It’s August, early evening, inside a macrobiotic café. A chalkboard on the wall invites diners to nourish themselves with whole grains, leafy greens and exotic mushrooms.
A woman sits at a corner table, waiting for a friend. She chews her nails and glances around the room with wide eyes, as if she is alarmed to find herself here.
Her friend walks in, smiling and serene. The woman puts on a strained grin and pulls her in for a brisk hug.
“So, Miss Thang,” the woman says, breezy with a baritone of despair. “Are you all set for the big move to LA?”
The friend smiles as she sits, tucking her hair behind her ears. “Yeah, I think so… Two weeks!”
The woman clenches her knuckles in celebration. “It’s so exciting!”
“Yeah. I’m ready for it.”
“It’s soooo awesome. So awesome...”
She tails off.
“I guess, yeah, it’s pretty great," the friend says. "What about you? How are you doing?”
“Horrible. Joel dumped me.”
“Yeah, it came out of fucking nowhere.” She is loud now, and raw. “At first he was, like, coming onto me all the time, trying to fuck me. Like, every time we got together he just wanted to fuck me and I was like, can we have a conversation, Joel? Can we, like, talk instead of you just walking in and trying to fuck me? And so we talk and he’s like, Okay, the truth is I don’t want to be with you anymore. I don’t love you. The sex isn’t even that great. And I’m like excuse me? That’s on you.”
A waiter begins his walk to their table, arriving as she says, “He’s the one who couldn’t get his dick hard.”
The waiter bows his head. “Can I take your order?”
“We haven’t even looked yet,” the woman says.
He backs away, slowly. The friend picks up the menu and stares at it. “This place is awesome.”
“Yeah, it’s cool. Anyway, so I’m like, couldn’t you just have talked to me about how you were feeling? Couldn’t you have given me that, at least? Like, talked it over? And he’s like, I am talking to you about my feelings: I don’t want to be with you anymore. And I’m like, that’s fucking great. We were gonna start looking at apartments in the Fall. We were planning to go on vacation, now that’s not gonna happen.” She looks down at the table. “A few days later we unfriended each other on Facebook and he stopped following me on Instagram. And that was it.”
“That’s so awful. When did this happen?”
“Two weeks ago. It’s been the most awful two weeks.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“And last year, in December, my grandmother had a heart attack and died. So I’m like, what am I even doing here in New York?”
“Come out to LA!”
“I’d love to. Believe me. I would love to be, like, acting or filmmaking or something, but I can’t face the thought of moving out there and struggling, you know? Besides I’m teaching here now and that’s permanent and I just don’t want to go where there’s all those people looking cute and competing for jobs.”
“Yeah… I feel like that sometimes too.”
“But you’re doing great! What’s that show you’ve been on lately?”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard it’s hilarious.”
“Yeah… No, it is. It’s really cool.”
“Do you watch Girls?”
“Yeah. I think it’s awesome. So funny and insightful and erudite and like, fucking true.”
“So fucking true.”
The waiter edges forward again. “Can I take your order?”
“I’ll have the shitake ramen,” the friend says.
“Can I just have a vegetable broth?” the woman asks.
“Just broth?” says the waiter. “With nothing in it?”
“I’ll have whatever it comes with.” She hands him back the menu and turns to her friend. “It’s not like I’m fucking eating right now anyway.”
The waiter persists. “Yes, but it won’t really taste like anything.”
“That’s fine.” She waves him away. “Can I ask…” she says to the friend. “Are you online?”
“Yeah… I don’t know… Sort of… Are you?”
“Oh god no, I’m not ready for that. It’s been two weeks. No. But I think when I am ready I’ll do a little J-Date, a little Match. But the thing that scares me… I just, I don’t know if I can get over it… I’m horrified that I’ll go on dates with guys and they, like, won’t know who David Foster Wallace is. I mean, it’s not like I’m a fan, but… you know?”
“It’s scary. I just don’t know how to even think about going on a date right now.”
“You’ll be fine. You’re so…. awesome.”
“Thank you. People tell me that. My friends are like, you’re so smart and funny and chill, and I’m like well, tell that to Joel!”
“Yeah, but, you dodged a bullet there, you know.”
“Totally! Oh no, totally.”
“Just like, yeah…”
The air settles. The woman places her napkin on her lap. “So where are you staying when you get out there?” she asks.
“A friend of mine has a place. He’s really cool. He’s like a really cool character actor. I think he was in O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
“Cool. You know Jenny’s out there too. Do you know Jenny?”
“No, but I follow her on Instagram.”
“Yeah, she’s living out there. She’s doing great, she’s so happy.”
“She looks happy!”
“Super cute kids. But they had them, like, right away.”
“What is that about?”
“When they have babies right after they have weddings? I know. Like, fuck you.”
“Totally. But she seems really happy. I mean, from Instagram.”
“She is. You should look her up.”
“I will. It’s just so cutesy cutesy sometimes, you know? Her Instagram.”
“Ugh, I know. I’m so glad I can’t check Joel’s anymore.”
The waiter arrives and sets down the food, then quietly retreats. They both dunk their spoons into their bowls and take slurps.
“Mmmm, this is so good,” the friend says. “Perfect choice. When you suggested this place I was like, oh my god, she knows me so well.”
The woman nods, then calls out to the waiter. “Can I get some chili flakes or some hot sauce? This doesn’t really taste like anything.”