The age of the ironic T-shirt is over, though it was useful in that it once allowed you to be recognized by a large group of staunch individualists as one of its own. What did it matter if you didn’t really like Journey, or play little league in Pasadena, or that you weren’t a mechanic named Al? What did it matter in one so kissable?
The rebellion of youth seems quaint. It makes you cringe now to remember that time you cursed out Mrs. Tittle, when all she was doing was her job. She was trying to teach you Hawthorne. It makes you cringe when you think of staging a protest at one of the school dances because the administration placed a ban on slam dancing.
In the office where you spend a good many of your waking hours, the title of vice president is handed out as freely as those little religious tracts you collected in college. You would look at them and laugh. You didn’t care about God, but the text and drawings were funny. Today, while looking for a book, you find that collection of religious tracts in a shoebox and throw it in the trash. You’re almost up the stairs when you felt a little twinge. You go back and put them in the recycling bin instead.
When the woman from the 73rd floor gets on the elevator, you start sweating uncontrollably. She’s really pretty — tall, with long dark hair. You listen as she talks to her friends, overhear her name, then get off the elevator on 70 and take a deep breath. You talk about her with your coworkers, even think about her sometimes when you’re walking around the city alone. You fantasize about introducing yourself one day but know you never will.
You have this new fear of going out in public places and not being near a restroom. This afternoon it gets so bad you sit on a bench, close your eyes and envision a toilet. It’s a beautiful thing, sparkling white porcelain. There’s a tube that goes into the bowl and deposits a lavender-smelling fluid. When you open your eyes you feel a little better, but go into the Barnes & Noble across the street, in case you get the urge.
Your date ends strangely. Things go okay until you get to her place, get nervous and start opening the cupboards in her kitchen. Once you start, it’s like you can’t stop. You look at everything. What’s worse, she has just moved in and a lot of her stuff is spilling out of boxes all over her apartment. These are her things, just waiting to be looked at, commented upon. In her bedroom you see a big, random pile of items with a single, unopened condom on top. “Hey, what’s this all about?” you say. It’s supposed to be a joke but she doesn’t laugh. Later she tells your friend, the guy who introduced you, that it creeped her out the way you looked through her things. “Oh,” you say, finally understanding why she hasn’t returned your calls.
You dial your ex-girlfriend’s home number from work, knowing she won’t be there. When the answering machine comes on, you punch in her code (1-2-3). The little voice says, “You have eight messages.” Several of them are from her new foreign boyfriend. He tells her he’s been thinking about her a lot, missing her. He tells her how sweet she is. He tells her to call him on “the mobile.” You hang up. The mobile? Who the hell is this guy? It’s all you can think about the rest of the day. The mobile.
You want to say no when the woman at work comes by selling cookbooks made by children with learning disabilities. You want to say, “Look, I work hard for my money and you’re always asking if I want to contribute to so-and-so’s wedding shower or so-and-so’s baby shower. Now it’s a cookbook you want me to buy. Well, I don’t know so-and-so and I don’t want a cookbook.” But you buy the cookbook and smile and say thank you. As long as you have it, you’re thinking of giving the Mexican casserole a shot.
You’re alone on the elevator with the woman from the 73rd floor. This is it, time to make your move. You try making eye contact, but she just stares at the numbers. You open your mouth to say something but don’t. She could file a complaint. So you look up at the numbers, too, and you get off at 70. Later, you tell the guy who sits next to you how pretty she is. “You should initiate contact,” he says. “Yeah,” you say. “One day I will.”