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In my head, the sound of the career woman is the faint echo of high heels. It is the sound I hear now, when I think about Sarah and me, click-click-clicking down the street in our designer shoes all those years ago, walking block after block after block on indestructible urban pavement, from our fancy Madison Avenue offices to our downtown starter apartments, madly discussing our brilliant careers. Or what would become our brilliant careers. Or how we would build our brilliant careers. We were young and we were unstoppable—in our twenties, in publishing, in Manhattan. We were media girls. We had pointy shoes and sharp personalities.
I'd moved to New York when I'd first started at Barnard, a transfer student from a little college in Oregon, at 20, and Sarah had moved there two years later, when she'd graduated from another Seven Sisters school. The story of how we met goes back to a little East Village place called Max Fish that I went to a lot in those days, and where girls and guys would go to pick each other out in methods not as sleazy, or simple, as pointing, but almost as raw and confused—although in completely different ways. It was very New York: The kind of place that seemed to exist so exactly for us, for the exact kind of girls we were, the slacker-at-a-high-level kind of place where the boys played in bands and did the weeknight shift at Kinko's, but where they all seemed like the type who might break out and become rock stars. After all, they were so fucking cute, and they'd made it to Manhattan already (a couple of the ones I met during this time, in fact, did). And then one night my friend Natasha met another boy there, Wes—he was a writer this time, I dimly recall, not a guitar player—and I became friends with him too. I'd go out on double dates with them sometimes, being paired with his friend Patrick, who straddled that fine line between being fucked-up enough to interest me but also too fucked-up to allow me to relax. (He was barely verbal, but he'd do things like, mid-date, ask me to leave the restaurant with him and get me high and ask me to hold his hand in a doorway. It freaked my 21-year-old self out.) And then one night a couple of weeks into it, when Wes was unknowingly on the verge of becoming a distant memory to us all—he was psychopharmacologically medicated to the point that he'd fall asleep mid-makeout with Natasha, and it worried her—he ended up introducing me to Sarah, someone who would become many things to me, but for some reason now it seems most apt to describe her as my partner in crime, and I mean that in the best and worst way.
Sarah he knew only peripherally, he told me one night when I told him I was trying to break into magazines, but she had recently landed a job at Harper's Bazaar. Harper's Bazaar had just "relaunched," as they say in magazines, meaning that it had just undergone a radical makeover on every level—it had a new editor in chief, Brit Liz Tilberis, who had brought in an entirely new vision, and the vision was a radical departure from what Bazaar had become by then, which was a sort of uptown Glamour, and which appeared to be as much of an oxymoron as it sounds. But this new Bazaar had struck me with a visual electricity when I'd first seen it on the newsstand a couple of weeks before: It featured Linda Evangelista, her face, and her hand held above it, with her elegant and irreverent fingers catching the "falling" last "a" in Bazaar. "Enter the Era of Elegance," it read, and it stopped me dead in my Fifth Avenue tracks. It was the kind of thing I lived for, this moment, the moment when a magazine's immediacy—it is, after all, one of the only highly visual mediums that comes out every single month—shows you what you were thinking, or rather craving, but you didn't yet know. It is the moment when you glimpse where you are going. I couldn't believe this girl, Wes's friend, had a job there. "Do you want me to introduce you?" he asked.This is excerpted from Girl Walks into a Bar, by Strawberry Saroyan. Copyright © 2003 by Strawberry Saroyan and published by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. Excepted with permission of the publisher. Buy Girl Walks into a Bar at Amazon.com.