I have begun a ritual, something pleasant I try to do every Sunday.
Since I have no life, few friends and long hours, I have little restrictions in my life; most of it is spoken for or left wide open due to circumstances. Injecting rituals into my life has been very easy, due to the fact that there is little that can be pushed aside.
In September, I began rigorously attending a health club, and I'm still going strong, every day. I work 11 hours a day, 5 days a week, and after 2 years of that, I've gotten pretty used to it, even if people with normal hours wonder aloud how I can get used to such an insane regimen. You don't understand, I think, I really and truly have no life.
So this is how I try to spend my Sundays. No matter how late I've been up Saturday night, noding, IMing, and all the other antisocial things that supposedly are escapes from reality , I try to get up by at least 9am and head to the gym. Now that it's getting warmer, I brought my swimsuit and worked on a base tan. I used to be tan all year round, when I lived in Ocean City, Maryland, but New Orleans' weather makes you never want to come into daylight once the summer arrives. But the health club has a pool, so I try to take advantage of the breeze available from the eighth floor of the hotel on which the club is located.
Today, I saw a few faces at the pool I recognized. One or two I knew to be (most likely) other gym members. I know I had seen one in the Quarter when Kaldi's used to be there, a jock/bookworm/cool guy. Then I saw Daniel walk over and sit with them; there were two couples in lawn chairs that were placed right in front of me. I had no choice but to see him.
The only reason I know Daniel's name is because when he used to work at Daily Grind, a co-worker of mine's girlfriend worked with him. When I first saw him, I was stunned. I wrote a poem (see bookworms for the poem) to him and left it in the tip jar. Then, maybe a week later, I saw him at a local bar and introduced myself as "the girl who left you a poem." We talked a bit, albeit awkwardly, and that was the first and last time I would speak to him face to face. It must have been at least 2 years ago, and here is, as he's always been, someone with whom I have been doomed to share open spaces.
Around here, if you're in your 20's, whether you're in college or not, you're bound to find the youth collective places to hang out and be visible. If you stay around long enough to become a local, you never leave; people will remember you, if only your face. You will become a ghost to other, living people who do not know yet that they are ghosts. The overlapping social life and circles in New Orleans can tighten like a noose around your neck.
Now, seeing Daniel again, I was not as uneasy as I was 2 years ago. I've lost weight since then, gained a little dignity, and now, looking at him up close, he's too short and troll-ish for me. It must have been his face I was looking at, the rest of him dissolving.
The second half of my Sunday afternoon ritual has been to go to Kara's Café, where I used to work a few years ago. I got fired or quit one year when I refused to work during Mardi Gras (as good a reason for firing anyone in the service industry as any), so I stayed away, even though Kara and her mom Sandy were like a surrogate family to me. I began coming back a few weeks ago, and I found out that I was mistaken. They were very happy to see me again, asked how things were. They remembered how I liked my iced mochas, how I liked my Belgian waffles, even after 2 years. It was nice to be remembered. Sandy invited me to the tubing trip they were planning this May, the trips I used to go on with them when I was working there.
I saw Cliff was still working at Kara's. An old co-worker of mine met him at an ATM. He is from London originally, but he fell in love with her and for a year, lived in the US illegally. When I talked to him today, he'd said that he didn't have the big bucks required to buy the work visa he would need to make real money, but since Kara's paid under the table, he'd been working there for almost a year and a half.
I had to hand it to him. He risked a lot for love: moving here, putting his goals of being an engineer aside, all for her, only to find out she was too clingy , not enough for him. He said he was heading back to London in a month, but hopefully I'll get to go on this tubing trip so I can see him once more before he leaves. He was the only guy I've met with an English accent that didn't use the fact that women are usually turned on by it for his own benefit. He was too old fashioned; he dated a woman with serious intent, not just because he could. The fact that he remembered me, someone he only really hung out with a few times, from 2 years past, made me very thankful. I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers these things.
Not bad for a lazy Sunday, huh?