I have taken refuge in a Starbucks temporarily. It’s the only Starbucks in the area that does not close soon. I am in Lower Manhattan, a bastion of sorts for old-school New York grunge, waiting time to pass so that I may go to the Alumni Event not entirely alone.
The week has zoomed by and so has the year. I find it hard to accept that a year has passed since the last PhoenixPhest event that my school hosted. The last was not frequented by any close friends, but by some who I would eventually become acquaintances with. I had met a certain young man named A— W—, who disappeared from New York as quickly as I befriended him. One year older than I, he seemed a perfectionist, restless, and extremely attentive to standards of politeness. Meditating now on this, I see myself reflected in him; yet I wonder if his dissatisfaction with life and his career somehow linked to the same impulse that constricted him to utmost grace in any social interaction.
I had met a woman that I had known from a Russian class I took – a Bulgarian woman that charmed me yet put me on guard. And yet meeting her boyfriend – a rather strapping Latino who worked for Google – was even more bewildering. I could not put my finger on what it was: a certain intrigue played in both their eyes when they looked at me, the reason for which I could not discern either from my being a lively stranger or my being myself.
There was someone older than I – maybe by two or three years – who worked teaching English in Lebanon or some Middle Eastern country – who seemed resolved at some loss, presumably time. He was not excited; there seemed to be an internal bracing against his surroundings, and that fight against disappointment I could sense.
And then there was a host of other characters: a girl we had derided for simpleness who turned out to work an extremely cushy, well-paying job; an acquaintance (I had mistakenly referred to her as a friend, only for her to move away without any notice) that had at the very end of it decided to apply to med school. She seemed visibly troubled at that last event: obvious insecurity playing about her face as she told me her decision, having tried a number of different jobs throughout her years in New York. And what? Where was my giant realization that would catapult me to a new life, to success and stability? Am I doomed to attend these events as I slowly become the odd-one-out: the older and older alumnus that seems more and more out of place?