.” says the girl. “Were anyone to rob me they would find themselves severely disappointed.”
“Prada is Prada.” Musette says.
“There’s nothing Prada in here. It’s just an old bag from when I used to work at the Prada store. Even then I couldn’t afford anything. It’s a good quality bag. It doesn’t break. Feel it. It’s made out of a nice material. ”
“It is good quality!” Musette says, rubbing the bag.
Once the blonde girl is gone, everybody starts bad mouthing her, talking about how weird she is and how she is, like, stalking one of the guys.
“She would have stayed longer had she not had to catch whatever train she had to take.” he says.
Another one of her coworkers and I get into a conversation about Scotch.
“He used to work at a liquor store!” Musette says.
“Have you had, like, every job?” asks H.
“Only the good ones.” I say.
I am relieved when some of the guys pull out cigarettes and head outside. Musette is at the bar getting another draft beer with H. I tap her on the shoulder and tell her that I am joining the smokers. She is okay with it.
This one guy with an orange beard and tattoos on his hands tells a story about how someone came out of a taxi right in front of them and fell dead drunk onto the stairs where I was about to sit.
“We had to carry him into his hotel and control the elevator for him.” he says.
Musette comes out with the schmiggie. The redheaded guy and her get into an argument about the need to have a fire in your belly in order to make it in the kitchen industry. Musette counters by telling him that addressing any situation calmly and with composure is the best of all ways. A homeless guy comes up and tells the redhead not to worry about what other people think of him. He tells Musette to stop biting her nails.
“It’s a filthy habit.”
“Fuck this.” she says, “I’m going inside.”
“And you,” he says, looking at me, “you’re more giggidy giggidy than Quagmire.”
“You hit the nail right in the coffin there.” I say.
“Hey, honestly though, I could really use a dollar or something, whatever you have. It’s tough out here in the world, and I would really like a beer. They’re cheaper at the convenience store than they are here.” says the homeless man.
“I don’t have anything.” I say.
The redhead reaches into his pocket and pulls out two dollars.
“Thanks man. I really needed that right there.”
“Hey, you just keep on truckin.” the homeless man says.
When we get back inside the people who were inside tell us about how they were thinking about having a kitchen swinger’s party.
“Musette is the only one of you who is married though.” I say.
The night continues on in this fashion until we leave. The guy who the blonde girl is stalking and the Hawaiin girl whom everyone calls their aunt are underground with us. They talk about spiders and roaches and rats until our train arrives. We say goodbye to them and talk about the redhead guy the whole way home.
“You just keep doing your thing, sweetheart.” I tell her. “You are my favorite person.”