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Nonfiction: Everybody’s Working For What? by Ken Carlson

Everybody’s Working for What?

by Ken Carlson

Times are tough, but hey, you’ve got your own place and live in New York City! Sure it’s a 400 square-foot studio, formerly designated as a storage unit, but it’s all yours…to rent…with a list of amenities that include a door

And, hey, two weeks ago, you thought it would be fun if your girlfriend of less than a month moved in with you! Great idea! Why wait? You wanted to spend as much time with her as possible starting right then. Surely the two of you are loving spending every minute together now.

Now that you’re working from home and not allowed to go anywhere, you can really find out what she’s like; like when you met and asked her at Dave’s rockin’ party what she did for a living, you thought she said, “Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal in the medical industry!” Now you know she has no job, and hadn’t heard you right when she actually said, “Yeah, I would really like to steal David’s tapestry!” 

You thought working offsite would be easier. Instead you’re trying to work twice as hard because you’re wicked scared you’ll get laid off. At the same time it’s been a challenge to stay focussed in this new cozy shared space; like when she saw a cockroach on the counter and tried to kill it with your laptop. 

You made it to Friday night, and that’s typically the night you go clubbing. You are totally stoked to get out. Your girlfriend and you get dressed up, grab your keys, turn out the lights, and head out the door. You stand in the hallway for 45 seconds, then come back in and keep the lights off. You crank up the most incoherent house music you can endure, kick a classy plastic bottle of tequila, José Asqueroso! You get sloppy drunk and dance by jumping and colliding in the dark until both of you are unconscious. The experience is just like going out, including having to ask who threw up on the bathroom floor and wondering where your money went. All that’s missing is standing outside to get it, freezing your ass off for two hours on the sidewalk that smelled like piss, but your pants the next morning took care of that.

Saturday morning is hard. Your girlfriend suggests a way to get rid of hangover. She thinks you can forget the pain you have in your head if you can mask it with other pains. When you come out of the bathroom she drops a cinder block on your foot. Now, your hangover is less of an issue.

You tell her you want to show her a good time. This is New York! You want to see Alicia Keys, The Pussycat Dolls, or Vanessa Carlton, not like in concert or anything, just around town. So, you decide to go out. 

You start with a plan to run a series of errands: the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the mechanic, the farmer’s market. You spend forty-five minutes arguing whether or not you have to bring your own bags. When you finally leave the apartment you spot someone in the hallway, the first other person you’ve seen in days. The two of you freak out, run back in your apartment, and bolt the door.

Your girlfriend, it turns out, loves brunch. She can’t get enough of it. She can have brunch any day, any time, even if she’s not eating. Unfortunately, the restaurants are closed. As the best alternative, you stand outside the bathroom for an hour, drink some rancid orange juice, and have her tell you all the things you’ve done wrong in your relationship.

With Broadway closed, museums closed, and sporting events cancelled, your mind is pressing for something to do to justify what you put up with to live here. You remember happy-go-lucky celebrities are always prattling about taking Sunday walks in the park. New York City parks are apparently magically relaxing elixirs and essential for soul nurturing. To calmly stroll with your special someone surrounded by nature is what you need after the week you’ve had. 

As the two of you open your door, you hold your breaths make a run for it. At the elevator you try to push the down button with your elbows. The first car arrives and terror strikes your heart as there are people are on it. You lurch back, just as they do, and the two groups freeze like a posed 50s horror film tableau. You wait for the next car and also find people on it. You decide it’s not worth it and run back to the apartment. This concludes your Sunday New York City experience.

Back in your apartment you prepare an intimate dinner of frozen waffles. You spend the rest of the day online until you’ve reached your daily required limit of conjecture and panic. To switch things up you turn on the television, which is just like your phone, but the cooking shows are more competitive. 

You turn on 60 Minutes because you think that’s something you’re supposed to do. But you feel intimidated by the presence of Anderson Cooper. He’s certainly less than six feet away. You shut it off and the two of you curl up on the bed in silence. You find yourself longing go back to work Monday.

About the author

KEN CARLSON is the author of “GET OUT OF MY WAY! THE ANNOYED COMMUTER’S HANDBOOK.” He has covered the Arts for several news sites and his editorial work for The Comedians Magazine was featured in the A.V. Club section of The Onion. Recently he has published humorous essays online for Defenestration, Conceit Magazine, and Variety Pack, as well as short stories for 365 Tomorrows, Flora Fiction, and Literary Heist. Follow him online  @KenCarlsonsaid.

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