Work

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A friend quit his editing job and found a new one. He described work with ironic pretension, but we understood each other. It’s a dialect we’ve shared for years. “I’m done being precious over the brands I work for,” he said, “It’s time to put myself in a new tax bracket.” We were twenty-two.

***

We’re driving down the coastal road one night, listening to a folk rock song, singing every word. It reminds us of another time. “Been down some dark alleys… in my own head…” The words pull my senses into reverse.

It is now four minutes past nine a.m., I am driving to an office building on a highway, somewhere I don’t belong at all, under a glaring sun, applying mascara in the rearview mirror, at 45 miles per hour. My hair is waist-length and messy against a blazer.

I was promoted and moved to my own office, my boss’s old one. His things- cough medicine, business cards, proposals long since leafed through and rejected, still littered the desk. One day while researching e-mail marketing strategies, I pulled at a drawer to my right and found a pair of men’s underwear, tossed as if just removed. There was only one man in the office. The underwear looked at me and I thought “fuck this place.” I closed the drawer and went to the health food store for lunch.

I wore my blue sundress the morning I lost my job. My boss looked me straight in the eye and said “Sorry for the shitty timing, but we’re laying you off.” I must have raised an eyebrow at him, his bald head, his unremarkable face. It was the first time I felt relief and panic all at once. My heart rose instinctively, only after did I consider rent.

I called my mother from the parking lot. She rallied my brothers and sister to get lunch. The oldest sister, an hour into unemployment, needed consoling and togetherness. It was the middle of September, still warm, and we ordered sandwiches from a good deli. Everyone had their own bottle of water. Later, my best friend took me to the boardwalk and bought the cocktails. The sky was pink and our vodkas held sprigs of lavender. It turned out to be a great day.

***

Selling vintage clothes was an idea that became a lifeboat. I started an online store a few days later, and floated just above the surface when I opened my pop-up shop, once in late November, once in early June.

I have a paranoid delusion that my best friend hates me because I work from home. “I’m a writer,” I say, half joking, because I know how it sounds. “I put pen to paper.” Meanwhile I’m technically unemployed with one freelance assignment to complete, updating a blog for the retail store where I will eventually start working part-time. She works full-time as a reporter for a small newspaper and struggles with the pettiness of it. All the local politics, issues with the police department.

***

I could not always recognize who was flirting with me when I began working at the store. It was impossible to miss, large white stands holding locally made ceramics and jewelry in the center of Convention Hall. Then there was me, dressed in a black skirt and Frye boots, merchandising the goods, locking up at the end of the night. “Everyone in here is going to hit on you,” said a friend, leaning against the cash wrap, my fortress. He knows me well, remembers who I was at 13 years old. I shook my head “No way.”

One man, despite ample warning, charmed me with a look as he walked back and forth each day. Before I knew it, the year was new and we were spending all our days off together. It was the dead part of winter, very cold.

***

I woke up with a headache and you were sketching. A creative project, a small business idea you had in mind, and as you explained it I imagined you never, ever completing it. That morning we had the kind of talk that culminates in “I’m not in a position to be anybody’s anything,” and that was that, until it wasn’t.

There was a photograph taken the night before. I’m posing with three other women but my head is turned and hair is covering my face. “I hate this picture,” I told my roommate, glaring at the laptop screen. She replied “Of course you do. You’re faceless, not yourself. A faceless form.”

The next day at the store I organized scarves that reminded me of Christmas. There were appealing words I used to describe them. Silk, hand-dyed, shibori, indigo. Why had nobody bought these as a gift? It was now March, and holding them made me sad. You called and wanted to talk. We decided nothing but felt better. Two days later you called again. We drove to the hardware store and bought matching houseplants.

I’m having a zero dollar week. It’s okay, as I just returned from a few days in San Fransisco and Big Sur. It was glorious, blissful, traveling with girlfriends. I love them so.

Listening to Norwegian Wood many times in a row because the first few notes give me goosebumps. It’s beautiful to hear while remembering redwood trees. “As if I’ve never heard this song before,” you said, unimpressed. Like china dropped on the floor, my moment shattered. Small, but not inconsequential.

***

I was hired to assist with an event on the boardwalk, a summertime vendors’  market with live music. It was a Friday night in June. Circling booths of local makers and artists, I finally felt aligned with my work. You had a shift that night, at a bar downtown, but stopped by to see me interviewing vendors and snapping pictures. “Look at you.” Another photographer took our photo while we talked, leaning against a rail with the sun behind us. “I wish we weren’t working so much,” you said, watching the summer fair across the street. Blinking lights and ferris wheels- a fluorescent promise, a transient good time, a night out in New Jersey. That was the first night you left me a house key.

***

“Oh, Miss Devine fix her hair today, now she think she’s boss.” A group of high school girls draped over auditorium seats in study hall are mocking me. They’re right- I straightened my hair before showing up to be their substitute teacher today. Lately I’ve been wearing my hair long, with the kind of natural waves another person’s hand can give. “Oh, it don’t look like Miss Devine made it home last night,” I just hope to avoid. One student is breakdancing on the stage. I watch him, impressed with his agility, while also feeling glad there has not been a fight yet today. “You’re a great dancer.”

The students aren’t thrilled about the warming weather. “People start smelling funky this time of year, like they just jumped out of the garbage can.”

The secretary called me because my assignment was changed. I was down the street, at a familiar house drinking coffee with a man on his porch. We weren’t saying much, never did. The weather had finally broken. It was one of the first days I felt guilty spending any amount of time inside, so I opened every window in the classroom when I returned. For now on, I’ll attribute our incompatibility to differing approaches to windows. Mine are always open, yours are closed.

***

I’m waitressing a few nights a week at the restaurant by the sea again, a place I can always return to, that I know too well. “Look at all you college girls, going away to school then coming back to work at my restaurant,” the owner says proudly. We don’t mind, we adore her. She taught us how to work, scared the shit out of us, and took care of us at the same time. Many of my friends have worked here, one summer or another. Tips I’ve made here sent me to Spain, paid rent on my home.

“I’ve given away my waitressing apron three times thinking, glad I’ll never have to use that again, but I’m always wrong.”

“Thank you for the excellent service.” “Your welcome, I’ve been doing it for years,” I nearly replied, but caught myself. Oh shit.

I had a woman at a table who reminded me of someone I once knew. I felt a closeness to her. There was something about her hair, or maybe her husband. His thick arms were covered in faded tattoos, left over from a time when tattoos signified more. He pulled at his short sleeves.

After their first course, the woman became irate over a bread basket. She was rude to me, and I finally woke up. My dreamy curiosity misplaced on a stranger disappeared into the air. The familiarity of this restaurant has me thinking too deeply.

It wasn’t her, it wasn’t anybody.

It was me, doing my work.

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April 1st

Woke up at six this morning. Stepped out of my bedroom at the same time Kat was walking out of hers. For the first time since we moved in, four roommates were awake and together before sunrise. We said good morning many times and drank coffee. The boys groaned at the unusual crowding of their morning space. Kat and I laughed, pleased at the unintentional.

We acted cordial like strangers since we’re never all together before work. It was like seeing someone who you only ever see stand up lay down instead. A new angle, a tilted view. My roommates and I have known each other for years, went through school together, and now rent a house in a beach town a few miles from where we grew up.

How sacred mornings can be, the minutes between waking and starting a day. We usually stagger these times individually, across hours, spent alone at the kitchen table, over oatmeal or worry, in this house we share.

It’s still early but now everyone is gone. The boys are at work, Kat’s at yoga, it’s grey outside. I’m alternating between reading and writing, with books balanced against my bare thigh, laying with knees bent higher than the rest of my body, on the couch. Outside the air is clean like linen, and damp. It’s spring now, but snow still piles in some corners. The window is open behind me. I stretch my right arm back to feel the chill closer.

Later I too will go to work, write more and what was that last thing? Now I forget. I’m so lazy-minded. Mentally lithe. Willowy. My knees drop to one side. A spinal twist. Also feel like eating pancakes made out of something heartier than white flour. Grains of some kind.

It’s a good thing I slept home last night because the boys teased me for my sleep outfit, which made me laugh genuinely, the kind I haven’t lately, when I haven’t been at home. The outfit included a shirt of a metal band I do not listen to and shorts that say RBC, a high school I did not attend. I bought the shorts at a flea market last week for a dollar and the shirt, oddly enough, was a gift from my mother.

The irony of it all has me smiling. We shook the melancholy out of an ordinary morning.

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I Don’t Have All The Answers

 

It’s been a while. Stretching my limbs. Shaking out webs.

 

With your eye pushed against my breast bone
Am I cold like an apartment door?

One-way peephole, insides filtered fisheye
To rhythm my heart swells open and wide.

Knock softly, there may be a feeling
Just past the welcome mat, dormant inside.

Your vision, is it near sighted?
or far out- traffic lights or fields that roll?

Can you sense how far my arteries reach,
until this flower blooms? Can you see until spring?

Am I warm like a creature just born?
Opening wide, realizing time, tuning in to the touch…

A blank eye hangs loose on a string.
I curl like a doorknob as you peer in.

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Dátiles

We are camping Playa los Dátiles.

Dátiles is a small rocky beach where locals and ex-pats set up residencies. There are tents large enough for a family, picnic tables, clothes lines, and countertops with sinks just feet from the shore line.  A community on the sea. An open-air neighborhood.

In our few weekends here Wynn and I met friendly ex-pats who live on Dátiles. These searchers and seekers, friendly and open, wake up in a tent on the beach each morning when it’s just too cold to do graphic design or construction in Wisconsin or Minnesota.

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Wynn strings my hammock between two trees, knotting the ropes tight. I do not tell her that this my first time camping anywhere that isn’t a backyard in Wall Township, ten feet from a house. Tonight I will be sleeping in a hammock on a beach, without a tent, just my backpack on the earth beneath me. Wynn will be in her hammock a few feet away, between two other palms.

Even though Culebra has nearly no crime, and I do not have much cash, I tuck my wallet into my yoga pants, resting on my hipbone. I put my phone on my other hip, wrap my sheet around me and settle into my hammock, under woven tree branches, bright stars and a full moon.

The official campsite for visitors is Flamenco, one of New York Time’s 6 Carribean Beaches to See Before You Die. We spend our days on Flamenco. Flamenco is farther away from town and Dátiles is where the locals camp, so it’s safer than touristy Flamenco, probably.

We packed trail mix, apples, an avocado, sandwiches, and beer in our backpacks to sustain us for the weekend, and hammocks to sleep in. Ladies on an island on a budget. I brought Dharma Bums, feeling that Keroac would be an appropriate read. Eventually I put the paperback beneath my head as a pillow, and close my eyes in search of sleep.  I think of the most comfortable place I’ve ever slept… my bed in college. Topped with memory foam and covered in duvets, that bed was a cloud.

I always keep a poem taped to the wall next to my bed.

For a few years it was “Bridge, Moon, Professor, Shoes” by Dorothea Tanning…

“Slept dreams, they say, take just a few seconds
no matter how long they are. Or how far

I walked on that bridge of spider silk
with the moon beside me like a friend.

Her light trapped us in a radiance of bliss so
pure, hours weren’t hours, or minutes minutes

as we passed my old lecture hall, its professor
stopping in the middle of his question: “Can

someone here tell me — ?” to stare at us as we
floated along, my insouciance blurring a little

with a sense of guilt. Had I a right to this?
Could such joy be mine for free? If I had

a purpose — say, shoes. Find shoes. On earth
we don’t walk on air — not like this windless

void riding underfoot, its force backing me
into the immensities, their black nowhere.

Such bouncing’s tiresome. Where’s the bliss?
The moon reaches for my arm. I jerk away.

What a pie-face she is in her chalky pallor.
Why did that professor turn his back on me?

Oh, if I find shoes (size seven) they won’t be
on too soon to get me home, home    home.”

I read these lines each night before sleeping, and watched others follow the lines with their eyes and wondered what they thought. There is a certain mystique I admire about this poem, an essence I thought would energize my space well.

My reminiscence is interrupted when a stooped man holding a Medalla staggers up to me and slurs something in Spanish. Frozen I respond “I don’t know.” He walks away. I tuck my sheet beneath both sides of my body, all the way down my legs, and reach for my flash light, to shine at Wynn. She is a shadow sitting up in her hammock. “We’re okay!” She laughs, I laugh. We’re fine. I close my eyes again. A few tents down, one of our new friends explains to the stooped man that we’re alright, we’re friends of theirs. The man’s name is Chico. He lives here.

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I don’t sleep well in my hammock, but better than expected. At some point it begins to rain. In my mental mist between sleeping and waking, I calmly recognize that my only shelter is my sheet. I listen to the pattering drops, feel them settling through my sheet, through my sweatshirt, chilling my body. I pull the sheet taut, too tired to think about it. The pattering slows to a stop, and the rest of the night is dry.

I dream of sleeping through the sunrise.

The sky becomes light in an instant, as if the sun rising was the flipping of a page in a children’s book, illustrated. I wake up. My dying iPhone reads that it is too early.

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The sky is mauve. I step out of my hammock and into flip flops, feeling the residue of bug spray and sweat and salty dew that coats my skin. I walk a few steps to the shore line and lean back on a sea washed rock to watch the real and gradual sunrise.

Some time later I wake up Wynn so she can wake up Doug so he can drive us, in his golf cart, the short ride into town for coffee.IMG_1684

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AM

On the day that I only allowed myself
to listen to AM radio, I cut my hair.
Layers irreparably tangled
collapsed weightlessly.

“I’ll take care of this later.”
The words walked off
faster than I ever could,
before another change of mind.

Horrified we might
become strangers again,
I booked a flight.

With all the money
I did not earn this winter
I want to buy you a gift, something
beautiful, like when too much
alone time has me spinning in the heat,
skirt levitating.

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Bees

Morning. Woke up to the sound of rain while it was still dark. Remembered the time a wasp stung me in bed.

Somehow also remembered the date… June fifth. I had recently graduated from Rutgers University and returned to the waitressing job for the summer. Another waiter, also a poet, gave me a book to borrow. One night before falling asleep I reached over to my nightstand to pick up his book.

Felt a sharp biting sensation on the skin of my upper inner arm, then a bee landed on my comforter beside me. I screamed to my brother in the next room to take the dead bee outside. Despite all the summers I spent on the beaches of New Jersey, I had never been stung before, by a bee or jellyfish or anything at all. The unexpected pain stunned me. I have never been a tough recipient of pain. Also did not yet realize that the bee was dead, and thought he might try to get me again. My brother used my Spanish porrón to cup the wasp and took him outside. He placed the porrón in the garden in the dark.

A big red spot formed on the inside of my upper arm. I showed it to friends at bars. “I was stung by a wasp in my very own bed a few nights ago!”

The porrón with the dead wasp remained in the garden all summer long, collecting rainwater that later turned brown. Often I wondered why no one in my family emptied it and brought it back inside. I never did and it became somewhat of a familiar fixture, a neglected garden ornament with a story. I had always been afraid of being stung by a bee, and then I was while laying in my bed one night.

And so I do not mind stretching next to the bee’s nest this morning. This part of the yard gets the most sun early in the morning and the warmth is soft on my skin. I do not wish to get stung by one of these jungle bees but maybe I will, no matter where I stand.

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Greetings from the Rainforest

There is a song I used to love by an artist whose name I can’t remember. She sang,

“Home is a house you build with your bones.”

In my mind I hear the melody while walking barefoot across the concrete from my bedroom to the porch, to sit beneath string lights and gaze over the hillside. In awe I watch the clouds, breathe deeply and feel very much like myself. IMG_0991

For a woman who tends to define herself by her home and relationships, leaving and feeling secure is always a challenge, but a worthy one. I am realizing, or maybe remembering, truths that have been clouded for a while. Home is a house you build with your bones.

The air is warm and the rain has just stopped. Large green leaves are glistening as I walk past them. The chirps of the jungle are loud, as they always are when the sky grows dark.

I wonder if jungle creatures make noise all night just to make sure they still exist when it is too dark see themselves. Surely we do the same. Surely I have done the same.

It has been almost two weeks since arriving here in Puerto Rico, and I feel settled, at home in my bones, and happy.

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The night I arrived, I let my exhaustion and nerves drive me into hysteria.

My new roommate and now dear friend Wynn peered up from the book she was reading in bed and asked calmly, “You never went to summer camp as a kid, did you?” She could feel my energy as I eyed the small, basic room that we were now to share, indignant over the lack of shelves and wondering where the hell I was going to put all my stuff, and why I brought so damn much.

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That night I messaged a friend in Rincon and plotted my escape. I was petrified by the uncertainty of my new situation.

Over the next few days, with my hands in the soil and the sun on my neck, I shed my panic like old skin. On Tuesday I pulled stray ferns out of a vermillion plant. On Wednesday night Wynn and I wandered through old San Juan, stepping into cafes, chatting over Medalla Lights and getting to know each other. On Thursday I tended to a breezeway filled with orchids and tree ferns. On Thursday night our host bought more shelves for our bedroom, and I finally unpacked. On Friday we took the ferry to Culebra to swim in the turquoise sea of Flamenco Beach and mingle with island regulars. All the pieces nestled into perspective so incredibly, and I became more and more certain…traveling here on a work exchange is exactly where I need to be right now.IMG_0922

The climate is medicinal and the company is truly great. There is plenty of time to read and write. I wake up early in the morning and go to sleep pretty early in the evening, a routine that feels unsurprisingly…amazing. I am grateful to have been able to choose this on a whim.

A few words on a work exchange. It is an inexpensive way to travel and learn. If those are your priorities, you really do not need much else. In exchange for five hours of work five days a week, I receive meals and my room. The meals are healthy and delicious and my room, I have come to see, is perfect.

Earning my keep is not easy, but it is totally reasonable and rewarding. Today Wynn and I dug up a ginger tree to replant in a different spot. Picture two relatively small women hacking away with all their might, shovels and pick axes swinging. When the rain began we took a break for lattes and reading. In the evening we made dinner in the beautiful open air kitchen, to the sound of good music and falling drops.

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Earlier this week I read a particularly striking line from a book I borrowed from the inn.

“Uncertainty, on the other hand, is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom…In your willingness to step into the unknown, you will have the wisdom of uncertainty factored in.” -Deepak Chopra

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Traveling to Puerto Rico alone to work in the rainforest was definitely a step into the unknown, and uncertainty and I have become quite close. Having landed on the fertile ground of freedom and creativity, far from the familiarities of home, I am feeling closer to myself. For the next few weeks you may find me here, working on the home of my bones, focusing on patience and grace.

Unapologetic and open.

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Wynn before we begin a day’s work

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A few pieces of the salvaged ginger plant

IMG_1236The sea from Culebrita Island

IMG_1181Greetings from here

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Rooms To Live In

Weeks before moving out of my apartment in New Brunswick, my cousin suggested that I take a few photos. At the time, it seemed unlikely I would ever forget what it looked like. I took a few iPhone pictures anyway.

While studying in Spain for a semester, I lived in a student residence called Melon District. It was newly built and towering, with a lobby and scan cards rather than keys. A friend’s Spanish boyfriend described Melon as a fortress to protect all the American girls in Barcelona from Spanish men.

Before arriving, I imagined my Spanish dwelling a much different way.

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Dreamy street in Barcelona

I anticipated an apartment situated in the gorgeous decay of European city architecture, where hot water may be scarce but the terrace is romantic enough not to care.

Instead, home was a stark white room with fluorescent lights, and a window that only opened from the top.

It was my own single with a full sized bed, a desk, and a closet. For the first time in my life, I had a private bathroom all to myself. Naturally, I kept glasses and teacups of red wine in the sink.

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I never brought anyone into that room. My friends lived in adjacent identical rooms, or a few floors up and down. Almost nightly, we gathered in the common kitchen down the hall, on the rooftop terrace to watch the sun set behind Mt. Tibidabo, or out in the city. Then we all went back to our separate rooms, to shower, rest, and maybe Skype.

Alone, I ate an orange every morning before walking to class, building a pile of peels that covered the desk. A cleaning lady came on Fridays. She threw away the peels and lined my shoes along the wall.


Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 10.23.02 AMProof that I inhabited this room. Must have been a Thursday.

For four months that room was my own in an unfamiliar city.

But it was not a home, a place where living happens. I lived in Park Cituadella, at the Arc de Triomf,  at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in cafes, on labyrinth streets, in the Areobus, on the Metro. I lived in the hostel in Amsterdam, my friend’s apartment in Lisbon, and the apartment my family rented in Born the week they visited.

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Arc

Unlike every other place I’ve called home, I barely remember how it felt to be there, in my Melon District room. Its essence lies just out of reach. Could that be blamed on an uninviting aesthetic, or the brevity of my stay, or the fact that I never shared the space with anyone?

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Stairs to my family’s apartment in Born

My other apartments are like frames of experience. Those homes have been cradles of conversation, growth, and change. Vessels that carried and contributed to lives.

My freshman dorm, where I covered the chilly cinder block wall with photos. My first kitchen at Rutgers the year I didn’t eat meat. The charming place on Central Street with a horrible landlord and a beautiful fireplace. The apartment on Easton Avenue, where from my window I watched the pulse of Hub City.

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And then there’s my room in Barcelona, white like a ghost. A shelter without sentiment, but scented by oranges.

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Fern

There is a fern perched on the windowsill in a white pot,
next to a bowl of pennies and it looks as calm as I’d like to feel next to an ATM.

*

My idealistic young friends have grown up and away.
There’s a song we used to play while driving upstate
We’d say “I never want to not be here.”

The June that we were seventeen, my friend confessed to me
“He gave me money for plan B, I don’t need it,”
She treated us to pancakes the morning after instead.
We laughed and swore never to do this again.

She does not feel she deserves her BFA.
“Bachelor of NOTHING, BA in BOYS IN MY BED,
My mom works her ass off so I can be wasted in this cab.”

Is this moment romance? Candle lit with guilt?
We used to just date whoever worked at the pizza shop.

*

I ran the red light in front of
Asbury Park High School and the policeman
didn’t really mind. Driving and writing a poem on
my iPhone beside New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey coast line.
That was today.

Today was lucky, catatonic, surrounded by
Carefully selected props and noises to embellish
The feeling I’m reaching for and missing.

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‘Driving While Not Knowing Where You Are Going’ is Not A Crime

“Where are you headed?” The police officer asked me. ‘Well, I am aimlessly driving a borrowed car right now because I do not have an answer to that question,’ I thought.

Very rarely am I pulled over by a police officer while driving. Of course, there has been reasonable speeding and occasional neglect of the blinker, but my driving record is spotless. Today, I drove too fast on a residential street, because right now, I’m nervous about moving slow.

I quit my job. After five years as a waitress at SeaGrass Restaurant, I put in my notice. The restaurant supported me well throughout college, but the last few weeks left me feeling stuck. Nights serving late tables led to even later nights of wine with other waitresses. Serving others six days a week left little time to serve my ambitions. So I decided to give notice, and dedicate all of my time and energy to finding full time writing work. It is the September after graduating from college. The time has come to learn something new. “Kate loves to learn,” my father likes to say.

So for now my schedule is wide open. My days are spent sending out resumes and helping my mother prepare dinner. It is pleasant, but I have a tendency to become anxious when faced with no productive, helpful, or meaningful work. Knowing me, I will not be in this position of idleness for long, but for the past three days, it is my situation.

In a bout of restlessness this afternoon I borrowed my sister’s car while she was in class to run some errands. After visiting the bank and donating a bag of clothes, I treated myself to a small latte and a huge chocolate chip cookie, and took my snack for a drive along the ocean. Cruising down the shoreline guarantees calm.

While enjoying my ephemeral moment of absent-minded existence, I saw the lights of a police car flashing behind me. I was being pulled over.

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I actually bought 2 huge cookies…

The police officer, a young man, asked for my license and registration, which I dutifully gave along with a collection of PBA cards from the past five years.

He surveyed my sister’s back seat, a mess of pizza boxes, beach towels, books, and coffee cups. I wondered if he would cut me some slack as my sister’s “Education for the Deaf” textbook was in plain sight. My big cookie was half eaten, still in my right hand.

Then he asked me, “So where are you headed?”

Honestly, I thought to myself, I am headed nowhere. I am driving around in my younger sister’s messy Honda eating a gigantic chocolate chip cookie. I have no job to do and no class to attend.  I am not a student of any institution, and I have no boss keeping tabs on whether I show up late or not. Today I am going nowhere.

“Nowhere really. I’m picking up my sister later. Right now I’m just going for a drive.” He glared at the backseat again before explaining his reason for pulling me over. Forty-five in a fifteen.

“So where are you going, again?” I held up my cookie. “I am driving and eating this until I have to pick up my sister.” Glancing down, there were crumbs covering my sweater.

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While the officer ran my license, I considered my crime. The drive was a momentary escape that I took too fast. While I sped on the road I also raced frantically from a moment of deciding. I had recently graduated from college, and quit my dead-end job just days ago. This was not the time for escapes. Now would be the time for slow and careful consideration. Where would my next destination be? It was a question I could not speed away from.

In parting, the officer advised me to “slow the hell down,” the best sentence I could have received.

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