Meet Roxy. For fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary comes “just the kind of comic novel we need right now” ( The Washington Post) about an Austin artist trying to figure out her life one letter to her ex-boyfriend at a time. Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer. As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process? With timely themes and hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments, Roxy Letters is a smart and clever story that is “bursting with originality, quirky wit, and delightful charm” (Hannah Orenstein, author of Playing with Matches).
Release date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Print pages: 320
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Mary Pauline Lowry
June 24, 2012
It was one year ago today that Brant Bitterbrush abandoned me with hardly an explanation. He had promised lifelong fealty, he had sworn himself to be my soul mate, and then he was gone. Little did I know then that Brant Bitterbrush had an even worse betrayal in store for me, one that triggered my current state of artistic paralysis. Is it any wonder that my workday today, on this anniversary of my broken heart, was a total fiasco and may result in my termination?
My day was emotionally harrowing on so many levels! It all started when I was riding my bike to work. As I headed down Sixth Street, in the distance I could see the Waterloo Video sign had been taken down and replaced! As you know, I cried when Waterloo Video closed a few months ago. Sure, these days we can download any movie we want in an instant. But what a cheap and sterile replacement for wandering the grubby aisles of Waterloo Video, where the disgruntled staff members wrote loving recommendations (or warnings) on Post-its adhered to each video. When Brant Bitterbrush and I were still a couple, every time we wanted to rent a video we would spend a good hour in Waterloo, passing especially hilariously reviewed video boxes to each other. The last time Brant and I were there together—just over a year ago—I considered renting the Coen brothers’ film “The Ladykillers.” I picked up the box and the note read: “Put this down and go wash your hands immediately—you are holding a piece of shit.”
Just as my love for Brant Bitterbrush was not enough to keep us together, my appreciation for Waterloo Video, a true cultural institution, was not enough to keep the store open. Until today, I held great hope an establishment worthy of the location’s storied history would take its place. Perhaps a tiny brewpub or vintage clothing store would move in. Even a funky greeting card stand would not have raised my ire. So long as a local store took over the space. As you know, that intersection of Sixth Street and Lamar Boulevard has always been a bastion of quirky local culture and business—BookPeople, Whole Foods (which, though now well on its way to becoming an international behemoth, was, not so very long ago, just a single tiny health-food store), Waterloo Ice House, Waterloo Records. The intersection was a haven of everything truly and uniquely Austin.
So as I peddled by on my twenty-four-inch cruiser on my way to work—sweating in this boiling heat (whose only blessing is to keep every Californian on the planet from moving to this city, which was so recently a Shangri-la)—I almost biked into the street when the new sign hanging over those once hallowed doors came into full view: COMING SOON: LULULEMON. Yes, it’s true. A Lululemon store—destined to sell overpriced workout gear to trophy wives whose sole job is to attend Pure Barre and keep it tight—will open in the space formerly occupied so well by Waterloo Video. Is this glorious town we live in selling its quirky, beautiful soul to the highest corporate bidder? It seems so.
That store’s arrival is a symbol of the sort of change that will price us all out of this town. Sure, I had the good luck to inherit $35,000 from my grandma and the good sense to use it as a down payment on my little house. But I can practically hear my property taxes growing as I write. And what about the artists and musicians and deli maids I hold dear—where else would they go? If you look at a map of Texas, it’s clear there is no other livable option.
Dizzied by grief at this unexpected development—and perhaps a little addled by the 105-degree heat—I arrived at Whole Foods. Instead of eight hours behind the fogged glass of the deli case, per usual, I’d agreed to cover Annie’s shift on samples while she had her interview with Whole Foods CEO Lite Topher Doyle. But first, I had to take a quick stroll down Beer Alley—a morning ritual during which I try to spot the scrumptious Patrick—but alas there was no sighting of my crush. I hurried to the deli to prep for my shift.
I put on my apron and unwrapped and microwaved some gag-inducing frozen tuna burger. Jason and Nelson came by to comment on how disgusting it looked and offer me sympathy about having to work samples for a whole shift. (Aside from Annie, they are probably my favorite coworkers in the deli. Jason is a passionate spray-paint-graffiti artist. Nelson surely has interests of his own, but I always just think of him as Jason’s sidekick.) They helped me haul a sample table out to Bakery, where I set out my tray of morally repulsive morsels. Is there anything more humiliating than handing out microscopic snacks to strangers? I hate standing behind a bunch of wasteful mini-sample cups, smiling and offering a nibble to every passerby as if I’m some sort of culinary streetwalker. But it was for dear Annie so there I lurked, right around the corner from the three-foot-tall burbling chocolate fountain and beside a giant display of boxed crumb cake.
Dirty Steve came by right away to check on me. “Are you keeping a smile on your face, Poxy Roxy?” he asked. (Right after I started working at the deli, I contracted adult chickenpox. That’s when Steve made up that hideous moniker! He’s never let it go.)
I gestured at the display of crumb cake. “If I was handing out crumb cake, at least I could cheer myself by snacking on the samples.”
“I always put vegans like you and Annie on meat samples. It cuts down on ‘unexplained product loss.’?” Dirty Steve seemed to take great pleasure in making air quotes.
“Touché,” I replied, as Dirty Steve lumbered off to harass some of his other employees.
Everett, for three hours I was the poster child of Sample Grrrls—grinning, nodding, offering tiny freebies, mostly to ritzy women who circle the store eyeing one another, convinced they must stay vigilant or miss a crucial fashion trend. These hideous trophy wives treated me as if I was an extension of their help—invisible only as long as I did not displease them. I was entertained when two cops came in for their usual lunch and every deli maid with a warrant out for his arrest (i.e., Jason and Nelson) ran out the back door to hide in the alley. I was also cheered by the occasional broke musician cruising the sample stand multiple times with the overt casualness of the seasoned “sample abuser.” I could at least offer them a human wink and receive a grateful nod in return. Like me, they probably suffer as wage slaves at underpaid and unfulfilling jobs. Like me, life has trampled their artistic dreams. Like me, perhaps they are platonically shacked up with an ex to keep a roof over their heads.
Then this guy sort of just appeared in front of me. He had a fit bod, tousled, indie-rocker hair, and totally cute dimples that I could see even under his Clive Owen stubble. He wore jeans (not skinny, thank Goddess) and a tight black T-shirt. The outline of the state of Texas was tattooed on his forearm. He was the kind of good-looking that told me he’d probably never had to bother to learn how to be good in bed. Definitely a musician. “Yeah! Crumb cake,” he said. By the way he smiled at me, I might have been the crumb cake. But somehow it wasn’t cheesy or icky. It was nice. (Everett, perhaps you don’t want to hear about my moment of connection with a stranger. But until you pay up, too bad!)
“Sorry,” I said. “Microwaved frozen tuna.”
“Ugh,” he replied. He gestured at the crumb cake display to my right. “False advertising. Why aren’t you in the freezer aisle?”
“I’m guessing management is trying to avoid another employee frostbite lawsuit,” I said. “Want to try my tuna burger?” Even as I spoke, I knew it sounded lewd.
“Hard to resist,” he said with the hint of a smile. “But I’m a vegetarian.” As he turned away, a leggy supermodel-type approached. She had Bettie Page bangs and wore a tailored rockabilly dress with peep-toe pumps.
“Texas! There you are!” she said, taking his arm. (Texas? I wondered if he had siblings named Arizona and Oklahoma.) They walked off, a perfect couple, which only served to remind me that I live with you, my ex-boyfriend, who doesn’t pay rent on time. It also reminded me that the only “man” I’ve been with in I-won’t-say-how-long is the purple merman. To make matters worse, several of the rich women shoppers were rather snippy about whether or not the tuna burger contained any guar gum as a stabilizer. I wanted to yell, “Have you seen living tuna? They are glorious creatures of the sea. Eating them is the problem, not a little guar gum.” But like a dutiful employee, I held my tongue.
Preoccupied as I was this morning with thoughts of Brant Bitterbrush and the anniversary of my heartbreak, I had forgotten to eat breakfast and was moving into a rather hangry mood. If you had been there, Everett, I’m sure you would have pushed some Brie on me, but as you were not, I let my mood descend. Then she approached. She must have been a little older than I am, maybe thirty, her long red hair in a perky ponytail, and a diamond ring the size of a cherry tomato on her finger. In the grocery basket slung so casually over her forearm I spotted two bottles of DUCKIE & LAMBIE MOISTURIZER!!! Today of all days! The sight of those bottles—a symbol of Brant Bitterbrush’s ultimate betrayal—was like a punch to my gut.
“Don’t buy those,” I said, pointing at the offending bottles.
“Why not?” the redhead asked. “It makes my skin so smooth.” She popped a chunk of reheated frozen tuna burger between her bleached teeth, chewed, and said, “Mmmm. Crumb cake!” (To endure the nightly pounding she surely receives from her rich, sagging husband, she must have become completely ungrounded from her physical body and is thus unable to distinguish cake from seafood!) I looked her up and down and realized that her trim figure was decked out from head to toe in the offending brand whose name my hand shakes to write—Lululemon!
The wave of outrage at what she and her brethren are doing to my hometown overwhelmed me (and, with the distance of eight hours, I can now admit it—perhaps some of my fury was misplaced). I wish my retort had been clever or even condescendingly kind. But what came out of my mouth was: “You. Dumb. Bitch.”
“Wait, what?” she said.
“You. Dumb. Bitch.” I enunciated that second time.
The conflict snapped her right back into her body. She dropped her shopping basket, came racing around the sample table, and shoved me with all the power of her sculpted frame. I staggered backward. I’m proud to say I kept my footing—I can’t say the same for the crumb cake display, which came crashing down around me. The cacophony of a hundred boxes of crumb cake hitting the tile caused every customer from Bakery to Hot Bar to turn and stare.
“So that happened,” the redhead said, before sashaying off toward the exit. But at the sliding doors near the checkout lines she paused and turned to wave at me, flashing a smile that was more conspiratorial than triumphant. I found myself raising my own hand to wave in return. Then she slipped through the doors and was gone. What a baffling woman! While I initially took her for a West Austin pedigree, perhaps she is trailer trash or a military brat cursed with good looks and recently realized aspirations of wealth through marriage.
It was then I heard Dirty Steve’s voice. He must have seen the whole thing as he headed out, probably for an early lunch of surf and turf at The Yellow Rose strip club. “Poxy Roxy!” he thundered. “I told you to keep a smile on your face, not incite an assault! Be in my office at ten tomorrow!”
Given that tomorrow’s meeting could very well result in termination of my employment, I’m now more worried than ever about money.
All this to say, Everett: it’s the 24th of June and you’ve been living in my house for almost two weeks, so by any measure your rent is WAY. PAST. DUE. I understand you are underemployed right now. In this town, aren’t we all? (I speak only for those of us with a shred of integrity, artistic or otherwise—the “new Austin” tech assholes are making billions as I write.) But I let you move into my spare bedroom on the condition that you would pay rent each month. The time has come for you to follow through on that promise.
Your frustrated landlady,
P.S. I’m leaving this note on the kitchen counter so that you’ll be sure to see it when you sit down to eat my purloined yucca fries and tofu nuggets (in clear violation of #3a! Do rules mean nothing to you?).
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...