Being out of work I can handle. Being out of work at 40 and writing freelance articles about high school bowlers I can handle. Being a freelance writer who rediscovered his talent for writing in his 30s and is trying to break into advertising while simultaneously getting people to read my blog, I can handle. Being 40 without so-called true love in my life or a cute little newborn son who relatives I barely know, say has my ears, I can handle.
Being a freelance writer and sitting at a coffee shop while a woman sitting behind me asks an acquaintance with an obvious stutter and minor palsy to keep repeating himself while telling a story, I can handle. Being a freelance writer at a coffee shop and being constantly distracted by the barista who looks like a 21 year old college guy and sounds eerily like celebrity Chef Paula Dean while chit chatting with customers about the weather and recommending the yummy Pumpkin Pie Chai tea, I can handle (he was right about the tea.)
Being 40 while living in a 5th floor walk-up in New York City, I can handle. Being recently laid off with everyone else in my office that was shutdown and realizing that the job had already stopped challenging me and now trying to get work as a freelance writer and having to read on Facebook about people who only post about the good things in life and seem to have jobs that allow them to vacation constantly and do things like go to wine tasting events in the Napa Valley, in March, I can handle.
But (come on, you knew there would be a but), although I can handle being a recently-laid-off-and-currently-single freelance writer at 40, living in a 5th floor walk-up next to a depressingly old shut-in neighbor whose very existence is like a scary Ghost of Christmas Future, what I could not handle was noticing the dog pee for what seemed like two minutes in the living room as I stood in the kitchen watching my take-out lasagna rotate in the microwave.
I stood there helpless and too stunned to react as he relieved himself on the floor like an old Jewish man at the movie theater urinal after 3 hours of Schindler’s List and a mini keg of Diet Pepsi. As he was releasing onto my floor, I was filling up with rage. I shouted an incoherent curse word that sounded like “Faaargh” and I felt like Charlie Brown if Lucy had pulled the football away from him and then proceeded to kick him in the balls. As I cleaned up the mess on the floor and the dog rolled around on my bed without a care in the world, I broke a piece of the mop off as the frustration level rose in me like the steam in my bedroom heat pole that keeps my room a Tucson-like 90 degrees and dry in the Winter time.
I was a moment away from putting a hole in my closet with my foot and muttering to myself for an hour while rocking back and forth on the floor, when I imagined Rob Lowe bursting through my door to calm me down with the story of St. Elmo guiding sailors with flashes of light, before revealing to me that it was a made-up tale to get them through tough times. In order to get the image of the young Rob Lowe in a half shirt, playing the saxophone out of my head, I briefly imagined myself as Kevin (Andrew McCarthy’s character in the film St. Elmo's Fire) finally getting to have sex with Ally Sheedy in the shower. As I pictured myself ravishing Ally Sheedy while trying not to knock her pearl necklace off her neck and down the drain, I began to smell the lasagna from the microwave.
I had forgotten about the lasagna that I had started re-heating as I watched the dog do his outside business inside. You don’t have high hopes for lasagna at a bagel café. I walked in looking for my usual chicken or baked salmon salad and was intrigued by the lasagna behind the glass counter looking freshly made, as if it was prepared by a guy named Sal, instead of a mensch named Saul.
The aroma of the lasagna reached my nose as I sat on my bed and I followed it into the kitchen. As I began to devour my comfort food, I noticed that it did just that. All the stresses of being a 40 year old freelance writer, who wasn’t satisfied with his life in its current state, began to melt away. You try not to let the little things in life drive you nuts but it can be hard when the little things seem to blend into one big thing. Sometimes, a little thing like ricotta cheese blending perfectly with meat sauce in layers of ribbon pasta, can pull you back from the edge.
In the post-post-college coming-of-age film that is my life I know there’s a happier ending than lamenting my lost 30's while mopping up piss on the fifth floor of my walk-up apartment building at age 40, I just haven’t finished the script yet.
Cue John Parr.
Ok,I kind of wish that was me singing. I thought that was kind of awesome. For you John Parr fans, here's the real John Parr in action.