Sunday, February 27, 2005

Dad Gets Me Out of the House

Ever since I got back from college, my father, who for four years totally freaked every time I left Morningside Heights, has been pushing me out of the house. He doesn't like how I'm such a loner, not that I'm a huge fan of the lifestyle either. I think he's afraid he'll turn on the network news some day ten years from now and see one of my future neighbors saying, "He seemed like such a shy, quiet guy. I had no idea he sacrificing prostitutes to the demon-god Mithra in his basement." But that'll never happen; Dad doesn't watch the network news.

Anyway, on a pretty regular basis, Dad interrupts my mid-morning or mid-afternoon naps, or both, with some press release about a local play reading or concert or the latest installment of the Rutgers Film Society Anthology. He believes if I go to these events on a regular basis, I'll make friends and life won't be such a drudge. I, the eternal optimist, don't share his belief, which is working out relatively well for me, as Dad is now bribing me to get out of the house. Last Wednesday, he said he'd rent me a video if I went to this staged reading in Maplewood; today, if I went to Starbucks and drank my latte there, he'd pay for it.

So I did.

Dad tells me that people my age hang out at Starbucks, and I tell him that he couldn't tell a 23-year-old from someone barely passing eighth grade. I hang my head and admit that Dad was right: there was this girl there reading who graduated from college last May after spending a year abroad in Melbourne. I know she was in Melbourne because her shirt said "Melbourne" on it. And I know she graduated last May and spent a year abroad cause some guy who's suave and urbane in every way that I'm not sat down next to her and began chatting her up.

I'm sitting there in one of those giant Starbucks lounge chairs, all by my lonesome, drinking my vanilla latte, going over and over again in my mind: She's reading a freaking book, dude! That's the universal international symbol for "Don't bother me, I'm reading a freaking book."

He doesn't care. "Are you from around here?" he asks, totally forgetting about the entire Sunday New York Times he ostensibly meant to read but probably just carries around so naive recent college grads will think he's sophisticated.

"Do you live around here?" she asks. She just moved to Scotch Plains and he, surprise surprise, has lived here for a while. Thankfully, I'm almost done with the damn latte, so I can leave Starbucks content with the knowledge that total strangers hooked up today, and that neither of those strangers was me.