Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19, 2008

So I got a notice from the bank today telling me that the check from Adam bounced. I don’t know why, but a part of me was surprised. I really shouldn’t have been, given that I already knew he’d lied, or at least possibly lied, about when he’d started using drugs. But for some reason, on the day we had lunch when he’d written me the check for all the money he owed me, I thought he’d be good for it; I believed he’d changed. Now, not only do I not have the money he owes me, but I get the pleasure of paying a $25 fine for having his rubber check pass through my account. Thanks a lot, Adam.

I was more than a little annoyed, and I picked up my phone to call Adam’s cell and get an explanation. On the second ring, I got a message telling me that his phone had been disconnected. Are you kidding me?

I felt like such an idiot. At lunch, I had bought Adam’s whole story about how he was so sorry for the way he handled the end of our relationship, and then, I honestly believed that he was going to do the right thing by repaying me. As much as I’m trying not to let it get to me, I can’t help but feel a little bitter about the whole thing. I guess that’s what I get for trusting someone who hurt me so deeply in the past.

“Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me”. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

As I talked the whole thing over with Sonia, she told me that I’d better go get myself tested for any diseases I might have caught from Adam since he was shooting up while he was sleeping with me. I felt a little bit panicked when I considered the whole situation. Had he also lied to me about never sharing needles with anyone? I really hope not.

I hung up with Sonia so I could call my gynecologist’s office to schedule an appointment. As I sat on hold, waiting to speak to a receptionist, I thought about what I’d say. “Um, yes, I need to get checked for any nasty infections I may have been given by my scummy ex-boyfriend because I just found out that he’s a junkie.” Yeah, that might work. I felt so dirty.

I made an appointment for Wednesday, Christmas Eve, and tried not to drive myself crazy worrying about it. Merry Christmas to me!

I decided to distract myself with some Christmas shopping. I still needed to find something for Sonia, my sister and Kaitlyn, and I also wanted to buy a small gift for Alex. He and I had been talking on the phone most evenings for the past couple of weeks, and we’d gotten together last Sunday for brunch after having stayed up way too late talking on the phone with each other Saturday night.

I’m really beginning to like Alex, and I think the feeling is mutual. We’re getting together this weekend to go ice skating at an indoor rink near my work. I haven’t been ice skating since I was a kid. I hope I don’t embarrass myself!

I drove out to the mall, all the while hoping I’d be able to find a parking spot. I had braved the Christmas crowds last year to do some last-minute shopping, and I’d vowed to buy my gifts earlier this year. But as much as I’d wanted to be organized, I kept putting my shopping off. So, here I was, circling the parking lot like a lion honing in on its prey while cars in nearly every other aisle did the same.

After what seemed like forever, I found a sweet spot near the entrance that was about to open up. I sat there waiting in the aisle for a few minutes with my blinker on while a harried-looking mother strapped her two small children into their car seats. Finally, the woman got in her car and put it in reverse. At the same moment, a little black sports car zipped into the aisle from the other direction. The car slowed down as if the guy was planning on taking my spot. Oh, no you don’t, buddy. That spot is mine!

As the woman backed out and cleared the spot, the guy gunned it to pull in. Luckily for me, the woman suddenly braked and leaned over to pick something up off the floor, effectively blocking the guy from moving. I was able to slip into the spot and put my car in park. The guy knew I was waiting on that spot, yet he glared at me anyway. I had to suppress the urge to stick my tongue out at him and say “Neener, neener” as I walked past his car. I never claimed to be mature!

I went in a toy store to see what I could find for Kaitlyn. What a zoo! There were children sitting in the aisles crying and whining as their stressed-looking parents tried to pry them off the floor so they could leave. I guess it’s hard for young kids to be in a fantasy toyland and not be able to get everything their little hearts desire. It didn’t look like such a fun trip for the parents either. Note to self: Keep any future progeny out of stores with toys stacked from floor to ceiling in order to avoid tantrum-city.

As I tried to keep from stumbling on yet another small child, I saw a pretty wooden doll furniture set that I thought Kaitlyn would love. It seemed sturdier than all the brightly-colored plastic garbage, so it seemed worth the higher cost. It also had hand-painted flowers, teddy bears, and hearts on it, and I’m a sucker for cute artwork.

I dragged the heavy box up to the register and asked if I could stash it behind the counter until I was leaving the mall. Luckily, the clerk agreed, and I made my way out of the store as quickly as I could.

I fought my way through the crowd and headed into a bookstore. I had been thinking I might buy Kelly the complete Harry Potter series in hardback. She had read all of the books by checking them out from the library. Since she is the type of person who loves to re-read books that she really likes, I thought she might like to own them. And if I got them in hardback, I figured they’d last long enough for Kelly to read them with Kaitlyn when she was older if she wanted to.

As I wandered the aisles in the bookstore, I was so focused on the book titles that I accidentally walked into a man who was skimming through a book.

“Oh, excuse me,” I said, red-faced.

“No harm done,” the man said as he turned toward me.

I smiled when I saw that the man I’d bumped into was Mark from work.

“Hey, small world,” I smiled.

Mark broke out into a wide grin and quipped, “We really need to quit running into each other like dum dum.” He pretended to hit an invisible drum in the air.

I laughed and then smacked my forehead at the bad play on words.

Mark put up his hands in mock defeat and said, “Yeah, that was painful. I’m sorry.”

“No harm done.” I smiled coyly at Mark as I repeated his words back to him.

Mark chuckled at me. “So, what brings you to the mall on this fine winter’s eve?” he asked.

“I’m finishing up my Christmas shopping. Well, honestly, I’m just starting it, but I hope to finish it today, too. How about you? Are you shopping for presents?”

“Nah, I finished my shopping weeks ago. I’m here looking for something to read on the plane when I go to visit my sister and brother-in-law next week.”

“Wow, weeks ago? I’m jealous. You’ll have to let me in on your awesome shopping powers sometime.”

“How about now?” he smiled. “Would you like to go grab a cup of coffee or a soft pretzel from the food court? I can tell you all about the wonders of online shopping.”

“Oh, that sounds intriguing,” I said. “Just give me a minute to hunt down some books for my sister, and then we can go.”

Mark and I chatted for a while about our holiday plans, and then we gossiped a bit about our coworkers as we sipped our coffee.

“Did you hear about Judy from accounting and Martin from advertising?” he asked. “Apparently they got rip-roaring drunk at the office party and got caught making out in the coat check room.”

“Seriously? Isn’t she engaged?”

“Yep. Or at least she was,” he said. “I guess Judy forgot that her future brother-in-law works with us, too. Oops.”

I shook my head. “I guess some people never got that whole ‘experiment with alcohol thing’ out of their system in college. You’d think adults would know their limits.”

As I spoke the words, I remembered my own recent experience with the champagne at the art museum. “You know, I wanted to apologize again for passing out on the way home from the art museum the other night. I still feel foolish for not remembering I’d taken that cold medicine before we went out.”

“Don’t worry about it, Vivian,” Mark said. “I honestly had forgotten about it until you just mentioned it.”

“I guess I need to learn to keep my mouth shut then!” I laughed.

Mark seemed like he was very much into our conversation, or at least in talking to me. I realized I was right a moment later.

“You don’t have to worry about what you say around me. You can be yourself,” he said, gazing into my eyes.

I felt a bit surprised at the intensity of his gaze, but I realized he was right. I could be myself around him. It was nice to feel accepted, warts and all.

Mark and I parted ways so I could finish up my shopping with the promise to have lunch together the next day at work. Even if we remain nothing more than friends, I’m glad I’m getting to know him better. He’s a good guy.

As I wandered the mall contemplating what to get for Sonia, I finally decided I’d get her one of those back massagers that strap to a chair that have the multiple massaging motors that heat up. I tried out the demonstration model in the store, and it really loosened up my shoulders. I hoped Sonia would find it relaxing because she’d been very stressed out lately worrying about her upcoming deposition in the court case against her father for his having abused a little girl. Sonia knew that the shark defense lawyers would try to make her out to be a liar and would try to make her feel as if she had done something wrong to cause her father to abuse her. I could understand how the thought of facing that could be overwhelming. I felt terrible for her that she had to go through this, especially since she had already testified against her father once, which had put him in jail originally.

Sonia had asked me to drive her to the deposition, and of course, I’d said yes. I’d already put in for the day off from work in January. Her husband Paul is planning on going with us, but because this is so emotional for him, too, he didn’t want to have to drive when he’d be so distracted. I was glad to help, even if it was in only a small way.

After I paid for Sonia’s gift, I just was left with finding something for Alex. I had wracked my brain trying to figure out what to get for him, but I kept coming up empty. Then I remembered that we were going ice skating on Saturday, and I was guessing that he didn’t have many warm items for winter since it really doesn’t get very cold here. I thought that he might appreciate a nice pair of leather gloves to keep his hands warm while we were skating.

I found a pair I really liked and paid to have them wrapped so that the gift would look as nice as possible. I’d wrap it myself, but I didn’t want it to look as if a child had wrapped it. I don’t know what it is about wrapping paper, but I can never manage to cut the stuff in a straight line.

On Saturday, I decided to wear a cute turtleneck sweater I hadn’t worn since living in New York and a pair of jeans. As I went down to the lobby of my apartment building to wait for Alex, I realized I had forgotten his present on my kitchen counter and had to take the elevator back up to get it.

When I returned to the lobby and the elevator doors opened, my heart skipped a beat as I saw Alex standing there with his side turned to me as he read the various postings on the message board on the wall. He looked adorable in jeans and an ivory cable-knit sweater. I felt butterflies in my stomach and my pulse quicken as I walked over to him.

“Hello, Alex,” I smiled as he turned towards me.

“Hello, Vivian. You look beautiful.”

“Thank you. It’s great to see you,” I replied. My palms were starting to feel sweaty. Why did I feel like a teenager around Alex? I hadn’t felt this sort of intensity with anyone in a long time. It was a nice surprise.

Alex noticed the wrapped present I was holding. “Is that for me?” he asked. “You didn’t have to get me anything.” he smiled at me as he held the door open for me so we could walk out to his car.

“I know I didn’t, but I wanted to,” I said, smiling. “It’s just something small.”

“That’s ok,” he said. “I got something for you, too.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet of you.”

When we got into his car, we exchanged our gifts. Alex started to open his first.

“It’s just a little something for while we’re skating today,” I said as he opened the box and started to pull the leather gloves out.

Alex chuckled as he slipped them on and said, “Thank you. They’re a perfect fit.

“Now go ahead and open yours,” he said, chuckling again as he watched my reaction when I pulled the box open.

Inside was a pair of cashmere gloves and a scarf. I laughed as I finally understood why he had been chuckling.

“Great minds think alike, don’t they?” he said, laughing.

“Yes. Yes, they do,” I smiled at him as I looked into his piercing blue eyes. “Thank you for these. They’re so soft.”

“You’re very welcome. Now let’s go put these gloves to use,” he said, putting the car in gear and heading out.

When we got to the skating rink, we put our shoes in small cubby holes that lined the wall and headed over to the rental window to get some skates. The smell of hot chocolate wafted through the rink, reminding me of my childhood.

“I haven’t been skating in years,” I said to Alex. “You’ll have to forgive me if I knock you down once or twice.” I laughed.

Alex smiled at me. “Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve skated, too, so you may have to watch out for me.”

After we laced up our skates, I wobbly-walked over to the edge of the ice. Alex stepped out without hesitation and reached his hand out to me. I gladly took his hand and tentatively put my skates on the ice.

Whoa! I started to slip, but Alex’s strong grip held me up.

“Sorry about that!” I giggled. I felt like a little girl all over again as I tried to get my balance. I guess it had been longer since I’d been skating than I remembered.

Alex and I slowly made our way around the rink with me staying close to the walls so that the more-experienced skaters could fly by us on the inside. Alex wasn’t having any trouble at all. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he’d been skating recently. I could tell that he was going slowly in order to allow me to keep up with him.

“You’re a really good skater,” I told him. “You have really good balance. I feel like a kid learning to skate all over again!”

He smiled at me warmly. “You’re doing just fine.” He gave my hand a little squeeze. It felt so sweet and innocent to be holding his hand. I was glad that we had been taking things slowly. Besides the time on our first date when his hand briefly rested on top of mine at dinner, this was the first real physical contact we’d had. I was enjoying the anticipation of all that was to come.

“I have a confession to make,” Alex said as he skated out a bit in front of me so he could face me while skating backwards. He briefly let go of my hand.

“You do?” I asked, curious about what he was going to say.

“Ever since you mentioned going skating last week, I’ve been coming here after work to practice so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself with you today,” he said. “Do you think I’m silly?” He gave me a goofy grin.

“No, I think it’s really sweet,” I replied. “I wish I’d thought of it first.” Just as I finished my sentence, my skate slipped out from under me, and I fell flat on my backside.

“As you can see, I could use the practice!” I laughed.

Alex reached down and helped me back up on my skates.

“Now, I let go of your hand for two seconds, and you take a tumble,” he teased. “Here, take my hand again, and hold on tight.”

I smiled as I held Alex’s hand. “Don’t worry; I will,” I thought to myself.

As Alex and I took a couple more laps, I began to feel more confident. “Let’s try going a little faster,” I said to him.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Alex asked.

“Yep, I’m sure,” I replied as I pushed away harder and sped up.

Alex wasn’t quite ready though, and I ended up skating too far ahead so that his arm was outstretched while he was still holding my hand. As he snapped back towards me, I completely lost my balance and felt myself start to fall. Because of the strong grip I had on Alex’s hand, I took him down with me. Alex fell flat on his back, and I fell right on top of him.

We both were laughing so hard that we lost our breath. I tried to untangle my skate from his and pull myself off him. We managed to break our skates apart, and we both sat up, trying to catch our breath as we continued to laugh.

We looked into each other’s eyes as our laughter started to fade. Slowly, Alex reached up to cup my chin with his gloved hand as he leaned toward me. I felt an excited chill run through me from the top of my head to my toes as Alex softly brushed his lips against mine. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent as our lips pressed together in a full-on kiss. Kissing Alex felt wonderful.

As we pulled apart and opened our eyes, we realized that several people had slowed to watch us, and they began to cheer at us as we looked around.

We both blushed and Alex got to his feet first as he reached down to me to help me up. Once we were both up on our feet, we smiled and gave a little wave and nod to the onlookers.

I looked over at Alex as we started to skate again. “I’m really glad we decided to do this,” I said to him.

“Me, too,” he replied as he looked down at me and smiled sweetly.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

Having lunch with Adam was definitely strange. Not only did it feel weird to be sitting across from someone who had caused me so much pain, but pretending as we made small talk that none of the past had occurred, made it seem even more surreal. I had agreed to have lunch with Adam because he said we could work something out with the money he owed me from when we lived together. I figured he was going to reimburse me for everything he owed or at the very least talk to me about a payment plan or something. Yet as our entrees arrived, he still hadn’t broached the subject, and my patience was wearing thin.

Just as I was about to bring up the subject myself, Adam spoke up.

“So, Vivian, about when we were living together,” he began, haltingly. I wondered what he seemed to be holding back. “What did I tell you when I broke up with you again? I can’t remember.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He couldn’t remember how things had gone down? Seriously?

“Adam, you didn’t say anything,” I began. “I came home from class one day and all your stuff was gone and some of my stuff, too. I looked for you on campus every day for the next few weeks, but you were no where to be found.

“Finally, I went to the registrar’s office to see if you were still enrolled at
school, and I was told that you had been dropped from all your classes for ‘non-attendance’.

“Does any of this sound familiar?” I asked, fixing Adam with a hard look. All my old feelings of annoyance were coming to the surface.

Adam stared at me blankly, seemingly at a loss for words. Why did he appear to be
so surprised to hear how he had behaved?

“Well?” I pressed when Adam still sat there silently.

“Sorry...” he began, seeming deflated. “I never said anything to you? I can’t believe I treated you like such crap.” He shook his head slowly, lost in his own thoughts.

I looked at him and saw that his eyes were getting misty. Was he going to cry?

“What are you talking about, Adam?” I asked, confused. “Don’t you remember what you did?”

“That’s the thing, Vivian, I don’t. I can’t remember anything about that time because...” And then, under his breath, he said, “Why is this so hard to say?

Finally, he seemed to muster the courage to be straight with me.

“I was doing drugs back then, Vivian. I was wasted out of my mind, and honestly, I don’t have many clear memories of that time at all,” he blurted out.

“What? You were some kind of junkie or something?” I asked, feeling shock spread through me.

“So what exactly are you telling me? That you can’t remember our relationship?”

Adam looked at me with regret in his eyes. “Not the last year or so, not really.”

“You were high throughout the last year we were together?” I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. It didn’t make any sense. “But you were working at that pizza place by our apartment and going to school full time. When did you have time to do drugs?”

“Didn’t you ever notice that I hardly ever slept?”

“Well, yeah, but I figured that caffeine carried you through like everybody else on campus,” I answered. “What drugs were you doing then?”

Adam couldn’t meet my gaze. He looked down at his plate and fiddled with the cold french fries that lay there. “I tried a few different ones...but then I tried meth and things in my life started to get out of control.”

At the mention of the word “meth”, a couple of older ladies who were sitting near us quickly looked our way and then started talking to each other in hushed voices, all the while glancing at us and then turning back to each other as they, no doubt, gossiped about us.

I felt embarrassed to be sitting there.

Adam lowered his voice as he continued, “At first, when I was just smoking or snorting it, I had so much energy, and I felt like I could do anything. I was more focused, and I could get through my homework like it was nothing. I had so many awesome ideas, and my artwork was so creative during that time.

“Don’t you remember all the pointillism paintings I did that year? How else could I have had the patience to paint all those little dots? You know me, I’m not a very patient person, but with the meth, I’d get so focused and lost in what I was doing that it would feel like I’d only been working on a piece for a few minutes when really it had been hours. I was so productive.

“Things were all good until I shot up the first time. The rush I felt was incredible. As soon as I felt it spreading through my body, all my worries would just melt away, and I’d feel free. It was a beautiful experience; it really was, but then the rush became all I could think about.

“I started skipping classes and ditching work so I could get high with some guys I’d met in biology. And then I started lying to you about where I was and what I was doing.

“I’d make sure I’d come home after I knew you’d be asleep so that you wouldn’t ask me any questions about my day. And it got to the point that all I cared about was getting high. Nothing else mattered to me.”

He looked up at me and must have seen the hurt look on my face.

“I’m sorry, Vivian. I really am. I thought I had broken up with you before I moved out. I didn’t know I never said anything to you. At that point, it was hard to tell what was reality. I’d go for 8 or 10 days without sleeping, and I’d be hallucinating half the time. I was pretty messed up.”

I listened to the words Adam was saying, but it was hard to grasp their meaning. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?” I asked quietly. “I would have helped you...I loved you.”

“I know you did, and I loved you, too, but I didn’t want help then,” he replied.

“Like I said, all I wanted to do was get high.”

I shook my head, trying to make sense of things. And then panic flashed through me as I realized that Adam had told me that he had been shooting up.

“Please tell me
you never shared needles with anyone.” The thought that I could have been infected with some deadly disease made me feel sick to my stomach.

“No, I never did,” he replied firmly. “That was one thing I would never compromise on. I used only my own needles. They were the ones that diabetics use, and they all came in their own sealed packages.”

I felt relief wash over me. Thank God.

“I still can’t believe what you’re telling me, though,” I said. “I never would have guessed that you were doing drugs when we were together, but I guess now that I look back, it certainly does explain a few things about your behavior.”

“I know it’s a lot to absorb, Vivian. We can talk about it more some other time, if you’d rather,” he said with a question in his voice. “I know you came here hoping to talk about the money I owe you, so we can talk about that now if you want to.”

“Ok, but you’ll have to excuse me for a minute,” I said as I stood up from the table and went to the washroom. I had to get away and take a breather.

I splashed cold water on my face at one of the sinks in the restroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked tired. Hell, I felt tired. This conversation was turning out to be more draining than I’d expected it to be. I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant to meet with Adam, considering our past, but I’d never expected any of this.

After I got back to the table, I saw that Adam had pulled out his checkbook.

“So, how much do I owe you for my share of the rent and all the bills?” he asked with his pen poised.

When I told him the amount, he wrote me a check right there for all of it. I couldn’t believe that after all these years, he was paying me back in full.

“Thank you for this,” I said as I folded the check and stuck it in my purse. I couldn’t help myself from cynically wondering if the check would bounce, but I pushed the thought away.

I felt really drained after our conversation, so I told Adam that I’d better be going.

He stood up when I got up to leave and came towards me as if he were going to give me a hug. I pulled my purse toward the front of my body, showing him through my body language that I wasn’t interested in hugging him.

A great sense of betrayal was starting to creep into the edges of my mind. I had trusted Adam complicitly, and he had been lying to me through half of our relationship. That wasn’t the sort of thing I could forgive over the course of one lunch.

Once I got home, I called Kelly to see how she was doing and to tell her what I’d found out about Adam.

“Can you believe that he was a junkie?” I asked her, still in shock.

I expected her to be just as shocked as I was, but instead of expressing her disbelief, she was silent.

“Kelly? Why aren’t you saying anything?” I asked.

I heard her sigh at the other end of the phone. “I didn’t want to tell you, but I knew about Adam, or at least I suspected anyway.”

“What? Why wouldn’t you tell me that? You knew how hurt I was and that his leaving came out of no where for me. It would have been nice if my own sister could have helped fill in a few of the blanks for me.”

“Look, like I said, I didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t want to make an accusation like that unless I did. The only reason I thought he might be doing drugs was because I saw him in a smoky back room at a party once, and when someone opened the door to the room, the people inside freaked out and grabbed a bunch of things to hide them out of view before someone slammed the door shut,” she said. “And Adam was sitting in there on a bed. He looked right at me.

“You know, this happened before you two even moved in together, too. It’s not like
it was right before he left, so I didn’t even think that the two things might be related.”

“You knew about this before we lived together?” I couldn’t believe that she’d keep something like that from me.

And then I realized that if he was doing drugs before we’d even moved in together
that he must have lied to me at lunch when he told me that he’d only started during
our last year together. What a jerk. I started to feel anxious and question all that he’d said to me today.

“Look, Kel, I have to run. I have to take care of something,” I said, as I hung up the phone.

I wanted to get to the bank to deposit Adam’s check while I still had the chance.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 7, 2008--Part Two

Part Two

On Saturday, Mark picked me up wearing a dark blue suit and a cologne that smelled wonderful. I don’t know what it is about certain colognes, but they seem to touch something primal in me; I have a physical reaction to them. In a word, they make me horny.

I didn’t find Mark terribly attractive; he was a bit dorky, and we had agreed to keep things at a friend level, but damn, he smelled good.

Once we were in his car, I asked Mark what cologne he was wearing.

Perhaps I can file the information away so I can pick some up for a future boyfriend, maybe even Alex if things go the way I’d like them to.

“Oh,” Mark said. “I’m not wearing any cologne.”

“Oh...” I replied, a bit flustered.

How unexpected.

We arrived at the Bellhurst Art Museum, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was to be an exclusive art opening. It turns out that Mark is a member of the museum, which apparently has its perks. The gallery wouldn’t be open to the public until the following weekend, so we would be getting first choice on any paintings we decided to purchase. I came with no plans to buy anything, but you never know what may end up catching my eye.

After climbing the 30-or-so stone stairs to the entrance, which was hard to do in these four-inch heels (what was I thinking?!), Mark took my coat and checked it along with his own.

While he stepped away, I had a chance to see which artists were presenting their work this evening. There, in black and white, I saw the name “Adam Alvarez”, my ex from college, the deadbeat who’d skipped out on our lease, the one who still owed me several hundred dollars from purchases he racked up on my credit card while we were together—he is one of the artists displaying his work tonight.

Mark returned with two glasses of champagne. I thanked him, and as we strolled through the museum, looking at the beautiful paintings, the artists mingled with the patrons.

I craned my neck to see if I could spot Adam, but with the thick crowd of people all clad in black clothing, it was difficult to discern one person from the next. Why is it that black is the uniform for art openings? There were a couple of daring individuals in charcoal or slate, and of course there was Mark in his blue suit, but that was about the only deviance from the norm.

I looked down at my own black dress and felt a little silly that I, too, had bought into the notion that black is the only acceptable color to wear to these functions. You’d think that we’d choose something more lively to attend an event that is a celebration of color, yet instead we all look like we’re going to a funeral.

Mark was very knowledgeable about the paintings, and he tried to engage me in conversation about several of them, but I was too distracted by the idea that Adam was here somewhere, only steps away, to properly contribute to any discourse with him.

“So, what do you think of this one?” he asked. “Do you see how the spray of light distorts the...

He must have seen me glancing over my shoulder for about the hundredth time.

“Cow that jumped over the moon who’s holding a watering can over the alien’s armpit?” he continued. “And how do you like the banana peel in the sky there?”

“Wha’...Oh, um, I think it’s lovely,” I said as I looked behind him, still scanning the crowd. “Are you thinking of purchasing it?”

“Vivian, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” he asked.

“Hmm...Sure I have,” I said, finally looking at him. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you didn’t bat an eye at the ‘fairy-tale-on-acid’ description I gave of the last painting there,” he said.

“Why do you seem so distracted?”

“I’m sorry, Mark,” I said, focusing on him for the first time in several minutes. “It’s just that I saw my ex-boyfriend’s name on the list of artists here tonight, and things didn’t end very well with us. I keep looking to see if he’s anywhere near us.”

“Ah, I see,” he said, glancing around the room. “Don’t look now, but I think I may have found him.”

“You what?” I asked a split second before I heard Adam’s voice behind me.

“Vivian!” he exclaimed. “How wonderful to see you!”

Adam took my hand and spun me around towards him. He leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Darling, it’s been too long! Why haven’t you kept in touch?” he said teasingly, with a broad smile on his face.

“Perhaps it was because you disappeared with no forwarding address,” I said dryly.

Could he really not remember our history? This fakey-fakey nonsense was getting old in a hurry.

“Adam, in case you’ve forgotten, you walked out on me, leaving me to struggle with all the unpaid bills.”

“Are you still caught up on that?” he asked in a disapproving tone, as if to shame me.

“Well, I might be over it if I weren’t still paying for it,” I said. “It’s hard to put something in the past when you still have to deal with the repercussions of it in the present.”

“Ohhh, I see,” he said. “Well, perhaps we can work something out.

“I’m doing quite well for myself these days,” he said, as he moved his arm in a sweeping motion, indicating his artwork.

“Yes, I see that,” I said.

And then, in a gentler tone, I added, “I very much appreciate your offer.”

“Here’s my card,” he said as he extended it to me. “Let’s have lunch on Tuesday, and we can figure things out.”

“It’s a date,” I said as I tucked his card into my purse.

“Well, dear, it’s been lovely seeing you. Ta ta!” he waved as he practically skipped towards a small group of people who were lighting up with delight at his approach.

“Ta ta? Was he always so corny?” Mark asked, trying not to laugh.

“Not always,” I said, grinning. “I guess he’s been sniffing too many paint fumes.

“I’m glad that’s over,” I continued. “I was worried there might be a scene. As I mentioned, we didn’t exactly part on good terms.”

“So you’ve said,” Mark replied as he gently led me towards another group of paintings.

Despite its rocky beginnings, Mark and I had a lot of fun touring the museum, and after the exchange with Adam, he and I were in a much lighter mood, joking with each other and laughing.

By the end of the evening, I was feeling much more open to the possibility of dating Mark. It might have been the three glasses of champagne talking, but maybe I’d misjudged him. He didn’t seem so nerdy after all.

“You know, Mark,” I said as I slid onto the seat of his car. “You’re a really nice guy. I’m sorry if I seemed bitchy when I cut you off at the pass the other day when you asked me out for tonight.

“I told you I wasn’t interested in dating anyone from the office, but I really enjoyed myself with you tonight. Maybe I was too hasty.” I smiled.

Seeing as Mark had barely touched his single glass of champagne, he was much more clear-headed than I.

“While I’m flattered, Vivian,” he said gently. “I don’t think now’s the right time for you to be choosing to go back on your policy of not dating coworkers.”

“Hmm...Maybe you’re right,” I said, as I stifled a yawn. The champagne and the vibrations of the car as Mark drove me home were making me very sleepy.

Maybe I'll close my eyes for just a minute.

The next thing I knew, Mark’s hand was on my shoulder, and he was lightly shaking me awake.

As soon as I realized I had fallen asleep, I startled awake and began talking quickly.

“I’m so sorry I fell asleep! How embarrassing!”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Vivian.” Mark smiled at me warmly. “While I must say it’s the first time I put a woman to sleep while out on an evening with me, I’m glad that if it had to happen, it happened with you.”

He reached out his hand to help me out of the car. He saw how groggy I still was, so he offered me his arm as he walked me into my building.

“Are you going to be all right?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll be fine,” I said. “I still don’t know why I’m so tired.

“Ohhh, wait a minute," I said as I furrowed my brow. "I just remembered that I took some cold medicine before we went out tonight because I was feeling a bit congested. No wonder the champagne is hitting me so hard.

“And I was so caught up in worrying about seeing Adam tonight that I wasn’t even thinking of that when I drank. How stupid of me.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Vivian,” Mark said. “It could happen to anyone.”

“You’re being too generous,” I replied. “But thank you for putting up with me this evening. I’m sorry about all of my bad behavior.”

“Don’t be,” he said sincerely. “It was definitely one of the more interesting art openings I’ve been to.”

I blushed.

“I will see you at work on Monday then,” I said as I pushed the button for the elevator.

He nodded at me.

“Now go get some rest. Doctor’s orders.”

“I will, and thank you again.”

“Good night.” he smiled as he left my building.

Yes, impressionism is my favorite art movement. What I love about it is that the artists often take a subject and show how it changes when viewed in different lighting, often accentuating the effects of the passage of time.

How interesting then that my own views of Adam and Mark had changed during the course of one evening.

I certainly was seeing the two of them in a whole new light.

Friday, November 7, 2008

November 7, 2008--Part One

Part One

Recently, I decided to take all the artwork down off my walls so I could switch the paintings around to other rooms in order to really see them again. It’s been said that you begin to ignore things if you pass by them in the same place day after day. In fact, you may not even notice them anymore.

And so it is with people.

My coworker Mark has always been there—working diligently when I come in for work and pass by his desk on the way to mine. And oftentimes, he’s still there plugging away as I leave for the night.

So it was a surprise one day when Mark came out of the background to show up at my desk with a couple of cups of coffee in his hands.

“Hello, Vivian,” he said. “I have an extra cappuccino here. Would you like it?”

“Um, sure...M-Ma-Mike,” I stuttered, unsure of his name.

“It’s Mark,” he said as he handed the coffee to me.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “I’m terrible with names.”

That wasn’t exactly true. I was fine with the names of people I actually notice, but frankly, he had simply blended into the scenery for me up until this moment.

“Thank you for the coffee.” I smiled, turning back to my work.

After a moment, I realized Mark was still standing there. I looked up from my drawings.

“Was there something else?” I asked, raising one eyebrow.

He hesitated.

“Would you like to go to lunch with me?” he blurted out.

He caught me off guard, considering we hadn’t said much to each other beyond “hello” and “How about that weather?” before. But he seemed nice enough, and he was cute, in a quirky sort of way. Not to mention, I could use a boost to the old self-esteem since Alex had blown me off. So I said “yes”.

Mark surprised me by turning out to be a lovely lunch companion. He had a great sense of humor and an easy way about himself, once he got over the initial nerves of asking me out to lunch. I was glad I had agreed to go.

When we returned to the office, Mark turned to me and said, “Listen, I’ve got two tickets to the Impressionists art opening this weekend at the Bellhurst Art Museum. Would you like to join me?”

“I’d love to,” I said impulsively. Impressionism is my favorite art movement.

Then cautiously I added, “But I should let you know that I’m not interested in an office romance. I just don’t think they’re a good idea.

“I’d be happy to be friends, though.” I offered, suddenly feeling presumptuous. Perhaps he was only looking for friendship.

“Friends,” he said with a look of disappointment on his face. “Sure, that makes perfect sense.”

Ok, so at least my intuition wasn’t completely off. I felt a bit better about having assumed Mark was interested in me romantically, since he was, but I also felt bad for rejecting him. However, the last thing I needed was a messy office fling. Besides, if I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I’m still holding out hope that Alex will call. Idiotic, I know, but I can’t help myself.

I stopped off at a vending machine at my pharmacy to rent a DVD on my way home from work. Those things are amazing, by the way. Whoever thought of vending-machine DVD’s deserves a hug. They’re just so convenient.

I had just sat down with a big bowl of popcorn and was cozying up on the couch when my phone rang. I grabbed it off the base.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello, Vivian, it’s Alex.”

Well, well, look who finally decided to call.

“Are you free this Saturday?” Alex asked, apparently oblivious to the possibility that my feelings might be hurt that he hadn’t called in the last three weeks since our date.

“Sorry, Alex,” I said. “I’m already going out Saturday night.”

I was glad I was going to be busy with Mark. I didn’t want to seem as if I had been desperately sitting around waiting for Alex to call—even if there had been some waiting in there.

And if I admitted it to myself, it was also true that I slightly enjoyed the little barb of being able to tell him I had a date already for Saturday night.

It might not be pretty, but there it is.

“Oh,” he said. “I didn’t realize that you were dating anyone else.”

It seemed a bit strange that he would be feeling any sort of possessiveness, considering we’d only had the one date, but I didn’t think about it too much.

“I hadn’t been, but when Mark asked me out, you still hadn’t bothered to call me, so I said ‘yes’.”

The words were out before I realized I had just revealed my hand. Damn.

“Listen, about that...I wanted to call you, but my father called me the day after our date and asked me to fly out to South Africa to go negotiate a deal with a conflict-free diamond supplier there.

“I just got back into town a couple of days ago.

“It was a bit tricky to broker the deal, and things always take longer there than here, but I’m happy with the results, and more importantly, so is my father. He’s hired me back on,” Alex said.

“That’s great to hear, but wait a minute,” I said, confused. “I thought your family owned a jewelry store in the mall or something along those lines. Isn’t it a bit expensive to travel all the way to South Africa to supply diamonds to only one store?”

“We don’t own a jewelry store, Vivian, but the entire Hayes’ Jewelers corporation.” Alex laughed.

“Whoa...your family owns Hayes Jewelers—the leading upscale-jewelry franchise in the southwest?” I asked, shocked.

“I see you’ve heard our commercials,” he said, chuckling.

“Yes, we are those Hayeses.”

Wow, I had never put two and two together before. I naively thought that his family owned one, maybe two, shops. It never occurred to me that they could own an entire franchise.

Suddenly, I felt out of my league. Alex wasn’t the VP of some small business, he was the VP of one of the largest jewelers in the country.

And here I am, just some small-time middle-class graphic designer from very humble beginnings. I was definitely feeling in over my head.

“Are you still there?” Alex asked, interrupting my developing self-doubt.

“What? Oh, yes,” I said. “I’m still here.”

“Good. You got so quiet there that I thought I’d lost you.”

“No, you haven’t lost me,” I said.

But I wondered how long that would last. What does a man of Alex’s caliber want with me? Would he dump me once he realized I didn’t come from money like he does?

Why do I have to be so insecure? It doesn’t help that I constantly hear my mother’s critical voice in the back of my head as I go through life. The voice always cuts me down and makes me question my worth.

Will I ever be good enough?

It has been years since I’ve had to live with my mother’s constant put-downs, but unfortunately, I’ve learned to take over for her, and now I continue her abuse in my own mind. I need to find a way to shut the voices up—both hers when I speak to her on the phone and the one I’ve created for her in my head.

Maybe I could use a couple of sessions with a therapist myself. It would be nice to be able to get through a day without all of the self-questioning and criticisms.

Hell, I don’t know what I’d do if I actually felt the confidence I fake every day. How liberating it would be to be kind to myself. It’s definitely something I’m going to work on.

Before hanging up with Alex, I told him that I would call him during the week to let him know if I’d be able to get together the next weekend. I had made plans with Kelly and Kaitlyn to go to the movies, but maybe I could reschedule with them. I didn’t want to put Alex off for too long.

I will post Part Two of this entry some time this weekend. I can't do it now because I keep falling asleep. Sorry about that!

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24, 2008

Even though Alex had asked me at the end of our first date if he could call me again, he didn’t.

I hadn’t expected that.

After all, things had seemed like they’d gone so well. The conversation flowed easily, and we had real chemistry—or at least I thought we did. Maybe only I had been the one to feel it.

What a disappointment.

Sonia and I discussed it over lunch on Thursday.

“Don’t you think Alex would have called by now if he were truly interested?” I asked Sonia, trying hard not to sound like a whiny child who didn’t get her way.

“I mean, it’s Thursday, it’s not like he could call me now and ask me out for this weekend,” I continued. “Isn’t it too late at this point to call someone for even a Saturday night date?”

Sonia looked frustrated as she said, “What I don’t get is why you haven’t called him if you want to talk to him so much.”

“I had hoped he’d call me,” I lamented. “I just don’t feel right about calling him first after our date. I don’t want to mess things up by seeming too eager.

“Don’t guys like the chase and all that?” I asked. “My mom always said I should let a man pursue me if I want him to value me.”

“So now you’re taking dating advice from Lois?” Sonia asked, incredulous.

She pressed her lips together into a tight line and exhaled sharply out of her nose. She gave me a look of exasperation.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said. “But she has been married four times. She may not know how to keep a man, but she does know how to get one.”

“If you think it’s a good idea, then go ahead and listen to her,” Sonia replied, still looking frustrated. “I just don’t see why you’re playing games is all. If you like the guy and you want to see him again, why not just call him?”

I sighed. I really didn’t have a good answer for her.

Honestly, I’m not positive that waiting around for him to call is the best strategy. But it is the one I’m sticking to for now.

Why can’t I ever simply have a date without analyzing it, and the guy’s actions, (or lack thereof) to death?

Sometimes I annoy even myself.

When Saturday rolled around and I still hadn’t heard from Alex, I decided to stop sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I called Kelly to see if she and Kaitlyn wanted to come over for a barbecue in the courtyard of my building.

“Hey, Kel, how are you doing?” I asked. “Would you and Kaitlyn like to come over this afternoon? We can barbecue some chicken, and I can make my world-wide famous potato salad. What do you say?”

“I’d say you’ve inflated the fame of your potato salad,” she said, laughing.

“Ok, ok,” I said in mock defeat. “So maybe it’s not famous the world over, but could we agree it’s at least family-wide famous?”

We both laughed, and I wondered how Kelly had been feeling since her last therapy appointment. I’d watched Kaitlyn again for her on Wednesday, but Kaitlyn had been running a fever, and Kelly wanted to get her home to bed right after she came to get her. So we didn’t have a chance to talk about her appointment at all.

After Kelly stopped laughing, she paused and said, more seriously, “You know, I haven’t been to a barbecue since John died. I haven’t even uncovered his grill in the backyard.”

I hadn’t realized that coming over to barbecue some chicken would be significant for Kelly, but now that I thought about it, it made sense. John had always been a big barbecuer. Every weekend in the summer, they’d have several friends over, and John would act as the “grill master”.

John took pride in the barbecue sauce he’d created and perfected over the years, and he made an awesome marinade. He even had a secret-spice recipe that he’d sprinkle on his burgers and steaks. John had truly been in his element in front of his grill.

I could see why it would be difficult for Kelly to barbecue without John, since it had been such a big part of their lives together and of what John enjoyed doing. He always was the life of the party.

John was very gregarious; he never met a stranger, and he had a way of putting people at ease. They’d always open up around him, and he’d been the one to help Kelly meet new people. She is much more reserved, shy even, compared to how John was.

I hadn’t considered until now that John’s passing might be affecting her social life, perhaps making her more isolated because she didn’t have such an easy time making friends without him. And Kelly had told me that after John died, she’d lost many of the friends they’d shared as a couple.

I don’t know what it is about couples that make them reluctant to keep in contact or socialize with single women who are either divorced or widowed. Maybe they think she’ll be a third wheel or think she won’t be interested in hanging out with couples because she’s alone? Maybe they think she will be depressing to be around?

I hope it isn’t the case with Kelly’s old friends because nothing could be further from the truth, but maybe the women worry that she’ll put the moves on one of their husbands? I can’t say for sure why they exclude her, but I do know that it still hurts her regardless of their reasons.

I sometimes wish I could call them and ask the questions she is too polite to ask herself. But what good would it do to have a meddling sister confront her so-called friends? I doubt I’d be able to clear anything up, and even if I could, could Kelly ever trust them again? Probably not.

As hard as it might be for her, Kelly agreed to come over for a barbecue. Now I felt pressured to make sure that the food was as good as I could make it. My thinking being that maybe I could distract her with good food. It was worth a try anyway.

I checked my freezer to see if I had any chicken breasts, and the only ones I found looked like something out of a science experiment they were so old and freezer burnt. So I headed off to the grocery store to buy some replacements and get the ingredients for my potato salad.

Once I got home, I started boiling my potatoes and making a fruit salad. I set the chicken breasts in a marinade while I finished making the potato salad, and then I did a quick clean up of the apartment while I waited for Kelly and Kaitlyn to come over.

At about two, the doorbell rang, and I let Kelly and Kaitlyn in. Kaitlyn was feeling much better, and she was back to her normal, energetic self. She was practically bouncing up and down with excitement as she handed me a pie...with Kelly’s help, of course.

“Look, Aunt Vivee,” Kaitlyn said. “I made it myself!”

Kelly smiled at me and told me they’d made a chocolate pudding pie for our dessert.

“ favorite, Kaitlyn,” I said. “Thank you!”

Kaitlyn giggled and ran over to the box of toys that I kept for her, which I had placed on my coffee table in anticipation of their arrival.

I gave Kelly a quick hug.

“So how are you feeling today, Kel?” I asked. “Are you doing all right?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” she said. “A bit tired, but good overall.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” I replied. “Would you like to grab the food and head down to the courtyard and get started?”

“Sure,” she said, as she followed me into the kitchen.

We made two trips to bring everything down for our barbecue, and I went about getting the charcoal set up in one of the three grills provided by the apartment complex. Kelly set up a covered picnic table with the rest of our spread while I got the grill going.

“So, you never told me how your date went the other night,” Kelly said. “What’s his name again?”

“Alex,” I replied. “And it was wonderful...or so I thought.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“He hasn’t called me, and it’s been a week.”

“Oh...” she said trying not to sound like it was a big deal.

“I thought he had a good time,” I said. “He even asked me at the end of our date if he could call me again. Why do you think he’d ask me that if he wasn’t going to call?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe it was the brush-off ‘I’ll call you’ thing that guys say when they don’t know how to end a bad date, but since he asked if he could call, maybe he’s just been busy at work this week or something.”

“Well, as far as I know, his father hasn’t hired him back yet, so he isn’t working.”

“Huh? What do you mean his father hasn’t hired him back yet?”

I explained Alex’s working situation to her, and she said, “Ok, maybe his father did hire him back then, and he’s had a lot of work to catch up on since he’s been gone for a few weeks.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But maybe not. I just hate that I misread him. I really thought he liked me, and I’m usually so good at reading people.

“I guess I should just forget about him then if I haven’t heard back from him by next week.”

“That might be best,” she said, smiling. “ could always call him, you know, and stop being so stubborn.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” I asked. “Doesn’t anyone believe in playing hard to get anymore?”

Kaitlyn finished her food quickly and started blowing bubbles as she ran around the courtyard. Kelly and I sat at the picnic table watching her.

“How’s Kaitlyn been doing with everything?” I asked.

“As well as can be expected,” Kelly answered. “She’s still having the nightmares, though.”

I shook my head sadly. The poor kid.

“And how are you doing?”

“Honestly, I feel like an alcoholic,” she said. “I’m just taking it ‘one day at a time’ right now.”

“Is the therapy helping at all?” I asked.

“A little,” Kelly replied. “At least I have someone to talk to whom I don’t feel like I’m burdening.”

“Kelly, you are not a burden to me, if that’s what you mean,” I said. “Please tell me you don’t really believe that.”

She looked at me and her eyes began to tear up.

“I’m glad you don’t think I’m a burden,” she said. “It’s just, it’s been almost a year now, and we talk about John’s death almost every time we get together. I figured you were getting sick of hearing about it.”

“Kelly! I can’t believe you’d think I could get sick of listening to you,” I said in disbelief. “Honey, you can talk to me about this any time you need to. I told you I’d be here for you, and I meant it.”

I got up and walked over to her to give her a hug. She’s still so thin I’m glad that I invited her over here today to eat a fattening meal. I honestly don’t think she’s eating every day. Her face is so gaunt that she’s starting to get a hollow look around her eyes. She doesn’t look healthy at all. I hope she can manage to get through this because Kaitlyn needs her.

Sunday morning, I decided to go downtown for a mint cafe mocha—“it’s like candy in a cup”, or so said the menu board in a cafe I used to frequent in college. Most of the coffeehouses today have never heard of one before, but they oblige me anyway.

Despite the slight chill in the air, I settled in with my mocha and a book at a cafe table outside near the sidewalk, where I could watch people walking by.

It had been several years since I had indulged myself by participating in my former favorite pastime. I used to love watching people and imagining what their lives were like.

As I watched couples or friends pass by, I’d imagine what they were saying to each other by watching their expressions and gestures. It was always entertaining to create scenarios and imagine their relationships to each other.

As I sat enjoying my coffee, I stared off into space while thinking about an elderly woman who had just walked by with a blue croc sandal on one foot and a red snow boot on the other. I thought about whether her shoe choice had been intentional or perhaps a sign of mental illness or a mind slipping with age.

I was so caught up thinking about this lady that at first I didn’t notice the young, smiling, red-headed woman walking straight toward me. But then her shrill voice intruded upon my thoughts.

“Vivian! Darling! How are you?” she practically shrieked. “It’s been way too long!”

The tall woman with the curly, frizzy hair was backlit by the sun, making it difficult to see her clearly, so it took me a moment to make out her face. As I got my focus, I saw who was standing before me: Kendra Jensen, one of my former coworkers from the hospital—one that I wasn’t upset at leaving behind.

“Kendra! What a nice surprise!” I lied in my best falsetto voice.

“May I join you?” she asked as she pulled out a chair and sat down without waiting for an answer.

So much for a peaceful morning of people watching.

“So what have you been up to these last couple of years?” she asked in her sing-song voice. “You never called me like you said you would after you left the hospital.”

“Oh, you know how it is, Kendra,” I replied. “I was so busy with going back to school, and I’ve been working as a graphic designer, which keeps me busy.”

I didn’t bother mentioning that a phone works two ways.

“What’s new with you?” I asked.

“Well...” she began. “Do you remember Dr. Nelson?”

I nodded, and she held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers in front of my face. The diamond on the third finger of her left hand caught the sunshine and about blinded me with its sparkle.

“Really? When did you two marry?” I asked, a bit surprised.

Kendra hardly seemed Dr. Nelson’s type. She was much too wacky and off the wall—usually she was over the top in everything she did, and he was always so quiet, as if he were taking everything in, slowly digesting it before giving his measured responses. They hardly seemed like a likely pair.

“We’re not married yet,” she said. “We’re getting married in two weeks.

“Ooh,” she squealed as she clapped her hands together. “You must come to the wedding!”

“Oh,” I stammered, trying to think of a way to beg off and failing to find a sufficient excuse quickly enough. “I’d love to.”

“Wonderful! Why don’t you write down your address for me so I can mail you an invitation?” she asked as she pulled an address book and pen with a feathery puff at the end of it out of her oversized bag and pushed them across the table to me.

I reluctantly wrote my information in her book. I felt slightly guilty when the thought of “accidentally” transposing a couple of the numbers in my address crossed my mind. I was being selfish and I knew it.

Kendra had driven me crazy with her self-absorption and eccentric, loud manner of being, but certainly I could put all of that aside for an evening and help her celebrate her marriage. Plus, it would be nice to see some of my other former coworkers who are sure to be there. Maybe going to the wedding won’t be so bad after all.

After I handed the book and the pen meant for an eight-year-old back to Kendra, she stood up to leave.

“Well, I must be off,” she said. “I’m meeting Jeffrey for lunch.

“So good to see you, Vivian!” she enthused.

She leaned over and gave me an air kiss on either side of my face, and before I could even finish saying goodbye, she was click-clacking away in her hot pink high heels.

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Friday's Post

Hello, everyone. I wanted to let you know that I am on vacation, so there will be no post on Friday, October 10th.

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26, 2008

After Vincent took our order, Jean-Luc, the sommelier, appeared and poured each of us a glass of the ’83 Cristal.

Alex raised his glass and said, “To a wonderful evening.”

I smiled at Alex and we lightly clinked our glasses together. I took a small sip of the champagne, and the tip of my nose began to tingle. It’s the strangest thing, but I can always tell if there’s alcohol in something because after the first swallow, there comes the tingling.

I’ve always wondered if I’m the only person this happens to, but I’d stopped mentioning it to people a long time ago because they always look at me like I’d just told them I eat unicorns for breakfast or something. I really never thought it was that weird, but I guess it is.

“So, what line of work are you in?” Alex asked me, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“I’ve been a graphic designer for the past two years, and prior to that, I was a labor and delivery nurse.”

“That’s a bit of a career change,” he said. “What made you leave nursing?”

“Well, originally, I had wanted to work as a neonatal nurse in the NICU—the neonatal intensive care unit. I started off in labor and delivery to get some experience in nursing,” I said.

“I thought this was the path I wanted to take in my life; however, it turns out that it wasn’t. At least right now.

"When things went well in labor and delivery, it was an amazing experience that I felt privileged to be allowed to share with patients, but when things went wrong, it was devastating."

“I can only imagine.”

“I thought I might get better at dealing with the emotions over time, but it only got harder for me,” I said. “And if I had such a hard time in labor and delivery, where the majority of the time things go well, I knew I was going to have an even more difficult time in the NICU where death is a regular part of the job.

“I probably could have handled the situation better by asking the more-experienced nurses how they deal with the losses, but for some reason, it never really occurred to me to reach out to them and ask for guidance.

“So, I did the travelling nurse bit for a while until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” I said. “That’s how I ended up moving here from New York.

“After I did some soul-searching, I decided to go back to school to study graphic design because I’d always loved art—drawing and painting mostly—when I was growing up, but my parents never really considered art to be more than a hobby, certainly not something that you could make a career out of.”

“So you didn’t have the most supportive parents?” he asked.

I scoffed. “You could say that.”

“I can relate.”

“What do you mean?”

“I work in my family’s business,” he began. “And...”

He must have seen the puzzled look on my face because, as I’d already brought up during dinner, he had told me that he had lost his job.

“My father and I have what you could call a bit of a volatile relationship,” he confided. “He tends to fly off the handle and fires me once every couple of months.”

“That doesn’t sound like a pleasant work environment,” I said.

“It does make things a touch trying at times, but fortunately, I don’t have to deal with him on a day-to-day basis. We see each other at board meetings, and—“

“Board meetings? What kind of family business are you in?” I asked, confused.

“My great grandfather started a jewelry business back in 1917,” he said. “My grandfather worked there, my father works there, and now I work there, too.

“Or, I will work there again, once my father calms down and starts thinking rationally again.

“He’s a bit of a hot head,” he continued. “And he tends to act rashly at times when it comes to me. He just needs some time to cool off.”

“I see.”

“We clash sometimes because we’re so much alike.”

“So you’re saying you’re a hot head, too?” I asked.

He laughed. “I’ve been known to have my moments.”

I forced a laugh, but honestly, that worried me a little. I hoped I’d never be on the receiving end if he lost control.

Perhaps sensing that I wasn’t exactly pleased with his last comment, Alex changed the subject.

“So what’s it like being raised in New York City?” he asked.

“Oh, I didn’t live in New York City,” I replied. “Sorry, I should have specified that I lived in New York State.

“Everyone always thinks I mean New York City if I say I’m from New York,” I continued. “They forget there’s a whole state named ‘New York.’”

Alex smiled at me warmly.

“But living there was nice. Autumn is beautiful with the changing leaves.

“That’s one thing I miss living out here,” I said.

“Yes, there aren’t too many leaves changing colors out here in the desert.” he chuckled.

“You’re right, and as a matter of fact, there’s not much color at all.”

The conversation during the rest of dinner continued to flow naturally. I found myself feeling at ease with Alex. He seemed familiar somehow, and it was comforting to be around him.

I hoped that this was the start of something good. It was the best first date I’d had in a long time. Maybe the best one I’d had ever.

After the bill for our dinner came (Is it wrong to be curious how much it cost?), Alex leaned closer to me and said, “I’m really glad you decided to go out with me tonight.”

“Me too,” I said. “I’ve had a great time tonight.”

“As have I,” he said as he reached over and gently laid his fingertips on my hand for just a moment before pulling away.

I was savoring his touch and could still feel his warmth on the back of my hand when Alex got up and pulled my chair out for me so we could leave.

We drove back to my apartment complex chatting about our favorite sports to play. Mine? Tennis. His? Soccer. And our favorite take-out food. Pizza and Chinese, respectively. So we were zero-for-two, but we at least liked each other's favorites.

Alex and I walked into my building, and he came up on the elevator with me to make sure I made it back to my apartment safely.

“May I call you again?” he asked as we reached my door.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.” I smiled.

Alex smiled, too, and for a moment, I thought he was going to kiss me, but I could tell he thought better of it.

I was a little disappointed, but I realized that it was for the best. I don't want to rush into anything.

“Thank you for going to dinner with me tonight,” he said as he started to turn to leave. “Goodnight, Vivian.”

“Goodnight, Alex,” I said. “Thank you for such an enjoyable evening.”

As Alex walked towards the elevator, I stood in my doorway, enjoying his retreat. Yes, thank you, Mr. Hayes. Thank you very much.

I felt giddy when I got into my apartment and closed the door. I kicked off my shoes and rubbed my feet as I fell back onto my couch. I smiled to myself thinking of how good it felt to have met someone with whom I felt a real connection. It was something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

As I lay in bed an hour later, I was still smiling to myself. It was a good thing I was alone because if anyone had been around, they'd probably tell me to wipe the goofy grin off my face.

I fell into a contented sleep.

Suddenly, the phone startled me awake. I forced one eye open and looked at my alarm clock: 6 a.m. Who the hell would be calling me at this hour?

I squinted at the caller ID—my mother. Ugh.

I had been having the most wonderful dream. Alex and I were on the beach playing with our two children: a little dark-haired boy and a little girl with long, brown curls. What in the world am I doing having those kinds of dreams about Alex when we’ve only been on one date? I really need to quit watching so many romantic comedies.

The phone kept ringing, annoyingly.

“Hello?” I mumbled groggily as I put the phone to my ear, my head still on the pillow.

“Oh, were you sleeping, dear?” my mother asked, knowing full well that I had been. “Did you have a late night?”

The way she said it made me think she knew something.

“No, Mom, I wasn't out late, but you do realize it’s 6 in the morning here, right?” I asked. My mother had a bad habit of “forgetting” that it was two hours earlier here than on the East Coast.

Kelly must have told her about my date. Thanks, Kelly.

“Oh, it is? I never was good at figuring out the time difference.”

“In the spring, we’re two hours behind you, Mom, and in the fall, it’s one hour behind you.” Even I could remember it when I was half asleep, so I knew she was just being difficult. What else is new?

“So is there something specific that you wanted so early this morning?” I asked, craving a few hours’ more sleep.

“Can’t I call just to talk to my oldest daughter?” she asked, pretending to be hurt.

“Yes, Mom, you can call me,” I said. “I just wish you’d do it when you know I’ll be awake.”

“Well, I can’t help it if you sleep all day.”

I tried very hard not to snap at her. I was already annoyed, and we’d been on the phone for less than 3 minutes, but I knew she was just baiting me. I refused to play her little games.

“You know how I enjoy lying in bed all day,” I said matter-of-factly, without a trace of sarcasm.

She didn’t seem to know what to make of it, and said, “Er, well, at least you’re aware of your problem.”

Leave it to her to turn it back into an attack on me.

Her vitriol was too much for me, considering I'd only been awake for a few minutes. I just wanted to roll over, go back to sleep, and restart the day in a few hours. I told her I’d call her back later.

I drifted back to sleep surprisingly easily. I had expected to lie there fretting about my conversation with my mother, but I fell asleep within minutes.

I wish I could say it was a peaceful sleep, however, but it wasn’t.

I started dreaming that there was a man standing in my room watching me while I slept. I felt scared of him, but I didn't know why. He looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him.

Come to think of it, he looked a bit like Alex. I guess I just have him on my mind.

Try as I might, I couldn't make myself wake up. I felt as if I were trying to drag my body up through multiple layers of fog to consciousness. I fought to open my eyes.

Once I forced them open, I looked around my room quickly, scared that it might not have been a dream.

From what I could tell, my room was empty, but my heart was still beating wildly, and I felt panicky.

It was a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to shake for the rest of the day.

Blogspot Errors

For some reason, blogspot is not letting me publish my post. Frustrating.

I will try again later today.

In the meantime, you'll see that I have added the option of following my blog over on the left-hand side of the page. I'd love to be able to see how many people are reading my blog because I know that not everyone who reads it comments. So, if you're willing, I'd appreciate it if you let me know you're reading by adding my blog to the list of blogs you're following. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My apologies...

Sorry I wasn't able to get an extra post up for you this week. I had really wanted to, but life sometimes gets in the way. Tune in for our regularly-scheduled program on Friday, however.

I also wanted to let you know that I will be out of town on Friday, October 10 (which is when the post after this Friday's is due) because my brother's getting married in Cancun. So...I will do my best to get a post out to you before we leave, but no promises as I've got about a bazillion things to do between now and then.

Keep your fingers crossed that the writing muses are with me this week!

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12, 2008

“Here, try this one,” Sonia said as she handed me a heavily-beaded, pale-green dress over the dressing room wall.

“This one’s too matronly. I don’t want to look like his grandma!” I said as I tossed the dress back over the wall to her.

“Ok, give me a minute,” she said as she walked away.

I stared at the stack of dresses I had piled up on the changing room bench and started to feel discouraged that I’d never find the right one for my date with Alex.

In a moment, Sonia was back and passed me a little red number that was cut too high in the leg and too low in the chest.

“How about this one?” she asked. “It’s not your grandma’s red dress.”

“I said his grandma because mine probably would wear this, but don’t you think red’s a little desperate for a first date?” I asked. “I think I should go with something a little more subdued.

Besides, I’m looking for something that says ‘Hey, look at me—I’m beautiful’, not ‘Hey, look at me—want to see my pancreas?’”

“Well, I’m sure your pancreas is lovely. And don’t you want someone who accepts and loves every part of you?” she asked, chuckling.

“Sonia, you’re weird. I think all this shopping is affecting your brain.

Ok, I’m going to get dressed again so we can go to another store. I need to find something soon because I’m starving.”

“Me too. Let’s go to the cantina after this,” Sonia said. “I’ll call Paul and tell him to eat without me. I’m sure he’d be happy to have a chance to go out with his buddies.”

Sonia and I had been at the mall for over three hours, searching for the perfect dress, and not finding anything was getting old. Not to mention, my hair was starting to stand straight up from all the static electricity I was creating from pulling so many dresses over my head and back off again. If I had kept it up much longer, I’d be giving Medusa a run for her money.

Finally, when I had just about given up hope, we were walking past a little shop I’d never noticed before, and there, in the window, I saw it—a beautiful deep coral-colored dress with spaghetti straps and an empire waist. It was made of chiffon and had a satin sash with tiny gems sparkling across it. I knew before I even tried it on that it would be the one.

Once I had the dress on, I stepped out of the dressing room so Sonia could see me.

She let out a low whistle. “Hubba, hubba, Vivian.

If Alex doesn’t like you in that, he’s gay.”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it does look nice on me, doesn’t it?” I said, doing a little twirl as I admired myself in the mirror.

The coral plays off my reddish-dark brown hair—my father always compared my hair to the color of mink—and my light brown eyes. The dress gives me a glow. And the best part is that I have a pair of Jimmy Choos at home that I bought on clearance last year which will go with the dress perfectly. I was glad to be done with worrying about what I was going to wear. Sonia was too.

“Let’s get out of here!” she exclaimed while she playfully hooked her arm through mine and tugged me out of the store after I’d made my purchase.

Once we got to the cantina, we sat at what was becoming our favorite booth—the one by the window, away from where most people sit. It makes for more interesting conversation when we don’t have to worry about being overheard.

We ordered two strawberry margaritas, but I swear they don’t put any alcohol in them, or if they do, it can’t be more than a splash because it tastes like strawberry limeade, and neither of us ever feels even a slight buzz from them. They’re probably a rip-off, but still, we order them. We also asked for a plate of nachos and two taco combination plates.

“So, what’s new with you lately?” I asked Sonia.

“Well, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I got a certified letter last week,” she said. “It was a subpoena, actually.”

“A subpoena? For what?”

Sonia sighed heavily.

“They want me to testify against my father again.”

“What? I thought he was already in jail for molesting you?”

“Yeah, he was. But he was paroled late last year and no one bothered to tell me he was getting out.”

“So, what do they need you to testify about?” I asked.

“Well, it seems that after ‘dear old dad’ was released, he molested another little girl.”

“Oh the little girl ok?”

“As far as I know, yeah,” she said.

“So what are you going to do?”

“What choice do I have?” she asked. “I guess I’ll have to testify.”

“Have you told Paul about this yet?” I asked.

“No, not yet,” she said. “I’m waiting for the right moment to tell him. He nearly attacked my father in court the last time I had to testify, if you remember.”

“Oh, I remember,” I said. “And I also remember how hard it was on you. Are you ok?”

“Not really,” Sonia said. “I haven’t been able to sleep since getting the letter, and my nightmares have come back when I do finally manage to get to sleep.”

“This is awful, Sonia,” I sympathized. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Just be there with me in court for moral support because I’m going to need it if I have to face him again.”

I reached across the table and squeezed her hand.

“I’ll be there.”

I can’t believe Sonia has to testify against her father again. She shouldn’t have to see him again. Ever. Not after what he did to her. The things he put her through no child should even be aware of, let alone have done to them by their father. It makes me sick to even think about it.

Poor Sonia. I really hope that Paul can get it together and support her. I know it’s hard on him, too, hearing the details of her abuse, but she needs him if she’s going to have to go through another trial.

When I got home after dinner, I felt really down. Both of the people I’m closest to in this world are going through such crap right now, and there’s really nothing I can do for either one of them except listen to them and maybe give the occasional hug. It doesn’t seem like much, especially when I wish I could do so much more.

I plopped down on the couch and sat there vegging out in front of the TV until I went to bed. I had planned on doing a mini-facial and maybe doing a deep-conditioning treatment on my hair, but after hearing Sonia’s news, I wasn’t much in the mood anymore.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was still in a funk. It seemed selfish to be happy when my best friend and sister were both suffering. But I knew I needed to shake the negativity before my date because it wouldn’t be fair to Alex to be so down in the dumps on our date.

I decided to go for a run to see if I could brighten my mood any. I put on my sweats and my running shoes, pulled my hair back into a pony tail, grabbed my iPod, and headed out the door.

I took my usual path down the bike trail that runs past my apartment building and passes by the man-made pond about two blocks away. I honestly don’t know what possessed the land developers to put in a pond in the desert. Although, I suppose it’s not much different than all the swimming pools we have around here.

After my run, I felt refreshed. I don’t know what it is about it, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the exertion, maybe it’s both, but I always feel so much better after a good, hard run, and today was no exception.

I took a quick shower when I got back, and afterwards, I made some eggs for breakfast and sat down with the newspaper to read the advice columns and cartoons. It’s a Saturday-morning ritual I’ve done since I was a kid. Even with all the instant-access news to be found on the internet, I still love the smell and feel of a real newspaper in my hands. I even like it when the tips of my fingers turn black from the ink. I guess it’s comforting to me since I’ve been doing it for so long.

By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was getting nervous. When I have too much nervous energy, I clean. And let me tell you, my apartment hasn’t been this clean in months.

Time seemed to be dragging on, and I was glad when it was finally 4 o’clock so I could get in the shower (again—I worked up a sweat with all the cleaning I did) and start getting ready for my date.

As it neared 6:45, I was jumpy with anticipation. I was so excited to see Alex again, under much better circumstances this time, of course.

I was pacing around when my doorbell rang at exactly 7. It’s nice to see he’s punctual.

As I approached the door, my hands started to shake, and I took a deep breath to calm myself. What is with me? Why am I so nervous?

I counted slowly to 10 before opening the door. Don’t want to seem too eager.

When I saw Alex standing there, I literally felt my knees go weak. I had heard other people say before that it had happened to them, but I always thought it was an exaggeration by googly-eyed lovebirds, but apparently it can happen. I just never expected it to happen to me.

Alex looked adorably handsome in his black tailored suit and dark jade-colored tie. His hair was shorter than I remembered—he must have just gotten it cut. Maybe to make a good impression on me? Whether that was his purpose or not, it worked.

“Hello, Alex,” I said. “It’s so great to see you.”

“Likewise,” he replied. “You look absolutely stunning, Vivian.”

“Thank you.” I blushed.

“Shall we go?” he asked, offering me his arm.

In the elevator on the way to the ground floor, I kept sneaking furtive glances at Alex, at his strong jaw line, his beautiful teal eyes. I had forgotten how incredibly hot he is.

I guess I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought I was because the third time I glanced over at him, he smiled and said, “Thank you. I’m flattered.”

I blushed even harder and began to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have used any blush when I was putting on my makeup. If I keep this up, my cheeks are going to be brighter than my dress.

When we got down to the parking lot, I saw a grey beamer parked in the circular driveway in front of the building. Alex walked up to the car and opened the passenger door for me. I thanked him, and he went around to the driver’s side and got in.

“So have you ever been to Chez Henri before?” Alex asked me.

“No, but I have driven by it several times. Does that count?”

He laughed.

“Well, then you’re in for a treat.”

“I bet I am,” I said, smiling, as I looked over at him.

We stopped at the valet stand when we got to Chez Henri, and Alex trotted over to my side to open my door before the valet attendant could.

Alex offered me his hand to help me out of the car.

Once we were inside the restaurant, the maitre d’ led us to our table, and within seconds of our being seated, our waiter was tableside.

“Welcome to Chez Henri. My name is Vincent, and it will be my pleasure to serve you this evening.

May I introduce you to our sommelier Jean-Luc? He will present you now with the wine list and be able to answer any questions you may have. I will return shortly for your order.”

Vincent stepped away as Jean-Luc presented the list to Alex.

“That won’t be necessary,” Alex said as he waved away the wine list. “We’ll have a bottle of your 1983 Cristal, please."

“Alex, are you sure?” I blurted out without even thinking. “With your job situa...” I trailed off. I cringed as the words left my mouth.

Jean-Luc looked mildly alarmed and looked at Alex expectantly. Alex nodded at him, and with that, Jean-Luc hurried away.

“I’m so sorry, Alex,” I said. “I shouldn’t have said that. I—“

He interrupted me.

“It’s all right, Vivian. I can understand how you might wonder about my finances with the loss of my job, but I assure you, there is nothing to be concerned about.”

I felt like such an ass. Why did I have to open my big mouth?

We sat there in an uncomfortable silence for what seemed to be a torturous amount of time but what was, in reality, probably only seconds.

“Did I mention how lovely you look tonight?” Alex asked, generously letting me off the hook, considering how I’d embarrassed him not a moment before.

“Yes, but it’s certainly nice to hear it again,” I smiled weakly. “Thank you.”

I just hoped that the rest of our evening would go better than the last few minutes had and that I could manage to get through it without blurting out anything else I didn't mean to say.