Charles Dickens may have described the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s past to be rather a terrifying sort of phantasm–“being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body”–in A Christmas Carol, but luckily for the old miser of a protagonist, he was too unpleasant (both physically and in personality) for anyone to ever have sex with him. Thus, he didn’t need to be haunted by more than one “androgynous” ghost representative of his days gone by, sexual or otherwise. But Marina Nyman didn’t have such a fortunate set of circumstances befall her at the outset of that December in 2016 (though she wouldn’t have it quite as rough as George Michael, Carrie Fisher or Debbie Reynolds later that month–unless you count death as life’s greatest reward).
She was starting to feel a bit funny about New York lately. Now that she was firmly in her mid-thirties, she suddenly realized that the town was very much tailored to the zygote set willing to compromise on all facets of comfort or the affluent geriatric living on the Upper East and West Sides unwilling to compromise on anything. She could not fit into either category, and, furthermore, she was faced with the sudden Samantha Jones epiphany that she had run out of people to have sex with during her fifteen-year stint in the city that never sleeps because everyone in it is busy attempting to procure pleasure, even if only for the ephemerality of an evening.
The unwelcome insight came during that two week period before Christmas Day when the city starts to drain itself of the vast population of transplants that have only moved there to prove to themselves and their parents that they are “somebody.” Amid the newfound emptiness, Marina became more aware of who was actually around her. In her Park Slope neighborhood, it was very easy to note who was single and of a youthful age bracket and who was not. Gradually, she had come to represent neither faction, but she could still recognize those few who she used to be like. The college students and the early 20s intern status folk that happened to “finagle a situation” that led them to the Park Slope vicinity, in desperate need of their vibrancy, a concept often drained by the pedantic conversation of the children inhabiting the area.
It was their lot that attended the likes of Union Hall, one of the only “jejune”-oriented bars in the environs. With its bocce ball court, downstairs stage and fireplace/reading area, there was no brand of juvenescence masquerading as mature adulthood the bar didn’t cater to. And that’s why Marina so often found herself there–whether it was to go alone or to meet with friends who had shlepped from more legitimate parts of Brooklyn to visit her. This was how she often seemed to find herself going home with the boys (there were never men) that went there for their own various reasons. It got to the point that, in 2014, she needed to ban herself from the establishment for a full year so as to stop risking being deemed that still hurtful brand–“whore”–though badder bitches than she would take this as a compliment.
When she began allowing herself to return to the local “watering hole” in mid-2015, there were still a few traces of the regulars she had come to distinguish from just another general shape in the nights of yore. But they had forgotten her, and so it didn’t matter. Even so, she tempered her attendance at Union Hall with far more restraint in this new era of Park Slope bar-going, reining in her substance intake so as to cease the likelihood of her bad decision-making. And, with a new job that actually gave her some position of authority–social media manager for Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare (rather arbitrary and unplanned, it has to be said)–she even came to be distracted enough with making money to not focus on such La Dolce Vita trifles as drinking in public at night.
But when the standard winter work lull hit that December of 2016, the inevitability of returning to Union Hall more frequently was as assured as Freddie Mercury’s HIV positive test results. It gets so lonely at this time of year, as most city dwellers are all too familiar, and there was simply no way Marina was going to be able to resist the temptation of procuring companionship of any kind.
So there she was on December 16, 2016, two years after graduating from being a standard-issue bar troll, only to find herself suddenly sandwiched in between two of her former conquests as she ordered her third Paloma of the evening (at least she wasn’t doing the vodka cranberry thing anymore, which seemed the height of sophistication in one’s early 20s). One of them had been taken in as a result of it being the end of the night, and the selection pool being vastly shallow. She learned why when Samson (was that his name?) thought it would somehow be charming to put It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on as he undressed her and got down to a session of obviously pat moves.
Incidentally, it was Samson, the least meaningful to her between the two men (they had to be called men now that they, too, were in their thirties), who warmly greeted her like an old friend. Conversely, Blair (a very effete name indeed), whom she had carried on a four-month long tryst with during the middle of 2014, chose to give her the proverbial cold shoulder. This silence on his part made matters more self-esteem reducing to Marina when Samson made an overt allusion to the bed they had once shared together. She had never felt more haunted by the shame of the past than right at this moment, nestled halfway in the ‘twixt point of ripeness and rottenness–for women this is otherwise known as being in your twenties and not.
After listening attentively to Samson for the next five or so minutes tell her about what he’d been doing with his life (designing fonts, mostly) so as to ignore Blair tenfold more effectively, she subtly turned to look over at him only to find that he had migrated to the couch area to make out with a girl who looked no older that seventeen. And here she thought Park Slope was supposed to cater exclusively to MILFs.
No longer capable of giving Samson the courtesy that Blair couldn’t be bothered to give her, she chugged the rest of her Paloma (which was, by now, making her as crazy as Paloma Picasso) so as to plausibly excuse herself and go home before the ignominy of her existence could crystallize any further.
Union Hall has since burned down. But Marina has nonetheless taken the preventive measure of pretending to convert to the Muslim faith so as to have free license to wear a burka wherever she goes in the event that she should run into yet another ghost of her sexual past–A Christmas Carol rewritten to feature the most anti-British emblem of all (other than milkless tea).