So yeah, I lied. What can I say? I’m very busy and important. The once a week thing was super unrealistic. The only way I could actually accomplish that is to relinquish my paltry remaining social life. Not only am I unwilling to do that, it would be counterproductive as I’d have nothing left to blog about.
Earlier this week, my cousin and I took a brief road trip from her home in County Meath, Ireland up to the Derry to visit her sister. As always, I compiled a CD for the occasion.
- Cooking and eating elaborate 5 course meals
- Guitar lessons/Fictional band practice
- Fighting over K’s cousins’ long abandoned slippers
- Dress up
- Walking the dog
- Chasing after the escaped dog
- Roller racer races in the basement
- Table tennis, in the style of Calvinball
- Stealing pottery from K’s mother
- Egg dyeing
- Annual Easter Egg hunt
Five years ago, L and I accidentally studied abroad on the same program. Most people who knew us during our first two years at college would probably not believe this was an accident, as we were fairly inseparable. But indeed, we ended up picking the same program for exactly the opposite reasons and somehow landed ourselves together in Paris for nine months.
For the first time in two years, we were not living in the same room. This was an adjustment, but we were happy to be situated in neighboring arrondissements, her in the 15e, and me across the river in the 16e.
The mid-point between our two apartments was the Eiffel Tower, about ten minutes from either side. The Eiffel Tower became the meeting point for not just us, but for all our friends, and most evenings were passed on the Champ de Mars with a bottle of wine and a tranche of cheese, marking each hour with the lights on the Eiffel Tower going off, a time we dubbed “Sparkly O’Clock.”
Now, for the first time in a long time, L and I are no longer living together. She and her boyfriend moved in together in September. Like in Paris, she’s only in the next neighborhood over, but sometimes it feels like those few blocks stretch across an impassible, infinite distance.
Partly this is because I’m lazy. But mostly, it’s because our lives are diverging onto different paths, or maybe the same path, just at different speeds. It takes a lot more effort to spend time together now, and the dynamic is rarely the same as it once was.
Sometimes, I catch myself wishing things could go back to how things used to be, dancing around our dorm room or arguing over perfume ownership.
I know I don’t really want that. Both of us have grown so much since the first day of college, or those evenings on the Champs de Mars, or even the first couple years in DC. And I wouldn’t want to change any of that.
Mostly, it scares me knowing that someday, probably sooner rather than later, she’ll be more than a bottle of wine, a text message, and a ten minute walk away.
|Happy Belated Christmas, LV. May we always have Sparkly O’Clock.|
But at least for now, she is.
Last night, as I waited for the kettle to boil, something disturbing happened. I turned to my right, faced the hallway, and saw this:
A beige, metal box was mounted to the wall where stairs once led to the basement. It had a small lock asking for a key, but nothing else. The Box was both brand new and immutable, as if it had been there all along. Having never seen The Box before, I stared at it for several seconds, contemplating reality. The Box stared back, mocking me with its permanence.
Eventually, I decided that reality needed a second opinion. I made my way to the living room, half-convinced The Box would disappear in my absence. I asked EG about it. Her interest was piqued. She returned with me to the hallway, where we stared at The Box together. She had never seen it before either.
We discussed the possibility of contacting our landlady, asking if The Box had recently been installed. This would seem a silly question to ask if it had, in fact, been there all along, although we were sure it couldn’t have been. I replayed the past two and a half years in my head. Nope, definitely no Box.
Like Veronica Mars, EG got a chair and checked the top for dust. It seemed The Box had been there for a very long time.
I went upstairs and opened my computer, looking at all the photos we’ve taken during our tenure here, mostly from parties. I scrutinized each shot for evidence of The Box. The Box proved elusive. In every photo, it was hiding just out of the frame or behind someone’s head.
Finally, I found proof.
|Unnecessarily fancy hallway
at the LoC
Hello friends! Have you missed my witty jokes and poignant writing over the past two months, when I seemingly fell off the face of the virtual earth? Of course you have! I promise I’ll be better now. As I mentioned before, I started a new job, and my commute got cut in half so now I am living under the (false) impression that I can go out socializing every night after work it’s difficult to adjust to a new schedule and workload! But I am too poor to continue this pattern finally beginning to become acclimated, so I should be back to my writing in no time!
Coincidentally, my dear friend Bright Contradiction also just started working at my new place of employment. Now we spend 8 hours a day together being thoroughly confused about our jobs, attempting to translate things in to French (mauvaise idée), and delighting over the triumph of opening two separate excel files in adjacent monitors (harder than than you think). We see each other allllll the time. So as I was preparing for Friday night via email yesterday, I was surprised to hear K say she already had plans with BC and BC’s boyfriend.
Me: What are you doing tonight with K?
BC: We’re going to this Russian thing. Want to come?
Me: Oh, I wasn’t angling for an invitation. I just kind of expect to know every detail of your life now, and was really surprised that you were hanging out with my roommate and I didn’t know about it.
BC: I know the feeling.
So I went on about my day, until lunch when BC mentioned the magical words “open bar.” And then I quickly decided that yes, I would like to angle for an invitation after all.
Following work, we hopped on the metro and met up with BCBF at the Library of Congress, which should have been my first indicator that I was not fancy enough for this affair. Actually, my first indicator should have been that the event was invitation only and I was to be spending the evening as Emma Templeton, a friend of BCBF’s who couldn’t make it. Then my next indicator should have been that it was held at the Library of Congress, and finally the collection of uniformed valet attendants waiting at the entrance should have been my last warning that I should turn around and go home. But I blazed ahead and picked my name badge at registration.
|Totally my fake name from now on. It’s a great name.|
Let me paint a picture for you. Yesterday was Friday. Casual Friday. I was wearing ballet flats and slightly-too-big jeans that spent the evening in a perpetual state of falling down, since I recently lost my only functional belt in the squalid pile of unwashed laundry covering my bedroom floor. On top, I had a lightly stained short-sleeved cardigan paired with a pink silk shirt featuring an assortment of holes. My hair was pulled into a messy french braid after not having washed it since Wednesday, when I got caught in a torrential downpour.
Everyone else… was wearing cocktail dresses and suits. Or in a couple instances, full on evening gowns and tuxedos. Even BC looked slightly underdressed, and she was sporting actual business wear as the invitation requested. I was literally the least appropriately attired person there. For someone that normally overdresses* for everything, this was extra embarrassing. K took the opportunity to make jokes at my expense, sneaking up behind me and saying things like, “Ma’am? The Library of Congress closed several hours ago for a private event. I can show you to the exit now.”
*No really. Earlier this month I ruined my favorite cocktail dress running to the train after a US Open match, where I’d worn it on the off chance that we might go out somewhere afterwards requiring a cocktail dress.
No matter. After clamping my new identity to my wrinkled shirt (Emma is so lazy with her clothes!), we went upstairs to some sort of gorgeous, columned atrium filled with fancy food and beverages. We loading up our plates and headed to the bar, which only served top-shelf booze. As I started in on my first glass of (really good) champagne, BC snagged a table for us.
Sometimes, you go to a really cool event, and you think “wow, this is awesome and classy!” and you have a fabulous night that you remember fondly for ages to come. And then sometimes, there is a turning point, from which everything happening subsequently is increasingly preposterous. And that night becomes not just a fond memory, but an epic story that you feel the need to share with everyone you know. Yesterday, that turning point came in the form of a septuagenerian Republican National Committee employee who decided to join us at our table.
RNC was… a character. Every conversation he started was carefully crafted to be as controversy-provoking as possible. “So how do you feel about Putin replacing Medvedev?” “You are all very clean cut. I like that. What do you think about TATTOOS?” All the while, he kept staring at me with a level of intensity that did not make me strictly comfortable. BCBF said it best. “Every cocktail party needs a creepy old dude. And he found us!”
Finally, K arrived (someone had gotten the memo to go home and change first) and BC and I made our escape to refill our champagne glasses. The rest of dinner progressed in the same fashion, with BC, BCBF, K and I constantly rotating out for more food and champagne at any opportunity of freedom.
RNC: I HATE tattoos! I think they are awful! The only exception is that I read about some military men who got the names of their fallen company members tattooed on their arm. I think that sounds real sweet.
RNC (to K): Your eyes are so nice! I want to steal them.
RNC: Are you Jewish, Emma?
Me: Uh… no?
RNC: Isn’t Templeton a Jewish name?
RNC: I’ve never met so many liberals in my life!
RNC: Where are you from, Emma?
Me: South Carolina.
RNC: Oh really? That’s nice. You know, it’s amazing that the confederates did as well as they did during the Civil War. They were really at a disadvantage, but they did well anyway. A lot more confederate women came out to be nurses for their soldiers than in the North, which is real nice.
RNC: You seem really good, Emma. But I guess I’m inclined to think that anyone who looks good is good.
By the end of the hour, we’d made our way through 3-5 glasses of champagne each and BCBF had engaged in a confusing conversation with RNC about contraltos and Amy Winehouse.
Luckily, it was time for a film screening. We processed downstairs to a fancy hallway lined with snack tables and men who looked like bellhops from 1925 (even the bellhops were better dressed than me!). The tables were filled with popcorn, movie snacks like Raisnettes and Junior Mints, and little bags of chocolates. We filed into a fancy theater and listened to Important People talk, such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (want that job title!) and the Russian Ambassador to the US. We made our way through the movie snacks, including some truly bad Russian chocolate bars (“blueberry cream souffée”). The movie started and it was pretty great, excepting a couple of egregious and disturbing instances of blackface.
Afterwards, the Important People invited us back upstairs where would find dessert, two jazz concerts, access to the reading room, and a “surprise.”
My money was on the surprise being a vodka fountain. It wasn’t.
|Lost opportunity: combination Vodka Fountain Ice Luge Kremlin.|
Yeah, that’s a FUCKING ICE KREMLIN. Sorry for the language, but a GIANT ICE SCULPTURE OF THE KREMLIN IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS deserves some expletives. When you walk into a room and the first thing everyone notices is not the fully-staffed ice cream bar or the tables full of pastries, you know it’s got to be something amazing you’re witnessing instead.
After getting over the shock of the Ice Kremlin, we tried to eat everything in sight. Unfortunately, after gorging on terrible Russian chocolates and popcorn, none of us had much stomach real estate left. We had to move on to the reading room. Prior to this point, we hadn’t taken any pictures because it was the kind of event where you only take pictures if you are a member of the press toting a very expensive camera. But the Ice Kremlin was kind of a game changer, and suddenly everyone at the reception had their phones out.
|Posing like the statues up high. Appropriate use of the LoC Reading Room.|
Finally, we made our way to another fancy hallway, entered another fancy room, and listened to some very nice jazz music. I was pleased to spot another party-goer wearing jeans and chucks, but even he had on a blazer.
Oh well. If I had been appropriately dressed, I think my head might have exploded from awesome overload.
|“Soooo, we’re doing this every Friday night now, right?”|