Wanderlust : A Dreamer's Travel Guide
Junior year ends without a glitch. I am still able to maintain my grades while working and playing a bit. With finals behind me, I am excited for my internship. How many people dream of making it in New York City? It’s my first choice of places to live after grauation. As much as I love growing up in the Bay Area and my family, these last three years away from home, the real Valentina is slowly breaking away from all the things that bind me.
As expected, my family sees me off, to journey alone to New York. When I land the dream job after college, I will save up to take my family to Italy. My parents deserve a vacation. Until then, I fly alone. I am used to doing a lot alone so I don’t let it bother me and focus on enjoying my very first flight ever. And thanks to Benji using his family's airline pints, my first flight is in first class. "Happy Birthday, Val. Getting you used to the level of life you deserve to be living. Much love, Benji." Was the stickey note left on my boarding pass. Jodi must have helped him with this one. She often opens my mail "on accident", this is where her snoopy ways are easily forgiven.
Benji made me promise to call a few times a week and keep him updated. This is his way of making sure he can lecture me regularly about having fun versus being so serious. There is a part of him that likes to control me that bothers me, but in the bigger picture, he makes me better. I also think it will help him miss Izzy less. Funny how the world turns. A year ago we were barely talking, now we are back to being best friends. Who knows what Senior year will bring us. For now, I am enjoying the glasses of champagne they continue to bring me. As if Benji called ahead and ordered for me. This will make traveling any other way very hard, yet one more addiction Benji has placed in my life.
Wanderlust is one brand of magazine of many owned my INK Media Group. INK, is a mass media corporation that produces a multitude of media, offering high quality substance globally. They range from fashion to travel to socially inspiring and influential material. This is a big opportunity for me because it's a company I can grow in many directions with. A job here starts me in New York City and can take me anywhere in the world. Over my lifetime, I have traveled to so many places through books and movies, now I want to actually visit the cities on my ever growing list. As much as I want to make Benji happy and truly enjoy what New York City has to offer, I plan to work hard and stay focused on the task at hand. I need to impress them so that they offer me a job after graduation. This is my Working Girl moment.
“Landed safe and sound.” I text both Benji and my parents.
“Ciao Bambina! We are so excited to hear about every moment.” Mom texts back.
“You survived your first plane ride.” Texts Benji. “How is it?”
“JFK? A dirtier version of SFO.”
“Funny! You know what I mean.”
“It's crazy. They had a car waiting for me. Now we are on our way to the apartment where they are putting me up. And of course, first class? I can't thank you enough for that.”
“Nice! The bennies of interning for a large corporation versus a start-up. You can thank me by sending lots of selfies of you having fun!”
“Truth. But, you will get to do so much more than fetch coffee and filing.”
“Something tells me you will make sure you don’t do more than fetch coffe. But yeah, I am pretty excited about starting next week.”
“How is Ibiza with Izzy?”
“Like nothing I have ever experienced! One side of this island is raw in natural beauty. The other side is anything you want it to be. You need to come here, I can totally see you working as a Go-go dancer. You would be so happy dancing every night.”
“Go-go dancer? That's opposite of your usual option for me. Definitely 180 from a tech company.”
“Seeing Izzy so happy makes me want all of us to follow our dreams.”
“Are you high?”
“Maybe a bit faded.”
“Go my dreamer, enjoy the escape.”
“Go my good-girl Val, embrace Wanderlust.”
I guess if all this doesn’t work out, I have a future as a Go-go dancer in Ibiza. Not too shabby of a plan B. Dancing every night and sunning and sexing every day? Yeah, I would kill myself. At times I dream of being programmed that way, but I am not. I would be filled with such guilt to indulge my desires so selfishly.
The view coming into my site snaps me out of my head. Wow, what a city. Just driving from the airport into the city, you can feel its vibration. As the car gets to the junction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway, I look to the right and see a massive grave. I wonder who these people are. The history jumps at you and pulls you in. The variations of the headstones through the centuries offers intrigue, some so old you can barely see them under the overgrown world around them. So worn dow n from the harsh northeast winters. But the power of their apparition stirs my curiosities. I make a note to visit this site one day and look up some of these people and their history.
As we cross the Queensborough Bridge, impressive but not as beautiful as the Golden Gate Bridge, the city is a complete wonder. As small as Manhattan is in size, the number of buildings and people it holds is crazy. I can’t believe it took me 21 years to leave California. Once again, Benji is right, there is way more to life then the pages of books and the Bay Area. Adding Ibiza to my list of hopeful cities, minus the ecstasy, a maybe on the Go-go dancing. Back in my head, where I left off. How nice does that sound? Getting paid to dance every night, lost in amazing music.
In the moment, I need to stay in this moment, I am in a new place and am about to walk new streets and meet new people, scariest part of it all but I am here to grow beyond my shit. I will learn to be a good friend and make a few while I am here. I know for many of you out there, this concept may seem bazaar. From pre-school, I learned that being pretty and competitive makes everyone hate you. I have been teased and bullied to the point where I just find it easier to be alone. Plus, while other kids bonded over after school sports and actives, I was bound to my responsibilities. Other than dance and piano, I didn’t play much with others. While I am here trying to make a strong impression, the contrary will be to make one without everyone hating me. Most people have trophies and blue ribbons to show their wins, I just do better than others and stay on top. And what is it that they say? “It’s lonely at the top.”
“I can do this!” I say to myself over and over again in my head.
INK Media really has their internship program down. We are all staying in corporate housing, similar to the dorms we all are used to. There are people here from all over the world, interning or starting their careers in various divisions of the company. It's like a microcosm of college. The apartments for the interns have four small bedrooms, a bathroom, small living room and a kitchenette. I guess they don't expect us to be home much, or cooking. At least we all get to sleep in the privacy of our own tiny bedrooms. I am so relieved with this set up. I have never lived alone and am just not quite ready to do it yet. Especially in a new city, New York City, at that. This will ease me into the concept. I have my own space and privacy, but am safely surrounded by others.
I am excited to make new friends. Keeping the promise myself and Benji to try my best to be more outgoing, I psyche myself out for the calendar in front of me. Today we are free to spend our day unpacking and settling in. Tonight there will be a casual “getting to know” each other dinner.
One of my flat mates is already unpacked, Trudy, from UVA. She plays volleyball and is an economics major. She loves to write and is excited to be an intern with INK. She is hoping to work for Ink’s business or sports sector after graduation. I like that we are all studying different markets but have our love for writing in common. She is also a marathon runner so she and I can hopefully go on runs together. Maybe she will inspire me to run more than just a few miles a day.
At dinner I find myself casing the room. Apparently the 21 days to change a habit doesn't work when it comes to addiction. Casing the room is a habit. My need to have sex with at least ten of the men here is the problem that 21 days of sobriety can't solve.
Okay, so here is where it gets rough, I have done a really good job of keeping me escapades anonymous, if I sleep with any of these men, I will know their names, and potentially work with them in the same building if not office some day. I feel like I need to consult someone on this.
“Hi, I am Will, and you are?” Sorry, had to give you a side note before I let him finish his greeting.
“I am Valentina,” I point to my name tag. Realizing how bitchy that must seem.
“Oh, yeah, duh!”
“It’s okay. I, like that you didn’t look at my chest before saying hi.” Did I really just say that?
He’s laughing, wow, I made a stranger laugh with me versus at me. I take a deep breath and exhale, which he does as well and we both laugh.
“Your funny. I like that. Where are you from, Valentina?” He laughs, pointing to my name tag as he says my name.
It’s weird hearing my name from the mouth of a potential fuck. I guess “oh, God”, “dear Lord” or my favorite, “God Woman” are what I am used to hearing. What if during sex he says, “oh, Valentina”? Benji is the only person ever to call out my name during sex. Of course, I am being presumptuous about Will and I even having sex. He is hot, in that white bread, good east coast, boarding school kind of way. Of course his name is Will. It’s that or Biff. He could be a Biff. Glad his is a Will.
“Earth to Valentina?”
“Sorry, got lost inside my head, I do that a lot.”
“Phew, thought I lost you before even getting the chance to know you.”
Did he just say that? He may be as socially awkward as I am. I do manage to focus in on him and smile. The periphery of the room is blurry around him. I can see that people are moving all around us, but I can’t make out faces. I can hear the laughter and the clanking of people toasting each other. I hear the band in the other room playing, I love live music. I smell food, my tummy grumbles. I now see Will’s hand waving in front of my eyes. Oh Shit! I am doing it again.
“So sorry!” I snap out of my head and apologize.
“Do you want a drink?”
“Thinking I really need a drink.”
“You look like champagne.”
“What exactly does champagne look like?”
Classy? If he only knew. Growing up behind a bar I would consider myself a sailor before I consider my self a lady. As Will walks away to get me a glass of champagne, I look around for Trudy. No where to be seen. So I decide to text Benji.
“What is the rule with hooking up with other interns?”
“Why would there be a rule?”
“I don’t know, won’t it make everything weird.”
“Val, you are kidding me right?”
I am not kidding Benji, but I don’t want to text him that back, I feel so stupid already. Why do I feel like my dad is scolding me right now? I am 21 years old but I feel like I am 13 years old and at my first school dance, not like I ever went to any of my school dances.
“There are moments in life where we get to be carefree adults without consequences. College, spring breaks and internships are the top three. Have fun and stop overthinking everything. He probably just wants to shag you. You are hot! I am sure a few of the men there want you.”
“Maybe I should just hook-up with the bartender, he is really hot!”
“Don’t be retarded. You never know. Maybe this guy, what’s his name?”
“See, that’s the problem. Will, I know his name is Will.”
“How is that a problem?”
“Well, if you must know, you are the only name I have ever called out during sex. And you are the only one to ever use my name during sex.”
“Flattered, and a bit psyched about that. But, Val, you are being obnoxious. Have fun. Stop thinking. Your brain is the best and worst part of you. Now, stop texting me.”
Just on beat, Will shows up with champagne. He is drinking whiskey, so that is a step in the right directions. Blonde hair, blue eyes, impeccable smile; his teeth are so perfect, makes me wonder if his mom or dad are dentists. Nice suit, not over the top but fits perfectly and compliments his figure. Some of the other men are more casual or their suits are worn a bit sloppy. I feel underdressed in my black skinny jeans and button down blouse, the announcement said business casual. Looking around, I may have misunderstood what business casual actually is.
“You look great.” Is he reading my mind?
“Thank you, this is the first of this kind of event for me, wasn’t sure what to wear.”
“Not sure what the rules are, but you look amazing.”
“So do you, nice suit.”
“And I did it all by myself.” He chuckles uncomfortably.
“Sorry, am I supposed to get that?” Shit! That sounded really snotty.
“Oh, just most people think that with guys like me that our moms or our girlfriends dress us.”
“But she didn’t.”
“No, I would never let my mom dress me, she is over the top. And of course, I don’t have a girlfriend to dress me. So I did it all by myself.”
Nice way to let me know he is single. Although the last part made him sound 12. Benji does say that all men are really 12-16 years old spiritually until they are fathers. And even after that, some never grow up.
“So, I never caught where you said you are from?”
“I didn’t say.” Shit! That was rude again. “Sorry, I am not good at small talk.”
“Would you prefer we discuss climate change or robotics?”
“Actually, yes.” I laugh, he doesn’t.
“Sorry, was kind of hoping you would have said no. I am a history and economics major, not a good combination for a techy.”
“How did you guess I am a techy?”
“A techy from somewhere in California, I would guess.”
“Only two places where someone would be excited about discussing both climate change and robotics.”
“Well, Mr. History,” I secretly feel better calling him this instead of Will. “If you are big on history, then you are the perfect person to discuss climate change and robotics. None of this is new, it’s all been in the making. And hopefully people like you can keep us from making repeated mistakes.”
“Okay then, you are a bigger nerd than I am and super smart.”
“Being conscious of global crisis doesn’t make me a nerd or super smart. Just means I care about the world and do more reading than living. Something I am trying to change.” When I replay that in my head I realize what a bad conversationalist I am.
“Well, then maybe we can talk about the fun things to do here in New York City? I prefer that over any of the other two choices offered earlier.”
“Okay, Mr. History, tell me the history of this great city.”
I continued to sip my champagne as Mr. History rattled along in his wheelhouse. I didn’t mind. Like I said, bartender ears, am better at listening than talking. With them passing champagne around, I lost track after four glasses. Realizing I haven’t eaten anything, I can feel a good buzz. Grateful when they announced that the dining hall is now open. As a good gentleman, Mr. History escorted me to my table.
“Would it be okay if I come find you after dinner and speeches?”
“Sure, that would be nice.” I sit down before I embarrass myself by falling over.
Good news is, I have always had a great appetite, it’s the Italian in me. Dinner manages to soak up some of the alcohol and sobers me up a bit. Now I wish my skinny jeans weren’t so skinny. I sort of remember some of the speeches. I am impressed with this binder in front of me, detailing some fun facts about the company and the city itself. A lot of information about policies and dress codes and such. Then a section on events. They literally have an event planned for us almost every night.
“We know you are all here to work hard and try to impress us in hopes of a job after college. We also want to impress you, some of you will be offered many opportunities. Here at INK, we believe in hard work and a quality of life.” Says the head of Human Resources.
Benji did tell me that at our level of experience, we will be wined and dined more than we will need to worry about. Which is a good thing because I have never really applied for a job nor have I really had a job interview. Perks of having a family business, and Triple Rock needed a warm body willing to work weekends so that was an easy job to land.
I am excited because my fun is being scheduled in for me. This I can do. Benji will call it cheating. But I will tell myself it’s Sociology 101, learning how to maneuver this concrete jungle.
As promised, Mr. History returns.
“What did you think?”
“I have to be honest, I really didn’t pay as close attention as I should have. I was too hungry.”
He laughs at me. I try to laugh too, grabbing at a glass of champagne as the waiter walks by. Everyone is out of their seats, mingling again. A few people have paired off and started exiting, binder and swag bag in hand. Wow, some of them do work fast. Benji says it’s the culture of these things. Like conventions, for many people, it’s the best way to meet other single people. I feel a bit of peer pressure to leave with Mr. History and attempt to get to know him better. I am sure it’s rude of me to not ask him where he is from. I try, but the words won’t come out of my mouth.
“So, as a Historian, where in New York City would you suggest I go first?”
“Well, WE could go to the Empire State Building. At this hours it’s probably the best bet. I would suggest a water boat tour but that’s never a good idea after a night of champagne and a three course meal.”
“Funny.” He completely ignored the part where I said, “I.”
“So, shall we?”
Absolutely not, I think to myself. Then this weird thing happens, and I manage to filter myself, for once, before speaking.
“We shall. That sounds fun.” I can tell I answered correctly from his grin that just got much bigger. I think I can actually count all his teeth.
As promised, the Empire State Building is breathtaking. Lucky enough to have a clear night, I can see forever from up here. In Northern California, we have less smog and so we are blessed with starry nights whenever the clouds blow over. Some nights you can even see the Milky Way, especially when you travel to the more rural parts of California. Here, it’s hard to see the stars. The city lights battle the stars for attention from me. From here, I can really see the massiveness of this city. Feeling very country girl and small. San Francisco is an impressive city by it’s own right, but I have always grown up outside of San Francisco, so this view, this largeness, leaves me in awe. Looking down onto the street, it’s so yellow. Man, there are a lot of yellow cabs in this town. The people moving about the city look like ants scurrying. I hear the “ohs” and “ahs” of everyone around me as they to react to this magical vision before us. Occasionally I can hear a honk or screaming in the distance but otherwise just buzzing all around. And of course, Mr. History talking away. If you close your eyes, you can feel the ghosts of all the couples made here; imagine how many first kisses, proposals, first chance meetings and so on has happened here. It’s almost as if you can feel the love in the air, the tickle, the temptation. “Come on Val, try it, try a chance at love.” It’s not a voice, it’s a feel, an inspiration.
“Do you want to check out an Irish pub? They are quite the experience here.” And, back to reality.
Looking at Mr. History, the feeling is not gone. He is definitely not “the one”. That feeling though, it now sits behind my rib cage, close to my heart, I will know when that spark ignites, for the first time in my life, I know this. It’s as if the ghost of lovers past has imbedded in me a sixth sense for the one who will light my flame and burn at my heart.
“Actually, I grew up a bartender, so I am around bars a bit too often as is.” I can see the disappointment on his face. “However, I would really like a nice stroll back to home base. Maybe even a street dog along the way?”
“Really? I didn’t think California girls ate hot dogs.”
“I am definitely not your typical California girl.” Or any girl really.
I like to think of myself as a robot, even though Benji hates it when I say that. Mr. History really likes to talk, so I let him. I am taking in the sounds of the city. Laughter spilling out of the bars, along with people at times. The honking and sirens, should annoy me, but they don’t, I am used to noise. Buzzing of conversations, too many at once to really focus in on any one. He really knows a lot about this city. Pointing out buildings, even at times the architecture of the building. History of each of the neighborhoods. Mr. History is a nice guy. At the door of my apartment we kiss, good kisser. He didn’t really know where to put his hands so I held them at my waist.
“Thank you for a nice night, Mr. History.”
“Can we do this again?”
“Maybe. From our agenda, looks like we will be seeing a lot of each other no matter.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind some one-on-one time, get to know you better. Seems like I did all the talking tonight.”
And before he could say anymore, I kiss him one final time and let myself into the apartment. Again, no point when you know it’s not going to go beyond this. And we see each other too often over the next several months to sleep with him. Bummer because he is a really good kisser. In another circumstance, we would be at his place, naked in passion.
Initially, I get my bearings; working hard to make an impression with my boss, Jessica. She is the perfect role model for me. She is a successful, smart, kind and inspiring woman. A graduate of Juilliard, she too switched from her dream of being a dancer and performer to a responsible business woman. It is nice to be able to share aloud how I miss my childhood dreams but I do know I made the right decision and seems like I am not the only one. And I do really enjoy coding and writing. This internship will hopefully allow me to apply both.
“Don’t be a teachers pet.” Benji warns when I start talking about Jessica.
“Don’t be my dad.”
“So how was Will?”
“Mr. History was very nice. He took me up to the Empire State Building and gave me a full history on New York City. Talked my ear off.”
“That’s like your dream date, a man that talks about nothing personal and does all the talking so you never have to open up.”
“You are so mean.”
“Truth hurts babe. So did he talk your clothes off too?”
“How is being back in the Bay Area?”
“Classic Val, answering a question with a question. Do you mean to ask how am I doing without Izzy?”
“Both I guess, or just how are you as a whole.”
“I am good, too busy to really think about it. My first few days were clearly not as fun and easy going as yours. They put me to work straight away. It’s great though. You would actually love it. These games we are working on are so crazy. The graphics, the dialogues, the endless twists and turns; almost like those novels you used to read to me. And the coding is nuts, these guys that I am learning from are on another level. Imagine what you and I could create sided-by-side here.”
“Sounds amazing. It’s weird being a way from all of that. I was so excited the other day when one of the editors couldn’t figure out their computer and I was able to jump in and help. Even undoing paper jams excite me these days.”
“You are such a nerd.”
“Yes, we established that back in Freshman year.”
“Well nerd, don’t be a brown noser or a teachers pet. Play nice with the others in the sandbox.”
“Yes teacher. I promise to try.”
“It’s great to hear your voice.”
“I am sure a drunk dial night is in our future.”
“Love you girl.”