How To (Not) Handle An Interview, Or A Date
You need to buy a new outfit. Find a store with windows disguised in conformity. Pale mannequins left in a huddle, playing a circuitous game of telephone. Remind yourself that you are just looking around. See an okay dress slouched on a sharp hanger and get in line, like a thief bored again with his plunder.
Wait behind a gaggle of teenage girls. Glance down at the blonde hair on their fawning legs, and remember that you wrote a do-to list the night before your first date, age fourteen. Tweeze eyebrows, condition hair. He reached his arm around you, to fiddle ice-cream thumbs on the stuffed animal claw prize machine. It meant less or more than when he placed his hand over her’s to show off a putting grip.
Don’t make your decision, text a friend. The pang of fitting room light is dully severe, your mouth stark in the hurried photo. A misguided pin-up. Would this work for tomorrow? And immediately, yes. Vaguely doubt her abrupt agreement.
Get distracted near the register by a display of folded scarves, uneven with pleats like soft ears, or a coffee-ringed magazine’s curled edge, and wonder for a moment if your last email was more eager than not. Desperate, even. That exclamation point should have landed as a period. Feel a red clench behind your stomach as you enter the pin for your debit card. Don’t take the subway. Wander home instead, and think about cooking dinner.
Stop at the less organic grocery store. Buy three yogurts, a sweet potato. Grab some paper towels too, you could be running low. Judge the couple placed next to you in the flickering aisle. The lazy arguments of comfort lull between his lopsided socks and her complacent shorts. But then – a hand on a back, or a slight finger squeeze. Wonder what exactly you are judging.
Hang up the dress in your bathroom, the wrinkles will unravel in shower steam. Read the morning’s news, and tell your friends you are nervous just so they will tell you there is no reason to be. Try on one pair of heels, and then another. Stand unevenly in front of the mirror. Toss a circle of bright hope onto something you know nothing about. Reach with your left foot for the hairbrush fallen under the bed. Are you an earring person, or a bracelet person? Forget that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
Arrive late, breathless with unnecessary hand movements. Be exciting, be serious. Give meaning to each contagious pause, the distinct position of feet. Keep talking, fill the silence with your self. You don’t wear t-shirts twice before washing, or eat the stray chip dropped on the floor as you stand idly, underwear-clad in your kitchen, scratching at a mosquito bite with your big toe. Look down, your story is foreign in your own fingers. Be smart, be fun. You have no stray hairs. Be exhausted.
Leave, and feel the wake of your frantic exertion, the pliable antimatter that your efforts have left behind. Want to curl up inside your ribs. Redraw the conversation into an opera with seven plodding acts. Cull the insignificant syllables, roll the extra vowels on the back of your tongue. Know that you are being unduly, overly, hilariously dramatic. And yet, be dramatic.
Compose a thank you, and sit still next to the silence that follows. Tell your friends either way, it’s not a big deal.
Find a song that explains: I’m better than feeling sad, and also — I am very sad. Half dance around your apartment to this for a bit. Leave three times to buy gum, get coffee, stand outside. The delicate gravity of an empty hour sculpts twenty four clear arcs that mean a day.
Think about the difference between an email and a phone call. A phone call with a voicemail? Text yourself, quickly, to be sure that technology is still working. Be disappointed in your own missive, a pristinely mirrored hello. Hello! Don’t remember that everyone else in the world is also a human.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”