Home > Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(6)

Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(6)
Marian Keyes

I didn’t want to go on my own, so all I had to do was convince my best friend, Jacqui, that she, too, had a hankering for New York. But I didn’t give much for my chances. For years, Jacqui had been like me—entirely without a career plan. She’d spent most of her life working in the hotel trade, doing everything from bar work to hostessing, when somehow, through no fault of her own, she got a good job: she had become a VIP concierge at one of Dublin’s five-star hotels. When showbiz types came to town, whatever they wanted, from Bono’s phone number, to someone to take them shopping after hours, to a decoy double to shake off the press, it was her job to provide it. No one, especially Jacqui, could figure out how it had happened—she had no qualifications, all she had going for her was that she was chatty, practical, and unimpressed by eejits, even famous ones. (She says that most celebs are either midgets or gobshites or both.)

Her looks might have had something to do with her success; she often described herself as a blond daddy longlegs and, in all fairness, she was very hingey. She was so tall and thin that all her joints—knees, hips, elbows, shoulders—looked like they’d been loosened with a wrench, and when she walked, you could almost believe that some invisible puppet master was moving her by strings. Because of this, women weren’t threatened by her. But thanks to her good humor, her dirty laugh, and her incredible stamina when it came to staying up late and partying, men were comfortable with her.

The visiting celebs often bought her expensive presents. The best bit, she said, was when she’d take them on a shopping trip; if they bought tons of stuff for themselves they’d feel guilted into buying something for her, too. Mostly teeny-tiny designer clothes, which she looked great in.

Like the professional she was, she never—well, rarely—got off with the male celebs in her charge (only if they’d just split up with their wives and were in need of “comfort”), but occasionally she got off with their friends. Usually they were horrible; she seemed to prefer them that way. I don’t think I had ever liked any of her boyfriends.

The night I met her to make my pitch she showed up, her usual shiny, happy, hingey self, in a Versace coat, a Dior something, a Chloé something else, and my heart sank. Why would anyone leave a job like this? But it just goes to show.

Before I even mentioned New York, she confessed that she was sick of overpaid stars and their silly requests. Some Oscar-winning actor was currently in residence and making her life a misery by insisting that a squirrel was staring in the window at him and following his every move. Jacqui’s gripe was not that it was mean-spirited to object to a squirrel looking at you, but that they were on the fifth floor—there was no squirrel. She’d had it with celebrity, she said. She wanted a complete change, to get back to basics, to work with the poor and the sick, in a leper colony if possible.

This was excellent, if surprising, news and the perfect time to take the U.S. work-permit applications from my bag; two months later, we were waving Ireland good-bye.

When we arrived in New York, we stayed with Rachel and Luke for the first few days, but this turned out to be not such a great idea: Jacqui broke out in a sweat every time she looked at Luke, so much that she nearly had to start taking rehydration salts.

Because Luke is so good-looking, people go a bit funny around him. They think that there has to be more to him than there is. But basically he’s just an ordinary, decent bloke, who’s got the life he wants, with the woman he wants. He has a gang of look-alike pals—although none are as physically devastating as him—collectively known as the Real Men. They think the last time anyone made a good record was 1975 (Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti) and that all music made since then has been unadulterated rubbish. Their idea of a big night out is the air-guitar-playing championship—there is such a thing, honestly—and although they are all gifted amateurs, one of them, Shake, showed real promise and actually got as far as the regional finals.

Jacqui and I set about looking for work, but unfortunately for Jacqui, none of the leper colonies were hiring. Within a week she’d got a job in a five-star Manhattan hotel, in an almost identical post to the one she’d left behind in Dublin.

In one of those strange twists, she met the squirrel man, who didn’t remember her and spun her the same story about being spied on by a squirrel. Only this time they weren’t on the fifth floor, they were on the twenty-seventh.

“I really wanted to do something different,” she said to Rachel, Luke, and me when she came home after her first day. “I don’t know how this happened.”

Well, it was obvious: clearly she was more in thrall to that glittering, celebtastic world than she’d realized. But you couldn’t say that to her. Jacqui had no time for introspection: things were what they were. Which, as a life philosophy, has its merits—although I love Rachel very much, sometimes I feel I can’t itch my chin without her finding a hidden meaning in it. But on the other hand, there’s no point telling Jacqui if you’re depressed because her response is invariably, “Oh no! What’s happened?” And most of the time nothing has happened, you’re just depressed. But if you try explaining that, she’d say, “But what have you got to be depressed about?” Then she’d say, “Let’s go out and drink champagne. No point sitting around here moping!”

Jacqui is almost the only person I know who has never been on SSRIs or seen a therapist; she barely believes in PMS.

Anyway, just before Jacqui went into muscle spasm from mineral depletion from looking at Luke, we found a place of our own. A studio (i.e., one room) in a crumbling block on the Lower East Side. It was shockingly small and expensive and the shower was in the kitchenette, but at least we were in Manhattan. We weren’t planning on spending much time at home—it was simply for sleeping in and having an address, a tiny foothold in the naked city. Luckily Jacqui and I got on very well, we could take such close proximity to each other, although sometimes Jacqui went out to bars and picked up men, just so she could have a good night’s sleep in a normal apartment.

Right away I registered with several ritzy employment agencies, bearing a gorgeous, slightly embroidered résumé. I went for a couple of interviews but got no solid offers and I was just starting to worry when, one Tuesday morning, I got a call to hotfoot it to McArthur on the Park. Apparently the previous incumbent had had “to go to Arizona” (NYC speak for “going into rehab”) in a big, fat hurry and they urgently needed a temp because they were preparing for a major pitch.

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