28 Jul 2014

A guest post by Harper Impulse author Jill Knapp

What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan

Journal entry, Amalia Hastings

September 2nd
Yesterday was the third day of classes at NYU, and I already feeling like I am drowning. I remember graduating Rutgers with a 3.8 GPA. Did I make that up?
Manhattan is a completely different animal to New Jersey though. It’s not just the work itself, it’s the students. The cohort. I am constantly intimidated by everyone. I met this great girl named Olivia yesterday who seems to feel the same way I do. She’s from Rhode Island and seems like a bit of a priss, but I can tell she’s a good person. After class yesterday, she and I got a drink at a bar called West 3rd Comon close to NYU. I had never been there before, but I had a great time. Maybe too good of a time…
Olivia’s friend Alex showed up around 9 pm with another one of our classmates, Michael. I had seen Michael in class before, he introduced himself to me this morning actually with a formal handshake that I found kind of odd. But there was something him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I have a feeling we’re going to be great friends.
Alex and Olivia kept leaving Michael and me alone when they went outside to smoke. At first I felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong for hanging out with this guy I hardly knew by myself. How would Nicholas feel? But then Michael told me about his girlfriend, Marge, and I knew we were on the same page. I ordered another beer and we spent the rest of the night talking about our past college experiences, what we thought of our new professors, and how invigorating it felt to me living in the city.
Olivia ended up having to carry me home that night, after my fourth or fifth beer, and put me to bed. It was too far for her to go back to her apartment in Brooklyn, so she crashed on my couch. I don’t think my roommates minded, they’re never home anyway. Which is kind of nice actually.
When I woke up this morning, even with my head pounding from my hangover, I still managed a smile. I knew I was going to be in for one hell of a year.

Excerpt (sneak peek of book two)
Washington Square Park was practically empty this morning. As soon as I reached the end of 5th avenue and entered the park under the giant arch, I noticed no one but a few guys hanging out by the fountain. They were all wearing jeans and button down shirts. Probably still awake from last night, I thought as I passed a bed of flowers on my right. I loved when this area was empty, it was just quaint enough to feel like you weren’t in the city as long as a bunch of hipsters weren’t smoking cigarettes, or skate boarding while you were trying to relax. I walked toward an empty bench and sat down. The wood felt cool from the shade, and in the morning air you could tell that summer would only be sticking around for a few more days. I pulled my light blue cardigan out of my over-sized purse, which usually housed my laptop and at least one text book, and quickly pushed my arms through the sleeves. I had gotten up early this morning and gone for a walk before class started. For some reason, I ended up here. Just as I reached for my Kindle, I heard footsteps to my left.
“Amalia?” Michael asked. “Hey, good morning.”
I took a deep breath and coughed. I had actually forgotten all about meeting up with him to talk this morning. I hadn’t even texted him back. I didn’t want to blow him off, but at the same time I wasn’t really sure what we had to talk about.
“Hi,” I said, uneasily. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” he shifted his shoulder bag from one arm to another. “Mind if I sit down?” He pointed to the park bench.
I glanced down at the bench. My bag was currently taking up just enough room on the bench for one person. I nodded, and moved it to the floor. “Sorry I didn’t text you back last night, I am staying with Olivia and she and I were up late talking.”
Michael just shook his head and smiled. He put his computer bag next to mine and slid onto the bench. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. But I do want to talk to you, if that’s okay?”
“Of course,” I answered, trying to sound breezy. I suddenly felt very warm, and promptly removed my sweater. “What’s up?”
“I just hate that we haven’t really talked in months,” he said. He was slightly hunched over, and his hands were folded in front of him. It was unusual for him, he was usually so stiff. So poised. As the sun made its way into our shaded corner, I could see in his eyes that he was exhausted.
“It’s only because I wasn’t here,” I said quickly, noticing his collection of books pouring out of his bag.
“I know,” he nodded, his tired eyes locked on the ground. “You went away.”
“It’s not like I am avoiding you,” I replied, even though I wasn’t sure whether that was the truth or not. I certainly hadn’t made any effort to see Michael since I had returned. There was a distinct silence that followed as he straightened his posture out and looked me straight in the eyes. I cleared my throat and checked my watch. “We have about fifteen minutes before class starts.”
“You’re right,” he said, breaking eye contact. “Are you applying for the work study program?”
I nodded, and suddenly felt a wave of dread over the possibility of working with Dr. Greenfield next semester. “I know I qualify, I’m completely broke. Plus, I need to do something to set me apart from all of the other students here. Not to mention my resume’s a little thin.” I felt my phone buzz in my pocket, but ignored it. My meeting with Michael was awkward enough without the possibility of an impromptu text from Hayden making me more uncomfortable.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he offered. “And from what I’ve heard, that professor who’s running it is extremely influential.”
I just nodded and smiled, unsure of what to say.
His attention was suddenly grabbed by a gaggle of undergrads loudly making their way through the park, heading to their classes. He let out a small laugh and shook his head at them. As he rubbed his eyes and I knew what he felt. Envy. They were only a few years younger than us, but their lives were completely different. They were still filled with hope and excitement for school. The possibility of getting into the graduate program of their choice, or landing the job of their dreams. I was filled with anxiety and pressure, and even though he would probably never admit it, I think Michael was beginning to feel it also. While our conversations were about research studies and making ends meet, theirs were about fraternity parties and tales of weekend debauchery. I caught eyes with one of the girls in the group. She was wearing an over-sized chunky sweater, tight skinny jeans, and brown knee high boots. Her long auburn hair shone as she quickly turned back to her friends and giggled, practically bouncing with energy with her to-go coffee cup from Murray’s Bagels in her hand. I closed my eyes and smiled, allowing myself to feel her energy for just a moment. Remembering what it was like to still be free.
Michael turned back to me and inched a little bit closer. Even at a quarter to nine in the morning, he smelled like his signature blend. The memory of past events, only a few months ago now felt like years, but as soon as he got that close to me my heart picked up the pace and it seemed like only yesterday that I was waking up at his apartment, silently begging the sun to stay down a little longer so we wouldn’t have to get up.
“So are you and Angela together?” I blurted out, and then immediately wished I hadn’t. “I mean, not that it’s any of my business.” I crossed my legs, shifting about an inch away from him.
“No. We’re not in a relationship,” he answered, as if it was absurd to believe otherwise. “What makes you say that?”
“She was kind of all over you the other day in class,” I explained. “I just assumed maybe you two were in a relationship.”
“No,” he shook his head. “We hung out a couple of times over the summer. Maybe it meant more to her than it did to me.”
Wow, I thought. Classic Michael.
“We should get going,” I stood up and reached for my bag. “I really can’t afford to be late.”
“I hear that,” he said, collecting his belongings. As soon as we reached for our bags, his hand brushed against mine. I quickly pulled away and tucked stray curl behind my ear.
“Can I walk you to class?” he asked, seemingly unaffected by our physical contact.
“Sure,” I took a step forward and he motioned for me to walk in front of him.
As we silently made our way to class, I felt the all too familiar anxiety that came along with being in proximity with Michael. My phone buzzed again and my stomach dropped. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how difficult it was to get through this year unscathed.

Recently acquired by Harper Impulse, Harper Collins, Chase is the first novel by Jill Knapp. A Native New Yorker, Jill spends her time blogging for Huffington Post writing about New York City, dating, and relationships. She also holds an M.A in Psychology and has taught at the college level for over three years.
More info from Jill's website or Twitter.

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