Sure I’d heard of technology and mass transit but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to hand-deliver my first-ever manuscript into the palms of its true creator, Victoria Boz. After all, it was Victoria who had tapped me and bestowed the epitome of all gifts, a book deal.
Moments before, I slid into my favorite Madonna-slash-Missy- Elliott-inspired brown-slash-cream Adidas track pants, found a clean white Nike tank-slash-sports-bra, and Velcroed my black-slash-white Puma cross-trainers nice and tight. What would I do without multipurpose fashionable functional dress-down attire? I thought. Contagious! (The days of my suitings and heels are so outnumbered!) Thankfully, I was able to snag a glimpse of myself just inches from my doorway and knew better than to go out in public with grouchy bed head galore. My trusty Kangol houndstooth cap was an earshot away, chillin’ beside my big black I’m-famous-fantasy summer shades, and both rounded out my nouveau author attire quite nicely. It was almost noon and I had yet to go to bed the night before (I had finished my novel nearly three hours prior, eight forty-eight a.m.), so the sunglasses were key unless I was going for the I’m-a-crackhead look.
My manuscript was pimped out as well, nestled inside a sharp bleeding-pink envelope I bought for about forty bucks at Kate’s Paperie, the Barney’s of the office supply world. This was my very first manuscript so I spared not a single expense! I was still sporting last year’s carryall, an oversized Prada bowling bag (another from the Sophie Fashion Philanthropic Society), and it made the perfect sleeper for her. (My novel—I can’t help but anthropomorphize her.)
Perhaps if I had calculated the trek beforehand, I may not have made such an impractical decision, but I do love a good walk, er, hike, even if it is hot as balls outside (hey, excuse the language, but when New York City is hot, unexpectedly brutally hot, there really is no expression better suited—trust me on that!), and this all really was a first.
My little defining moment was cursed from the beginning, I suppose, for when I arrived at Victoria’s office, her assistant, Stephanie—with an attitude like a Fiona Apple record, a face that could be mistaken for the latest Gucci girl’s, and a ruched black satin top that even I recognized from a current ad campaign—told me flatly that Victoria was in a do-not-disturb-under-any-circumstances meeting and I was instantly and uberly crushed.
“Just drop it in her in box,” Stephanie murmured as she went back to an evidently more important conversation about lip gloss with her invisible friend through her earpiece. Easily a snarky suggestion that could only come from a girl who knew she didn’t need to be nice to get far. Beyond being ridiculously stunning, her grandfather or grandmother or something was a best selling sci-fi writer. Unfair certainly but true for sure.
Trying to be agreeable, I glanced beyond her and saw this in box thing. It was already overstuffed and hanging off the top right corner of Victoria’s desk, like a drunk in stilettos, and I just couldn’t bear to leave “her” there. (A feeling probably similar to a parent dropping her kid off with a babysitter who mentions “rehab” when you ask if she’s had a nice summer.)
It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, only my tiny world revolved around me. ’Cause this so wasn’t the way it was supposed to go! Where was the marching band, the champagne, the tissues, the collective awe at her size and her promptness???
I decided to buck Stephanie’s unreliable system and leave my manuscript on Victoria’s chair. I attached a Post-it (which also killed me) that read:
She’s shy . . . not ready for the in box.
Read her and weep.
I briefly took in the moment for all its sights, sounds, and smells. I wanted to remember it forever. The aroma of the ink from a multipaged fax coming in; the heat steaming from the hard drive of her computer, which must have been on for months. The endless books scrunching into every and any free inch of her nine-tiered bookshelf. The screaming teenagers. (Her office overlooked the MTV TRL studio in Times Square.) The few photos of her cat and my book cover, laid out on her desk waiting for her approval. Sa-sa-sa-real!
Unhappily interrupted, I noticed Stephanie spinning around in her chair, quickly checking up on me I suppose, and then rolling her eyes as she spun back still yapping. She carefully placed her can of Crush (yup—another girl who looks like that and gets to drink liquid sugar beverages!) arm’s length away, maintaining a spillage safety zone, and I was immediately inspired.
I walked out of Victoria’s office and tried as best I could not to stage a faux sneeze, but then:
“I saw you place that package on Victoria’s chair, Vivian . . . ,” she quipped, not even bothering to look my way and instead staring at her computer screen, focusing in on a very important instant message as though she were on to my deviant ways and too many miles above me to care, stop, and do anything about it. And then, I just couldn’t help myself—
“Ex-ex-ex-SNEEZE-me!” I sneezed, flailing my left arm just enough to tip Mr. Crush right on his ass . . .
“Oh my God! Aim, I have to call you back!” she squealed and threw her headset off as rapidly as she would have gestured away a storm of bees.
“I’m so sorry Stephanie!” I gushed as the orange syruplike soda inched its way over her desk, poisoning everything in its way, like a boa constrictor that was on my team.
“I’m so sure,” she barked as I skipped through the hallway and pressed the little elevator arrow for down.
Once out of the building and back on the pavement that was still so freakin’ hot, I was sure the rubber in the soles of my shoes would melt and literally stick me there, I left Victoria a voice mail:
Beep. “V, it’s me. My baby is resting on your chair waiting for your tender loving care and seriously, I don’t care how many books her ancestor has sold, we really need to find you a new assistant. This time it was soda. I can’t be held responsible for what could happen next. Call me.” Beep.
It was weird. Once I flipped my phone off I truly had no idea what to do with myself. My ridiculous handbag was now as empty as my head. I had nothing to worry about, no deadline to meet. I had taken a short temporary leave of absence from work, two weeks, to ensure the finished product. And I was early—three days. But it wasn’t the oddity of not having a single physical duty; it was the space in my head. My brain was like an open pasture and maybe/ maybe not due to the sun, two cute European kids in lederhosen each carrying a sunflower in an open hand were skipping through said pasture . . . ’cause that’s how wide and open it was, not a single thought, plan, action item—nothing. And evidently, that’s how lucid, exhausted, and dehydrated I was, well, you get the picture . . . right?
Kids in lederhosen???
Okay, anyway—the point is—it felt foreign to be so free.
I had spent the last eight months slaving over this novel. Torturing myself for the first four. Unable to type a single letter, never mind word, never mind sentence on my computer. If the light emitted from my desktop possessed even the slightest UV ray, honestly, I’d look like Venus Williams right now. I was sickened by the thought of anyone reading it. Wondering why I even thought I could do it in the first place. And then there were the critics . . .
Night after night, up till dawn, munching on carrots and dried cantaloupes till my skin turned orange. Sipping endless Tabs through straws until my esophagus burned. Rushing to work, late every day. Out of my mind and stuck in my head. Gaining weight by the second, losing years by the day. The stress of it all! Would it be worth it?
All the while, and very honestly, never thinking about Jack and what had happened. Disinterested in everything in the now, always focused on my past. For The Autobiography of Vivian . . . a Novel would be my story from college graduation until my foray onto the ’Net. So if it wasn’t relevant to my moonlighting gig as an author, well, I was fully uninterested. Hence, strained friendships and less and less contact with the outside world. And no boys, not a single kiss, not a touch, for eight-plus months. Scary, right? I was beyond focused. I was obsessed.
So right now, on the street corner, the book wrapped, well, it felt alien to be a person again.
“I’ll be right here.”
(E.T. reference BTW.)
And that was just in the first few minutes!
I headed for the corner and hailed myself a cab. I wanted to go home and sleep a thousand sleeps. As we made our way downtown, I stared at my cell phone. Who to call? Who to call first?
I hadn’t spoken to the guy since, well, since then. (If you don’t count the few phone calls coordinating drop-offs and pickups of each other’s personal effects.) And that’s when it hit me. When I knew it was over. ’Cause I couldn’t call him. No way. It was then, purely, that I realized I had lost my best friend. I’d never mourned my decision not to marry him, and because of the book, I didn’t allow myself to miss him. But when I had accomplished the biggest thing in my life, it was Jack that I wanted to share it with, first.
Immediately, I ignored the pang in my heart and rushed to remove the thought from my mind.
I dialed, first the office—voice mail. Next, her cell—voice mail. Finally, her apartment—voice mail.
This was really starting to suck.
Where was everyone?
I hadn’t a clue.
That’s how removed I was. Gone were the days of keeping tabs. After a little while of not returning calls, participating with only one eye open and one ear shut, missing birthday parties and bailing from twice-rescheduled dinners organized on my behalf, my nearest and dearest had gotten the hint, I guessed. It was as if I were traveling the globe these past months and “no news was good news” where my loved ones were concerned.
Not to worry, I thought, I’d pick up where I left off.
Just, please, let me take a nap first.
Not so fast . . .
Anyone who thinks that life will take a load off and hang out till you’re ready is, like I said, living in a fantasy world.
(Where kids wear lederhosen apparently???)From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Vivian by Sherrie Krantz. Copyright © 2004 by Sherrie Krantz. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.