The Unforgiving Glare
Do not look at me while I eat these damp scrambled eggs! Give me my dignity!
I spent New Year’s Eve, unfortunately, inevitably, at The Embers, where they had a special deal going: buy six drinks and the seventh gets thrown in your face for free.
I awoke the next morning on the floor of my room at the Ballast Hotel, my mouth tasting like the ruins of a burned-down zoo. I was relieved to discover I was fully clothed. Even better, I was wearing a champagne-colored party dress I’d never seen before.
After my usual morning-after ritual (staring dead-eyed at myself in the bathroom mirror for 8-10 minutes, then gargling with a mouthwash I handcrafted from vinegar and eucalyptus oil) (and rum) (and store-bought mouthwash) I crept outside to see how Fort Hook was doing in this glorious new year.
I gotta say, it looked pretty rough. Beat-up and haggard. Stubbly. The smell was deeply upsetting. An old man sat down on the sidewalk and cried. A little girl said the c-word. A guy had a machete.
The Hook is really not a morning town, at least not this time of year. It can get a ruggedly romantic vibe at dusk, when the light is warm and blurry. But in the morning? No. The winter sun is harsh, difficult, confrontational. Makes everyone look like they just hauled themselves out of their own graves.
So I averted my gaze and shuffled over to Marvelous Marv, a diner tucked in among the longhouses where the dockworkers and stevedores live.
Marv knows to keep the windows shuttered and the lighting moody and indirect, providing some respite from the unforgiving glare outside. It’s difficult to see what you’re eating, but that’s probably for the best. There are no mirrors, not even angled above the pies. The only reflective surface is the polished chrome of the counter, which makes you look ghostly and handsome. A creature of dusk.
I went in and was pleased to see that everyone was eating alone, hunched over their breakfast, not making eye contact. Their body language all said the same thing: Please do not perceive me as I bury this hangover in corned beef hash.
I shoved myself into a booth and the vinyl made this horrific squeal. The waitress came over and said nice dress. I told her to line up shots of coffee syrup and keep em coming. She asked if I had any New Year’s resolutions and I said yes.
I said I’m a writer—her eyes instantly glazed over but I pressed on—I’m a writer and I write a very important newsletter about this town. And my resolution is to never hide behind fiction or metaphor. This year, I will only tell the truth about Fort Hook and, more importantly, about myself. No matter how humiliating or dangerous that might be. Emotional honesty is more important than anything.
(And I hereby vow to provide that to you, my best friend, the person reading these words right now. You deserve it.)
Then I asked the waitress if she had any resolutions, and she said she was going on a baloney-free diet, and thus had to end our conversation immediately.
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