Back in 2010, while working as a receptionist, I met a girl named Susan. She came right off the elevator to my desk and introduced herself. She was there for an interview but instead of sitting on the couch she stood by my desk and chatted with me. I learned she'd just been laid off of a previous job.
"Oh my gosh that's awful," I said.
"It's OK," she said. "I just called everyone I knew and started going out to coffee with people and now I'm here."
A few weeks later she appeared again at nine am.
"Did you get the job!?" I said, feeling fully invested in her journey
"I got the job!" she exclaimed and did a little dance. I was promoted and became her counterpart on the corporate side, which meant we worked closely together for the next three years. We learned to help each other out, picking up tasks for each other where we could.
In the winter of 2012 I was having a tough time in my personal life and work was stressful. One evening the office emptied early for the company Christmas party so I hid in a bathroom stall, crying. I heard the door swing open and peeked out, it was Susan, she could see I had been crying so we talked for almost an hour. She was so nurturing and kind. Her advice made me feel better.
"But I'm not going to go to the Christmas party," I said.
"I'll go with you, we can walk in together," she said. "Come on, you deserve it! You worked so hard, please come."
So we went.
Eventually, Susan got a job at another publication. A year later I saw her at a birthday party. We started talking about our passions vs. our day jobs. She was writing a pilot for a TV show. I told her about how silly I felt about my blog.
"It's really nothing at all," I said.
"But it's your art," Susan said. "don't ever feel bad about your art."
I remember that conversation every time I sit down to write, and at cocktail parties where people ask me if I consider myself a writer, whenever I feel bad about sharing my posts on social media. It's the one thing that's kept me going.
Last Tuesday I found out that Susan died of cancer. She was in her thirties.
I was up and down this week, obviously. I had happiness: laughing with my friends, walking down the street holding Alistairs hand. I also had the opposite: a death of a former coworker, crying during a spa facial, lots of tears.
Earlier in the week I did a Google hangout with my two friends Philippa and Suni (who both now live in different cities) -- always a treat and always too short. I spent Tuesday night seeing "Sorry to Bother You" with Alistair. I don't want to say too much because half the brilliance of the film is in the surprise, but it was amazing. It was so refreshing to see all my worries about society reflected in an entertaining way. I still can't stop thinking about it.
On Wednesday I booked a facial at a spa. At 6:30 pm nervously fumbled my way from work to midtown. I don't feel completely safe being half clothed and poked and prodded. In two separate countries two separate masseuses told me: "you shouldn't get massages, you don't know how to let go and relax."
A receptionist at the spa led me to the changing rooms. There was a fresh robe and slippers for me, and she handed me a towel for my facial. I looked at the robe and wrinkled my brow and the attendant assured me I didn't need it. She led me down the hall, of a common area and we passed four sets of blonde girls in their robes who looked at me in disapproval. I felt naked and ran back to the changing room to get my robe. When I rounded the corner to the locker room, I heard them laughing.
"Did you see that girl without a robe?"
It grew quiet when they saw me, I opened my locker and grabbed mine, and heard them snickering as I left. I was mortified.
I sat in a chair in the waiting room before my appointment and started to cry. I felt like I did in elementary school, and middle school, and high school. I couldn't manage to do the socially acceptable thing. I was always misstepping innocently but with much consequence.
The masseuses were right: I don't know how to let go.
After my treatment I shuffled slowly through midtown with a frown on my face. I passed two women in Times Square. They looked to be in their 60s.
"That's the thing about being in New York. I can't even remember what was going on at home..." said one woman.
"You know, I can't even recall what was going on at home," said the other.
I imagine that they were just like me, distracted? Hypnotized? When I descended into the subway station I too had forgotten the girls at the spa. All it took was a walk with new faces and big buildings. I sat down on the train and quickly jotted down what they were saying in my Evernote app.
Philippa was coming for a weekend stay and arrived Thursday evening. On Friday after work I met up with her and Kennedy for drinks on the roof of the Arlo Hotel Hudson. We arrived right before sundown and everyone wanted a photo of the sky turning pink. We ordered a pitcher of froze and gabbed excitedly about the rest of summer. That night Philippa and I watched bad reality TV and ate cookies and chocolate. I woke up Saturday with a hangover. I spent the day at home.