The Nothing Days: Summer Show

I set my alarm for 7 AM, convinced I will be ambitious enough to want to go to the gym before work.  The sky is a vibrant blue, almost teal color, through my window shades.  I close my eyes, only half inspired, and fall asleep for another hour.

At 8:03 I brush my teeth.  I eat my gluten-free bread and drink my expensive pasteurized orange juice.  I fill a mug my friend gave me for Christmas with the equivalent of two cups of coffee, adjusted with soymilk and stevia powder according to my taste or lack thereof.  The outside of the cup reads “Genius.”  There is a chip on the lip.  I saved the piece with the intention of gluing it back on but never did and now I don’t know where that piece is.  My life is kind of like this.

I fill up another two-cup cup of coffee and drink it quickly while smearing makeup on my face in the way a child might – untrained and careless.  Pink cheeks, mascara, chapstick.  My outfit consists of a highly and needlessly complex combination of layered undergarments, hot pants, and a sheer top.  I will only wear this ensemble for twenty-seven minutes combined all day; once I get to my job I wear someone else’s.

The designer’s office occupies an entire floor of a building.  It’s like a sherbet penthouse.  Orange walls, Astroturf-green carpet, hot pink chairs.  Women walk around wearing the clothes and the shoes of the same designer.  Little gold round buckles.  Patterns.  Blonde hair.  Everyone here is nice.

We change in a large closet that is cold like a walk-in refrigerator.  I drink two hot coffees from the community kitchen.  They have soymilk in the fridge.  I try on more clothes.  Eat fruit.  Switch between sandals and boots.  Try on jackets and knitwear.  Blue jeans, white jeans.  I grab lunch from across the street, basking in the hot and humid outside air for thirty seconds each way.  I buy roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  Both are good but greasy.

I try on more clothes.  Read the New Yorker.  Listen to the girl I’m working with read punch lines from her iPhone.  And then, at four, I am done.

For the first ten minutes out of the lobby I begin to thaw, soaking up heat like an arid sponge.  I’m happy.  Days like this are good.  Days when people are nice to you.  Days when you don’t feel as much like a useless coat hanger.  These are the days I am thankful that this is my job, at least for now…until it is not my job anymore.  I walk down the street with the same energy I had walking into the job, something that isn’t necessarily a given.  In fact, it is rare.

Above, cloud cover provides some relief from the potentially oppressive ninety-degree heat.  People walk around at a pace slightly more lively than dead … increasingly optimistic about their day on account of shade and shade alone.

I pass Fishes Eddy on 23rd Street.  My mom and I found this place back in 2002.  She bought a mug with the Manhattan skyline on it and cardboard coasters of a similar print.  That was before I ever lived here.  Years and a lifetime ago.  I walk inside for the sake of nostalgia and partial necessity.  I buy a cobalt blue porcelain tray for loose change and a large cream bowl on sale for $11.95.

Back out into the heat I go.

The Green Market is open and I walk towards the peaks its white tents.  A plastic bizarre.  I buy three succulents that remind me of home.  Not home in Manhattan but home on Poinsettia Place.

The man who sells vegetarian empanadas is not there which is a shame because I would rather like one right now.  A crew of three girls walk by; their collective “look” harkening back to the days of MC Hammer’s entourage mixed with a little bit of MIA flavor for contemporary measure.  Tight black pants, afro-mohawks bleached blonde, black and silver sunglasses, and legs for days.  I can almost hear “Can’t Touch This” trailing behind them.

I buy two half-gallons of soymilk and some freshly ground almond butter from Whole Foods.  I take the N train down to Price Street, balancing my heavy bag of porcelain with a tray of succulents and a carton of the aforementioned soymilk.  I pray that the almond butter doesn’t leak into my purse, which is something that could feasibly happen to me and I’m surprised it hasn’t happened to me already.  I walk back home with a stupid smile on my face.  Stupid because nothing about today really mattered.  There was no grand event.  No particularly special moment.  Just a good and easy day, free of annoyance and anxiety and berating thoughts and all the free (albeit excessive) air conditioning I could ask for.

I continue my attempt at sidewalk juggling as I open the door to my apartment building, at which point my SIGG water bottle jumps out of my bag, viciously attacking my succulents and toppling them to the ground in a one-sided battle.  “Oh, no!” I quietly lament, scraping black bits of dirt off of a dirty stoop back into their rightful home around the delicate roots of my verdant memories.  And as if the universe is attempting to salvage the lowest moment of my lovely day, a fireman from across the street calls me “Miss” and asks if I need some help.  I decline, stating that my problem is only a “mild cacti tragedy.”  He walks away and I make a mental note that I accurately pluralized “cactus” in a fleeting conversation with a stranger. I then acknowledge that most of the words that come out of my mouth are verbose and obtuse and make me sound like a fucking nerd cramming for her AP English exam.  But that’s okay.  I’m growing into myself quite nicely, I should think.

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Have Beer Wench, Will Bridal.

I enter the lobby and stare at the back of a mountain of black.  Black scarf, black coat, two small black legs poking into black boots.  Bleached blonde hair tufts out wildly from the top.  A model.  She turns.  “Jenny!” I hear.  A model I know.  It’s Talia.  Talia looks like what Cameron Diaz probably looked like back in the days before she booked The Mask and went from doing the bullshit we do to being one of the highest earning charming and talentless actresses of our generation.  Inspiration for my future self in some capacity.

The casting studio is stark white and glossy.  White floors, white walls.  It’s like that sterilized chamber in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  There are girls wearing black lining the walls of the studio, staggered like the inside of a sweathouse in Chinatown.  Some sit on the couch, some stand at the back.  We all watch as a photographer takes shots of our competitors individually.  A long table is set up across from where the photographer is sitting with a sign in sheet and two women with dark hair.  Professional judgers.

I sign in.

Name: JENNY BAHN

Agency: NYM2

Height: 5’10 ½

I take a seat in the kitchen, putting my giant coat next to the sink.  Talia sits next to me and we keep talking and we eventually move into the topic of agents ruining our lives.  I ask her to hand me her book that she just had reorganized by another model who was horrified by what her agency did to her portfolio.  These are the stupid things that make or break your bank account: what order your pictures go in, if you have too many beauty shots, if you don’t have enough beauty shots, if your stomach protrudes in one out of twenty pictures, if your sex kitten body shot is inappropriately paired with a picture of you looking like a ten year old posing for Delia’s online catalogue, if you look too old.  We rely on our agents to do this well.  They rarely do.

Talia complains about a test her agency arranged that came out horribly.  A thousand dollars.  A fucking grand for pictures.  She hates them.  She hands me her book and I take out her card.  Whoa.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Pink eye shadow.  Pink lips.  A total and utter tragedy.

It’s like “Glamour Shots by Deb.”

I laugh because it does have an extremely close vibe to those hazy images taken at the local shopping mall.  I then catch the Napoleon Dynamite reference.  I laugh again.

See?!  I look like fucking Barbie.  Like old Barbie.  Look at my armpits.  I can’t believe how much they retouched this.  Ugh.

She’s right.  She does look like Barbie and she does look like she’s got alien pits.  I can’t believe she’s spent a thousand dollars on pictures that make her want to put a gun to her head.  But this is how it goes.  Often.  More often than anyone wants to admit.  Sure, the other girls are shooting with Steven Meisel and even a shitty Steven Meisel pictures is a Steven Meisel picture.  Ten out of one thousand girls get to look like shit by the hands of an artist.  The rest of us are left to be butchered by overpriced amateurs.  Bloody hell.

The girls trying on over-beaded, stiff and wrinkled satin bridal ball gowns are what I can only best describe as “zaftig.”  Zaftig is quite possibly one of the most precise ways in which to describe a certain type of chubby girl.  It’s like onomatopoeia for chunk factor.  It implies a short of St. Pauli’s girl softness in the face and goes double for the arms.  They are big girls, bigger than me by about twenty pounds.  Even still, the casting directors have to clamp the extra fabric to keep them decent.  These samples must be size eights.  Gi-normous.

In the corner are the “runway” girls.  These are the ones who would literally drown in these white lace catastrophes – chocking on lace made in China and swallowing fake plastic pearls sewn on in India.  Tall, sallow, brunette, generic Russian types.  I am confused as to where I fit in.  I hand them my book and I think that they like me, but I look neither like a heroine addict nor a frequent midnight doughnut run binge eater.  The photographer takes pictures.  The casting directors flip through my book.  I say thank you.  I put on my coat and scarf and grab my canvas bag that’s quickly going from light beige to a soiled gray and leave with Talia.  We walk through the white hallway and back into the elevator and back outside and that is all.  That is all it ever is.  Thirty-five minutes of maybe.

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