This is about Arleen today-
"There's a huge heat wave in Miami! ughh! I am getting tanned against my own will! Your so lucky you have that fan from QVC, what is it called? the 'Ionic Breeze' right?" Arleen tells me over the phone, as she rushes to catch the bus to her new job at Jackson North Hospital where she is a "custodian". A janitor. Arleen, my friend for nine years has just graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, with her full scholarship as a painting major. Now living in Miami, in a time like this, I would say anyone with a job is pretty 'lucky' ; whatever that word implies.
Our high school was a weird one. Design& Architecture Senior High School a tiny community inside Miami's Design District where Dali's video installations and our four hour critiques were always much more important than algebra and any science; no one in that damn school could add or multiply then. And it is probably the same way today. As seniors we anticipated about those college responses. One envelope that would determine where life would 'lead' us. We feared that "we regret to inform you" sentence and jumpedwhen the envelope was thick, meaning that the university's 'student life' brochure would be inside.
Those days were over five years ago and everyone was accepted to their dream college all over the world. Yet like that saying 'it is easier said than done' being accepted is one thing-and graduating is another. So I ask myself- who in that little senior 05' class actually graduated college? Who gave up, who stayed home? I never knew. I can no longer recognize people from those classes anymore; I could never imagine grown up faces of those children I once knew, can't fathom any idea of those kids in Miami's bars or beaches.
However, growing up in New York far away from my close friends seemed easier than I thought it would, like Arleen.It is easy to recollect ridiculous memories of Arleen. Things that have happened in our perennial thanksgiving parties here in my dorm in Brooklyn and laughs from just yesterday about the bucket of blood she had to dump from the ICU but avoided by sleeping in the Hospital's chapel while hiding her garbage cart.
"It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends." Writes Joan Didion in one of her essays. I quote this now because I feel like we are back to those high school days. The days where we were starving and she worked at Burger King and I worked at Krispy Kreme and took the day's left overs home along with the penny tips.
I have never had over $200 in my bank account in New York. Brooklyn to me has always seemed like a place where life is free, and money is insignificant. Now that I will graduate in less than a year and cannot sleep at night because ofmoney on my mind, or the lack of it, that 'free' idea begins to fade quickly.
And as me and Arleen share coins for the train, cheap immigrant buses and lotto, when we are home for the holidays, I wonder about about the impact of money in our life. It's significance throughout our entire lives.All holidays in Florida were the best. The few of us who were still friends came back from college all happy and unaware of cash. Even when we all worked stupid night shifts at Guess, Stuart Weitzman, GAP and of course Arleen's random shit job- a phone agent for Direct TV, we usually always ended up laughing at Wendy's as we watched Arleen complain about her dollar cheeseburger. She didn't get a tomato slice and any lettuce so she called their customer service, the number on the receipt. Receipts she saved. After realizing she was wasting her minutes and watched us giggle, Arleen hung up and laughed along with us.
We still eat where soda refills are free and share cigarettes. We are all twenty-two and money for me is an expensive idea. While none of us own cars or know how to drive, money is just that- money. Pieces of paper that we don't own, a simple fact in a recession that we accepted. Like accepting that in the end we are still the same people we were nine years ago. Broke and good friends.
"They couldn't afford to pay me or have me anymore at the hospital anymore. Whatever, that place was a piece of shit anyways. Man I had to take all those damn vaccines for nothing! I only worked there for a week! But good news good news, I have an interview for a new job tomorrow! It's a fancy office job. When I went to buy nail polish at Walgreens I paid the cash register lady all in coins and told her I was broke. She looked at my fake nails, where I was missing two, and said ' I can tell ' " Arleen tells me later.