Monday, July 31, 2006


Today, it seems that everyone I encounter is a character in a novel. I headed home for lunch and saw a Mexican gang-banger with a shaved head and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth driving a low-rider. That didn't seem real.

Yesterday, I was walking in a quirky town with my date, and I felt as though someone was playing some kind of trick on us. At three distinct points in the date, we encountered abandoned shoes. Three very different shoes. One was a brown, male sandal, posed strategically on a rock. The second was a pair of lady's maryjane shoes, tucked beneath a white picket fence. The third and final was a pair of sneakers and socks, resting on a bus stop bench. I felt like I was in some kind of esoteric French or Swedish movie, where the lone shoe is supposed to symbolize the lone conqueror, who stands at the top, alone. The Mary Janes? I don't know. The sneakers on the bench were spotted at the end of the evening and seemed to signal the end, as in, put your feet up and have a rest.

My last boyfriend was frantic, perhaps somewhat manic, and insistent on declaring his love for me at every turn. He was overly affectionate, and twirled me in the street. He kissed me openly whenever he could, even in Home Depot, as we walked behind his mother one lazy Sunday afternoon. He was loud and told obnoxious jokes that didn't make me laugh but cracked him up. He sent me roses at work. He learned how to say "I love you" in foreign languages. He couldn't resist touching me or talking to me, but he also couldn't respect when I didn't want those things to happen. I'd tell him to leave me alone, and he wouldn't believe me, couldn't believe that I wasn't as head over heels as he was...and sooner or later, he would come up behind me, hug me and kiss me and "check on" me. It didn't help that he had a face like a cartoon character, like a child, so this all seemed very surreal.

This new date, almost exactly a year after I met my ex-boyfriend, took things as they came but did not inform that's what he was doing. We toured a local landmark, just because it happened to be open. We had a cool drink in a cute cafe, because that's what we came upon first.

My ex-boyfriend fell for me head over heels from the moment he saw me, and never stopped falling long enough to really see me. This new date is falling for me, I believe, but at a much more reasonable pace, taking in the view along the way, recognizing our differences and not moving faster than he should.

But the fact that this is my life seems so unreal. Does everyone have this sense of distance from their lives? This sense that they live a separate life on the weekend?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And so it continues

When I return to the office, I put my leftover burrito in the packed office refrigerator. As usual, someone has used the limited space to store their lunches for the week, making me search for a spot for my tiny bag. I give myself a once over in the staff bathroom and head back to my desk.

The e-mail is still there, taunting me. I read it again, looking for any nuances I might have missed the first time, and I see one towards the bottom.

If you’re interested in talking about the position, let me know, and I can give you call. It would be nice to talk to you, Tracy. Take care, Mike

I hadn’t noticed that the first several times I read the e-mail, having focused so much on the possibility that I could get a new job.

Mike wants to talk to me. Miiiiike wants to talk to me.

But Mike is married. He’s married to his Lovely Wife.

As I ponder how exactly to respond to the e-mail, the same denim-skirt clad woman from this morning approaches my desk, “The copier is still out of toner.”

“Yes, Brenda, I’ve told the office manager. The man from the copy place will be out sometime later this week.”

“But I need to make copies.” She stamps her little foot, wobbling the laces on the navy blue Keds.

“Brenda, I believe that there are a couple of other copiers on this floor. Why don’t you ask your supervisor which one you should use” I say with a smile.

“Fine.” Brenda walks off in a huff, and without even pausing, I hit “reply” on Mike’s e-mail.

Though I’m not ready to start a new job tomorrow, I restrain myself from saying that in the e-mail. Actually, I keep the whole e-mail rather restrained. I thank him for e-mailing, ask after the Lovely Wife and himself and ask for a few more details on the job.

It sounds great, Mike, but I’d like to know more about it before I commit to anything. When’s a good time to talk?

I sign off with a polite, “Thanks for thinking of me. Hope to talk to you soon,” and hit send.

I stare at the monitor and wonder what I’ve just done. At best, I’ve opened up the opportunity for a new, fulfilling job, and at worst, I’ve opened myself up for emotional turmoil. If I renew conversation with Mike, will I start to feel those awful feelings I felt when he left Boston for Portland with Lovely Wife? Will I feel silly for being in love with not only a married man but also a married man who never had such feelings for me?

I tell myself that I worry too much and try to find something with which to occupy my time. It’s the summer and half of the staff is on vacation, not to mention the fact that it’s three o’clock on a Friday, and no one’s even pretending to work anymore.

I open up the minutes from the most recent staff meeting and pretend to read them, just in case someone walks up behind me, as often happens in this public space. Instead of reading, I consider the e-mail, and the sign-off. I do wonder for a moment where Mike got my work address, then I remember that we actually did e-mail for a while after graduating. Mostly, he sent me pictures of his new tricked out condo in Portland, his new bride in her Vera Wang gown, the disheveled newspaper office where he spent most of his days. Then, about two years ago, Lovely Wife wanted to have children, and Mike stopped writing. I heard through a mutual friend that they were having trouble conceiving, and I still got a Christmas card from the happy couple each year at my parents’ house, but I hadn’t had a real conversation with the man in a very long time, in almost as long a period a time as we had known each other in Boston. Now, I wanted to talk to him more than I wanted the job.

Finally, five o’clock rolls around, I shut down my computer, climb back into the Explorer and head home for the weekend. For the first time in weeks, I don’t feel bad that I have nothing planned, that I’ll probably end up going grocery shopping at Costco with my parents, that my friends and their boyfriends and husbands will be out doing couply things, and I’ll be wandering around like a seven-year-old with my parents.

Monday eventually comes, and I go through my regular routine of world-saving dreams, cereal for breakfast and a bleary-eyed drive to work. The weekend passed quickly, I talked to my parents and friends about the Santa Barbara possibility. My mom looked like she might cry, while my dad looked thrilled that he might have my mom to himself again. My friends thought it was awesome and asked if they could come visit me. I reminded everyone, myself included, that I did not yet have an interview, let alone the job. In the details of the potential job, I forgot to worry about actually talking to Mike.

My computer awaited me, perky as ever, and I signed on and waited for my messages from the weekend to load onto the server. Buried beneath a pile of memos that needed formatting and offers of a cure for male pattern baldness, I saw an e-mail from Mike. What I read made my heart leap, the blood pound in my ears and my breath quicken in my chest.

Dear Tracy,

Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re interested in the job. It sounds like a great gig. How about I call you this evening – do you still have that same 530 cell phone? – and we’ll talk about it? How about around seven?

I’m doing fine. Portland is still good, although I’m getting tired of seeing thirty-something men walking around spiked hair, ha. Thank you for asking after my lovely wife, Kathleen…but I wanted to let you know that she’s no longer my lovely wife. Or at least, she won’t be in a couple of months. Tracy, Kathleen walked out on me about four months ago, and we’ve filed the divorce papers. Everything will be final by October.

I hope I haven’t depressed you too much with this news. I’m doing okay with it, as things haven’t been right for a long time…probably since before we got married, but anyway…

We’ll talk more tonight.


I quickly turn off Outlook, jump out of my chair and run a fake errand to check the mailbox.

I return to my desk to see the e-mail still on my screen, taunting me, begging me to write back. It’s sad that my first reaction to the news that Mike and Lovely were going to divorce is one of joy. Now he would be back in the world! He’s out of her grasps! Secondly, I feel pain for my friend. My friend Mike, someone I’d spent a lot of time with in Boston, and yes someone I was more than a little in love with, and I wished that I could so something for him. And my wanting to date him wasn’t going to solve anything.

I decide that since the nature of the e-mail had gotten a bit more personal, I would forward our conversation to my home e-mail and answer later in the evening, after I’d calmed down, eaten dinner and watched a rerun of Friends. Only then could I face this e-mail.

Amazingly enough, I find a pile of folders on my desk, which means that I can keep myself busy doing actual work.

Right before lunch, I suddenly realize that poor Mike mentioned a specific time to talk to me, so I should at least send off a brief e-mail confirming our phone call. I try to remain businesslike in my tone, just in case those e-mail spies are watching my work e-mail.

Dear Mike,

Oh my goodness! I’m sorry to hear about you and Kathleen. Yes, call me around 7…same cell number as before. I’ll talk to you soon.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thinking About It

When I knew Hunky Mike outside of cyberspace, back in Boston, I had goals and ambitions that were so strong I could feel them coursing through my veins each time I covered a student protest, a theatrical production, a controversial campus firing, or anything at all that my editor assigned. I was going to be a reporter. I had graduated from a prestigious undergraduate university and struck out on my own in Big Bad Boston. Granted, I chose Boston, because I was afraid of New York City, but still, I had flown from the West Coast and taken up residence in a place where it snowed twenty inches at a time, and where my friend Aida would joke about the terrible summer weather:

“What do you call it when it’s sunny all week and rains all weekend?”



Hunky Mike would laugh his big laugh, and I would smile in appreciation. This was a man who would someday run a newsroom, a kind man who would make the tough calls but never resort to drinking whiskey behind closed doors. This man would not have a heart-attack at forty-five. He would make time for a family, friends, a life, but still have a fabulous career. And I was attracted to all of that. Not that Hunky Mike cared. He was already dating his future Lovely Wife. They had met at a bar and bonded over a brutal Red Sox loss against the Phillies. I never believed that, as Miss California, she cared one bit about the Red Sox, but her bright smile, flowing blond hair and low-cut tops managed to convince Hunky Mike that she was a devout fan who worshipped at the altar of Nomar.

My other friends and I rolled our eyes at her obvious beauty, but Hunky Mike fell for it all. I had thought better of him, but I had also thought that at some point he might realize his mistake and knock on my apartment door, declaring his undying love for my wire-frame glasses, colorful clothing, too-long pink scarf, always messy hair and crooked smile.

He never did any such thing. Instead, we all graduated. He and Lovely Wife moved to Oregon, got married in a lavish ceremony and settled into life in hip, quirky, just where I wanted to be Portland.

I moved back home to Elk Grove, California, refused to apply for anything even remotely close to a job in Journalism, and found myself working in an office in downtown Sacramento. Three years later, I’m still here. Sometimes I get almost motivated enough to apply for another job, but something always holds me back and I stay here. They pay me well. They train me to do new and exciting things like train other people how to do new and exciting things. Plus, it’s fun to watch the women’s eyes bug out of their heads when I wear a new pair of leopard print heels, or successfully sashay down the hall in a new silk skirt. This job has nothing to do with journalism, but it has everything to do with people watching.

The morning passes uneventfully, and I have yet to respond to Hunky Mike.

I take off for lunch, meet my friend Dawn, whom I’ve known since high school, at the La Salsa in Downtown Plaza, gossip about people we know who have done strange things.

“Did I tell you that Blonde Gwen almost set herself on fire?”

“What? How?” Dawn volunteers at a fire-arts studio, in her attempt to hone her own art skills. Blonde Gwen is the studio hussy who apparently only volunteered in order to meet artsy guys with tattoos.

“Oh, so she came into the studio with her hair in this, I don’t know, bouffant, style, just full of hairspray. I have no idea how she thought it looked good, but anyway, Her hair was up, and her shirt was down to there, and I guess she got distracted, because she walked under a fire pipe, and you could just smell burning right away.”

“What, burning hair?”


“But I thought she almost set herself on fire.” I swivel the straw in my ice tea absentmindedly, trying to piece together all aspects of Blonde Gwen’s accident.

“Hold on.”

“Okay, I’ll be patient.”

“Not your strongest suit,” Dawn pushed her long, pink-highlighted hair out of her eyes, “Anyway, so we all start pointing and jumping up and down, because if we try to talk, we’ll start laughing. Eventually, she crinkles up her nose and starts screaming. She puts her hands, complete with French tipped nails, up to the top of her hairdo, feels around, and then…get this…LIFTS OFF the hair. I almost died laughing. She had her real hair in a bun underneath. She had put FAKE hair on to come to the studio. It was hilarious.”

“I’ll bet she didn’t think so.”

“Oh, no. So, she’s looking around for a bucket of water to dunk this…this…wig into, and she opens up her eyes all wide and terrified, and says, ‘Doesn’t anyone have any water, this is a fire studio for crying out loud. You’d think there’d be some water nearby’”

“Wait, I’ve been there. Aren’t there buckets of water all around, and then extinguishers on the wall?”

“Yes, exactly. So, she’s screaming, but there’s a bucket right next to her. Finally, Jason, you remember Jason, he’s the one who always wears a leather jacket” I nod “Yeah, so Jason comes over and says, Gwen, there’s a bucket on your left, you can put your cat in there.”

“He said, ‘cat’?”

“And she didn’t even notice. She just batted her fake eyelashes and said, ‘Oh, thank you, Jason, I couldn’t have done it without you. It. Was. Disgusting.” Dawn takes a breath, “So, what’s going on with you.”

I tell her about the e-mail from Mike, and she nods at appropriate places, “So, what are you going to do? I mean, I’d miss you, but Tracy, you have GOT to get out of here. You’ve been home way too long.”

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Today, I'm starting a new story. It's brand new, and even I don't know how it ends. I hope that you enjoy it...if you have suggestions for how I can improve it (or if you have compliments :Þ), please leave a comment. Stay tuned for future installments.

When I wake up in the morning, I have a million thoughts in my head, ideas about how I’ll save the world, fix my life, find love and otherwise bring happiness to all. By the time I’ve fully woken up, eaten my bowl of Raisin Bran, dressed in something appropriate for work and climbed into my Ford Explorer, all of the ideas are gone. That can’t be a good thing.

I arrived this morning to a virtually empty office. Apparently, everyone else had something better to do than go to work. So, I turned on my computer, and low and behold, I found a job offer. This wasn’t even a job offer from one of those crazy African businessmen who want to put money into my bank account. It was a true to life change of scenery, staring at me from my perky Dell computer.

Of course, at that point, people began to arrive. Coworkers stared at my bright orange shirt (maybe it wasn’t actually appropriate office attire), my boss smiled and said, “Hi Tracy.”

I nodded back and stared at the e-mail on my screen. Someone thought that I, Tracy Margaret Lakofsky, would make a great stringer for a newspaper in Santa Barbara. The pay was the same as my own, but I would live in SANTA BARBARA instead of the steady, boring pace that is Elk Grove.

Since the day had just begun and since I’d cleared my desk of work the previous evening, I allowed myself the opportunity to consider the possibility of responding to this e-mail from a former J-school classmate. My school chum Mike didn’t like the idea of packing up his home and moving from Portland to Santa Barbara, but he remembered I had once talked of a love of Southern California one freezing cold night in Boston, and he remembered reading my work in the student newspaper. Now, what I could have really used was a date with hunky, Italian Mike, but I didn’t think that Lovely Wife, a former Miss California, would approve. So, I settled for a sudden and random job offer.

Mike couldn’t offer me the job directly, but he had been asked to find someone else for the position. Everyone else from our class had settled into professional journalism careers or left the field entirely. So, he thought of me. I paused, trying to decide whether I was offended or exhilarated that I was sort of a last option. I went with exhilarated at the opportunity and breezed through a couple of websites, searching for housing opportunities in Santa Barbara. Could I afford to live there? Would I really want to?

Another co-worker, dressed to the nines in a long denim skirt, Keds and a baggy t-shirt, stopped by my desk to mention that the copier had run out of toner. I told her that I would let the appropriate person know, ignoring the fact that the appropriate person sat on the other side of the office from me, a mere two desks away from this woman. The e-mail from hunky Mike sparkled at me from the screen, all the more appealing after this little reminder that my career had not exactly taken a direct path to success.

Rather then get lost in the Internet as I searched for a new life in Santa Barbara, I stood up, stretched my legs, and went to check the mail. My office is a long, rectangular floor of a two story building. My desk is at the opposite end of everything, far from the copier, the mail slots…the exit. I work as a secretary, and there are days when I hate every minute of it. If my job were as humorous as it is for the characters of “The Office,” I wouldn’t mind it as much, but it’s not. It’s deadly boring. My desk is a vast waste of wood, I don’t even get a cubicle, because I work directly for the president of the company. That means that unlike my co-workers, I cannot cover a bulletin board with pictures of my children and dogs, funny quotes from comic strips or flyers announcing department potlucks. I have no privacy, and I wonder each day how I wound up here.

I check the mail, grab the envelopes for my boss and walk back to my lonely desk. A few coworkers smile as I pass in the hall, but most have their attention fixed to their computers. Maybe they all got job offers from Hunky Mike today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Final Bit of Pondering

I give into the stress and decide to talk to my mom about the next steps in my career. I give into the loneliness and decide to call the man of my dreams just one more time. One time is all I’ll allow myself before I officially cross the line into crazy girl. If this can become a relationship, then one of the big questions will answer itself. I won’t move if I’m in a happy relationship. I won’t mess with success by moving to a brand-new state and setting up shop.

I know inside that this one phone call is simply a way to delay my decisions, to delay the possibility that I may not have a shot at a happy life with this man.

But delay is the solution right now, and delay is right at home in my fantasy world.

I pick up the phone and dial his number.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Still Pondering

Three years ago, I moved home to straighten myself out, to recover from eight months of “finding myself” in grad school in Boston and Los Angeles, to pay back an inordinate amount of student loans and to remind myself why it’s best to not shoot for the moon or the stars. Three years is a long time, though, and I think I’m sufficiently healed and should move on to something new. I thought I could stick it out when I met the man I thought was the one I’d been dreaming about all my life. After three weeks of him not calling and me somehow still convincing him to ask me out until he finally just stopped responding to e-mail, I realized that the real man of my dreams won’t need convincing in order to spend time with me. But his appearance in my life at a particularly crucial time led me to the belief that I could stay here and be happy. His departure has spurred me into another one of my “itching to leave” phases, but this time, I’m not sure how to handle it.

I’ve already finished grad school.

I’ve already fled to Boston and returned merely with a newfound ability to say, “I lived in Boston.”

I could flee to New York, but I think that might actually kill my mother, and when I returned from Boston, I vowed never to never again try to kill her with my leaving.

So, do I wait this one out? Do I hope that the people who keep insisting that they’ll hire me will actually hire me? Do I forget my newly minted degree and try for a new career and move to the city that’s an hour away from home but light years away from living at home?

Neither the drive home nor my walk up the driveway provides enough time to properly answer these questions.

But I’m 25. My back hurts. My shoulders are tense. I have a headache, and I think I’m getting way too stressed out about making these kinds of life decisions. Why can’t someone else make them for me? I haven’t done such a hot job so far, so why must I continue to be the person who screws it all up?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pondering Some More

It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening, and I’m driving home to my parent’s house. I’m nearing 26, and I live at home. Every time I think of it, it makes me sick. I don’t feel ill at the thought of seeing my parents. No, I feel nauseous at the thought of an empty adulthood looming before me.

It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening in September. I’m almost 26. I live at home. I have a ridiculous and boring life. Every day, I stare at a computer screen and pretend to be busy. Every boy I date starts out by asking what I do for fun, and I want to yell at him across the table of whatever hole-in-the-wall restaurant they have chosen to impress my quirky sensibility, “Fun? What do I do for fun? Why do you think I’m dating!?! My life is boring, and I expect you to perk it up a bit. What do I do for fun? I have no idea.” Instead, I spew forth my regular assortment of hobbies. I cook. I dance, but not in any choreographed way. I take long walks with my dogs.

I have such a long list of things that only barely entertain me that I inevitably leave off one or two of the few things that genuinely capture my attention. The boy across the table, probably wearing a polo shirt, and also probably wearing glasses, will then detail his own life, and suddenly, I’ll realize that we have an interest in common. “Hiking?! I love hiking, too,” except now it sounds like a desperate plea for a second date instead of the full-blown interest it actually is. Again, I want to shout at the poor guy, “Oh, fun!? I didn’t realize you meant actual fun. Oh, for fun, I go hiking. I love to hike. I love to smell the flowers, feel the heat, swat at the bugs. Really, I love it. I just wish I could find someone to go with me.” Instead, what comes out is, “Oh, yeah, I like to hike to. I forgot.” And I sound like a ditz. The smart girl inside of me cringes, and the smart guy across the table visibly attempts to stop his eyes from rolling. Usually, he’s successful.

It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening, and oddly enough, I’m looking forward to an evening spent preparing for tomorrow’s dinner. I found a recipe today for a cake that requires advance preparation. Luckily, it’s a cake made out of crepes, so I can pass it off as a family dinner. I’ve taken to cooking for my family at least once a week. It’s my feeble attempt to prepare for my married life, whenever that should finally get around to happening.

At five o’clock on a Wednesday evening in September, I don’t turn the air conditioning on in my car, because I like the feel of the warm sun on my bare arms. I have always loved that first moment in a hot car after hours spent in a building full of cold, canned air. Luckily, my office and its regular use of air conditioning allows me the opportunity to retain this childhood fascination with a hot car.

The fifteen minute drive back to my parents’ house gives me just enough time to listen to some music and get over hating my job. Well, get over the concept of hating my job, because I don’t really hate my job. Rather, I hate that it isn’t another job, the job I actually want, deserve, and for which I have been educated and trained. But then, I’ve always had a problem accepting my lot in life, not that I do anything about it. Each day, when I make this drive, I somehow manage to convince myself simultaneously of the facts that I have screwed up my life and that I can do nothing to fix it.

Did I mention that I am 25, live at home, cannot afford to move anywhere, have no boyfriend and am incredibly boring and bored? Of course, anyone with an ounce of intelligence could have figured out the last two long before this point.

Today, I spent about half an hour looking at apartments on Craigslist. I look at apartments in my state, in New York City and in Washington, D.C. During that half an hour, I reassured myself that life is no better anywhere else. That I can no sooner afford to live in my hometown than I can on the East Coast. I did not look at apartments in Boston, because I’ve already lived in Boston, and no one wants to see me repeat that mistake.

Yes, all of this goes through my mind in the fifteen measly minutes I have to myself after I leave work and before I pull into my driveway and begin the quarter-lifer’s version of the second-shift. I don’t have kids to care for, nor do I really have dinner to make (that’s a volunteer job). What I do have to do is put on a happy face for my parents, feed my pets and try not to make my mother cry.

In the time it takes to walk from my now-air-conditioning-cooled sedan to the ice-box cool house, I have tried to wash out of my mind the questions, statements and concerns that will bring tears to her eyes. I vow to avoid talking of moving out, of the collapse of my most recent romantic interlude, of finding a new job, of anything that even remotely relates to getting on with my life.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pondering, Part 1

I’ve reached that point in my life, again, where I don’t really exist in the present reality. When I’m sitting at my desk, typing a memo, answering the phone or doing whatever it is that a secretary should do, I’m not really there. Instead, I’m pondering a life that includes dreams fulfilled instead of dreams deferred. Fear keeps me from pursuing my dreams, but when I really stop to think about those dreams, they fly away and I’m left with vague remembrances of walking up a flight of stairs in an old Victorian, interviewing an author for a magazine article or catching the red eye to New York City.

This is not a good place for me to be. I need something to entertain me. Someone please entertain me. Give me a vacation to plan, a boy to kiss, a dinner to make. I need something solid to do, or else my mind will take me places everyone I know would rather it did not go. My mind will take me away, and it will take a long time to get me to return.

Maybe Grandma was right. Maybe I do live in a fantasy world.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Breathing Room

Matchbox 20. Anne Lamott. Other people, I'm sure. They've all talked about needing breathing room. Whether or not I want it, I've got plenty of it, at least when it comes to him.

Our relationship is so slow moving that I haven't heard from him in a week.

So slow moving in fact, that I would be delusional to think that we even have a relationship.

But I can't hate him. I'd really rather hate him. It would be so much easier to hate him.

Monday, July 03, 2006


"It's funny," she said.

"What's funny?," said her friend.

"That I could have gone my whole life not even knowing that he's out there, but now that I know, it just ticks me off that he doesn't like me."

"So, not so much funny 'ha ha' as funny in the Alanis Morissette 'Ironic' kind of way."

"Yeah, it's like meeting the man of your dreams, and then realizing you're not his type."