Sam and I are walking down Chelsea. I'm holding coffee and my phone because we’re doing a Sunday ritual where we pour table syrup on everything and don’t totally talk to each other. A woman approaches—it feels like she could be sundowning—a word I co-opted from the dementia crowd to describe losing one’s sensibilities past five pm.
“You have a coffee cup in one hand, you need a phone in the other,” she giggles a little, but seems also certain that this is the plain truth. She has neither, but must have had a daughter because that makes women a little more eccentric. Everyone needs stable male attention and most stop receiving that from their husbands, making sons great transitional objects. Her daughter may wear those phone pouch leggings and alternate between clinging onto a melted cold brew and her boyfriend’s shoulder, who is eyeing a girls’ calves in the reflection of some plastic cups.
I tell everyone that rituals are important now. Riffing is important too, especially in relationships. I keep circling back to what keeps relationships alive, which is desire, but sometimes being undesirable is the only way to figure out the things you actually like.
My mom will drink three cups of coffee before calling the Tradesy HQ and asking for a refund. She spreads out across my dad’s desk, with her legs up (she’s always cared about circulation and has those toe gels to make sure her big toe never sticks to the other ones) and starts vigorously pointing at the air, her rings clinking together, “The shoes were completely in pieces, completely”. She refuses to get a hearing aid but blames her deteriorating ears on noise pollution from my dad’s unremitting love of playing iterations of January 6th on our smart TV while eating burnt ends of stale bread. Butter can be too salty for my mom, she's always explained the things we need to eat everyday are actually just fish and bare salad; never too much salt or really any at all.
One ritual my parents agreed upon, and was possibly the high point of their relationship in the last decade, was going to Weight Watchers. My dad’s weight always fluctuates, my mom, possibly 100 pounds, very much enjoyed the guilt surrounding the whole thing, and I somehow always had to go with them. It was set up much like an NA meeting, except there were scales, weight watchers branded chips, and it was confessional in a more shameful way. They have a SmartPoint system where everyone gets a personalized amount of points to budget throughout the day; Anna’s 90 second mug muffin ranges from 0-11 points, while Sarah’s banana loaf is 0-4 points. There are higher smart points and lower smart point foods, meaning you need to find a balance between the two, and you can even save your points for the next day.
I had to be weighed as well because it was obligatory that anyone let into the gray-carpeted union square office space had to work the program. After meetings, we’d all guess how many points a cheese cube or a piece of prosciutto could be at Balducci’s. Then we’d eat in the dining area, I’d feel a bit uneasy from all the branded snacks, and my mom would jangle her ten pounds lost charm around.
At this time, my dad actually had a good amount of money, something many semi-working class dads with vague physical labor jobs happen upon, which is also why he had a mistress. She was a hooker from Hoboken, which was my only real detail on the situation.
Around the time they fought about the affair we watched August Rush every Sunday morning and he would cry because he was an orphan in France. This has something to do with how much vanilla ice cream he eats.
“She’s really fat now,” my dad explained earnestly about his other woman. He was sitting on the corner of my sister’s bed, I was upright, while my sister was lying down looking at all the plushies lining her ceiling that my mom stuffed up there. “She’s like three hundred pounds now, we just keep in touch as friends, she's gained a lot of weight and it's not like that anymore.”
“She’s just, really really fat now,” I would say to my mom.
A few years later, my dad paid me to shred all his old files, so I went through every paper meticulously and found a New Jersey jewelry store credit card charge for $426. I took this piece into my own personal file cabinet and filed it under “P” for prostitute, but would file it under “H” now because I try to take things a little less seriously.
They weren’t married, so they both could have walked out at any point, but there’s something about the cycle of remembering a years-long affair that keeps desire around, even if it just lets people yell at each other once a year. And they both think about food constantly.
It’s only 2:51pm. I’m at work, and my phone is charging. I do not have coffee because I switched to tea to make sure I never become jaded by the sweet taste. My phone keeps dying so I’m looking into audio adapters that let you charge your phone and listen to music, but the consensus is that this can electrocute you. I feel similarly about AirPods because I think the radiation goes directly through your head as they have to coordinate with one another somehow. I will probably go to Whole Foods and get a fruit bowl in order to stop myself from frequenting the snack room. I think that jobs give you infinite snacks because they are all secretly feeders. My dad gets Galet de Quimper at Le District, my mom goes to Mariebelle for matcha truffles, and I eat babybels while staring out into midtown. I squish the red wax together into the trash and then have another for good faith.
Auri lives in New York.