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Jerk, jerk, jerk.
I can't believe what a complete jerk he is.
I am constantly debating whether or not I have a reason worthy of aggravating my boss by making a personal long distance call to Wendy in New York. All minor emergencies merit phone calls to Natalie right here in Boston: tension with a coworker, plans for the evening, boredom
But thisthis complete and utter humiliation at the hands of a male, this travesty, definitely merits an emergency-Wendy phone call.
I minimize my e-mail screen in case my boss, the copyedit-ing coordinator, walks by. Instead of seeing Jeremy's random act of devastation in the form of an e-mail from Thailand, Shauna will see Millionaire Cowboy Dad, the manuscript I'm supposed to be copyediting. I dial Wendy's number at work.
"Wendy speaking," she says in her investment-banker-don't-mess-with-me voice.
I hate him. I really hate him. "It's me," I say.
"I must be psychic. I wasn't going to pick up, but I thought it might be you."
No time for small talk right now. "Did you also have a premonition that the jerk would meet someone in Thailand and then write me to tell me about it?" I will never speak to him again. If he e-mails I will press delete. If he calls I will hang up. If he realizes he cannot live without me, jumps on the first available flight to Boston, and comes straight to my house with a diamond ring worth five months of his salary, that is, if his salary weren't nonexistent, I will slam the door in his face. (Okay
I'll probably get married. I'm not that crazy.)
"Shit," she says. "Who is she?"
"Don't know. Some girl he met while he was busy 'finding himself.' I don't hear from him for what, three weeks? Then he writes to tell me hi, how are you, I'm good and I'm in love."
"He actually said the L word?"
Jeremy has never even written the L word, let alone said it aloud. I think his hands and lips are genetically programmed to be incapable of combining the letters L-O-V-E.
I really, really hate him.
"No. He said he just wants me to know that he's seeing someone."
"But you did tell him he could see other people, right?"
"Well, yeah. But I never believed he would actually do it."
Unfortunately, I constantly imagine him doing it. I dream about him having orgies with groups of naked and frolicking Thai women. Instead of working on Millionaire, I find myself picturing him having wild, drug-induced sex with a six-foot Dutch goddess who looks like Claudia Schiffer and backpacks in stiletto heels and capri pants. But up to now I believed that these self-inflicted tortures were manifestations of my overzealous why-would-he-want-to-travel-without-me-if-he-really loved-me paranoia. Jeremy was supposed to come home after one month and tell me that, while he was away finding himself, he realized how much he truly loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his adult life ravishing my naked body with kisses, using the L word over and over.
Of course he had to go and ruin everything.
"Jackie, he's been backpacking through Asia for over two months. He's probably slept with half of Thailand by now. Let me hear the e-mail."
Will my computer malfunction if I throw up all over it?
"I can't read it out loud at work. I'll forward it to you. Hold on
did you get it?" Millionaire returns to my screen.
"Call waiting, hold on." She puts me on hold and an elevator rendition of Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" plays in my ear.
I know I'm about to start crying because the computer screen is slightly smudged as if it had been run over by the crappy orange eraser on the end of a cheap pencil.
Must think happy thoughts. Julie Andrews dancing. Cad-bury's chocolate Easter eggs. My sixteen-year-old half sister Iris believing I'm the coolest person ever. Jackie,you look just like Sarah Jessica Parker, only prettier.
Okay, I can kind of see again. The screen has almost returned to its previous non-orange color.
What other happy thoughts? The way Jeremy used to draw little circles on the inside of my arm with his thumb.
Shit, shit, shit.
Try again. The ninety-two percent Professor McKleen gave me on my Edgar Allan Poe essay. The day I got my braces off and my lips felt like they were sliding off my teeth and I kept smiling in the mirror. Okay. I'm all right now. Nothing to see here, folks.
Yuck. I notice that Helen, the associate editor who sits in the cubicle beside me is peeking over our wall divider. She always pops up at the exact moment I don't want her there. Like how you always get your period on prom or Valentine's or pool-party day. Whenever I'm checking out new-movie sites on the Net, or sneaking in just a few minutes late, there she is. It's like some kind of superpower.
Her hair is pulled back into a frizzless tight bun, and as usual, not one hair has strayed. I think she uses glue; she looks fright-eningly like Lilith from Frasier.
"Yes?" I ask in my I'm-very-busy-here voice.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but would you mind
refraining from making so much noise?" she whispers, putting her index finger up to her lips in her be-quiet motion. "I'm having concentration difficulties."
I resist the urge to tell her to kiss my butt. On my first day of work at Cupid almost two months ago, I decided I would not allow this type of person, this presumptuous know-it-all, to get to me. On that first day, when I told her I had gone to Penn, she said she knew someone who had transferred there after he hadn't been able to take the pressure at Harvard. She, of course, was a Harvard graduate.
And then there was the time when I swear I was still willing to give her a chance, and I peeked over her cubicle and said, "Helen, Shauna wants to talk to you and I." Without looking up, she answered, "Jacquelyn, it's
Shauna wants to talk to you and me."
And for some reason, most of the other copy editors seem to think she's God's gift to Cupid. "Oh, Helen," they chime. "You're the queen of commas." And "What was it like at Harvard, Helen?" Or "Tell us your theory of deconstruction and subjectivity in Joyce's Ulysses, Helen." Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but tell me, what normal person spends her lunches reading Paradise Lost and The Metaphysical History of Literary Criticism?
I'm sure she has a few theories on deconstruction and subjectivity that she'd be delighted to explain to me. "When I was a freshman at Harvard, Jim, my world-renowned professor, insisted on flying me across the country to present my original thesis
" Blah, blah, blah. I did my M.A. in literature, too, you know, although she never lets other people talk about themselves. A half an M.A., actually. I completed the first year of a two-year program. But why is a Harvard graduate working here, anyway? She should be off editing Michael Ondaatje and discussing the profound meanings of lifenot the torrid love affair between a robust cowboy and his virgin twenty-five-year-old bride. She obviously had lousy grades in school.
See? I'm just not letting her get to me.
"Sorry," I say, incredibly, with a straight face. "It's just that I'm having a semicolon crisis and I'm finding it very unsettling."
"Really?" Her eyes swerve back and forth between my computer screen and my telephone. She's not sure if she should take me seriously. "Well, I could help. I was a copy editor before I was promoted to associate editor. I would consider scheduling a combined colon and semicolon meeting this afternoon. If you're serious."
"Of course I'm serious." I'm amazed that people like her exist in real life. Do geeks know they're geeks? Does she wake up in the morning, look at herself in the mirror and think, "Wow, I'm such a loser"? Probably not. Does that mean that I, too, might be a complete freak and totally unaware of it? Do stupid people think they're smart? Do ugly people look in the mirror and see Cindy Crawford? Is it possible that I'm not as cute and witty as I think I am? Is that why Jeremy doesn't want me? Am I a hideous, moronic freak?
Helen taps her pen against our divider, a signal that she has decided to believe me. "All right. Since other people have voiced concerns as well, I'll schedule a discussion group." Her cheeks start to flush with excitement. Punctuation appears to be foreplay for Helen. "Is 3:45 a good time for you?"
Yeah, a real good time. "Sounds fantastic."
"Excellent. I'll send out a group e-mail to all my copy editors." Her head finally disappears behind the cubicle wall. Like she can't just pop across the hall to tell Julie. The only copy editors who work on her series, True Love, are Julie and me. And I'd like to further object to her using the possessive term "my." We do not belong to her. Shauna is the coordinating copy editor. Shauna writes our reviews. Helen's series just happens to be one of the many we have been assigned.
"Sorry," Wendy's voice resurfaces on the phone. "Okay, I'm reading it now. Blah, blah, blah
'Today I did E again'
Why were you wasting your time with that druggie?
'Someone stole my green J. Crew shirt from the balcony'
God, what a loser!
'I'm seeing a great girl and we've been traveling together for the past month That's it?"
"No, you forgot the 'I thought you might want to know' part."
"'I thought you might want to know. Take care, Jer
' Is this a joke? Is this some kind of sick joke?"
"Unfortunately not." But wait! What if it is a joke? Or maybe some kind of new computer virus tapped into my wildest fears and mutated accordingly.
"And you've been sitting on your ass every weekend while he's been slutting around? Ridiculous. Do you realize you haven't met one guy since you've moved?"
Sometimes I think Wendy definitely lacks in the sympathy department. "I've met guys," I respond defensively. "I just haven't dated any of them."
"You've been pathetic."
I have been pathetic. I even refused to go out with Jason Priestly's look-alike, introduced to me by Natalie, because I was worried that word would somehow get to Jer and he'd feel the need to get back at me and go ahead and fall in love with someone else. And what if Jer called while I was out? I could never have brought a guy homemy room is a shrine of pictures of Jer: Jer and me at the park; Jer and me at formals; Jer's graduation; pictures of Jer, Jer, Jer. It never occurred to me that Jer wouldn't have a picture of us next to his sleeping bag, that maybe it was time for me to buy one of those funky photo boxes and do some filing.
Hmm. Wait a second. "Is it possible seeing just means seeing? Like with his eyes?"
Sigh. Yeah, that sounded lame even to me.
"You're right. I'm going to start dating again. I'm going to become Crazy Dating Girl. I'm going to date every guy in Back Bay." Back Bay is the oh-so-hip, oh-so-overpriced area in Boston where I live.
The time has come.
I will date witty, hot, ridiculously rich men who will shower me with expensive jewelry, send roses to my office, and whisper how wonderful I am in my ear while massaging my I-sit-all-day-in-front-of-a-stupid-computer back. Life will be wonderful. I will wake up every morning with a smile on my face like the perma-smile women in coffee commercials.
"You're right. No more whining." But I can't go out by myself, can I? "I don't have any friends to go out with," I whine.
Pause. "Don't you have any girlfriends?"
"Not really." Everything sucks. I hate my life. I will have to send roses to myself with an anonymous love letter and whisper sweet nothings into my own ear. "I guess I can always call Natalie."
"You must have someone else to call."
Wendy does not like Natalie. All three of us used to live on the same floor in a student dorm at Penn. Natalie calls Wendy an intellectual snob. Wendy calls Natalie a Brahmin elitist. Truthfully, Wendy is an intellectual snob and Natalie is a bit of an elitist. I didn't even know what a Brahmin was until Wendy explained that Natalie belongs to the upper caste of Boston society. "It does sound kind of snooty when you say it like that," I told Wendy.
"Unfortunately, I have no one else to call." The only new people I've spoken to since I moved, besides the weirdos at work, are my fifty-year-old manicurist and my superintendent. I haven't left the apartment much, devoting my spare time to Seinfeld reruns and reading Cosmo, Glamour, City Girls and Mademoiselle to try to mentally collect what I refer to as the Fashion Magazine Fun Facts. These are life rules that will one day help me pinpoint all the things I did wrong in my relationship with Jeremy, make me a better person, and allow me to live a successful, sexy and ultimately satisfying life. Page five says ask him out, page seventy-two says wait for him to call me, page fifty says he wants an independent woman, page fifty-six says he'll walk if I don't make him feel needed
Will smoky-colored eye shadow really make me more desirable? More desirable than a Brazilian bikini wax will? What is a Brazilian bikini wax? It's all very confusing.
"So go out with Natalie tonight, but then you've got to find new friends. What about Samantha?" she asks.
Sam is my annoying roommate. She and her boyfriend are always all over each other. "I don't like her. She makes me use color-coordinated sponges in the kitchenblue for dishes, green for pots, pink for the counter."
"That makes sense."
Maybe it makes sense to people like Wendy who open public bathroom doors with their feet because they don't want to touch the handle. Not to me. I wonder why I surround myself with such anal personalities.
Still, anal friends are better than no friends.
"Again, why do you like Natalie?" Wendy asks.
Natalie may not be the brightest star in the solar system, but she's fun. Brahmins do have some advantageous qualities. She knows the whole world and would be great at introducing me to lots of Brahmin men, if I ever let her. When I called to tell her I was moving to Boston, she had me hooked up to live with Sam in less than a week. "If you moved here I could hang out with you. Since you don't, Natalie is my only option."