On Friday I went to a pool party. I didn't mean to go to a pool party. I meant to go out with my friend and colleague Corinne for end-of-the-week drinks. The last few weeks have been tough going for the project. A presentation week before last was received very badly. On Wednesday a major non-financial partner withdrew from the project completely. Apparently I have generated controversy. Apparently everyone thought I was a nice girl who would do something nice. The project is not nice. It was never trying to be nice. Nice? No. Not nice.
Corinne tried to save me, but even she agrees that the project is not very nice, and if nice is what her people were expecting there is no point in trying to make this partnership work anymore. "We can still be friends, right?" Corinne asks, via text. We can still be friends.
She calls me as I'm leaving my house to meet her downtown, and she says, "Let's not go out. Let's go to Dave's."
Dave is her boyfriend. He has a condo on the lake, with a hot-tub. Going there and drinking beer out of the fridge will be a million times better than going to some bar. I agree, change course. I am covered with sweat when I get there. Corinne hands me a beer, asks if I want to freshen up. I take my beer into the shower. Cold beer in my mouth. Hot water on my face. I am so tired.
The day before I ran into a friend in the grocery store and she asked how the project was going. I told her we'd hit some rough spots. She asked what kind and I tried to explain, but talking about it made me feel worse. She said, "Honey, everybody gets to this point. You get to a point where you think you can't go anymore, but you do, and that's what separates you from all the people who don't make it."
I say, maybe I am one of the people who doesn't make it. I have to think about that. I have to let myself contemplate that that could be the truth. I say,"Maybe I'll just say fuck it. Maybe I'm done." I want to pretend for a second that it could be that easy. As easy as that fantasy I used to have of just buying a bus ticket, leaving town, leave the whole mess. Let everybody else work it out. Fuck it. I'm done.
She said, "You'll pull through."
My heart goes bang, starts racing. Maybe I don't want to pull through. I pick up my basket, start backing away down the soap aisle. "I'm sorry. I have to go. I really can't talk about it."
"Call me," she yells after me. "I'll cook for you. You look like shit."
I turn the handle in the shower, cranking the hot water slowly over to cool. I've started seeing an acupuncturist. She says I have a heat imbalance -- too much yang energy, too much activity, masculinity. She tells me to spend time doing yin activities, soothing, passive, feminine. Like what, I ask her. Swim, she says. Go for a walk in the morning when it's cool. Sit still.
I let the cool water run over my face. I could stand here forever. But not really, because this is a stranger's house and my friend is waiting for me downstairs. I turn the water off. I towel myself off and leave my hair down so it can dry.
"Your hair's so long," Corinne says as I come downstairs. "You should wear it down more."
"Is Dave home?"
"He's out by the pool. He'll be out there all weekend. We can go in a little bit, but I'm warning you now, it's a sausage fest. You'll think you're in a frat house. Beer?"
We sit on the couch and drink. Corinne says, "Look. Keep doing what you're doing. It's a good project. Now you don't have to worry about making us happy. You can do it your way and take as long as you want."
Yeah, it could go on forever. Just me and my project. Me and my fucking stupid fucking project.
Corinne says, "Let's go out to the pool."
We go out. It is a sausage fest. A bunch of guys. I forget how many because they all look alike to me. Eight? Ten? Throwing a football and splashing and shouting. Guys. Normal guys, who are like a weird foreign culture to me. I've never actually been to a frat party. But here I am and here they are, comporting themselves in their natural habitat. Corinne sit down and I take the deck chair next to her.
I am too tired to party. I lean back in the deck chair and keep drinking beer while the last of the sun dries the last of the water in my hair. Guys keep coming by and talking to me. Sometimes I open my eyes to see who it is and sometimes I don't. I can't keep their names straight anyway.
Some guy comes by and asks me about my job. I guess somebody told him about the project. I say yes, that is what I do. He says, "Wow. That's so great. Listen, I've been looking for someone..."
He tells me about the project he has in mind. I laugh. It's a funny idea. It's a silly idea. It's the kind of idea a guy like this would have. I tell him I love it, and it's brilliant, and it will make a million dollars and everyone will love it.
"So, how much?" he wants to know.
I shut my eyes and do a little math. I name a number, a ridiculous number.
"Done," he says. "Here, let me get your contact information."
"Honey," C. will say later, "Honey, I have a suspicion he was hitting on you."
"No shit. What difference does it make?"
C. will shrug and make a face. But that's all later. Meanwhile there's food on the grill and groups of people keep shifting and reshaping and going in and out of apartments. The last of the sun goes down and Corinne comes over and says, "Let's go inside."
Inside we start to talk about the project again, not what people think of it, but the real stuff of it, the parts I love, that keep me up at night, the stuff that makes us want to do the stuff we do, and suddenly I start to cry. For a while I can't stop. Strings of sobs like little implosions suck me in on myself, and in, and in. Corinne gets me water and sits by me quietly. She and I might be really good friends one day. I might pull myself together and get myself out of this. I might take the pool guy's project and we might make a million dollars. Stranger things have happened.