We came to the city because we wished to live haphazardly, to reach for only the least realistic of our desires, and to see if we could not learn what our failures had to teach, and not, when we came to live, discover that we had never died. We wanted to dig deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to be overworked and reduced to our last wit. And if our bosses proved mean, why then we’d evoke their whole and genuine meanness afterward over vodka cranberries and small batch bourbons. And if our drinking companions proved to be sublime then we would stagger home at dawn over the Old City cobblestones, into hot showers and clean shirts, and press onward until dusk fell again. For the rest of the world, it seemed to us, had somewhat hastily concluded that it was the chief end of man to thank God it was Friday and pray that Netflix would never forsake them.
Still we lived frantically, like hummingbirds; though our HR departments told us that our commitments were valuable and our feedback was appreciated, our raises would be held back another year. Like gnats we pestered Management— who didn’t know how to use the Internet, whose only use for us was to set up Facebook accounts so they could spy on their children, or to sync their iPhones to their Outlooks, or to explain what tweets were and more importantly, why— which even we didn’t know. Retire! we wanted to shout. We ha Get out of the way with your big thumbs and your senior moments and your nostalgia for 1976! We hated them; we wanted them to love us. We wanted to be them; we wanted to never, ever become them.
Complexity, complexity, complexity! We said let our affairs be endless and convoluted; let our bank accounts be overdrawn and our benefits be reduced. Take our Social Security contributions and let it go bankrupt. We’d been bankrupt since we’d left home: we’d secure our own society. Retirement was an afterlife we didn’t believe in and that we expected yesterday. Instead of three meals a day, we’d drink coffee for breakfast and scavenge from empty conference rooms for lunch. We had plans for dinner. We’d go out and buy gummy pad thai and throat-scorching chicken vindaloo and bento boxes in chintzy, dark restaurants that were always about to go out of business. Those who were a little flush would cover those who were a little short, and we would promise them coffees in repayment. We still owed someone for a movie ticket last summer; they hadn’t forgotten. Complexity, complexity.
In holiday seasons we gave each other spider plants in badly decoupaged pots and scarves we’d just learned how to knit and cuff links purchased with employee discounts. We followed the instructions on food and wine Web sites, but our soufflés sank and our baked bries burned and our basil ice creams froze solid. We called our mothers to get recipes for old favorites, but they never came out the same. We missed our families; we were sad to be rid of them.
Why shouldn’t we live with such hurry and waste of life? We were determined to be starved before we were hungry. We were determined to be starved before we were hungry. We were determined to decrypt our neighbors’ Wi-Fi passwords and to never turn on the air-conditioning. We vowed to fall in love: headboard-clutching, desperate-texting, hearts-in-esophagi love. On the subways and at the park and on our fire escapes and in the break rooms, we turned pages, resolved to get to the ends of whatever we were reading. A couple of minutes were the day’s most valuable commodity. If only we could make more time, more money, more patience; have better sex, better coffee, boots that didn’t leak, umbrellas that didn’t involute at the slightest gust of wind. We were determined to make stupid bets. We were determined to be promoted or else to set the building on fire on our way out. We were determined to be out of our minds.