That winter, other Big Things happened too: The Hipster got a faux-hawk and I got bangs. (Uhm, yah, hello, told you we were Cool.) As if I didn’t already want to jump him the second I saw him, man, that faux-hawk put me over the edge. So effin hot. On Valentine’s Day he woke up earlier than I did and went out to get us coffee. We, of course, obviously, duh, had no actual plans for Valentine’s Day because ugh lame how
relationshipy conventional, but he returned to the apartment with an iced coffee in one hand, faux-hawk perfectly tousled, sunglasses on and a rose between his teeth. He handed me the rose, pulled me in close and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.” It is, without a doubt, my favorite mental image of him.
Blissful as these moments were, the real world was (gawd, rude) lurking outside that highrise door. In the midst of dining on Moroccan food amongst the rose petals at Chez Es Saada, and colonizing Williamsburg (Black Betty!), we did actually (sigh) go to our places of employment. I spent many a very early morning on the Q train (back when the 2nd Avenue subway was still a laughable urban legend), headed into deep Brooklyn, clutching a coffee and everything bagel in a vice-grip, whole body locked up in a bourbon induced rigor mortis, simply trying to fend off my most certain and imminent death by Jack Daniels. Because, obviously, who doesn’t go to APT until 3 in the fucking morning on a Wednesday when you have to be at work — IN SHEEPSHEAD BAY — by 7:45 in the fucking morning? Like I can’t. I exasperate myself. But, yes, I was a v responsible and well-prepared 6th grade English teacher, thank you for asking.
After we finished our summer “training” — there’s only so many times you can be told “Don’t smile until Christmas” before you tune out entirely — program, we all got down to the actual work of teaching in the city’s public schools. This is not a task for the faint of heart, just FYI. No, but like for real I can too easily identify the scent of radiator-charred mouse. Gross. Sure, sure, teaching includes many vacations and that is super kewl. Teaching also includes trying to: get kids to care, teach kids to read, socialize children who have absent parents, care for children who have abusive parents, protect children who have helicopter parents, make ends meet by getting a second job, teach kids to write, redirect adolescent anger, defend oneself from aforementioned anger, beg for supplies, buy supplies when there are none, survive petty administrators, survive ignorant fellow “professionals,” prepare students for standardized tests, attempt to instill creativity and critical thinking as innate modes of being, possibly carve out time for lunch because cool cool this was all before noon and oh, I also mentioned the rat luau right? So, right, the New York City Department of Education is a dumpster fire.
You are shocked to hear that it was a love-hate relationship from the outset, for all of us. The Hipster and Our Friend had, at the eleventh hour, secured jobs at a Last Chance school, teaching almost-adults. This basically meant trying to get emotionally disturbed teenagers to read The BFG, care about themselves, pass a class and not go back to/go to jail. They were in The Trenches. Like straight up Battle of the Somme Trenches. I was less so. By some act of divine intervention, I had gotten hired at a gifted and talented school (I mean one of the “talents” could be gym, but still) mere minutes before I was about to sign my contract at a vo-tech high school where, when I arrived for my interview, the NYPD officer assigned to the school had taken one look at me, shook his head, frowned, and said “No.”
While The Hipster and OF were just trying to stave off complete anarchy, I was trying to survive a principal who maintained
her reign of terror order by utilizing a combination of subtle psychological warfare and very public vitriol. She was about five foot nothing and maybe the scariest person I’ve ever met. On any given day my feelings toward teaching bipolared between “Omggg I have most important job everrr John Dewey wuld be soooo proud of my Wrinkle in Time unit that nurtures multiple intelligences” to the emotional embodiment of Marshawn Lynch’s sunglasses-on-just-here-so-I-don’t-get-fined press conference. There was no in between. I’m still not entirely sure a 22 year old has any business being in charge of anything, let alone the emotional, developmental and physical well-being of 11 year olds, but like, in the end, no one died so, it’s fine.
The best thing about being is a teacher is, um, sure, the feeling you get when you, like, reach a kid, or inspire them or whatever, but also have you heard of Snow Days. As soon as the forecast predicts enough snow to maybe, potentially cancel school, the excitement in the building becomes electric, palpable and full of promise. The city is notoriously obstinate about closing school tho (dicks), so we rarely dared get our hopes up.
On the evening our story takes place, however, I left my boxing gym to find that my phone had exploded while I was getting my ass handed to me by the heavy bag. Ok I had like three voicemails. (Lololol voicemail.) On the move and jumping on the train, I heard only snatches of the messages and things like “school” “snow” “cancelled.” Omgggg COULD IT BE?? Quick someone turn on the news and see if it’s true! (The news! On TV! I know I’m three hundred years old. Get over it.) I rolled into Best Friend’s dorm like a maniac spluttering incoherent blurbs of joy and did she want to go out because of course (of course!) we were going out.
About thirty seconds later I found myself at Max Fish with The Hipster, OF and The Hipster’s crew (like I said, super tight, always game). The giddiness amongst us was tangible. We lived for this sucking the
bourbon marrow out of life kind of spontaneity. The Hipster, always with the flourish, able to apply the veneer of romance to every moment, beckoned OF and I to the bar. He ordered us Jack and Gingers, no ice, and cocked his head toward the door. It was tradition, he said. Heading outside, onto Ludlow Street, we three unlikely friends filled our drinks with the highly toxic and assuredly diseased freshly fallen snow, and toasted to each other and this complicated career we had undertaken.
And then we drank. A lot. (You are sensing a theme or nah?)
Eventually it was decided that we should leave Max Fish and maraud our motley crew somewhere else. The snow was falling fast and heavy by that point, blanketing the Lower East Side. It was a Tuesday or a Wednesday and the streets were quiet. Except for us. Like banshees we ran down Ludlow, on the sidewalks, in the streets, bellowing and screeching, radiating pure joy and drunkenness. As we turned onto Rivington, all skidding and flailing in the snow, The Hipster took a header. Careening down the street, he had caught some ice and went sliding, belly to the ground, hands outstretched and ohhhh that’s a lot of blood.
We should have gone to the hospital. (Narrator: They did not.) At The Hipster’s insistence it was a mere scratch (Narrator: It was not.) There were to be more drinks! more carousing! the night was still young! Clearly, the logical choice of destination, if not the sanitized halls of a hospital, was Welcome to the Johnson’s. There really was a lot of blood, though so, like, maybe we should um, get a bandaid or something? Dutiful girlfriend that I was, I went promptly to the barkeep to request their finest first aid kit — aannnnd two Jack rocks splash of Coke kewl thx. (I mean, he was wounded, he needed anesthesia, duh.) Now if this doesn’t tell you anything about the Lower East Side before it became entirely sanitized by dbag Patrick Bateman wannabes, I don’t know what does: a mob of already shmagasted people bulldoze their way into the bar, one of their party is bleeding profusely, a girl
slurs asks for a first aid kit while ordering drinks, and not one person in the place flinched.
Now it should be mentioned that, at this point in our relationship, there was always a bit of underlying tension between OF and I, and it had everything to do with The Hipster. OF is simply a naturally competitive person and I was always a bit insecure of my place in the dynamic. She and The Hipster had become very close, very fast. They spent far more time together since they worked in the same school and there was part of me that was always a bit jealous that they had the same war stories, grievances and successes. If we weren’t in grad school classes, they were
always often at happy hour together, after work. I worked in the ass-end of Brooklyn and lived on Staten Island. I wasn’t making it to mid-week drinks in the East Village on the reg. As the romantic interest, and not the buddy, I felt my role in his life was always a bit more tenuous than hers.
So, when OF attempted to take control of the triage station we had set up on top of the Pac-Man console, I bristled and pulled the girlfriend card. I knew what I was doing (haha yeah sure ok). We would just wrap it up because it wasn’t like a piece of twisted metal protruding from a manhole cover had ripped The Hipster’s hand open at precisely the juncture where his thumb met his palm, or anything. (Narrator: That is precisely what happened.) I was going to be the one to help him and no thank you leave me alone, I will not listen to your attempts to
yell at me counsel me that using gauze to stanch the blood flow and bandage his hand was the worst idea ever ill-advised.
The next morning I awoke to screams coming from the bathroom. Like, really, no scenario in which that’s a good thing. I
hungoveredly limped ran as fast as I could to the bathroom, where I found a murder scene The Hipster standing at the sink, horrified: blood covered every surface, including himself. He had attempted to remove the gauze that I had so tipsily lovingly applied. I felt queasy looking at him. Was it the blood? The leftover bourbon that roiled around in my stomach? The guilt of knowing that OF had 100% completely been right and that the gauze was 100% a terrible and wrong decision? An agonizing trifecta of the three? In trying to close itself, The Hipster’s wound had started to heal around the gauze. When, in the morning, he wanted to look at said wound and see what damage had been done, The Hipster had unceremoniously ripped off said gauze, thereby eliciting aforementioned horror film screams and SVU crime scene.
We took a cab to the ER, blood soaking through the white t-shirt that wrapped his hand. To his credit, The Hipster did not blame me for the new level of heinousness this injury had taken on — at least not outwardly — even though I was assuredly at fault. Getting out of the stuffy, cologne soaked
death trap vehicle, a tsunami of nausea washed over me and I faltered, holding up our mad dash into the hospital. The Hipster looked at me expectantly like hello ER, blood, Situation Happening over here. I waved him in and told him I needed a second. He could fill out the admittance forms with one hand, right? (Ugh, gawd, men, so needy, amirite) He left me for a lost cause and hurried through the sliding doors. I promptly vomited in the curb slush. I remember thinking it’s kewl you are not complete hungover degenerate bc you outside the ER, people will just think aw man too bad for her she is v sick person. Ugh, anyway.
Sitting in an ER to begin with is awful. Sitting in an ER deathly hungover is just a really deep layer of hell I hope you never experience. After what seemed like a lifetime, I was called in to see The Hipster. The doctor was keen to tell us that of course (OF COURSE) we should have brought him in last night. He absolutely had needed stitches and because of the whole, um, gauze debacle, there would probably be some scarring now. The Hipster simply shrugged. He was not unfamiliar with scars. He had many and he wore them proudly. The stories associated with some of them were harrowing, at best. This scar would just be one more to add to canon; one that told the story of some stressed out teachers, a bit of snow, a lot of bourbon, and a nearly severed thumb.