First Impressions Rock (!)

Ways To Impress People + Make Friends At Your New Office: A List By Kelly Bergin
On day 1, trip headfirst into a conference room wall. Wait for reassuring laughter, and turn crimson as you are instead met with stunned silence.

On day 2, purchase a New England Clam Chowder in a bread bowl from the very smelly fish market in Chelsea Market. Bring it up to your desk, and when you think no one is looking, use a piece of the bread as a napkin. Quickly realize that your boss is watching in disgust.

On day 3, view a Hanson fan tribute video on YouTube (BECAUSE YOU LIKE THE SONG AND DON’T HAVE iTUNES), and get caught by boss again.

On day 4, make an ill-conceived joke about prostate cancer and turn red as a coworker mentions his father had it.

On day 5, dress inappropriately and walk around all day with a notepad covering your chest. You know, just in case anyone is watching.

I can’t believe no one’s asked me out for drinks yet.


My Italian Boyfriend

On the fifth night of my trip (Kelly’s Solo Sojourn Through Europe: Trail of Tears Edition), I took a late train out of Paris du Nord back to King’s Cross Station in London.
It was an evening train during the holiday week in Europe, and it was plenty packed. I had all of my belongings with me, a week’s worth of clothes, computer and camera shoved into two bags. It crowded the seat because I’m short and can never reach the overhead compartment. Usually some gentleman offers to stow my stuff, but I was in France and did not speak French. I wanted to keep to myself. It had been my goal of the trip, my raison d'aller—keep to yourself, let it wash over you, write what you can.
An old lady stopped at my row and inwardly, I groaned. Three hour train ride with this old broad? She stared at me until I moved my bags closer to my chest, prepared to be uncomfortable for three hours. But I got lucky, because she noticed an empty seat upfront and quickly moved.
After she got up, I spread my bags out across the two seats and that’s when I noticed him. Blonde, curly-haired with pink cheeks. He was speaking with his parents in a language I didn’t understand. Soon I realized it to be Italian. Almost immediately, he noticed me and we locked eyes.

(If you are thinking that finally! Finally I made a love connection overseas, you are wrong.)

This happened often, this attraction. I was known for this ability, this weird tendency of infants and small children to gravitate towards me. I jokingly call myself The Baby Whisperer, and in a way it is true—children flock to me, and I am silly enough to relate to them. 

This boy couldn’t have been more than two. We were on a French train, with different languages between the both of us. But I played along as he stared at me across the seat. I moved my sunglasses up and down on my face, a game of peek-a-boo. He laughed, clapped his hands together. Then he reached toward me, and his mother looked at me, surprised. I didn’t want to seem like some sort of weird, single, childless pariah, so I looked away and back into my book. The boy began to cry until I looked up again. Then he reached for me.
His uncle, a slight man in his twenties, possessed some English. He sat in front of us, across the aisle from me. He spoke briskly with the little boy’s parents and then said to me “We are so surprised. Frederico hates strangers, he won’t even go to me most times.” I laughed nervously and asked, hopefully: “Would you like me to hold him?”
The boy crawled toward me and settled against my chest. He lay there and we wordlessly played with my sunglasses and his snow globe. It felt like a long time passed, but it could not have been more than ten minutes until I gave him back to his parents.  “What a sweet boy,” I said, helpless in my English. His uncle translated, and then again expressed his shock that the boy went to me, he never goes to strangers, he is so shy.
I smiled, sudden warmth flowing through me. “I just have a way with kids sometimes. He’s a beautiful boy,” I said.
I rested my head against my seat and closed my eyes, overcome at this feeling of peace. Finally, it seemed I was sedated against the heavy and constant flow of anxiety that had become so much of my trip, the inner monologue that hadn’t stopped since I landed. The warmth of a child on my chest, a boy who immediately loved me, had sated my anxiety at last.
Before we disembarked, I looked at Frederico once more, his chest sleepily rising and falling, his face pressed against his mother's. I reached for my bags, looked back once more and smiling, slipped out the door and into the black London night.


A Song For My Mother

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Your delinquent firstborn


Happy Birthday, Greg.

It’s my baby brother’s birthday today. He’s 20 years old.

Twenty years ago, my sister and I woke up to find out we had a brother. We held hands and jumped up and down on the bed.

This kid and I have gotten into so much trouble over the years. When we were little, we wrestled for hours at a time, breaking many household items in the process. When he was trying out for basketball in 5th grade, I practiced with him daily and told him he couldn’t handle my ‘street ball’. To this day, if I sing the words ‘street ball, street ball’, he gets angry.

Greg is sensitive. He’s smarter than he knows. He’s also a pain in the ass know-it-all.  He’s cocky. (Sample Greg line, as he stares into the mirror: “Damn, I get better looking every day.”) But he is a beautiful, beautiful boy, one I’ve loved watching mature into a sensitive young adult.

I love him and my sister equally and unconditionally. The three of us are a team. We will always, always be.

Happy birthday, Greg. Mets tickets on me.


The Uncared For

I study the elderly, the drunk, the crestfallen as they sit on park benches, as they dance  without pants on in Tompkins Square Park.

I look at them and wonder where they went wrong. I wonder at one point did their friends stop caring. I want to stare at them, search their clothing (or lack thereof) for a piece of information, for a pin or paper that says “In this year, my parents threw their hands in the air and said that they had had enough.” I understand that it is not easy to care for the mentally ill. I understand it is difficult to give your love fully and completely to an alcoholic. But it’s hard to give yourself to anyone, really, because you know that they have the power to twist that love into something else, something that can only hurt.

Was he happy once, this drunk dancing with no pants on? Did he love someone and only lose it after it was lost? Could I maybe lose it one day, too? The powers of human transformation haunt me.

I look at the man, his pants slid halfway down to his knees. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry, whether to exploit him with my iPhone camera or to just leave well enough alone. As we watch, I take one shot and briskly walk away, my friends trailing me quietly. “You don’t see that much in Boston,” they say. I don’t respond. I turn back once more as I walk through crowd and head to the bar, where I can forget him, for just a little while.