Monday, September 24, 2012

Quite the Weekend

When I graduated from Major University in December one of my biggest concerns was that my social life would die the moment I stepped off campus.

I needn't have worried.

Things have, to be sure, slowed down a bit from the freewheeling days when I spent my weekends organizing absurd "philosophy" parties, having long conversations in the dining hall about the threats posed by bloodthirsty pagans, and breaking into other people's apartments only to be welcomed into their drunken jamborees. But with a group of friends as large and consistently crazy as mine, things can't stay quiet for long.

I had, for the record, a very different weekend in mind. I was going to spend Thursday night at Laquesha's house and then, after a feel-good slumber party to cheer the friend who just broke up with her fiancé, return home for a quiet few days of movies and reading A Feast for Crows (the fourth book in the phenomenal A Song of Ice and Fire series, which, by the way, you should all go get).

Isn't it funny how God can rearrange our plans?

There I was all ready for a sedate weekend at home, and there He was laughing at my naivete and preparing a care package of Captain Morgan.

To be fair, none of this was intentional.

Laquesha and I were aiming to have a few drinks, certainly, but then we encountered the random black people whom her mother had, for no apparent reason, invited to stay, and by the end of the night a party was had.

I drove home on Friday afternoon with a pounding headache and a newfound resolution to abstain from liquor until I was thirty, never knowing that I'd fall under the shameful influence of Black Dress Girl a mere two days later.

Yes. This one.

Here's how this went. Black Dress Girl and I met up in Western City to have dinner and "a drink" while we caught up on each other's lives, namely her nasty encounter with her estranged father in Humid State.

"I'll have an orange cream," I told our young waitress. "And some of those loaded fries."

"I'll have a Long Island Iced Tea," Black Dress Girl said.

"What?" I asked.

"Load 'er up."

One drink down and Black Dress Girl was feeling mighty fine.

"You should join me, you know," she noted in between telling me about her stupefyingly insensitive parent.

"Wait, are you ordering another?"

"Um, yeah."

"Shit," I said, looking down at the half-eaten plate of food that I knew I wouldn't finish. "I'm not going to sit here and stare at you for twenty minutes."

"Well, then..."

"Fuck it."

About five minutes later I could not imagine why I'd objected to her idea.

The conversation flowed freely as I regaled her with Laquesha's love drama, revealed that my therapist believed I had minor bipolar disorder--"God, we're such perfect friends," she injected. "We're both fucking insane"--and vowed not to let her cats get my loaded fries this time around.

"Just don't bring them in my house," she said. "Because the cats are like fucking Terminators. They'll find them."

At Black Dress Girl's instigation we stopped in at a local bar instead of walking around to sober up, and after a Jägerbomb, a shot of liquor, a mixed drink, and a beer each we were quite the sociable couple.

"BB?" a waitress called out to me.

I turned around and the girl, a twenty-year-old Mountain Town native, jumped forward to give me a hug.

"Oh, my gosh, how are you?" she asked.

We talked about her new job, my brother, and our mutual friends before she excused herself to go back to work.

"Who was that?" Black Dress Girl wanted to know.

"A friend of mine from Mountain Town," I answered before surveying the bar. "Oh, no. You're not going to believe this."


"I left my fries in the restaurant."

Black Dress Girl stared at me in silence for three seconds before throwing her head back and bursting into raucous laughter. I joined in and before long we were both sitting there, drunk into insensibility and perched on bar stools as we clutched our ribs and wiped the tears from our faces.

"This--this was a good idea," I conceded.

Such were my Thursday and Saturday nights.

Friday, in case you're wondering, was spent going out to the movies with Black Boy and his absurdly hot nineteen-year-old friend whose name is actually Adonis. Adonis. Come on. The fact that it fit so well only made it worse.

So that was my weekend. All in all, not a bad way to knock off a few days.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Best Friends and Sleepovers

When my parents went on vacation to Mountain Resort last month I had no intention of staying by myself in our isolated, 200-year-old farmhouse. Can you blame me? The last time I took that risk there was, after all, a natural disaster. The clear solution was to have a slumber party in my family's absence, and with my mother's blessing I invited Laquesha, who drove more than two hours to take part in the event.

Many of you will recall Laquesha as the freewheeling college friend who, upon meeting me for the first time, regaled me with the story of how she had blackout sex in front of a New Year's Eve party and who upon learning of my "Flickr page" insisted, "I want to have a black pseudonym! I want to be a black woman!"

That's her.

She's one of my closest friends and, fittingly, the only person featured on this blog who has ever chosen their own pseudonym. I allowed her to christen her boyfriend as well and she immediately dubbed him "Tyrone." He's Korean.

But for all her eccentricities Laquesha is a deep thinker, an unflinchingly loyal friend, and, above all, a very fun time.

"I haven't gotten this good and drunk in a while!" she declared with a happy hiccup as she took another swig of beer.

Norwegian, amused but stone-cold sober despite her row of empty beers, looked at us from across my kitchen table and shook her head.

"You two are...silly."

It works out for us, though.

In light of the way Laquesha and I met it is somewhat surprising that we have become as close as we are. We were introduced in 2009 through Red-Haired Friend, with whom I was but casually acquainted and whose friendship with Laquesha was only slightly more developed. All three of us were still university students at the time and Red-Haired Friend invited me on a whim to cook with her in her campus apartment.

That was it.

Laquesha would likely have remained a distant friend-of-a-friend but for the fact that she spent the summer of 2010 interning about ten miles from Mountain Town and, knowing no one else in the area, hung out almost exclusively with me for three months. By the time school was back in session we'd become so thick that Red-Haired Friend said she wouldn't be surprised if we'd developed our own language.

We know each other well

So when Laquesha called me on Saturday at one o'clock in the morning, I knew something was wrong.

"Hey, are you alright?" I asked as I shot a glance at Black Boy, with whom I was watching a movie. "I'm at a friend's house right now."

"Yeah, I'm not like, in danger or anything," she said. Her voice cracked. "But I broke up with Tyrone."

Tyrone was Laquesha's boyfriend of two years, a handsome math nerd who swept Laquesha off her feet while tutoring her in physics. They'd been engaged for nine months.

"Oh, my gosh, Laquesha, I'm so sorry."

I hopped off the couch and waved an apology at Black Boy as I walked into the next room.

"What happened?"

"He just blindsided me," she said. "He said he wasn't ready for marriage. After everything he said that he wasn't ready."

I understood her frustration.

Tyrone is a recently minted officer in the U.S. Navy who, conscious of the demands his career would place on him, proposed marriage to Laquesha in January so that she could accompany him from post to post and receive the military benefits to which an officer's spouse is entitled.

"I just don't know what the fuck to do," she'd told me at the time. "I mean, I'm twenty-three years old! I love him, but I never thought...I mean, we're so young."

In the end she asked herself if she really wanted to spend the rest of her life with Tyrone, and when the answer was yes she decided to make the sacrifice. Yes, she said, she'd marry him.

Sometime around the start of the summer, however, the tables turned and Tyrone became ambiguous about living arrangements, a wedding date, and even the marriage itself.

"I never wanted this," Laquesha told me in June. "But I love him and I'm willing to do it. Bottom line, I'm not following him across the country, moving from base to base, and having him be gone for six months at a time unless I have a commitment. I'm not."

"No," I replied. "Because if anything happens, you're fucked. If he dies you get no benefits, and if he just decides it's over then you're alone in a strange part of the country without any kind of income."

"Exactly," she concurred. "I won't do it."

The Laquesha I spoke with early Saturday morning was in shock.

"I went to his officers' school graduation in Small State," she said. "And then we drove back down to Southern State and spent the whole week together. It was great. But last night after dinner he sat me down on the bed and was like, 'I'm not ready for marriage. I can't be that selfless.'

"So I just put on my shoes and was like, 'We have nothing to discuss, then.'

"And then he started crying and begging me not to go. He said he still wanted to have a relationship and he still wanted us to live together. I was just like, 'I don't even know what you're asking me. This is over.' And I left."

"Honey, I am so proud of you," I said. "Really."

"Yeah," she said, suddenly breaking into tears. "And I didn't let him see, but it hurts so bad. I thought he was the one. I thought I was going to have his children."

After sniffling away her tears she spoke again.

"Listen, I know it's really far, but my grandmother is going away next week and it might be a perfect time for a sleepover. I mean, I don't want to trouble you--"

"Bitch, you know I got you like that."

Laughter came shaking through the weeping.

"Thanks. Can I Facebook you the address?"

"Sure. Which day works best?"

"Probably Thursday."

"Okay, then. I'll see you on Thursday."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Magical Place

It seems clichéd to describe any place as "enchanted," but when I first entered the offices of Sentinel of the West Literary Agency I was hard-pressed to find a more fitting word. Mahogany bookshelves lined the walls, filled with titles the storied group had sold. A huge fireplace covered one wall, ready to roar on cold winter days beneath a huge oil portrait of the agency's founder. From the cinematic front window, which you can see above, the office looked down upon rolling hills and the Sentinel Bay. And then, of course, sitting in the center of the room looking like a duchess-turned-business-executive, was La Reine.

I originally introduced her here as Queen Agent, but I've decided to change it to La Reine, the French term for "the Queen."

She was, for one thing, the most impeccably dressed person I'd ever seen. Beyond that, she was a Francophile who spent half the year living in France, a fact that likely gave her aristocratic accent its vaguely foreign flavor.

"BB!" she said, grabbing my palm with her soft, delicate fingers. "So good of you to come out."

As if I'd popped in from down the street.

"Let's sit down, shall we?"

It is a testament to La Reine's great social graces that I felt comfortable around her within twenty minutes. Given the situation, I should have been much more ill-at-ease; I walked in, overdressed in a sports shirt and khakis amidst the women in their tasteful business-casual clothing, and suddenly realized with due gravity that I was sitting across a coffee table from one of the most influential individuals in publishing, a socialite-agent whose reputation was already towering before I was born.

"Hi," I answered with a lame attempt at a smile.

"So, you'll already know Agentess," La Reine gestured with her hand. "And this is Intern Woman, another of our interns."

"Hello," I nodded.

La Reine brushed through the formalities quickly.

"I want you to know that we've been very reluctant to bring people on in the past," she said, her voice almost stern. "We have a reputation we've worked hard to build and work harder to maintain. Because of that we must be very selective about whose name we put next to ours. It's essential for any new agent to be a team player."

Rather than trying to ham up La Reine with some slick professional act I probably couldn't have pulled off anyway, I decided to just go with pure honesty.

"That's kind of how I think it should be," I said. "You know, Agentess went out of her way to get me paid work while I was still an intern. And you've given me this huge opportunity, and neither of you had to do any of that. When someone goes out on a limb that for you it's not hard to want to help them back. And I would want that. I would want to do right by the agency."

I meant every word of it.

La Reine seemed satisfied with my answer, as she smiled and asked, "What kind of literature will you be looking for?"

"Oh, everything in the world," I said, a little too earnestly. "But mostly YA. Lots of YA. And historical non-fiction. And...other stuff."

La Reine smiled again.

"I think lunch would be the perfect venue to discuss this further. Let me call Le Garcon. He's on his lunch break."

La Reine probably couldn't have any more effectively made me feel welcome than by including me at a lunch with her 27-year-old son. The young man and I chatted while La Reine and Agentess grabbed drinks, and by the time the appetizers came La Reine felt less like a publishing-industry powerhouse and more like a friendly older neighbor.

A good way, I thought, to start off our professional relationship.

We arrived back at the office and when La Reine offered me coffee, then stepped in and made my drink because I couldn't figure out how to operate her expensive espresso machine, I was reminded of something that my late grandmother used to say: "If you really want to know the character of a man, BB, look not at how he treats his equals but at how he treats those who are beneath him."

La Reine was one of the biggest names in publishing. And she was asking me if I wanted cream and sugar.

Later that afternoon we discussed how to represent my first manuscript, with La Reine informing me we'd sell it "together" and split the royalties. What this means, of course, is that I will observe, La Reine will do the actual work, and I'll be allowed half of the credit and money. I was struck once again by how gracious my new employer was.

Beyond the job itself and the fact that I had quite possibly the coolest boss who had ever existed, I was thrilled with our physical office. Now, you must understand that the term "office" is a bit of a stretch in this case: La Reine, upon gaining control of Sentinel of the West Literary Agency, decided she wanted a new space and so literally built a house on a hill overlooking Sentinel Bay.

On my second day in Pacific State, Agentess and I walked into the office at around nine in the morning (quite briskly, too, considering that we had a night of tequila shots behind us) and I began rummaging through a cabinet looking for sugar to sweeten my coffee.

The item that caught my eye made me laugh just because it fit in so well.

"Agentess," I grinned, walking into the main room brandishing a coffee mug with a golden, diamond-studded handle. "If fabulous were a person, that person would be La Reine."

"I know," Agentess chuckled. "I have marveled over that cup many a time."

Before long my Pacific State trip was over and I was climbing on a plane headed east. Agenting, as I said in a previous post, is a commission-based job, and seeing as I won't make any money until my royalties begin to come in I'm staying put in Southern State for the time being.

I will, however, begin certain aspects of the job right away. My e-mail account is set up, I've already started receiving queries, and sometime this coming spring I will attend my first writers' conference (so to all of you bloggers who go them--get ready).

I'm excited and eager--and nervous. That trust fund won't last forever, after all. But whatever my reservations, I now have no choice but to press forward. It is at least a thrilling passage.