Sarah Fonder lives in Brooklyn and doesn’t know what she is yet.
I pore over the details of my dreams, trying not to fall back into them. I fail a couple of times, but reality eventually wins. I don’t think so much about plot anymore—just the small details. I remember swimming pools, exploring someone’s room, a violent ballet routine, a monster swallowing up a park. I write the symbols down with the intention of figuring out what they mean, but I probably won’t. For now I just let these weird images live together in my head.
Two different cars drive by my place blasting loud pop music and I try to figure out what they’re listening to. I stand by my window and pay attention to what lyrics I hear so I can look them up. The first car is playing Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me”; the second is playing Kanye’s “Clique.” I put them at the end of a giant Spotify playlist of everything else I’ve heard people listening to while they drive by my apartment. I learn about all kinds of music this way, and it’s fun to try and look for patterns, though there usually aren’t any.
I finally manage to coax myself out of bed, put on yesterday’s pants, brush my teeth. I stare at my reflection for a second, weirded out at how increasingly adult my face looks. I think I might’ve still looked like a child a year ago, but maybe I didn’t. Maybe my perception just changed. And no matter what conclusion I reach about my level of adulthood, plenty of people will still tell you I look 17. It used to bother me, but I don’t really worry about it anymore.
I run to a café across the street in hopes of grabbing a bagel. I think I recognize the lead singer of Charly Bliss working behind the counter and freak out a little. I’m tempted to say something, but I don’t. They’re out of bagels.
My mom calls. There’s this emptiness to her voice, the way she speaks when she has bad news. I’m suddenly worried something’s wrong at home.
“Is everything okay?” I ask.
“I’m sad,” she says. I remember my twin sister, Allie, is on a plane to New York right now. She’s moving here after seven months of living at home. It’ll be the first time we’ve lived in the same city in almost six years, since we graduated high school.
She says Allie’s been worried about our relationship. And there is a degree of tension, considering she just found a job and I’ve spent the last two months looking for one. I tell Mom there’s nothing to worry about, that I’m just keeping to myself and figuring out my own shit. I’ve always seen Allie as the Gallant to my Goofus, but it’s easy to forget she doesn’t have everything together either. She’s probably just as scared as I am.
Mom and I talk about the ways Allie and I have been forced to grow up in the past year. We’re on the phone for maybe 45 minutes before she has to go to work.
I get out of the shower and see a text from my sister. She just landed in Chicago and wants to know what I’m doing today/tonight. I say my plans are pretty flexible. She says there’s a chance she’ll be pooped from moving, but she thinks she’ll be fine. I tell her to let me know.
I am having so much fun getting ready for a party that I forget I’m probably going to be at least two hours late. Am I going to wear a crop top today? Yes. I’m feeling dangerous. I open my curtains up dramatically during a crescendo in The New Radicals’ “Mother, We Just Can’t Get Enough.”
Lately I’ve been trying this whole “put a real, concentrated effort into my physical appearance” thing. Last night it led to me accidentally looking like a new wave singer. Today my vibe is “goth version of Foxy from Jawbreaker.” I look pretty great. Turns out people dress up because it’s fun! Who fucking knew?
So… crop tops make me reeeeal nervous! I look so much more confident than I really am! But I turn on School of Seven Bells, swoon over the weather, and get over it for now.
I wait for the 7 with a growing pit in my stomach. My lunch didn’t do shit and the music I’m listening to is stressing me out. I turn on the new Bully album my friend sent me a few days ago and immediately love it.
After way too much time on various train platforms, I get to Astoria and head to my friend Wish’s party. Once I get to her street, I can see all my friends drinking on a balcony in springy outfits. I enthusiastically scream “HI” from across the street. No one hears me. I buy a six-pack and try again. Everybody sees me this time. I go upstairs and there’s a table covered in pies, a cooler full of shandy, and several of my favorite faces soaking up the beautiful weather. I am in heaven.
After a while of sitting in the sun, I worry I’m burning. Wish lets me borrow her sunscreen. Her apartment has a chill ‘70s vibe and I suddenly feel like I’m in Boogie Nights. I go back outside and stand in the shade with a couple of my friends. We talk about how excited we are for a summer of wiffle ball and drinking on patios.
“This feels like the beginning of Boogie Down, that first half before everything is terrible,” my friend Matt says.
My friend Jim tilts his head back, laughs, and shouts, “NOTHING BAD WILL EVER HAPPEN!”
“Do you mean Boogie Nights?” I ask Matt. “I was seriously thinking that just a few minutes ago.”
“Yes, Boogie Nights!” he says, holding his bottle up for me to toast him.
“Here’s to the good half,” I say, and all three of us clink our drinks together.
The sun is going down, but the party is still fairly strong. My friend Stefanie says she’s been trying to figure out what Muppets we’d all be. Jim and his best friend Lewie are laughing on the other side of the table. They’re easily our Statler and Waldorf, Stefanie says. A couple of people agree I’m Janice, and I’m into it. I think about it for a minute and tell Stefanie she’s probably Skeeter from Muppet Babies.
Allie says she’s landed and asks what I’m up to. I tell her I’m at a great party if she wants to join. She says she’s getting food in Greenpoint but will check back with me later.
Most of the party has cleared out by now. Stefanie has made herself a parfait out of several different pies, and I’m inspired to grab more. Eryka finds me voraciously stuffing my face in a dark living room, and I tell her I’m sure I look ridiculous, but she joins me almost immediately. We’re ravenous.
Jim walks in and sits down in front of us like he’s watching TV. He tells me I remind him of someone in a disaster movie who’s seeing food for the first time in months. It eventually starts a refreshingly honest conversation about how we’d all be in an apocalypse situation.
“Please, I’d kill you immediately,” Jim says to me. “You’d steal all our rations. ‘Should we keep Sarah Fonder?’ ‘I saw that bitch eat nine pies. We’re killing her.’”
I start to protest for a minute, but remember my weak stomach.
“Don’t worry, we wouldn’t eat you,” Eryka says. “You guys could eat me though. I’d probably kill myself.”
I tell her our friend Chloe said the same thing in a similar conversation, so she’s in good company. We realize we haven’t put any girls on our list of survivors, so we try to think of female friends who aren’t too anxious for an apocalypse. At first we can’t think of any, but we manage to come up with at least three.
Jim continues to talk about disaster scenarios with a guy I don’t know. I grab a Modelo from the six-pack I bought and bring it inside.
“I feel like this beer is a bad idea,” I say.
“Try that sentence again,” Eryka says.
“This beer is… a… great idea.”
“There you go.”
There are about seven of us left at Wish’s. I sprawl out on her couch and wonder if I should go home and nap, but I figure I’m fine. We talk about who we’d have sex with if we had a time machine and some condoms. We go all over the place, but most of us agree on a few easy answers: Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, David Bowie. Eryka’s not into Bowie, and I get it. I bring up Steve Buscemi in the ‘80s, thinking I’ll get funny looks, but no one protests. Two or three people agree with me, and I’m weirdly delighted. It just feels good to be around people who understand me. My friend Ben has the best answers: Jezebel, Oscar Wilde, and the first fish who walked on land.
Eryka puts on her shoes and bike helmet. Sam and I follow suit for no real reason, though we don’t know where we’d go. Eryka heads out and says she’d be down to hang out later if we’re still in Astoria. Ben says we could go to his place, but Stefanie’s afraid of bumping into one of his roommates. He lives right across the street, so I suggest going over, checking if his roommate’s out, and texting Stefanie if the coast is clear. We agree that’s a solid idea and he asks me to come with him.
Ben and I take the short walk to his place. I look all the books on his huge bookshelf and he says I’m free to borrow any of them. There’s a ton of comics, religious textbooks, books on philosophy and sex and food. I’m a little tempted by The Sandman and Women Who Run with the Wolves, but I don’t feel like taking anything tonight. Ben and I talk about religion and he turns on an episode of Futurama.
Allie texts and says she’s too tired to meet up, but I figured we weren’t getting together at this point. She suggests breakfast and tells me to text her when I wake up, considering she’ll probably be up before me. She’s probably right.
Stefanie calls from downstairs, saying she and Sam have been waiting outside for a few minutes. We catch Chloe on her way back from a party and she talks to us for a bit before going to her room. We all sit on Ben’s bed and Sam says he’s too hungry to stay long. I remember there’s a pizza in the fridge that Chloe has refused to eat for personal reasons. I tell Sam it’ll go to waste if we don’t eat it, and he’s sold. I microwave each of us a slice and we all watch the union episode of The Simpsons. It’s one of the few episodes I’ve seen before, but only once in a room full of loud drunk people. I like it better this time.
Ben and I watch another episode of The Simpsons after Sam and Stefanie leave. It’s the one about bludgeoning snakes. I like it less than the last one. A few minutes after it’s over, Ben says he’s going to bed. He invites me to stay on the couch, but I’d rather just go home. I finish the new Bully album on the long walk to the subway. It takes a while for the train to come. I feel sad for some reason, but Zola Jesus comes on my shuffle and I feel better.
A 7 train is conveniently waiting for me once I get off the N. It’s nice and empty, so I situate myself by the window. This is my favorite part of the ride home from Queens. I go into a bit of a trance watching my shifting reflection against the skyscrapers of Long Island City. I zone out to my music, pretend I’m flying, and quickly forget anyone else is on the train. A minute or so later, I get off at Court Square, feeling self-possessed in a way I haven’t all day. I don’t look down when I walk, at least not for a while.
I get off at my last stop. People are taking their time walking up the stairs, and I get frustrated, but I remember I have no reason to rush. I break away from the crowd and walk back up to the street. I suddenly feel sad again, but then I think of someone who makes me happy. I repeat this for the rest of the night.