Once secure in the daylight-filled safety of my home, I chuck my keys at the far wall and let out a bitter little sob. I don’t feel overly sad, exactly, in fact, I’m starting to feel anger taking over but the tears won’t stop now that they’ve started. I reach for a tissue from the little box on my bookshelf and try to tidy my face and free my nose, lest I suffocate myself with swollen nasal passages and a mouth that seems to only let air go out, beside the not-occasional-enough, deep, cascading inhale.
I set my phone on the kitchen counter, resigned to get some sleep. After a thought, I pick it up and turn the ringer off so that no scammers or spammers or bill collectors can disturb me. As I head toward the bedroom, I grab another handful of tissues and begin to remove my fancy clothes. Normally, I’d hang them up or fold them and put them away but, today, I just strip them off into piles on the floor. Down to nothing but my underwear, I grab the biggest, softest t-shirt I own, slip it over my head, and crawl into bed.
I wake up with a start to a light from outside that denotes either early morning or late evening. Where am I? The room in front of me begins to shift and change as a door disappears and a dresser comes into view while a black-painted, concrete wall begins to dissolve into the familiar green of my own room and the gaping square of my bedroom doorway starts to materialize. The question of ‘Who am I’ sort of half forms in my mind as I struggle to uncover the memory of what this room means and where it belongs in time and space.
Within seconds that feel more like minutes, I remember who I am and that this is my house. That I had laid down to sleep because of a bad night or bad day. Then, the memory of the morning comes back to me and gives me a cramp in the stomach as a prize for the recognition. I sit up and look at the clock; a little after six. Six? Why do I care about six o’clock?” I think, as a nagging feeling starts to pressure me into going over what I had written in my mental date-book.
“Date!” I say, outloud, as I jump from the bed. “Oh shit!” I had a date tonight with a guy I had been seeing. I was generally always late to our dates but I didn’t want to be late to this one. It was one of those, sort of, pivotal dates where enough time has passed to start the conversation of ‘where do we go from here’ but not quite the ‘let’s move in together’ conversation. I really liked Scott and thought we might work well together so I didn’t want to look like a bag-lady while turning on the charm, tonight.
We are supposed to meet for dinner at 7:30 so that meant I had just enough time for a quick shower but it also meant that I’d be forced to blow-dry my hair. If hair could have had a previous life, I’m pretty sure mine was a Sudanese villager that had died of dehydration, hence it’s unyielding desire to hold on to any and all moisture for as long as possible. I had developed a habit in middle school of always setting my clothes out the night before, in case a bad night came and I didn’t wake up in time to dress myself, so everything that I needed was carefully laid out on the hope chest at the end of my bed and ready to go. Dreams of being at school or work in nothing but my tighty whities still haunt me to this day.
I went through the ritual of personal cleansing, dressed myself, put on (what I thought) were my sexiest shoes, and headed for the door. Crap, my keys. Where did I put my keys? The kitchen counter with my phone gave no reply to my searching eyes. I retraced my steps to the bedroom, checking my pockets of my dress pants, and even tossing up the blanket in case they were hiding somewhere in the folds. Then it hit me, I threw them at the wall. Please don’t be broken! I quickly prayed. I had seen a car key once that, when tossed down on a counter with usual ease, had just broken clean in half. It was, of course, the only key to that car.
After locating my keys and grabbing my phone, I was out the door. Checking my usual, light but natural, make-up in the car’s rearview mirror as I drove away from the house, I realized that I looked like crap but there wasn’t much to be done about it. I’m sure Scott would understand when I explained what happened. I was hoping this would be a celebration dinner for getting moved up to store manager but he was well aware of that so the shock of my appearance should be forgiven in light of things turning out as they did.
I pulled up to the restaurant with seven minutes to spare and had to chuckle to myself over the poorly balanced way that the universe has of deciding when someone should be late and when they should get to be early. I open the door of the car and gather my things in my lap, repeating my little mantra of ‘keys, phone, money’ before locking the car and heading into the restaurant.
The hostess, just passed the little sitting area of the chain Italian restaurant, looks up at me from behind her podium and gives a little start. Do I look that bad? I want to ask her but, instead, just smile and ask for the table reserved by Scott Millietti.
She looks down at her podium and stretches out her hand to the waitress next to her, “Of course, Tina will show you to your table.”
“Right this way.” Tina says through perfect dental work.
Leading me through the maze of tables and chairs, I could see Scott up ahead, studying his menu. I didn’t want to see the look on his face when he saw my face so I dropped my eyes to take in the other patron’s tables and faces. This was probably a worse idea. A few men and women took notice of my walk through the restaurant and appraised me according to my outfit. I noticed that I had generated a few, subconscious, looks of approval until their eyes met the dark circles under my eyes and the redness gazing back at them. Catching a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the restaurants windows, I could see why. The low, yellowish orange light, customary to these kinds of places, made me look as if I had two, painful black eyes.
This side-track of my mind had given Scott long enough to see me, unobserved, and to stow his own shock before we made eye contact. Even though Scott Millietti likes to say his family comes from a well-to-do and prominent Italian heritage, he doesn’t even feint to rise as I reach the table. Just smiles up at me, as I pull out my chair to sit, and says, “Whaddup, foxy lady.” Caught a little off guard by the bro-ness of the greeting, I think, Um, yeah, maybe we wouldn’t work out so well after all.