At the office where the papers grow she takes a break, drinks another coffee and she tries so hard to stay awake. It’s just another day.
– Paul McCartney, Wings
The New Yorker. New York. Central Park. Times Square. Broadway. The Chrysler building. The Empire state. Skyscrapers. Pistons in the internal combustion engine. The sky partitioned. A girl on her own. Big city. An intern. I’m an intern. Summing it up in pithy shorts:
“American foreign policy is like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Swinging wildly like barbarians, blasting away at everything developed quietly and elegantly in the course of thousands of years. Shattering all that it doesn’t understand.”
This was just a short blurb thrown in next to “Talk of the Town.”
Her friend and junior editor came up behind her.
“Livy I, I think you need some time. Your point is taken, well taken but, well, I guess we thought, as an intern you’d, well you’d be, brighter, I don’t mean you’re not bright, I just mean you might be more sunny, that you’d give the lighter side, the side from your side of things, the youth.”
“It’s 1978 Ramie, 1978, it’s time, things are shitting out and dying, disco’s bullshit and politics are going down the proverbial American shitter, Christ Ramie it’s trying time, time to try, the fuck’s this quiet, bright-eyed shite of wait-and-see?”
“Carter’s in office.”
“ So Peanuts and shite. Fuck it Rame, are we playing to that. Ten years ago things were changing. I was a ten year old girl listening to the Beatles, in love with Paul, but simple as that is, I was moving with him, he was changing and they were changing things. They broke but I was a willing observer of the schism. Shit Yoko and all that. He and Linda picked up and moved on. They were carrying us on their momentum… the momentum broke and we had nothing, nothing but ourselves, dizzy from the ride, we gave in… retreated to… we tried to go back to something we knew because our now had played out, no leaders. The leaders were all dead or burned out. Now every morning is the same thing, same world, same nothing I have to write for “Talk of the Town.” I want “The Town” to have a different tone. In 2000 they’ll be dealing with the same thing if we don’t deal with it now… Carter’s not rising now, maybe as an international leader, Sadat and Begin he’s good at, but domestic’s gotten out of his hands… The hostage thing is out of control… He’s got to get a hold. The Republican party’s coming on, healed from the Nixon thing. Short term memory. Always been, always will be.”
“We’re behind Carter, democratic, for equality. The Republican party’s priming for change. All we have is Mondale and Ferraro. First woman at this level.”
“A woman as president if he should croak, think, shit think Rame, think, what position are we taking?”
The sky outside was blue and inviting, a Spring Day in its essence, a Spring Day in fact.
“A Spring Day can change many things. A Spring day Rame. Fuck the editor if I’m not cutting it, maybe I should go now?”
“Maybe you should Livy. The boss’ll give you a leave of absence, maybe even a stipend. You need to live a little. Thoreau’s “marrow” and all that. Bones and all. I’ll talk to him for you. Go home now and rest.”
Livy slunk off to the village. A rundown Brownstone in the heart of it. Late 70’s decrepit and worn. The buildings in it mirrored her soul, her disposition on a downturn. She turned the key into a turn-of-the-century flat. Flattened she felt, and dropped onto the couch. It’s soft and over worn cushions gave in to her weight, her auburn hair falling over her face. Around her was the memory of East Finchley; her mum’s favorite tea cozy, dusty lacy doilies, unopened letters from Hermione, tea cups and toffee, crowded on the table that once stood in her parents home. She’d let it all back in; stuff from home. Just like the whole crowd who’d faded with the passing of the Beatles. Crawling back into familiarity as unsavory as it was. The comfortable cloak of the past was becoming like a choke chain, like a little sister’s knickers, pinching.
She grimaced then squinted, felt heavy and anxious all at once, took in a deep breath, closed her eyes. A ray of sun from the window hit her left eye as it closed and sparkled, a flash then gone. With a little luck. 5 p.m.
At 10 a.m. the following day the phone rang.
“It’s all arranged Livy! Stipend, plane ticket and time. All you need to do is send us two-thousand words a week that we can use at the New Yorker or somewhere else in town.”
“It’s all arranged you dolt. You can get out of here… go to Europe. You still sleeping?”
“Time is it?”
“About ten you dozy kitten.”
“Sound like me Rame.”
“Rubbing off I guess. Get yourself some coffee and call… or just come down to the office… Livy this is what you want.”
“Have you not heard a word I’ve said?”
“Tickets for something. Not the Met again. Opera… sheesh.”
“Get yourself some coffee dear and call me back.”
Livy rolled to face the back of the couch. Tweed, worn tweed. Red lines weaved into gray, like road maps, train tracks, travel. Her mind began to clear. Had Ramie said plane tickets, something about Europe? Coffee, I need coffee.
She rose slowly from the couch and tripped over her own feet then caught herself, leaned hard in the opposite direction as the weight of a long sleep pulled her down. Bloody hell she thought. Feel like I’ve been drugged. Sleep, 17 hours of sleep, what a dozy daisy I am. Dreams. What was that dream? Coastline… train… orange trees… a dark man with something like a light over… blonde… but dark. Girl from…
She reached in the cupboard for coffee and found an empty can. Tea, only tea. Ty-phoo no less. Mum’s favorite. Have to do. Three bags at once she thought as she turned on the gas of the stove. Lovely stove this, Amana, porcelain on steel, soft edges, blue flame, aluminum kettle heats fast. Not much water in it, whistles when its done. She heard a loud crash above her that made her jump and nearly grab the kettle. She breathed, my head. Nothing like a grenade to get you going. Mr. McCarthy’s dropped his bowling ball again. Silly old man. Bowling for dollars again. TV. My’d say he’s “right potty he is.” The kettle wound up for a scream and she stopped it before it could. Gran had said it should be “poppin’ boiling.” But Gran liked to sit over a cup all day. Scottish. Ish. Caffeine, just give me the caffeine. She poured the water into a cup with three bags and the hot liquid turned an amber golden brown like her hair. Steam rose to her face. Just the smell of it. Milk and sugar. A teaspoon and a good dollop of milk, cool it off and neck it down. Neck it down Mum would say, Livy’d shed most of the slang. Her accent was still strong but she’d gained a composition and an air of refinement in the past few years. Smoothing off the edges, North London edges. Mum’s edges really, visited on me. Dad was all West Kensington on the exterior. Common as muck inside.
Livy brought the cup to her mouth and drank it all in two swallows. She reached for more tea bags and started the process again, then turned on the record player.
“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice at a church where a wedding has been.”
“She said, I know what it’s like to be dead.”
These lyrics struck her.
Plants need watering she thought and stepped toward the sink, reaching beneath it to grab the watering can. Her apartment had all hardwood floors and was three times as long as it was wide. In the center of the space and looking out over the village was her balcony filled with plants. Two large French doors led to this simulation of a garden, a woman-made sanctuary from the concrete, brick and steel of the world around her. The caffeine was coursing through her veins now and she was whirling with it, fluttering and floating back and forth from the “garden” to the sink. She hadn’t watered since the first of spring and now nearly summer and droughtish, the garden was fading. All day everyday in the office. Tired afterward. Dark. S’got to change she thought. Ramie. Tickets, she’d said something about tickets. Call her, no I’ll go. Better be good.