Gallo pinto and eggs and the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever taste for breakfast. White-water rafting on Rio Sarapiqui. Mountain biking around Volcan Arenal. Vinyasa yoga in an open-air pavilion overlooking the Pacific, the sounds of the ocean and birds and white-faced capuchins and air moist with promise surrounding you in savasana. Snorkeling in the shimmering green waters of Isla Tortuga. Mornings in the hammock, Centenario and Coke at night. Even the rum tastes better there.
I am listening to this freezing rain as it falls. Chunks of snow are crashing from the roof. The squirrels in the crawl space above my head are playing soccer. The radiator hisses. The new mayor says he went to the gym before he shoveled the heavy, wet snow from the sidewalk in front of his Park Slope home; he advises City residents not to do this. His Spanish is better than the old mayor’s, but not much. I am wondering whether I will hold my community class tonight. It doesn’t look very bad from my window, and there are cars whizzing past the house every few minutes. I can hear the tires slice through the water and connect to the asphalt below. I have just finished reading “The Girl Who Flew,” by Camellia Phillips. I told myself I should read more literary journals, so I subscribed to Calyx. I’ll treat myself to Callaloo when I come back from Costa Rica. Maybe I should read The House on Mango Street again. I bought it on Friday and read it on Saturday; it’s the first assignment on the syllabus of the experimental fiction class I’m taking at The New School, taught by Sharon Mesmer. Last week was our first session. She asked what I was reading, so I told her. I told her that I sleep with books in my bed. How I can’t stop thinking about words. She told me that just means I’m a writer. I have to pack, but I don’t want to stop reading. Maybe I will just pack my books for now. I bought a bright orange backpack for this trip; it matches my cashmere travel scarf. I am going to fill it with books and snacks. And panties, just in case our luggage gets lost. I am still listening to this freezing rain as it falls. It sounds like sweet music. It sounds like a promise. It sounds like now.
When I first started this job, I kept my script at my desk, hidden beneath my notepad, and I would read from it as discreetly as possible.
Nearly six years later, the script flows out of my mouth before I can even think about it. Sometimes I rattle it off so quickly, while my mind is elsewhere, that when I come to the end of my speech I forget where I am, what else I’m supposed to be saying. I grapple for the right words to explain to people who don’t really want to hear what I have to say the reasons why they are ineligible for a benefit to which they feel entitled.
I can read the script with my eyes closed. I can recite it in my sleep. Sometimes I think that I’ll still remember it a decade from now, when, God-willing, I’m doing something totally unrelated to this, and that I’ll turn to whoever is around and give my brief speech, introducing myself and explaining the clients’ rights. And when I finish, my partner, my kid, my student, whoever has heard this nonsense will look at me, confused, and ask, “What are you TALKING about?” And I’ll laugh because I don’t have the words to share my experiences here.
When my alarm went off this morning, I cried. I actually woke up at 2:30 am, after a nightmare about having a huge argument with a client outside of the building, and when I glanced at my phone I realized I had five hours of sleep left. But I didn’t, couldn’t, fall back to sleep so I just laid there, listening to the infomercials on TV. I was awake when my alarm finally rang, and the first words out of my mouth were: I don’t want to go.
I’m sick of the fucking script.