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Big Day

A new job, with attendant hopes and feelings (I quit 6 months later). Rock, Paper, Scissors is a made-up name, by the way.

I am starting a new job today. I will be the principal copywriter for an advertising and branding firm called Rock, Paper, Scissors, Inc. I will refer to this institution as RPS.

Am I nervous? I am a little numb, but have practice at new things. I will arrive quietly, apologetically, smiling, pretending to know my way around. "I'm Paul," I'll say. "I'm the new copywriter. Today's my first day. Will you be my friend? I am very lonely. Look! I have a watch that plays Frogger, and a new shirt."

In the transition between jobs, I realized some small goals--fixing up my apartment, eating better, drinking less. Simple tasks, but they were more unattainable than making money or new friends. My room is still messy, of course, but my shelves are built, my new computer is assembled, my life is coming together. My relationship with my girlfriend is imperfect and fragile, but it nourishes me. My diet is coming along. Yes, I am nervous.

I feel like it's a last chance. Failure is imminent as much as success is in reach. Am I confident I can do this job, that I am capable, that I can create something interesting, fascinating? Yes. Am I confident that I am sane enough to go to work on time, do the work expected of me, and not procrastinate? No. I am concerned that my interior theological and critical battles will emerge into my working world, diminishing the quality of my endeavor.

I turn furiously bored in minutes; I am a procrastinator, and yet I take joy from working, writing, filling in the blanks. If advertising copywriting is really NOT what I want to do, if I cannot find ways to keep myself entertained, then I'll set myself adrift on the East River, floating off somewhere on my back, washed about by the wakes of tankers sailing into Jersey, looking up at the surprised ferrygoers.

I neglected to get my laundry done, so I'll wash my clothes for my first day in the bathtub. I have picked out a pair of newish blue jeans, a blue shirt, a black vest, a little hair gel, black socks. Laundry is complicated process. The little laundromat near me is eternally crowded, so to clean my clothes, I need to drag myself there at 7AM on a weekend morning, with a trundle cart and a pocket bursting with quarters, to wash my shirts, underwear, jeans, socks, and sometimes sheets. I invariably put the process off, smashing the snoozebar until it's noon and the washers are all in use by women and men from the apartment building across the street.

What if, at noon tomorrow, I throw up? What if I lose control of my body, if I suddenly spasm and my bowels and stomach sacrifice their nerve-linked control, and I become an excreting horror, as a black quivering mass expels itself from my innards and writhes on the scratched wood floors? What if the women there turn their heads when they see me, saying, "why can't they hire someone handsome?" within my earshot? What if I can't write, if a sudden flaring carpal pain rushes up my hands, or if I am in an accident and can only type by moving my eyes, like Steven Hawking? What if the Ftrain explodes, if I suddenly grow breasts on my head, if my teeth turn orange, if my new laptop disintegrates into ashes, if someone tapes a pornographic picture to my back and writes "Paul's Mom" on it in Sharpie marker? What if I piss my pants at work, like I did at my old job on the Upper West Side, and don't have a long shirt to cover it up?

I will arrive--across the street from the Flatiron building--by 9:30. I'll give myself time for a cup of coffee, a glance at a newspaper, a walk around the block to be acquainted, calm. Who am I fooling, that I'm a copywriter? I'm fooling myself, I guess. Monday morning, the first day of the week, the first day of the second month in the year. Nod to me if you see me tomorrow morning, 8:30AM, Smith and 9th St. stop, in my blue shirt, blue jeans, and vest, waiting for the Ftrain.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

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