Back to New York

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By Martine Ali
Contributing Writer
Published: August 30, 2007

The sapphire sky trickled down into the massive New York skyline. Everywhere, buildings protruded from the cement sidewalks extending infinitely, it seemed, into the hazy smog-filled night. I couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t adjusted yet to the constant noise of traffic outside my window. A scream, screeching tire or siren obnoxiously interrupted every bit of my sleep.

I was so tired; it had been a long day. I had woken up too early, as usual, to the same noises that kept me awake at night. It was a dreadful day from the beginning. On my way to work, I was intensely elbowed by at least a dozen careless pedestrians pushing past me on the street; groped by the strange man who works in the deli downstairs, who always extends his hand shake into a full arm feel-up; and accidentally stepped onto the wrong subway train that quickly whisked me away, 35 minutes out of my way in the opposite direction. By the time I emerged from the subway, it was pouring, and I arrived to work late and sopping wet.

Unfortunately, my job was the only thing I had going for me in New York thus far. I accepted a vague start-up position at a multimedia firm. Sounds fancy, but in reality, it hadn’t been what I was expecting at all. I walked up three flights of exhaustingly steep stairs and flung the flimsy plywood door open with a bang. My co-workers, three dread-locked Rastas and the six clueless, yet conveniently attractive interns, to whom they were each allotted two, met my arrival with a glare. I slopped past them all, cold and wet, and retreated to my ‘desk’ in the far corner. My day had begun, and like every day, I wanted it to end.

“Hey man, you need to get here on time. I have too much I need you to do,” Rah lectured. “This is a business,” he continued, “You need some work ethic.”

I hated Rah. He was the asshole who hired me. Misled me. Misrepresented this ‘business’ and got me into this predicament. And besides, I refuse to be lectured by a homeless 32-year-old, who routinely crashes on my loveseat. If he had some real work ethic, maybe he’d have a place to live.

“Ya, I know. I apologize. I just had the worst morning.”

“Didn’t we all?” he interrupted, “Listen, I need you to send out some e-mails for me real quick. Then you need to go through these demo’s—Ray needs to pick up another artist.” He handed me a never-ending list of contacts and a box full of demo tapes.

I put on my headphones and popped in a tape. Multi-tasking was the only way to succeed at this job, I reminded myself, as I embarked on the monotonous task of sending out e-mails. If this were the only thing I had to do while at work, it wouldn’t be that unmanageable. However, the distractions beyond my ‘desk’ were unbearable. The constant drop-ins:  visits from Rastas whose noise and smoke permeated the air, filling the entire office. The interns:  who must have been hired at a bar while Ray or Rah were ‘networking’, frolicked around the office flirting and on their cell-phones. Did they ever do any work?  Was I the only one doing work? Why do I work here? Why am I here? Internal questions ate away at me all day long until the office shut down.

I put my coat on while I nonchalantly listened to the conversations around me. They were inviting an intern out for drinks. I had never been invited out for drinks, which is probably why I had decided I didn’t drink. I pushed past everyone, out the door, down the stairs and into the evening. Pedestrians surrounded me again—pushing, knocking, stepping, rushing home.  I wasn’t in a rush though. I had nowhere to be. I walked home, as I usually did. I walked slow, looking up into the encroaching night. I breathed the air in deep, allowing the cold to refresh my lungs. I stood alone at the corner, people swarming me. I followed the herd across the street, parting ways at my doorstep. I walked up the stairs to my apartment, which had fallen dark and sullen in my absence. I heated up some dinner in the microwave and ate alone on my loveseat. I curled up and clicked the TV on, piercing the silence. Unfamiliar noises and voices filled my apartment, my head, and escaped through my window into the city. The noise persisted about me, all around me. I closed the window, cutting myself off from what consumed me, but never included me. Traffic raced by. Sirens blared.