Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Move-Out, Part I:
Chopsticks

The day after I moved out of New Brunswick, I returned to my still relatively shiny job in New York City and noticed, not for the first time, the arising of a specific craving for sushi, which the area near Grand Central Station is more than happy to nurture. What made the craving odd, I guess, was the profusion of cheaper fare in most of the other establishments within easy reach. After all, I had just spent several hundred of my best and most cherished dollars to extricate myself from the city that has, on and off (mostly on), been my home for the last 13 years. Lunch from Subway would have run me in the neighborhood of $6.00. Soup and salad from Cafe Bistro sits at a flat and even $7.00, and they throw in a drink too. There was pizza at a couple bucks a slice if I felt so inclined; there was Wendy's and its value menu. And I'm still omitting, literally, dozens, of other potential candidates.

Uh uh. I wanted sushi.

$12.50 later, I got back to my desk and went through the careful ritual of pouring packets of soy sauce into a small plastic cup amid stacks of documents that were reasonably important - or at least, important enough not to have soy sauce accidentally spattered on them. Care was of the essence. But that's how I treat my job.

I wish I could say the same for whoever's job it was to slice the chopsticks with which I ate my meal. These were chopsticks of the cheap, splintery variety that really looked more like overgrown toothpicks blunted at the edges. Or only sharp enough, anyway, to pick the teeth of some creature whose dental dimensions were on a Jurassic scale relative to mine. Not that creatures that size have ever developed with opposable thumbs, mind you, making toothpicks sort of a moot point.

But getting back to these particular chopsticks, I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed - maybe even slightly hurt - to land with these instruments which had somehow slipped by quality control with a jaggedly cut incision that veered, country-road style, from the shallow pre-stamped canyon bisecting the wood.

I don't normally take such shoddy workmanship personally, but I was at the time considering one (or two) of the many better alternatives to these specific utensils. For instance, the countertop compartment of plastic forks that I had passed over at the sushi joint. Or the upright display of plasticware in the office kitchenette down the hall, which stood in much easier reach of my desk. Or for that matter, the pair of really nice black chopsticks etched with some colorful and vaguely oriental design that had come, paired with another pair, as a stocking stuffer in December, and were now residing in a six-foot-tall Dumpster in central New Jersey.

One pair of said chopsticks had been packed in a cardboard box with several pounds of other miscellaneous kitchenwares. The other pair, however, I had left behind at the request of my ex-fiancee, who had specifically asked me for them when they made their first appearance in our broken home last December. I had no reason to grant her the favor, but I had no reason not to either. And being a reasonably genial and somewhat courteous person, of course I said yes.

I ate my spicy tuna roll, frowning at the chopsticks all the while, and contemplated the sad and arduous circumstances of my Memorial Day weekend that had resulted the ignominious disposal of chopsticks that I otherwise would have kept. The problem was really timing (but isn't it always), and I mean that in the sense that if I had known on Friday what I knew on Tuesday, I would have strongly reconsidered ever being genial or courteous to a girl who turned out to be a boorish and disappointing thief.

It's not so much that the stocking stuffer chopsticks were left behind. Things like that happen all the time when people move out of places. And ultimately, these were just chopsticks after all, clearly available in the sub-$10 section of any Kitchen Kapers or Bed, Bath, & Beyond anywhere in New Jersey. I could have replaced them, but that's not really what this was about.

It was about my ex, who made a blanket decision to throw out the chopsticks (along what seemed like a ton or two of her garbage) after she asked me specifically if she could have them.

She didn't even show up at the apartment to go through the drawer full of kitchen items I had organized and left for her as a byproduct of my packing - to say nothing of large pieces of furniture, an entire set of French country style dishes, pounds and pounds of food, and whatever else it is that my outrage won't permit me to remember.

I don't mean to sound so parsimonious here, but goddammit, I do not appreciate when my weeks worth of planning and hard work are summarily ignored at the expense, literally, of hundreds of dollars worth of household goods that could have found a better home somewhere than a fucking Dumpster. And for the record, I also don't appreciate it when I am forced to Spackle and paint walls; sweep and scrub entire rooms; and haul leftover couches, tables, and shelving units with zero assistance, all in the interest of getting back my half of the security deposit.

The chopsticks were the tip of an iceberg of disappointment and sadness so large that it could tip the balance of global warming in favor of the next ice age, if the iceberg existed anywhere outside of this metaphor.

Essentially what it boiled down to was this: while I spent the lion's share of the month of May sorting my belongings, listing and cataloging all the things I needed to keep and could afford to replace (I hope), and packing until my fingers were chafed and my shoulders were aching, I didn't expect my last weekend in New Brunswick to be such a fucking marathon. But since the ex decided that her plans in the Poconos were more important than being a basically decent and responsible human being, I ended up getting screwed.

And so did my chopsticks.

I don't know if I'm the most well-adjusted person in the world. I doubt I am. So I'm not entirely sure if there was a Freudian basis to my desire for sushi the next day, whether it was the power of a very subliminal suggestion that nested itself as an armful of cheese knives and chopsticks clanged their way into the trash, or whether it was just some arbitrary thing that prompted a too-deep examination of things.

4 comments:

Pete said...

Dumpster, like Spackle, is a proper noun.

I'll comment more on this later.

EAB said...

Your arteries thank you for chosing the spicy tuna roll over Wendy's value meal.

The rest, well, might I suggest another dinner at Khin Kao, if you know what I mean...

Pete said...

Another way to look at this situation you were left in by your ex-fiancee:

It cost you some bills and some extra time that she should have paid to walk away from this. Let's say, and I don't know, $150 worth of bills and $150 worth of labor time.

There are probably a whole lot of divorced guys out there wishing they got out of such a mess that cheap.

Think of how much it would have cost you to get divorced, and maybe that will give you a perspective that quells the much-deserved anger.

You got out cheap, and now you are a 31-year-old single guy living in freaking NYC with a job you ostensibly enjoy and the female world at your fingertips.

Could be worse.

Matt Hooban said...

In re-reading this, I sort of see how it comes off a little bit as a plea for sympathy and less as a tale viewed through the rosy and somewhat dim view of hindsight. Granted, it was only two or three weeks ago, but still.

I guess it's one of the problems of story crafting that there's a natural push toward the dramatic, or at least to the old reliable arc that drives toward a climax and some sort of resolution. What I find almost spectacular, though, is as much as the overall story (this is only part 1) actually resolved itself, all of this occurred with so little embellishment that I'm nearly embarrassed to have written it. I feel exposed somehow. But I guess that's what this blog is about.

Pete, your estimates bear a remarkable similarity to a sum that comes into play in part 3 of this cycle, so more on that later. But I certainly can't disagree with anything you've said, not in the least.

One other note: if I'm hung up at all, it has more to do with my own nested neuroses and the idiosyncrasies my personal philosophy than the hangover from any romantic entanglement. Kin Khao, anyone?