“Can I get an iced oat vanilla latte?” the girl says at the counter in front of me.
“That’ll be $6.”
“Actually, make that two. Sorry, my brain is not functioning yet today.”
“Sure, that’ll be $12.”
I order my hot oat latte. Okay, I know it’s expensive around here. I live in Williamsburg. My oat latte was $5.25. Add 15% tip because I like the place and the staff are nice. It came out to $6.06. But these simple comforts in my life, especially on a bad day in the city, can make or break me. It makes me feel fragile just saying that. What kind of life is so stressful and volatile that a bunch of blended milk and coffee heated can be the difference between being normal and completely losing your shit?
I’ve been getting to the losing-your-shit end of the spectrum recently. Yesterday, in Trader Joe’s, I practically forced back my tears as I told the cashier I wanted to quit my job. They double as therapists, she joked with me.
“Here’s your oat latte. Have a good one,” the nice, hipster girl says to me, in her round gold-rimmed glasses and high-waisted cranberry-colored pants.
My neighborhood is awash with swish looking people. Tall, white men in long black coats, yuppies who glide through life with AirPods and a thin laptop under their arm. Not so much as a backpack in sight. I walk past the oval, curved-fronted Teslas and women walking in Canada Goose jackets with pooches under their arms and I wonder: am I ever going to make it? Have I already made it? Is this what the beauty of capitalism has choked up to be?
I booked my flight to San Francisco yesterday. I’ll be staying with a friend for two weeks then heading to Guatemala and maybe Mexico. That’s the crazy thing about living in New York City. You spend so much money and resources and time trying to get here and once you’re here for more than a month, you’re desperate to get out again. In fact you’re willing to burn the money on rent and pay for a plane ticket to go live in a cheaper, warmer place because the cost of the plane ticket and your entire life there is cheaper than breathing here. It’s ironic. But it’s your life I guess.
One of my friends, Alex, who works in the restaurant next to me, offered his apartment to me for free in Guatemala City. I hope I can just exist there for a month or two before I quit my job. I’m taking his generous offering as a sign. I’m too stressed and exhausted and influenced in the city to be able to listen to what I want here.
I hear the screams of capitalism bounding over my shoulders. Why do you have this job again? Oh yeah. You want Barry Nix and your dad to respect you, right? You’re a woman. Doing a job in statistics will help them see that you’re intelligent enough. I’ve been deconstructing these thoughts. They’re quite old thoughts that I had. I know they came from a pure place when I thought them originally, when I was a child and we went to visit the Nix’s mansion in the English countryside, and my dad and Barry Nix had worked at Bear Stearns together, a company that no longer exists because of its toxic culture, dripping like poison, and it’s malevolent practices. My dad would sit with Barry and their friends watching sports and drinking wine in front of a large TV, while the women would stand around in the kitchen and obviously be talking about childcare or something as stereotypical as that.
I decided then and there, I remember, that I wanted to be one of the men. And again, the pure place inside of me had the right idea, it just came out wrong. I wanted to be enfranchised. I wanted to be at one with the world, and be able to have a place in the world. I’ve since been looking at definitions of enfranchisement on Wikipedia, and they really don’t compare. They only talk about being enfranchised as having the right to vote. But what about the right to hold office? Or the right to run a company? To have those rights, you’d need education, experience, mentorship, training. What is the point of women being in the world if we can’t command our space in it? If we don’t have the tools to take a good, hard look at the institutions men and many anonymous women have built over the centuries, and chisel them slightly to course-correct for messed up histories and egomaniac dictators? Would a Vladimira Putina have invaded Ukraine?
So, enfranchisement is what I wanted. A shitty corporate job is what I got. And hopefully in Guatemala, I can start it all over again.