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.


Charlotte said...

wow, creepy ending! dreams merging into reality can be super disturbing. I liked the date although I would have liked more small details of how they were interacting, not just what they said. And although please don't turn DoE and just list food all the time, what they were eating, what the restaurant looked like, etc would also hvae helped me imagine the situation. I look forward to reading more! :)

mum said...

another good one cefarian - and remember, if you ever just feel the need to post more often - I'll be waiting!


icesunstorm said...

Thanks again for posting such a well thought out blog. To be honest i had a rough day it was nice to be able to pour myself a glass of wine and unwind with your blog.

Ceferian said...

What a nice compliment to know that my writing gave you a much-needed distraction, Icesunstorm. I'm glad I could help.