Thursday, May 20, 2010

14. Sweet Little Lies

Was I interested in the job? I don't know. Yes, I told the editor I was interested; that's just the way we play the game. I liked living in New York, but did I have my heart set on living there? No. Unlike most journalists, NYC was never my goal. It may be the magazine capital of the U.S., but I didn't care. I loved Texas. I remember one time when I was a junior in college, I was in the Big Apple for a group trip to tour magazines. I was with one of my best friends, mentors, and previous editor, Gayle. I distinctly remember we were standing in Central Park, drinking coffee on a bridge, when she looked at me and said, "I don't want to live here. I'd be perfectly happy working at a big-city magazine in Texas. This isn't for me."
I took a look around. The trees were turning from green to gold, and I could hear the wind whistling through them. But behind that I heard the taxis honking, bringing me back to reality.
"Me neither." I said, and meant it.

So, how did I end up there? I graduated. All throughout college we were told if we did everything right, set ourselves apart, went above and beyond, we'd get hired before or soon after we walked across the stage. Well, that was bullshit if I ever heard it. I graduated Summa cum Laude, I had three national magazine internships on my resume and a handful of local ones. I applied for every magazine job in Texas. I had multiple interviews and pored over lengthy edit tests until my brain was fried. And guess what I ended up doing? I became a nanny. Three days a week I'd take care of the cutest little 3-month-old baby girl, and she was absolutely precious. Yes, I spent $80,000 on that journalism degree, and I was going to pay it back changing one diaper at a time. I really couldn't complain though. While the baby slept I'd get to read Laurell K. Hamilton books while doing crunches in the ab lounger with crappy daytime TV playing in the background. "So this is what it's like to be a graduate," I thought to myself.
Three months into my nanny career I received an interesting phone call.
"Hi, Whitney, I'm calling to see if you're still interested in the internship you applied for at our national women's health magazine."
"Of course I am!" I had no idea what internship she was talking about.
"Well, we looked over your resume and clips, and we love what we see! I'd like to set up a phone interview with an editor. You do know that the job is in New York, right?"
"Sure do. I actually have a place up there already, just looking for an excuse to move in." The lies just kept on flowing.
"Great! Let's set up a call with a senior editor named Lucia tomorrow at 2."
"Looking forward to it!"
I hung up and searched through my past sent emails, trying to figure out what the hell I was getting myself into. After all the Texas magazines rejected me, I started applying to anything and everything, whether I had heard of the publication or not. I found the email in my sent mailbox. I had applied for this job three months ago.
The phone interview with Lucia went well. I lied again about my apartment in the city and my strong desire to move there. I just really wanted to see if I'd get an offer.
A few days later the phone rang again. I got the offer. I'd work 40 hours per week at $10 an hour for 6 months. Did I accept? Oh, and could I start in two weeks? I suddenly saw it as an adventure, a challenge. Living in New York City making only $10 an hour? Let's do it!
I now faced two very big problems. I had two weeks to sell my car, my baby, my pride and joy. I loved that car. The other problem: My imaginary apartment wasn't going to come out of thin air. I wouldn't have the money to put a deposit on an apartment until my car sold. I was in quite a predicament.
I was supposed to start work Aug. 11, 2009. My car sold on Aug. 9. I jumped on a plane on the 10th and landed in LaGuardia, homeless. For some reason, I wasn't scared. I knew Craig and his mighty mighty list had my back. I hopped on Craigslist at the airport and looked for temporary housing, available that day. I found three options. I called the first one. The voice on the other end sounded friendly and encouraging.
"If you don't like it, you can always drop your bags off here and then go look at your other two options. That way you won't have to lug your bags around."
What a sweet offer. Could be a serial killer.
My taxi pulled onto Saint Marks Place, between 1st and A, and I fell in love. I didn't care if I was about to get murdered. I'd die happy. The weather was beautiful, everyone seemed to be outside, eating at an outdoor cafe or drinking on the patio of the bar. I got out of the cab and called Cole, the friendly potential serial killer.
"I'll be right down!"
I was so overwhelmed with the atmosphere on that street that I didn't think about what my last words might be.
I turned around to see an attractive blond guy with a welcoming smile holding his hand out to mine. Well, he sure didn't look like a murderer.
"That'd be me. Nice to meet you, Cole." We shook hands and I immediately wondered if he had a girlfriend.
He carried both of my bags up to the top of the fifth floor walk up before I could make it to the third carrying only my purse, wheezing and coughing. The apartment was located directly above a charming Irish bar. Awesome, I could get shitfaced and then just crawl back up to my apartment. When I finally made it to the fifth floor, red-faced and bent over at the waist, I walked inside the apartment and was pleasantly surprised. It was colorful. So colorful. The kitchen and living room shared an exposed brick wall, and the living room was painted with bright green and darker green stripes. An old antique couch sat on one side of the living room and a black leather chair on the other. A flatscreen TV hung nicely from a nail in the exposed brick. I believed this is what one might call luxury in NYC.
"And this is my room, soon to be your room if you decide to stay." While I hoped that was an invitation for a slumber party for two, I knew he'd be sleeping in his new apartment, a few doors down. I looked around the room. There was a full-size bed taking up three-fourths of the room, then there was a dresser and a closet that might fit one shoe and a jacket. One wall was painted dark crimson, and there was just enough room to walk from the door to the closet with a thin pathway between the bed and the wall.
"I'll take it."

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Laurell K. Hamilton books. Good times. Thank goodness for Craigslist. I don't know if I could've just went to NYC for an internship and not have a place to live. Wow. It's awesome that you did that.