Love, Loneliness, and the “Monday Girl”by Parker Sams · April 29, 2016
I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing New York City for the first time. My flight was coming in for the landing, dipping below the clouds, and suddenly there it was. Even from above, I could see just how massive the city was, far larger than Atlanta. I had never seen skyscrapers that actually looked like they scraped the sky before. Down on terra firma, the experience was magnified. I’ve gone to school in Atlanta for four years, and lived here for almost one, but I’ve never felt crowded here. New York is a different story—it’s a city of millions upon millions, people flooding the city streets, always going somewhere. I think that feeling and my experience with New York City is why I was drawn to Alice Hoffman’s “Monday Girl”, first published in Five Points Vol. 11, No. 3.
The titular Monday Girl is Shelby, a woman in her late-twenties who has fallen in love with the married man she’s having an affair with, Harper Levy. The story follows Shelby as she takes her dogs for a walk in an effort to “coincidentally” run into Harper when he walks his dog, but she ends up walking with Sarah, Harper’s wife.
When she runs into Harper, she wants it to seem like fate, rather than the act of a desperate woman so much in love she would humiliate herself this way….
Shelby has always known love would be a mistake.
We’re taken along for the walk with Shelby, starting with a cab ride to the corner of Fifth and 79th, through Central Park, and then to Harper’s apartment on 89th Street. The way that Hoffman shows us the city of New York through Shelby’s eyes is what interested me. She’s surrounded by her troupe of dogs—Pablo, the General, Blinkie, and Buddy —but for most of the story Shelby is by herself. Despite living in a city of crowded sidewalks and never-ending traffic, Shelby still feels alone. There’s a barrier that she’s erected around herself, a barrier that stems from her guilt and self-loathing over the affair (and I’m sure it doesn’t help that you constantly see your reflection in New York). She asks the cabbie about his marriage, which just reminds her of what a mess she’s in with Harper. Even during her walk with Sarah, she initially steers the conversation towards him.
“You must be a softie, too. You’re the one walking the dogs, not your husband,” Shelby says.
Shelby sounds so pleasant. Not the bitch that she really is. All teeth and fur. She has managed to say, Where the hell is Harper without even mentioning him. Was she ever so sly in her life?
“He’s in Philadelphia. A veterinary conference.”
Bullshit, Shelby thinks. He never mentioned that. She wonders if there’s a Sunday girl.
The conversation with Sarah is what prompts Shelby to really examine her relationship with Harper, and at the end she walks into his office and steals his painting. Hoffman leaves it up to interpretation whether or not this is an act of rebellion or a cry for attention, but I think it’s the former. For too long, it seems, the only true companionship Shelby has had was with her dogs. If there really is a Sunday Girl, it doesn’t matter. Shelby is done with it all. “A field, a stream, a boulder. A landscape of pure white snow. That’s what suits her now.”