06/02/2014 11:49 am ET Updated Aug 02, 2014

Is This the Life You're Living?

Image Source RF/Zave Smith via Getty Images

"They were all in their early thirties. An age at which it is sometimes hard to admit that what you are living is your life." -- Alice Munro

You're standing on a New York City street corner. You realize you're turning 31 in a few weeks, and the world is collapsing. Or maybe, the world is collapsing because you're turning 31. Either way, you had felt triumphant just a week prior when you had nabbed a grown-up kitchen table off Craigslist; when you had a great man who called you his darlin'; when there were summer weddings on the horizon; when bliss was just a bag of Skittles and a witty text away.

And now? Now, it's 9 p.m. on a Monday night and you're steps away from your brand-new apartment, but home -- a worn-in, loved-up home -- feels miles away. You want to call in sick to everything -- especially, to reality. Reality didn't tell you that when it came time to hail a cab and pick up that table from a domesticated gay couple, said man would suddenly break your heart, that no amount of Parliaments and Skittles could cure the ache, and that now, as a "responsible adult," you're faced with the predicament of dragging an elephant of a table up four flights of stairs.

You can barely budge the monstrosity a few inches off the curb. You blame the many, many beers you drank. You feel like calling it a wash and crawling back into bed.

As these things happen, someone from the shadows emerges. (This sounds like a hyperbole, but it's not.) His name is Novel Peoples and he lives in the projects an avenue away. Funny how in a city of eight million, you don't notice 99.99 percent of the people around until it's you, him and the sound of sirens.

Novel offers to get the table up your stairs, for the exchange of one beer. (You do a quick tally in your head and realize that, yes, this is still doable.) He wrangles help from another passerby on the street, using phrases like, "Come on, dude. Have some chivalry and give her a hand." There must have been something in your sleep-deprived, unkempt appearance that solicited neighborly goodness. Despair, perhaps. Novel directs the mission as if he's scaling the Rock of Gibraltar, as if this might be the most exciting thing to happen all day. And, when he finally gets up that fourth flight, sweating and swearing, he heaves the steel off his shoulders, takes two steps in the door, and remarks, "This is a tiny-ass apartment -- where are you even going to put this?!"

So there you are, staring at this stranger from the projects, who seems, at this very moment, to be a beacon of pulled-togetherness to your utter mess. You begin to cry. You apologize profusely for your tears and tell him that the day has been rough, but he has been the silver lining. Then, because the man can't tell a lie, he says, "I'm sorry to say, I've never seen a sadder girl in my life."

You blame it on your allergies. To which he replies, "I got you girl, and trust me, those allergies get better." And off he went, beer in hand.

You trust in saving graces like this. You trust that one day soon, you'll be able to laugh about this -- life's tragedy and consequent comedy. Because, at nearly 31, all you can do is accept that this is the life you're living.