New Years, Pearls

I went over and touched the pearls. "Are they real?" "No."


I arrived in the squalor of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to find Jane, prepared for 1998 in feather boa and boots with four inch heels. She wanted me to say, "you look fabulous," but I wouldn't.

She hinted, and finally asked me straight if she looked sexy. "Just tell me one time," she said.

"You should decide for yourself," I said, with a little smile. I'd been reading Walden on the train.

My only decorations, below my faded sweater and unfaded jeans, were large white Helvetica letters pressed onto my shoes. The right shoe reads "City of" and the left reads "Shoes." Everyone looks at each other's shoes in the city, especially on the subway, and I wanted to let my shoes communicate.

I took a few shots of Gilbey's gin before we walked into the bracing cold. Standing on Broadway, under the elevated J, Sam, Jane, and I flagged a taxi. It was the Muscovite driver's first time in Brooklyn, and ten dollars later we discovered that N 3 St and S 3 St are not connected. The streets are brothers who never meet.

Arriving at the party, in a large warehouse inhabited by artists, I saw people I didn't know, and others I never had anything to say to in the first place. I also saw disco balls. To Sam, I said: "let's drop the ball at midnight." We found a ladder and clumsily, because we were already drunk, strung a big shiny mirror ball above a rafter. "That looks good," I said.

After I finished the gin, I filled the tonic bottles with beer. A half-hour before midnight, I looked over to see Laura come in.

She had a black velvet dress and white pearls, and she wasn't trying to be beautiful, but had achieved it. "Look," I said to Sam. "Laura gets more wonderful each time."

"Wow," he said.

I went over and touched the pearls. "Are they real?"


"You make them real by wearing them."

I wanted to think more about this, and talk more, but there was a quick blur of hugs, a long wait for the bathroom, and we dropped the ball. The crowd cheered. It was 12:01 AM, January 1, 1998. This was how we lived during 1997.

New Years Day

Continued from New Years Eve: 31-dec-97.

It was 1998 and I still felt fat and drunk. I sat down with Jan. "I love Alice," she said.

"Three years, huh?" I asked.

"Yeah, three years together in Michigan. I love her. She's beautiful."

"I thought so in college, too," I said.

"She's getting fat. I love to bite her ass."

"Flesh is great," I said. "I loved biting my ex-girlfriend's ass."

"And look, this is a secret, but we're going back to her place in Brooklyn and I can't wait to do it to her on the bed where she grew up. I can't wait. Her parents in the next room. It's going be amazing."

"Rhonda and I made out on her bed at home. She kept wanting to neck and then got scared, like it was high school."

"Yeah. Fuck yeah," she said. "That's what I want." She looked over me, and said, "Oh God, what's that?"

I turned my head. To my left on the couch, my college roommate was kissing Barbara Martin. Twelve years his senior, an emotional mess, and legendary, at least at college. Jane and I had written a song about Barbara (the tune is ELO's "Evil Woman"):

Anal lover,
She's an anal lover.
Such an anal lover.
She's an anal lover.

"You kissed Barbara Martin."

"Oh, God. What was I thinking?"


Still looking on in horror, Jan said, "Make him stop!" I shook my head.

"No, let him get confused first. Then we'll get Jane to intervene with Barbara, and I'll get him home. There won't be anything really regretful."

"You should sleep with him," she said.

"No, we lived together and we were sophomores. If that doesn't break down the barrier, nothing will. We're dang hetero."

"Too bad," she said. "It would be nice."

I nodded. "Yeah, but, uh..."

Before long Jane needed to get back to Alice, and I went over to Jane and told him about the situation with Sam. "I'll work on it," she said, going over to warn Barbara Martin away from him.

So I went to talk to Laura. She and I sat on the floor by the booze table. I told her how beautiful she looked, the same spoken credit I denied to Jane, because Laura wasn't trying to be lovely, but had attained the genuine state of attraction and comeliness. While Jane is a very attractive, sexy person, the kind that makes men stumble, she's a Schrödinger's cat of compliments, beautiful if you tell her, but full of self-loathing without being told she's a marvel in skin and blood. But Laura. Laura was beautiful without me, or you. If you pressed a spirit level across her shoulders, the bubble wouldn't move; her movement is scripted from some spiritual authority. She stays calm and still, where I can't wait for a soda from a vending machine without hopping up and down from nerves. Each swing of her arm defines an arc--not stiff, but smooth, like a ball thrown high into the air, then returning to earth, all watched over by a sharp smile.

She likes me, and sees through me completely. The combination is potent--a person who enjoys me as not a giggling clown, but as the Pennsylvania goof I am, bad hair and a little trashy and out of it, and still talks to me, writes me. I remain her forever adoring servant.

"We'll get married to some people and have an affair with each other," I said.

"Yes, and it'll be so deep because we're artists."

"Very deep. Our spouses will cry but understand and forgive us. We'll realize it's hopeless," I said.

"Absolutely hopeless," she said.

"Our poor spouses. but we love them, and raised the children with them. I'll be thin and handsome at that point, and a little famous," I said.

"I'll take you as you are," she said.

Had I a novel waiting to be dedicated, she could have the dedication, and all the scant profits. Had she asked me to move her furniture from Washington to San Francisco, I would have bought a train ticket the next morning. She didn't need to move, and I don't have a novel, though, and it was closing on four. So she went to find a place to sleep, and I grabbed Sam. "Oh, God," he said, "I kissed Barbara Martin." We found the G train five blocks away, and got home at five.

Sam woke at nine, and left to visit another friend. I grogged around, feeling lonely after a solid week of guests, then went back to sleep until one, when Jane called.

"I've got to go for the train. I'm leaving Penn Station at 2:45. Did you see that guy I was hanging out with?"

"Yeah. Blonde."

"Well, it was really wonderful, because I had a huge crush on him all freshman year, and he kept telling me how good I looked all night. It was special."

"You looked beautiful," I said. "You really did. I was so glad you came down. Have a safe trip up."

Happy 1998, Journal Readers. 365 days to go.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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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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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

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Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

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