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.

“Mmm...my 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. “Or...you 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.

3 comments:

Carmel Beauty said...

UMM! I wonder why Alex didn't call? Good post!

xibby said...

I hope Alex calls her soon.

Charlotte said...

I hope he calls too. But I think she should call! If he does have a legit reason, he's probably wondering why she hasn't called him. But good post, glad to see you writing again! :)

http://charlotte-faulkner.blogspot.com/