By Deb Fenwick
She’s ready to set the world on fire. She’s got the requisite credentials: a freshly printed MBA from Wharton and a studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Yes, it’s a studio, but it’s a nice studio—spacious with carefully curated accessories. She even has houseplants.
She can’t get to the gym or her Pilates class right now, well, because . . . Covid. She meets up with girlfriends for gossipy, boozy, Zoom happy hours on Fridays where everyone looks great from the waist up. She even puts on lipstick for the calls so that she can see the after image of her lips on the wineglass long after everyone logs off. It’s proof that she had fun.
She and her friends are in that sweet spot after college but before the gorgeous weight of marriage, mortgages, and children (in that order) that will bind them to suburban homes with good school districts.
Her parents love her. They’re generous. They worry. Mom pays for the cell phone plan, so the least she can do is answer her parents’ texts and call them once a week. She calls her mom and dad on Sundays. Well, FaceTime, actually, because it’s good to see family—to see the moment her mother bites her lip when she hears that the job search seems to be stalled. And then the quick pivot and recovery as Mom forces a bright smile and adds sunshine to her voice, saying, “Something will turn up, darling. It’s Covid.” Dad will smile silently like the sentinel he is. At the end of the call, he’ll ask if she needs money. She’ll mention that she could use just a little extra this month for groceries. Just until the job thing comes through. Just until things open up.
When she ends those calls on Sundays, she doesn’t quite feel like setting the world on fire. Maybe just her apartment. The four walls seem to be closing in on her. Late afternoon New York darkness descends and devours any space for breathing. She’s been here alone for over a year with her well-curated accessories. Alone. It’s the first time she’s ever lived by herself. She bathes, prepares meals, and scrolls in solitary confinement. It’s an endless loop except for the job rejections. Who knew she could grow to hate this apartment and everything in it?
It was once all she dreamed about. Getting out on her own. Owning New York. Fast-paced work with a hedge fund firm, maybe. Clubs, theater, and dining with girlfriends. A boyfriend. Romance. Not Zoom calls. Not lipstick that she won’t wash off the wine glass.
Tomorrow is Monday, she thinks to herself. A new week. She’ll follow-up on leads. Check-in on LinkedIn. For tonight, she’ll turn on the small ceramic lamp that sits in the middle of the mid-century modern end table as dusk turns to night. She’ll water two plants with leaves that are yellowing just a bit at the edges. She’ll make a bowl of noodles and stare out the window of her Brooklyn Heights brownstone as frost forms on the windows of the dry cleaners’ across the street.
Deb Fenwick is a Chicago-born writer who currently lives in Oak Park, Illinois. After spending nearly thirty years working as an arts educator, school program specialist, youth advocate, and public school administrator, she now finds herself with ample time to read books by her heroes and write every story that was patiently waiting to be told. When she’s not traveling with her heartthrob of a husband or dreaming up wildly impractical adventures with her intrepid, college-age daughter, you’ll find her out in the garden getting muddy with two little pups.