My New Life
In the morning I find myself grateful that I went home and to bed early. It’s been a long time since I have been out drinking without a care in the world. My head is pounding and my hang-over is slight thanks to having a good night’s sleep. I need to remember to put a bottle of water and two Advil by my bed. Morning run has turned into an evening run today. It took everything in me to get out of bed and make myself presentable. Unlike Sylvia, whom even hungover looks ready to go.
“Morning love, how did you sleep?” Sylvia hands me a black iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich. This makes me miss my dad.
“I don’t remember sleeping at all and thanks to the jet lag, I feel as if I could sleep for days.”
The benefits of passing out is, no dreams. My reoccurring dream of my mystery lover’s kiss attempted a revival but I wouldn’t allow it. Maybe because I still wanted it to be Tommy, and I didn’t’ feel like it. The kiss was different. I tell myself it is because my body is protecting itself. Afraid of the reality that I was completely wrong about Tommy being the love of my life.
“That’s how everyone feels every morning in this city. We all are so used to it, plus we are all to busy to waste time judging others for looking a wreck in the morning.”
“Who looks a wreck? Did you look in the mirror? You look fabulous.”
“I am a Brit, we always look absolutely fabulous. We never let anyone see us sweat or in joggers. Nor do we let others see us lost.”
“Well, I am Italian blood and we expose all of our emotions to the world, even when that emotion is exhaustion. And you noticed that.”
Sylvia doesn’t miss anything. She catches my brain freezes. She lets me get away from them on occasion but calls me out on them when I am too tired to blow off her curiosities.
“You will build your tolerance.” This does not give me comfort. Growing up behind a bar and a bartender by trade, I see what tolerance looks like. “So, is he keeping you up at nights?”
“So, what’s on our agenda today?” Answering a question with a question. Sylvia learns quickly that I am a thick head even when it’s pounding or lost in space.
“I am waiting to hear from the IT team as to when we can meet with them to discuss everything we went over yesterday.”
“Glad you remember, I barely do and it was my second go-around of it.”
“Oh, I remember everything, used to drive my ex-boyfriends crazy because they couldn’t get away with shit.”
“Well you can be the elephant and I will be the workhorse.”
“Ok, horse, get off your arse, and let’s get to Brooklyn. You have a few apartments to see.”
This became the first of too many trips to Brooklyn to view some frightening options for living spaces. What happened to the amazing apartment that Rachel and Monica have on Friends? My only exposure was Nate’s apartment or that of his aunts and uncles. You want space, you have to move further away from Manhattan.
“How do people live in these small spaces? And the last one had completely uneven floors. By the end of the day, all my furniture will glide into the dipped corner if I live there, we will have to glues everything down. And the one above the restaurant? I can’t imagine falling asleep to the smell of diner grease every night.”
The patrons of the bar often complained that thanks to we Tech nerds that are all work and no play have destroyed the housing market in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I took some offense to it as I am one of those Tech nerds, or at least could have been had I taken any of the jobs offered to me.
“This is where I am lucky, coming from Liverpool, these options are amazing.” Sylvia does not let me get my pity party on. “Plus, you live in the city that never sleeps, you only need enough space for a great bed and an even better wardrobe.”
Now I am one of those patrons cursing Wall Street for destroying the housing market in New York City and Brooklyn. I am not living in Queens. My aunts and uncles would be thrilled but not this Italian. All they wish for is that I marry a nice Italian boy. Even more so after Tommy.
“I know, but I used to love to entertain.”
Flashbacks of the first and last dinner party that I hosted at Jodi and mine’s apartment. Remembering that both meals were inspired by Nate. Oh shit! Nate! He called last night. Old fashioned Nate, not big on texts or emails. If you miss his call you miss the chance to talk to him. He is most likely asleep until now, I will call him when I am back at the office.
“Plenty of great bars and restaurants to throw dinner parties if you want to entertain.”
I understand Sylvia’s point, but as I am starting to do all the things I love again. I miss cooking and throwing dinner parties.
My parents threw dinner parties whenever they had the chance to close the bar and enjoy their friends. Growing up, I would do the same with Stella and her friends on the weekends. They would come for a sleepover and Stella and I would cook an impressive dinner and the parents would even allow us a glass of wine each. There is no better compliment to dinner than the perfect wine pairing, this you learn when your parents are Italian. From the looks of these apartments, no dinner party where I cook is a possibility in the foreseeable future.
“You are looking for your starter apartment. Once you save up and are ready to afford a better place, then you can have one with your dream kitchen and optimal party space.” The realtor breaks my flashback to the good old days.
After that depressing apartment search, I am grateful to be back at my office, even the space I work in is more spacious than most of the places we saw today. Call Nate.
“Ciao mi amore!” I start when he answers. There is something so calming about knowing this man is in my life.
“Buenos Dias! To what do I owe the honor?”
“I believe you are the one who called me last night.”
“Well, I didn’t hear from you all day so I figure work was going well. But when I didn’t hear from you after dinner hours, well, I was worried that you are hiding behind work.”
“I am sorry love, I should have reached out. It was a lot yesterday and when my assistant, Sylvia suggested dinner and drinks about 7 p.m., I was already on autopilot. I did think of you though, she took me to Nobu. So not the same without you. And I am so excited for you to meet Sylvia! You will love her.”
“So far so good, huh?”
“So far, so good! How about you? Where are you working tonight?”
“Scores, wanna come by?”
“Miss dancing with you and Summer Love? I pity the fool.”
“Ha! Okay, Mr. T, see you later then?”
I asked Sylvia if she wanted to join, but one of the high rollers from last night is eager to wine and dine her. A part of me is grateful because I still can’t seem to get myself to share Nate. I am excited to have a pre-Tommy moment. Champagne and dancing, so excited!
The rest of the week is pretty much the same, apartment after apartment that leaves me feeling I will live in corporate housing forever. Benji sends me over reading material the help Sylvia and I impress IT. I am not surprised when Sylvia is just as comprehensive of all the information as I am. I wonder if I will ever stop counting my blessings that she is my assistant.
“So, how is autumn in New York City treating you so far?” Sylvia is trying to get me to talk about Tommy, but I am not biting. Not that I don’t want to, I just can’t quite yet.
“It’s so beautiful. The summer I spent here as an intern was fun, but I cannot say that New York City is the ideal place to be in July.”
“It nearly killed me, I was so excited at first to get away from the gloom that can hoover over London, but the heat and humidity here is another monster in itself.”
“You suck at small talk.” I laugh at her. “I promise that I will be more forthcoming about Tommy soon. It’s not you, it’s just a very open wound.”
“Okay, then tell me about Nate?”
“He is my best guy friend.”
“And what is that supposed to insinuate?”
“I am just saying he checks in on you a lot. And I am not being nosey, what is his deal with calling? If he emails you, I wouldn’t know his business.”
“Of course, you would, you have full access to my emails.”
“Okay, you may be correct there.”
“I don’t know, Nate and I have shared so much together over the past year that we’ve known each other. Which is crazy to think, especially because the first 90 percent of it we never spent face-to-face time together.”
“Well, you think back to when Albert courted Victoria, all they had were letters. Words can build passion and strong love. And boy was there some crazy love and passion between those two. You get to know someone without intimidation, a.k.a. their hotness.”
“How do you know he’s hot? You have never seen him.”
“I can tell by the sound of his voice. And the look on your face when you talk to him.”
“You are a freak of nature.”
“Thank you! I also really like the way he looks after you, it’s very sweet and rare.”
“I know, he is better than I deserve.”
“That’s not true. And if I ever hear context as such coming out of your mouth again, I will ground you, little lady! You need to learn to love yourself more Valentina, you are an impressive woman and you don’t even know it."
As Sylvia is singing my praises, I try hard to see the Valentina that she does. I think I was just born feeling awkward and insecure. It didn't come from my family, they ooze compliments and love.
"The way you talk to people, any intimidations your beauty may put forth your ability to communicate washes away. I wish I had that. With me, they either fear me or want to fuck me, usually both.” Sylvia makes light of her natural domineer.
We both laugh. It is so nice to have a girlfriend that I can laugh with. In college, the women in my Computer Science classes were too competitive and serious and the women in my English Literature classes were all to intellectual and philosophical to laugh.
Benji was my best friend at school, we have amazing banter and respect for each other. And of course, I miss Mikey and Boss. Jodi was great but there was always Wynn. Jojo and Emily are fun at Triple Rock, but not the sleepover kind. I didn’t realize how much I miss a real girlfriend until I met Sylvia.
Stella was priority number one for me growing up, so, I didn’t socialize much outside of Dad’s bar. I always had a lot of people to interact with there, so I never lacked in social exposure.
Plus being pretty doesn’t serve to make real friends growing up. It sucked. Other kids picked on me, trying to find flaws in my character since they couldn’t find any in my appearance. Here at INK, I am a 9, there are so many smart, multidimensional and beautiful women here, I feel so at ease. I am excited to meet many of the women I come across in the elevator or the cafeteria.
It takes a few weeks before we are even able to meet with the IT team again, seems like everyone in New York City is overworked and extremely busy. Meetings with the technology team brought me back to my college days. Most of my peers in college were nerdy so every new class was a great ego boost for me. During the meetings, it is difficult to get the IT team to focus above my shoulders. This, however, does work to my advantage.
I am learning to use my feminine wilds to get my way in this town. In San Francisco we are more of the feminist types, here I am using all I have, to get all I need. Sometimes feeling rather guilty. Then remembering that I need to make an impression on Jessica means doing whatever it takes, well, almost whatever it takes.
The beginning phase of our work is to meet with IT is mapping and drafting out the ideas of our App and moving from visual space to algorithms. Too many meetings for me, mostly because it takes a week to even get all of our schedules to jive. The impatient me feels it’s all moving so slow.
Sylvia and Nate are both doing a good job of keeping me busy out of the office. Although the irony is, they seem to never have time to take me out together. I need to get my musketeers together, without meaning to, they divided and conquered my grieving.
My moments of missing Tommy and feeling lonely are getting easier. Sylvia even manages to get me over to Paris and London a few times, booking me meetings with the powers that be there so they could offer their input as to how they want the App to look.
As fun as these work breaks are, going to an empty apartment or hotel room hits the same every night. These cities are a blessing because there is no memory of Tommy in any of them, only in the emptiness of the beds I sleep in. I tried in London and Paris to tap into my old predatorial outings. But even random sex doesn’t feel right.
On my few days off, I manage to start sketching again, spending hours at the museums, practicing my craft by sitting in front of a piece, and copying it onto my sketch pad. Talk about art that if you don’t use, you lose.
It takes months before I can even get back into the groove with the way the pencils feel in my hands and can control the variation of the shades black and white makes. As I do so, I start to see the grey shades I am starting to love in my life, not so black and white; love, marriage, and me with a baby carriage. Those defined lines are blurring as I find pleasure in being with myself and getting to know myself again. Nate holds me to his promise of watching me dance on bars, Sylvia makes good on her promise to bring out my inner raver and to shut down as many clubs with me as possible. She even drags me to Karaoke in Korea town, where we stick out like sore thumbs. Singing, dancing, and drawing; Valentine Perrotti is finding herself back into me.