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.