I go back inside and throw on my least wrinkled dress. I look into the mirror and practice my smile because they moved me to a desk where my manager can see my face, and I have noticed her growing concern. Management claims they moved me so that I am more accessible to staff, but I know it is because of Mark. My first year two years on the job, I sat in the outer limits of the office, where the children’s imprint transitions into epub-only romance. There, I was fortunate enough to face a wall, where I could blow my nose privately. Now I am social. I show my teeth to my coworkers and feign surprise at the dysfunction of the MTA. There is a part of me that is proud to be involved in these small interactions, which confirm that I am here and semi-visible and that New York is squatting over other people’s faces too, but another part of me is sweating through the kabuki, trying to extend my hand and go off script.
I have about ten hours until my date with Eric, which means I have to eat as little as possible. I cannot anticipate the overreactions of my stomach, so if I think there is even the slightest possibility of sex, I have to starve. Sometimes the sex is worth it and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there is a premature ejaculation and it is eleven pm and I have twenty minutes to make it to the closest McDonald’s with an intact ice cream machine. I pack a can of black olives for lunch. I roll on some lipstick, hoping the maintenance of the color will make me less inclined to eat.
By the time I push my way onto the train, the sun is nuking all the garbage in Manhattan. We stall for traffic at Montrose, Lorimer, and Union Square, and the dark tunnel walls make mirrors of the windows. I turn away from my reflection and a man is masturbating under a dirty velvet throw. I almost lose a seat to a woman who gets on at 23rd, but luckily her pregnancy slows her down. I arrive at work eighteen minutes late, and the editorial assistants are already directing the wave of phone calls to publicity.