You usually don’t leave work late, but you have some time to kill tonight. The concert venue is only a 12-minute subway ride from your office according to Google Maps, and the show doesn’t start until 8, so you might as well get some extra work done. After all, you’re working from home tomorrow and won’t have access to some files. Maybe just get those squared away? And speaking of that, working from home isn’t a terrible idea, right? You’ve been scarred by fascist employers for whom working from home was simply not an option, you didn’t even dare ask. Also, your dad, whom you still live with, does not believe in the concept of “working from home”––thinks it’s a sign of weakness, laziness, lack of work ethic and discipline––so do you really want him on your case? You’re almost 28 years old, but a father’s disapproval is a heavy cross to bear.
Okay, email reminder sent. “Just a reminder that I’ll be working from home tomorrow.” It’s practically been sealed in blood.
You look around the office, which is empty save you and one other person. You pick up your things in haste, not wanting to be the last one out, mostly because you don’t know the protocol. Lock the door? Leave it unlocked for the cleaning crew? Turn off the lights? Don’t turn off the lights? Too much responsibility for a Thursday.
The 6 train is crammed with people from all walks of life, including a woman in a long dress of greens, reds, yellows, and what appears to be tiny Malcolm X faces. Her son climbs into the lap of a Spanish lady in a low-cut shirt and starts pawing at her boobs. She smiles affectionately, which, you think to yourself, is a very benevolent reaction that would not have been yours. Then the boy’s hands find your butt and start tapping it. You look around the subway car absentmindedly, focusing on the dentist ads, and think about the last emails you sent off before shutting down your computer. You hope they actually sent. Outlook had been having some functionality issues.
You get off at Astor Place and pick a waiting spot outside Starbuck’s––your boyfriend should be meeting you any minute. You check your phone and see you have a score of new texts from him. Yes, a whole score*.
What’s for dinner, Wendy’s?
I’m dressing 90s btw.
‘How bad could that be?’ you ask…. Oh, I’m good.
Hope you didn’t bring along anyone from work to meet me.
That’s the most texts you’ve received from him consecutively in months, you think to yourself before texting back, Ok. I’m hungry.
You survey your surroundings. There’s a group of Asian girls standing to your left, giggling, and a middle-aged man with a briefcase pacing back and forth right in front of you, eyes glued to his cell phone, appearing disgruntled. A few moments later, a middle-aged blonde woman in a longish black dress and silver jewelry approaches him. She too appears disgruntled.
“Where the hell have you been?” the man snaps. You gather that the woman is his wife.
“You said you’d be here at a quarter of,” she snaps back. “It’s now 6:51. So what?”
“I texted you. I called you. Where were you?”
“You said you’d be here at a quarter of. It is now 6:51. So. What.”
This goes on for another couple minutes until the man starts to walk away.
“Where are you going?” his wife asks loudly, her mouth slightly open, puzzled but in an angry way.
“But I have to use the bathroom.”
“So meet me there.”
Your phone buzzes. You look down: I’m here btw. Astor place island. Your brain will probably tell your eyes to look over me because that embarrassing looking weirdo couldn’t possibly be me.
That’s exactly what happened. When you do finally spot him, you shake your head, but in a way that implies fondness and mild amusement. He beams in response, striking a pose on Astor Place Island to show off his neon-colored MC Hammer t-shirt, half-hidden beneath a button-down sweater vest. The end of his canvas belt hangs down in front of the crotch of his tan shorts, which are complemented by the purple and blue socks pulled up past the top of his low-rise boots. He looks like Sam, the friend from Clarissa Explains It All––the one who was always climbing in her bedroom window. You, on the other hand, are wearing a modest printed top from H&M beneath a sensible gray cardigan, your Longchamp bag slung over your shoulder, pearl earrings perched on your earlobes. He is ready for a sweaty concert with East Village delinquents; you are ready for lunch with your grandma.
You cross the street, kiss him hello, and playfully crinkle your nose at his costume before reminding him that you’re hungry. As you begin walking in the direction of the venue, he asks what food is around. “I don’t know, but walk a few paces behind me so people don’t think we’re together,” you deadpan. He cackles and pulls you toward him, planting a big kiss on your cheek. “You think I’m dressed nice enough for Wendy’s?”
You end up at a Thai restaurant, where you are seated discreetly in the back, next to the bathrooms, probably because of your boyfriend’s Ringling Bros. getup. You have no qualms about pointing this out to him. You order two large mojitos, chicken pad Thai, and a red curry dish that tastes similar to what you imagine fire tastes like––but blue fire, like the kind under the burner on a gas stove. You sweat profusely–or maybe it’s just the curry seeping out of your pores––as you talk in a harried sort of way about your decision to work from home tomorrow. “You think that’s an okay idea?” you ask him. “I mean, they seem very laidback about that sort of thing, and I only have this eBook to proofread, it just seemed like a good opportunity? I won’t work from home again for another six months. Plus, don’t you think it’s worth it because now I won’t be nervous the whole night about getting home so late?”
“So what, you’re just going to be nervous about working from home instead?”
“No.” You take a bite of a spring roll. “No.”
You decide not to continue this strand of conversation by reminding him of your recent dream in which you are fired from your job and change the subject instead. “If I meet Lena Dunham tonight, should I give her one of my business cards?”
Your boyfriend asks the waiter for the check, and you stand up to go to the bathroom. It’s a one-person, and the door is slightly ajar. You open it a tad more, just enough to make out a dress draped over the hand dryer. You let the door slam shut. A second later, you can hear the lock being turned. You return to the table, where your boyfriend is counting out cash.
“Did you go?”
“Someone’s in there.”
A couple minutes later, a tall lanky guy walks out. A couple minutes after that, a girl, in the dress that you had seen draped over the hand dryer. You decide maybe you don’t have to use the bathroom after all.
A short stroll later, you’re outside of the concert venue, where a line has already formed. Your fellow concert-goers are all of a similar variety: the guys have good hair and glasses and button-ups, the girls have good hair and glasses and vintagey-looking sundresses. Everyone is wearing Keds. No one is wearing MC Hammer t-shirts or sweater vests. You do not mention this to your boyfriend.
Very tall, almost unreasonably tall, bouncers yell for everyone to have their IDs out and ready for a cursory check. They seem gruff and angry, which is also a little unreasonable. You do not mention this to them. The second batch of bouncers are similarly seemingly angry, but not as tall. “Keep ’em out, keep ’em out, keep ’em out,” they yell (re: IDs), which reminds you of Jay-Z saying, “Bring ’em out, bring ’em out,” which you then begin to sing (rap?) in your head. The second ID check happens right at the door, and your driver’s license won’t scan properly. You shrug innocently, so as not to incite any rage. The license finally scans, and now you’re in.
Not much to see here: Inside is dark and dingy and smells like teen spirit. Everyone looks like an NYU student, probably because everyone is an NYU student. You get instant flashbacks to your grad school days, which took place at NYU because ever since the show Felicity happened to you at age eleven, you could not fathom a life without NYU; and so when you were accepted into their graduate program for English lit, you went, and the rest is history––a history carefully recorded by the nation’s most popular student loan servicer. But you’re getting off track. Focus.
There’s a mid-sized bar (about as long as your average sedan) and a merch section. The opening band has already started playing. The lead singer is female, but all the musicians are male. You’ve never really cared for bands with female lead singers and that fact has always made you, as a woman, feel a little guilty. Like, unsupportive. You listen respectfully and with a modicum of interest, watching the lead singer dance and stomp and whip her hair around the stage. She has nice hair.
But you’re more interested in watching everyone else there, for the outfits, mainly. So many outfits. You appreciate a good outfit, because it takes a lot of energy and thought and money to pull off a good one and you’ve never seemed to have all three of those things at once.
You look over towards the bar and see a sign that reads “$8 BEER AND SHOT SPECIAL!!” You tug on your boyfriend’s sweater vest and yell over the music, “Hey, you want a drink?” He shrugs, then nods. You ask the bartender for the special and she explains that the special is good only for Budweiser and house whiskey. You can’t think of a worse possible combination, so you put the “never mind” on that and order two Brooklyn Lagers.
After that, some other things happen. You buy a crewneck sweatshirt with the band’s name on it. In retrospect, you think you probably did it more for Lena Dunham than for the band, as though one day you’ll meet her and be able to win her over with the line, “Oh yeah, I went to your boyfriend’s concert in September 2014! I bought a sweatshirt!” You also saw Lena Dunham, albeit from far away. She was up in the VIP section and even though you didn’t think you loved her all that much, when you see her in the flesh (albeit from far away), you are suddenly overcome with nothing but affection and admiration.
“That’s so cool!” you exclaim to your boyfriend.
“No it isn’t,” he replies.
Another thing that happens is sweat. A lot of it. Some of the worst smells in the world are sweat, booze, and weed, and the concert had all three, their pungent odors wafting and coalescing into one giant, monster odor that made you grateful the band only has 8 real songs. But you happily half-sing along anyway, and when you’re not singing you’re looking up to the mezzanine to see what Lena Dunham is doing, and if she’s singing along then you start singing along too, even if that means having to make up words. And if you’re not glancing at Lena Dunham watching her boyfriend, you’re glancing at your own boyfriend watching her boyfriend. It’s all very meta.
The show ends on a loud, thunderous, foot-stomping, fist-pumping, hair-whipping note, and you check around you to make sure none of your valuables has fallen out of your bag in the heat of the moment; in particular, your Tide-to-Go pen and hand sanitizer. Both are still there and intact, carefully tucked into their respective compartments in your bag. You try to move towards the exit but discover that your feet are stuck to the floor, glued down by beer. You put all your weight on your right leg as you pry your left Target sandal off the floor, and then do the same to the other. You are tugged along gently by your boyfriend who is keeping up with the rest of the herd, many of whom are shouting up to rafters, “LENA!” and snapping pictures with their iPhones. At least you’re not one of those people, right? But why hasn’t she responded to your tweet? It was very polite and normal-sounding.
Fresh air never felt so good, or at least it hasn’t felt this good since the last time you went to a concert. You and your boyfriend exchange pleasantries regarding the good time you both just had. But now you have to pee, and you need water and probably frozen yogurt too. “Self-serve,” you say, clarifying for your boyfriend.
But you don’t get frozen yogurt, because self-serve frozen yogurt is surprisingly difficult to happen upon in this part of the city. Not trendy enough anymore. Too suburban and lowbrow. Plus, you have to catch a train. Working from home isn’t free license to act irresponsibly, after all. Working from home is still work. And God, you really hope you don’t get fired for this. But now still wouldn’t be a good time to bring up that nightmare, the one about getting fired, you had a couple weeks ago. Your boss likes you, you tell yourself. You are an otherwise very conscientious employee, and besides, you only have to proofread an eBook.
Your boyfriend takes you back to Penn Station, where you spend your last two dollars on a bottle of water. The track number is called, and you kiss your boyfriend goodnight. “Let me know when you get home,” you both say, followed by things like, “I had fun” and “Me too.”
On the train, you alternate between reading your book and staring out the window. Getting hungry due to lack of frozen yogurt, you find and eat a creamy praline (packaged) that was buried in your bag. You did have fun tonight, you think to yourself. But it would’ve been nice if it had been a Friday.
*Not actually a score. More like 7.