Danny sits on the queen size bed that he had won in the divorce, staring at the tiny monitor of his daughter’s laptop. He sold his computer, along with most of his furniture, clothes, and keepsakes, in a fruitless attempt to keep his apartment on West 57th for two more months. The blank Word document that should, by this time, be a completed cover letter is taunting him. He knows if he could write a decent cover letter, he could get a decent job, leading to a decent pay-check, allowing him to keep his decent apartment, decent life-style, and decent level of sanity. He also knows he doesn’t want a decent job. He doesn’t care about a decent paycheck. He hates his decent apartment. He just hates moving more. He is bored of his decent life-style. He jealously listens to people on the subway and in Starbucks, where he gets his morning Lactose Free Latte, wondering what it would be like to “do a cleanse” or “get away for the weekend.” He dreams of leaving the city, leaving his so-called friends, and finding a commune or a cult to join, something that would piss his now ex-wife off and force her new rich boyfriend to spend his exceedingly inappropriate sums of money on the kids travel expenses to Danny’s new rustic abode.
To Whom It May Concern… Seems like a pretty good beginning. The paperclip pops up and offers some advice on writing a cover letter. Danny asks, aloud, if it could just write the letter for him, and after, if it could go to the interview, get the job and do the job for him. He suddenly realizes how thirsty he is and rushes to the refrigerator. His Brita filter is empty, because he never remembers to refill it. He recalls a number of arguments that started over his inability to remember to fill the over-priced water filtration unit. He never understood why water didn’t come filtered already. Everyone needs a filter. Can’t drink the water as it is, apparently. His ex’s voice echoes through his mind and before he knows what he’s done, the Brita water filtration unit is flying out the window.
It is my objective in writing you today… to obtain a job…. Every word is punishment. He decides to give himself a moment of satisfaction. To obtain a job that will require me to stay at home, sleep in, attempt to remove my ex-wife’s memory from my masturbatory catalog, over-eat, never exercise, watch day-time TV, complain about the day-time TV I have become addicted to, and when I am in the mood, come into the office for an out-of-bed nap. I have ample experience in all of these categories and feel I would really add nothing to your office. Therefore, you would be an absolute ass to not hire me.
The phone rings. Danny highlights and deletes.
It’s an unknown caller. Danny hates answering the phone blind. He wonders how he had survived life before caller ID, which leads to a train of thought about how he had ever lived happily without various technological advances aimed at making life easier, keeping us all constantly connected, and eliminating all personal time. He runs through his Rolodex of excuses as to why he can’t talk, just in case it’s an undesirable caller. The fifth ring blasts. He knows he has two more before his voicemail picks it up. As much as he doesn’t want to answer the call, he wants to check his voicemail even less. And, it could be a job. Perhaps this is the call, the call that will put an end to the daily job search, the mornings spent flipping from website to website, searching for that ad, the hours spent staring at Word documents, wondering how else he can say, “HIRE ME, DAMN IT!” This could be it. His heart thumps and, for some reason, he closes his eyes. “Hello?”
The disappointment of hearing his landlord’s voice is overwhelming, and while he has a number of excuses ready, Danny’s hand just drops the phone. He turns and glides back to the bedroom, where his body moves smoothly and carefully. He pulls out his suitcase, empties the contents of his sock and underwear drawers into the large bag, grabs a few shirts, making sure to leave behind all appropriate business attire, finds his jeans, two pairs of shorts, and his running shoes. He makes sure to turn all the lights off. He turns off his oven, which he realizes he had left on the night before when he baked his second frozen pizza. He closes his daughter’s laptop and smiles at the disheveled room. Then, he turns and leaves.
The streets are packed. It’s marathon weekend. All the restaurants and shops have signs in the windows offering special deals for runners. Danny moves through he crowd with ease. His mind is still working on the perfect wording for the cover letter that he’ll never send.
To Whom It May Concern… I am very interested in your advertised position and feel that my background and… He hails a cab, deciding to treat himself to a nice ride to Central Station.
Standing in front of the large arrival and departure board, his mind swirls with options. He could go north and walk the Hudson River, maybe find a cozy spot somewhere not far from Poughkeepsie. He had visited there when he was a teenager. He and his dad were visiting colleges and spent a weekend up state. They had great pizza near the Vassar campus. Danny wishes he had gone there for school. It would’ve changed so much. Maybe he would’ve never met his ex-wife, would’ve met someone kind and good. He would’ve discovered something he actually loved doing instead of just settling for a sales job right out of school, instead of picking at random and being fearful to leave afterwards, so that over the seventeen years he worked there, hating every moment of it, and rising along the ladder of what everyone else called success, he could’ve actually been happy. He could’ve found passion and love, and possibly filled that empty place inside his heart that quakes with every beat, that sends small, empty bubbles into the rest of him, infecting his words, his movements, his feelings, and his overwhelming belief that he is meant for something more.
He could go south, head to another city, maybe Boston or Washington D.C. He could head way south into the mountains of Tennessee, where he had visited when he was seventeen with his high-school girlfriend’s family. They waterskied and swam through the murky, dark waters of Bourbon country. He could probably afford a comfy little cottage down there; find a job working in a bar or at a gas station, just something to cover living expenses. He could bar-b-q every weekend and find friends who wake up at two in the morning to go fishing at three. They would share stories about their best catches and old girlfriends. He could slow everything down and relax for the rest of his days.
To Whom It May Concern… I feel that I would make a great addition to your office. My background has helped me build an arsenal of skills that would be incredibly valuable to your….
He just stands there for what could be hours. At one point, while contemplating returning to his childhood home and offering to buy it from the woman that bought it from his mom after his dad passed away, he chuckles, not being able to recall if he hung the phone up or left it sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. He wonders how his kids will react to his sudden departure. Maggie will be upset. She’ll have to take a trip into the city for her computer. Paul can drive her in. He’ll be more upset but won’t say so. He’ll find a way to turn into fuel for his next game. He always does.
Danny wonders if he’ll ever see them again and worries that he should feel more about that. But, right now, all he can do is stand and stare at the ever-changing board of possibilities. He hears the whispers of hundreds of travellers, some on their way home from work, some just out for lunch, some on their way out of town, some just coming back, everyone’s face focused and tired. He sees a woman with four suitcases and two kids, struggling to keep everything moving in the same direction. No one else sees her, offers to help, or cares. His heart breaks for her and he thinks of his ex-wife, when Paul was first born and they were living in a small one-bedroom on East 6th Street. He wishes he could take a train back to right then. Get off the train and step right into his twenty-seven year old body, walking home from work after suffering through his third anniversary at Guild Capital and Consulting, excited over the prospect of the raise and bonus he received, ready to take his family out for a nice dinner where he’ll tell them it’s time to buy an apartment uptown. He would do things so differently. He would stay in that small one-bedroom. He would quit his job the next day. He would celebrate the end of the torture. He would… He would’ve…
Danny turns away from the board. He looks up at the epic ceiling and says the words aloud, “I would’ve…” He repeats them. He can’t stop saying them. He realizes he has lived his entire life waiting for something, all the while saying, “I would’ve…” He has missed out every opportunity life has given him because he was too busy looking at what some other opportunity might be. He’s never lived a moment of his life for what that moment should be, could be, would be if he had just stopped saying “I would’ve…”
He starts to walk to nowhere in particular. His bag is weightless over his shoulder and his feet float over the marble floors of Grand Central. He thinks of Maggie and Paul smiling and waving to him. He waves back. A businessman walking out of the office straight ahead thinks Danny is waving to him and waves back. Danny doesn’t see him and the man spends the rest of the day wondering who was waving at him. Danny continues floating. He catches scent of some fresh cinnamon buns and follows the aroma. It’s so sweet and delicious. But, when he reaches the bakery, he walks by as though he has a destination.
He walks right onto platform twelve. A conductor is making the final call for boarding. Danny smirks. It’s been so long since he’s travelled by train, he forgot that they still call, “All Aboard!” like they do in old movies. He climbs into car number three and looks around at the travellers, all aware of their destination. He sees a boy with a Niagara Falls t-shirt and wonders if he’ll end up there. A girl has a White Sox hat on and Danny thinks, “Chicago wouldn’t be so bad.” He finds an empty seat and makes himself comfortable. He lies back and closes his eyes. He hears the train release a large puff of steam and feels the locomotive surge into movement. His heart beat calms and his mind drifts away in thought.
To Whom It May Concern… I’m not going to write you today or any day. I don’t want whatever job you may have to offer. I want a change. I’m going on an adventure. I’m not making any plans. I’m not picking a destination. I have no expectations. I cannot be disappointed. I’m taking a risk. I am, for the first time, living my life.
Thank you very much for your time.