Things I’m Mad About Today

February 27, 2013 by

1. That my best friend from second grade won’t break up with her extremely shitty boyfriend. He’s emotionally abusive, and she admits it. He’s jealous past the point of it being okay. He blames her for his feelings. He needs to be dumped, but she just keeps on texting him and letting him control her. She’s been through a terrible marriage. She knows better. There is no convincing her otherwise.

2. That my best friend from freshman year of high school is working her ass off for a company that just takes advantage of her. They wouldn’t pay for her move or even give her time off to do it; they keep assigning her work to do because the last person who had her job did absolutely nothing; they didn’t give her the raise they had initially promised. And that even when she confronts them about it, they say it’s her choice to move. They do not negotiate. They are a non-profit with an extremely awesome mission. But they suck. 

3. That my good friend from the past few years talks only about herself. She just changes the subject when it’s not about her. She ignores statements completely. It’s annoying as hell. There’s no talking her out of it. I can’t find the fortitude to tell her it annoys me. That I can’t convince her it’s not a competition. That I feel like she’s jealous of me because I have a nice boyfriend and I’m thin and pretty. 

4. That I am going to be sitting in a cubicle for my job next week, for the rest of my employed time, as far as I can tell. That I was basically “demoted” to a lower job description than I was promised, even though they’re paying me what I should be making. I’m mad that I’m upset about this. That this is a cool job and things are fine and I still can’t just be grateful for anything. 

5. That I have no one to talk to about losing the love of my life. That I lost him of my own free will. That no one will ever love me (like that) again. That it feels like everything I’ve ever done was a very bad dream. That I regret everything in my entire life. 

6. That I can’t write. I have no time for it. I have no willpower for it. That I’m too sad to sit down and create characters and finish what I started.

7. That I have let people steal my self-worth. That I believed I am worth nothing because I’ve dated the wrong men, or had the wrong job, or haven’t had the willpower to commit myself to anything. That I am paranoid that nobody likes me, and it makes me clingy and unbearable and reticent when I should be fierce and independent and fun. That I am afraid to make friends because I don’t feel like I am worth knowing. 

8. That my parents are getting old and sick and not doing a damn thing about it. (This has changed.)

9. That I am homeless. That my clothes are in a pile and not put away. That I don’t know where my shoes are. That I don’t have a couch to sit on and watch TV I want to watch. 

10. That I don’t know what book to read because the love of my life always recommended the books to me.

11. That I couldn’t ride my bike to work today because I’m sick again and didn’t sleep last night.

12. That I cry every day. 

13. That I live in a state where incompetence is so normalized that it’s expected, rewarded, and reinforced. 

14. That I, even I, make typos. That the love of my life made typos. 

15. That I do not have the fortitude to remove myself from this feedback loop and believe something else, and act on something else.

16. That I have no way to memorialize him.

17. That nothing matters. 

May 9, 2012 by

Some nights you realize that there is nothing, nothing, nothing that will ever make you a better person.

NaNoWriMo Novel: V.

November 9, 2009 by

V.

Christy woke up, startled. “Ralphie?” she murmured. But he wasn’t in the bed with her. She realized it was her phone ringing on vibrate next to her bed. She hadn’t set an alarm. Her first thought was that it was her mother and it was an emergency. When she looked at the caller ID, it was Mo.

“Hello?” she ventured. Her throat was a dry. She was groggy still. It was just after eight, she noticed.

“Hi there,” Mo said. “Am I interrupting something?”

“I was just sleeping,” Christy answered. “But I suppose I could get up. What’s going on?” Ralphie heard her stirring and jumped on her bed with a soft meow.

“Nothing much,” Mo said. “Planning on being busy?”

“No,” Christy said cautiously. It was still Sunday, wasn’t it? She hadn’t slept through to Monday, had she? She stroked Ralphie’s chin.

“Good,” Mo said. “So you can let me in then.”

She heard a knock on the door. She felt a rush of panic.

“You’re at my apartment?” she said.

“Yep,” he answered. “Will you let me in?”

“Holy crap,” she said, standing. She held the phone to her ear and threw on a bathrobe. She touched her hair as she headed to the door.

He was standing outside, with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a brown paper bag next to his feet.

“Hi,” he said. He closed his phone and Christy did the same.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I thought it’d be a perfect Sunday to make you breakfast in bed,” Mo said. He offered her the flowers. “I know you work Saturday nights.”

She took the flowers and moved aside to let him in.

“I do,” she said.

He kissed her on the cheek as he came inside. “So I figured you’d be tired today and would like some breakfast in bed. So.”

She held the flowers and looked at him as he put everything down on her kitchen table.

“Back to bed!” he told her. He took the flowers back from her.

“I need to feed Ralphie,” she said.

“I’ll feed Ralphie,” he said. “Back to bed!” He tsked at her and shooed her into her room. When she crawled back under the covers she realized she was grinning from ear to ear.

She heard him banging around. Ralphie stood between the door to the bedroom and the kitchen watching, his orange tail twitching. He didn’t like newcomers, but he hadn’t attacked Mo, which was a good sign.

She texted Jeanine.

He’s making me breakfast in bed!

The reply came very quickly for a Sunday morning before 9am.

Who, Mo? Did he come over last night?

No, he just showed up this morning with flowers. And stuff to make breakfast.

Christy could hear him grinding coffee beans and banging pots and pans together. Ralphie ran into the kitchen and Christy was afraid for a moment that he was going to attack Mo finally, but she heard his bowl scraping on the ceramic tile and knew Mo had fed him. Her phone buzzed.

Flowers??! KEEPER!!!

Christy grinned and wasn’t sure she could grin any wider. She sneaked back out of her bed to pee and brush her teeth. She brushed her hair while she was at it.

Some notice would have been nice, she thought. Then she smiled at herself in the mirror. But so unromantic.

She jumped back into bed and sad up, listening.

“You better not be out of bed,” Mo called.

“No sir,” she replied.

He came in with a white towel (not hers) over one shoulder, carrying a lap-tray she’d never seen before laden with a French press (also not hers) and a coffee cup, plus her sugar dish. He’d also put a small creamer (not hers) filled with warm frothed milk on the tray, and a spoon (which was hers). The crowning jewel was a tiny glass with one of the flowers from the bouquet popping out, a perky yellow lily.

“Oh,” Christy said, for lack of better words. “Beautiful.”

“This is just the coffee,” Mo said.

Christy settled back in the pillows and pulled the sheet up to her hips. Mo put the tray level on her thighs and smiled at how happy she was.

“I think you can press the coffee now,” he said. He put his hand over hers as she pushed the plunger down to the bottom of the carafe.

“Enjoy,” he said, and bounced back up.

“Will you have some?” Christy called.

“After you’ve had yours,” he responded.

She poured a cup. It had a slight brown crema on the top like a very good espresso. The milk was almost the consistency of a cappuccino.

“How’d you foam this?” she asked.

He walked into the room. “I have a magic wand,” he said, holding up the contraption. It was basically a handle with a wire protruding from the end, and the wire ended in a circle. He pressed a button and it buzzed obscenely. She giggled.

“I see,” she said.

He walked back into the kitchen. She could smell bacon crackling.

“Be careful with the bacon,” she called. “Ralphie will do anything for bacon. And by anything, I mean he’ll kill you.”

She heard Mo laugh and talk to Ralphie a little bit.

She poured in two spoonfuls of sugar and watched them sink beneath the foam, then stirred gently. The coffee was as strong as it looked, even with the milk and sugar.

He likes cats, she texted Jeanine. And Ralphie likes him, too.

Mo re-entered with another tray (also not hers), covered this time in small plates of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. He also had syrup in a little maple-shaped glass bottle, and he’d found her butter dish.

“Wow,” she said. She put her coffee back on the tray and watched him approach. He still had the white towel over his shoulder. She examined his outfit now – a fashionable tee-shirt that fit him perfectly under a tan cashmere cardigan. He was wearing jeans, too, and leather loafers. He looked casual but very rich, still, as he always did.

“Madame,” he said, putting the tray on the bed, his hand still under it to support it. “We have maple-smoked bacon with organic free-range chicken eggs, scrambled.” He edged the plates onto the lap-tray and removed the creamer and sugar bowl onto the tray he had in his hand. “And pancakes,” he said, “from a very special Ali family recipe. With real Vermont maple syrup.”

“It looks fantastic,” Christy said.

“You’ll have to taste it to be sure,” Mo said.

Christy picked up a piece of bacon and took a bite. It was delicious, and a little sweet.

“It tastes fantastic,” she said.

Mo grinned and picked up a piece of bacon as well.

“I love this stuff,” he said.

Ralphie jumped on the bed, too.

“No, sir,” Mo told him, putting the cat under one arm and carrying the tray with the other. “You let the mistress have her bacon and maybe she’ll give you some later.”

He exited into the kitchen and left Christy to her breakfast. She heard him running the sink.

And now he’s doing dishes, she texted.

Christy had always been a breakfast person. She hated that she ate a bowl of cereal most mornings, and relished the chance to have big meals with pancakes, eggs, hash browns, toast, muffins, bacon, sausage – anything you could find on a 24-hour breakfast place’s menu. She hardly ever made it herself, though, and she rarely got food of the quality Mo had brought to her this morning.

He came back into the room a few moments later without the towel, but with a mug in hand. Ralphie followed at his heels and jumped back on the bed.

“Mind if we join you?” he asked.

“Please,” Christy said. She was proud she had left about half of each portion for him. In a normal breakfast situation she would have eaten all of it.

He poured himself some of the coffee, which was still warm, and picked up a piece of bacon. He ripped off a piece and offered it to the cat, who wolfed it down gracelessly.

“Are you sure you fed him?” Christy asked.

“Oh, I’m sure,” Mo said. He patted the cat on the head.

He sipped his coffee.

“Eat some more,” Christy said.

“I’m okay,” Mo said. “I’m not really a breakfast person.”

“Seriously?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I like to make it, though.”

“And you’re good at making it,” Christy agreed.

“Lots of practice in college,” he said.

“For your roommates?”

“Them, sure,” Mo said. “I was a cook for a while in a restaurant in Boston, too.”

“Oh.” She hadn’t known that he’d worked in college. Or that he’d ever worked at a restaurant. She had always assumed he’d just had a lot of money.

“I waited tables in high school, too,” he said. “Summers, you know. Dad thought I should contribute to paying for my education.”

Christy nodded. She’d never paid for education. Even UNM had been mostly free. But she’d waited tables in high school, too.

“I kind of miss it,” he went on. “Like, the simplicity and the rhythm of it. There’s opening, there’s closing, there are the regulars, sometimes you drop a dish, but it’s the same thing every day. You know what to expect.”

“Is your job now different?”

“Yeah,” he said. He scratched Ralphie’s forehead. The cat purred. The bacon plate was clean now, so there wasn’t anything else for him to concentrate on.

Christy pushed the eggs around a little. They were cold now.

“Shall I clean up?” Mo offered. He stood up, still holding his coffee cup.

“Oh, no, I should,” Christy said, pushing herself up with her elbows.

“Absolutely not,” Mo said. “You stay in bed until the very last possible moment, m’lady.”

He took the tray from her and left her propped up on her pillows with Ralphie purring next to her knee.

 

They watched a movie on her laptop for the rest of the morning, sitting in her bed. He never got under the covers with her but she snuggled up next to him, with Ralphie trying to sit on both their laps between them. He made another press full of coffee, too, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

After the movie they sat in her bed talking.

“So,” Mo said. “You’ve probably thought it’s odd that I never stay the night.”

Finally, Christy thought. She said, “Maybe a little weird.”

“I don’t want you to think I’m giving you mixed signals,” he said.

Her heart was in her throat. He’s going to tell me he’s gay. Or married. Or not sexually attracted to me.

“I just got out of a really hard relationship,” he said.

Christy exhaled. She hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath.

“I’m trying to take things slow now,” he said. “I did the rebound thing for a while and I’m done with all that. So basically I want to really get to know, you know, the next girl.” Christy nodded. “Because I’m getting older and, you know, I want to settle down eventually.”

“I totally understand,” Christy said.

“Good,” Mo said. “I thought you would. I didn’t want you to think I was gay or something.”

They both laughed.

“Thank you for telling me,” Christy said. She smoothed the sheet over her legs. “I was kind of… worried.”

“I know you were,” Mo said. “But trust me. I really like you.”

She looked up at him. He was being earnest. She wanted to ask him why he liked her, but she refrained.

“I like you too,” she said, a bit shyly.

“Great,” he said.

He leaned in and kissed her on the lips. It was a really great kiss.

 

Before things got too hot and heavy, he pulled away and asked if she’d like to take a drive up to Madrid.

“There’s a little art festival going on,” he said. “I’m trying to find my mother an early Christmas gift. She just moved into a new apartment.”

Christy agreed to go and got dressed quickly. She tried to match his outfit as best she could for style. She wore her best-looking jeans and a cozy sweater. She washed her face and put on a bit of make-up, and brushed her hair. Sadly Jeanine hadn’t left the perfume from the other night, so she made do with a little body spray.

It was a perfectly clear day, just as it had been for the past week. As always, Mo held the door open for her as she climbed in. He put the top down and they headed east. He had the radio on, and it wasn’t jazz for a change.

“Oh, I know this!” she exclaimed as they pulled onto the freeway. She sang along.

“You have a nice voice,” Mo said when the song was finished.

“Thanks,” she said. I know, she thought.

They talked about their families some more, and their friends. She grilled him about Paris, since she’d never been.

“You’ve never been to Europe?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“I suppose lots of Americans never leave the country,” he said. “There’s plenty to see here.”

She nodded.

“What’s the furthest from Albuquerque you’ve ever been?”

“California,” she said. “I went to Disneyland.”

He smiled at her. “I have never been to Disneyland,” he said.

“Ha!”

“We should go,” he said.

She smiled. “We should,” she said. At this moment in time she could imagine anything.

“Do you get free miles or something, working at the airport?” he asked.

She frowned slightly. “No,” she said. “And to be totally honest, I’ve never been on a plane.”

“Really?” he said. He had an incredulous look on his face.

“Really,” she said.

“You drove to Disneyland?”

“Yup.”

“Wow,” he said. He cleared his throat. “That’s a long way.”

“13 hours,” she said.

“Huh,” he said. “Not too bad then.”

“As long as you have other drivers, no.”

He nodded and kept his eyes on the road.

“You said you visit your parents every year,” she said. “So do you go to Saudi Arabia a lot, too?”

He grimaced a little, which she found strange.

“To be totally honest,” he said, “no. I haven’t been to visit my dad in a long time.”

She nodded.

“I haven’t seen my dad in years,” she offered.

Mo nodded back.

They sat quietly for a moment, listening to the radio. Neither of them knew the song.

“I usually take a boat to Europe,” Mo said.

“Wow. I’ve never been on a boat.”

“They’re nice,” Mo said.

“Are you afraid of flying or something?” Christy asked.

“No,” he answered brusquely, “I just prefer boats.” Christy looked out at the landscape. She wasn’t sure what to say now.

After a moment, a new song came on the radio, one she knew, and she sang the rest of the way up to Madrid.

NaNoWriMo Novel: IV.

November 9, 2009 by

IV.

Christy woke up alone in her own bed once again, with Ralphie meowing her ear off once again. Her shift at the airport was from 2-10pm, closing, on Saturdays, and it was 11am now.

“I know your starving,” she said to her cat, “just chill out.”

She had slept in her make-up and her eyes felt crusty and gross. Her hair was a matted mess and her dress and panty hose were on the floor next to her shoes at the foot of her bed.

Her head was pounding. She was much more hung over now than she’d been yesterday.  “Mixing booze,” she said to herself, tsking.

She got up and fed Ralphie, and found some Gatorade in her fridge. She turned on her computer and looked at her text messages.

Jeanine had texted her a few times, apparently in response to some messages Christy had sent but couldn’t really remember.

He turned you down again? WTF?!!!

She was still wearing her lacy black panties, but her bra was in the pile at the foot of the bed. She was in a tee shirt. It was cold in her apartment. She found her bathrobe and pulled it on, then sat at her computer and checked her usual haunts.

Her phone buzzed. It was Jeanine calling her.

“Hi Neeners,” Christy said, letting out a big sigh.

“How you doin’,” Jeanine asked.

Christy let out another sigh.

“Yeah, I figured you’d be feeling that way. Well, wanna’ get brunch? Larry’s off on a big long bike ride with the boys. I’m freeee!”

“Meh,” Christy said.

“Oh, c’mon, Stee,” Jeanine begged. “I want brunch. My treat. We can meet at the Range Café on University and Menaul in half an hour.”

“Oh, okay,” Christy said. “As long as you don’t think I’m too ugly to take home.”

“I could never think that,” Jeanine said. “And neither could Mo. He’s just playing hard to get.”

“Whatever,” Christy said. “You’d better give me some time to shower.”

“Okay,” Jeanine said, “you have 45 minutes to get to the Range.”

“Fine,” Christy said.

“Oh, what time do you work?” Jeanine asked.

“Two,” Christy answered, wandering to the bathroom to turn on the water.

“Good,” Jeanine said. “In case the wait’s really long.”

“I hate waiting,” Christy said.

“Just remember: huevos con queso!” Jeanine said. “See you soon.”

They hung up. Christy showered slowly. She felt as though she were moving through molasses.

Everything had been so perfect the night before. Mo had introduced her to everyone at the party – people she’d never seen before in all her years in Albuquerque. They were all wealthy or artists or both, and they were talking about their latest installations or their latest trips to Rome or their latest tours. They all knew Mo, and they all loved him.

She’d gleaned most of his history from him – moved to the U.S. at seven years old, privately schooled in New York City until he went to Milton Academy outside of Boston for high school; two years at Harvard, two at the Sorbonne, and a Masters degree from Stanford. He’d moved to Albuquerque a year and a half ago to work on base, but that was all she could find out about his work. Everyone knew about his love for jazz, his excellent taste in wine, and his expensive taste in clothes.

“You order everything online, don’t you,” one woman had teased him. “I don’t suppose you ever shop locally.”

“You’re wrong there,” someone else had answered, “Mo shops locally. If you can count sending all your clothes to a tailor shopping.”

Everyone had laughed. Christy had never had anything tailored. Her mom had hemmed some pants once, but she’d done it poorly.

They were all interested in Christy, too, and wanted her advice on bartending. “What kind of tequila should you use in a margarita?” someone had asked. “I mean, I know good tequila will make a great margarita, but it feels like such a waste to hide the good tequila flavor with all that sugar.”

Only one person asked her where she’d gone to school. When she said she’d dropped out of UNM, someone else had said they’d done the same thing. “Such a worthless place,” they’d said.

Christy had drunk a few more glasses of wine and at least one cup of some punch. There were people smoking weed on a patio next to a fireplace, but she had decided not to partake in it. Mo hadn’t, either. They’d danced some, even though she was in heels. He was a good dancer.

They’d piled back into his car at 2am, and once again had a great drive home. She realized this morning he may not have been sober enough to drive, but it didn’t bother her. Nobody’s that perfect, she thought.

Again he’d walked her to the door. And again he’d kissed her on the cheek. And again he’d declined her offer to come inside, without an explanation, and said he’d call her the next day.

She put on her black work clothes after her shower, so she could go straight to work after brunch. It was nice to have all this time with Jeanine. Since she’d started dating Larry, Jeanine’s time had been limited.

“That’s what happens when girls get boyfriends,” Christy’s mother had told her when she was 16 and Jeanine had gotten her first serious boyfriend and quit being available to hang out as much.

The Range was packed, as usual, and the wait was at least 30 minutes. Christy and Jeanine got some coffee and sat on a bench outside, where it was warm.

“Was it this hot outside last November?” Christy asked.

“Yup,” Jeanine said. “I went for a run almost every day.”

“Hm,” Christy said.

She gave Jeanine all the details about the previous evening, more sober now and with more words since she wasn’t limited to 160 characters per text message.

“So he’s taking it slow,” Jeanine assured her. “That’s a really good, rare thing.”

“But I don’t want him to take it slow!” Christy said. “I want him to take me now!”

“It’s been two days,” Jeanine said.

“It’s been six months since I’ve gotten any play,” Christy muttered.

“Oh, God,” Jeanine said, “you mean that horrible one night stand was your last time? Jesus, Christy, I could’ve hired someone.”

Christy laughed. “I think he expected me to pay him, even,” she said. “Tom. That was his name. God he was awful.”

“I didn’t like him at all,” Jeanine agreed. “I can’t believe you took him home.”

“It was just one night,” she said.  She sipped on her coffee. “But you like Mo, right?”

Jeanine shrugged. “Sure,” she said. “I hardly know him. He seems pretty great, though.”

*Christy’s phone rang. It was her mother.

“You’re coming for dinner tomorrow, right?” she asked.

“Of course,” Christy said.

“Okay, good,” her mother said. “Six o’clock.”

“As always,” Christy said.

“You doin’ okay?”

“I’m fine, mom.”

“Okay, just gotta’ check in on my girl. Your aunt Susan is coming for dinner tomorrow, too.”

“She’s in town?” Aunt Susan had been living in Texas for a few years with her husband and Christy’s three cousins. Christy hardly ever heard from that side of the family anymore.

“Apparently so,” mom said.

A hostess came outside and announced that their table was ready.

“Gotta’ go, mom,” Christy said, “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

 

Mo called in the middle of the meal and Christy almost didn’t answer it, but Jeanine made her. She couldn’t think of much to say, but told him she was at brunch with her friend and she had to work until late.

“Maybe we can catch up tomorrow,” Mo offered.

“Sure,” Christy said.

“I’ll call you,” Mo said.

And they hung up.

Christy dug back into her eggs.

“That was kind of cold,” Jeanine said.

“I’m playing hard to get.”

“Sure.”

*Jeanine frowned at her. “He’s probably got a really, really good reason for not wanting to go home with you so soon,” she said. “Maybe he’s got the clap.”

Christy gave her a look. “The clap?” she said.

“Or he’s religious or something and he doesn’t want to be tempted.”

“Oh, please,” Christy said. “I’ll bet you anything tomorrow he’s going to tell me he wants to be friends.”

“No way,” Jeanine said.

“Or he’s gay,” Christy said.

“Also no way,” Jeanine said. “He’s just chivalrous.”

Christy sighed. “He thinks I’m ugly.”

“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Jeanine answered. She took a sip of her coffee. “You’ve got to remember that you’re only as beautiful as you think you are, Stee.”

“Says the tall leggy red-head with the perfect tits.”

“Oh, shut up.” Jeanine slapped Christy’s wrist playfully. “You can’t compare yourself to me, or to anyone. Just be you.”

“You sound like a self-help tape.”

“Well, maybe that’s what you need. Look, do you think I don’t have doubts about how pretty I am?”

“You’ve got Larry,” Christy said. She shoveled some beans into her mouth.

“Yeah but he doesn’t just make me feel gorgeous all the time. That’s my own job.”

Christy shrugged. She felt like rolling her eyes.

“You know what Larry said to me the other day?” Jeanine edged in closer. “We were talking about rating people. Like on a scale of one to 10. And where girls I know fall.”

“What did I get?”

“That’s not the point,” Jeanine said. “I asked Larry what I was. He said maybe a seven, or a seven point five.”

“What?”

Jeanine nodded. “Yep. He said maybe a nine point five when I try really hard.”

“You’re kidding.”

Jeanine shook her head. “Not at all.”

“That was stupid of him,” Christy said. “Wait, did he say anyone you knew was a 10?”

“No,” Jeanine said. “He went off on how nobody’s a 10, or just models or whatever. But I just took it in stride, you know.”

“Did you tell him where he ranks?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why not? Wait, where do you think he ranks?”
Jeanine picked up her coffee mug and held it in her hands. “I think he’s a 10, of course. I wouldn’t date him if I didn’t think he was a 10.”

“Well that’s not fair at all,” Christy said.

Jeanine shrugged. “It is what it is,” she said. “He has a different idea of what it means to rank people. His is more idealist; mine is more realistic.”

“I guess so,” Christy said. “But seriously, you can tell me where he said I ranked. Please?”

“You sure? You won’t like it.”

“So it was low.”

“Not low,” Jeanine said. “Just not high.”

“What’d he say, I’m a four?”

“No, a six.”

Christy laughed. “That’s better than I’d give myself!”

“And that’s exactly what I mean,” Jeanine said. “I give myself a 10. I’d expect my significant other to give me a 10, too, but he has a different system, so whatever. Anyway, you have to believe you’re a 10. And be a 10 for yourself. That’s what matters.”

The waitress came by and Christy held her coffee cup up for a refill. Christy studied her best friend as she stirred the sugar into her coffee. Jeanine was completely unemployable, and she was almost anorexic sometimes, but she didn’t waiver in her self esteem. Christy couldn’t decide if the poise and beauty came with the self esteem, or before it, or after it. She couldn’t remember a time when Jeanine hadn’t thought she was worth something. Even after she’d been fired several times from lackluster jobs, she never had trouble with herself.

“Maybe you’re right,” Christy said.

A few minutes later Christy got up to go to the bathroom. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her skin was clear, and her hair was shiny, in spite of just being thrown up in a ponytail. Her eyes were a pretty brown, although she thought they were too small. Her teeth were straight, although she had considered getting some whitening done. All in all, she decided, she could be worse off for a 28 year old. She couldn’t get over her body shape, though. She sucked in her stomach and looked at herself sideways. She shook her head at herself.

“You’re wearing a black sweatshirt and cheap black pants from Old Navy,” she muttered to her reflection as she washed her hands. “What do you expect to look like?”

But when she got back to the table with Jeanine, she said, “Would you take me to the gym with you the next time you go?”

nanowrimo novel: III.

November 7, 2009 by

III.

Mo arrived at 7:47. Christy had tried to concentrate on reading the news online, but had kept glancing at the clock instead. She’d drunk the entire glass of water and had gone to the bathroom twice, checking her make-up and her hair and making sure she didn’t have to pee.

Mo was dressed in perfect-fitting jeans and a dark tee shirt with a corduroy blazer over it all. He looked perfect, as always, and when he hugged Christy, she could smell a musky, spicy scent on him – it was real cologne, and not a cheap body spray, she knew. She hadn’t noticed it the night before. The idea made her feel relieved.

He opened the car door for her and she fell into the leather seat gracelessly. “Ass first,” Jeanine had taught her once when they’d rented a limo for Prom one year. “Sit your butt down, facing out, with your knees together, and then bring your feet in.” Christy swore to herself she’d remember it the next time.

Mo asked her how her day had gone, and she returned the favor. He didn’t say much about work, she noticed.

“It’s boring,” he told her. He smiled at her, perfect white teeth lined straight behind his lips. “All numbers and nonsense.”

Christy nodded. The jazz music was still playing. She wondered if he ever listened to music with words. But she didn’t want to ask him who was playing; she was afraid he’d think she was stupid for not knowing.

“There’s a great band playing at Zinc in the cellar bar tonight,” Mo said. “I hope you don’t mind the cellar bar. Sometimes the upstairs is just so stuffy. Anyway, this band, they play really great French fusion jazz blues. I’ve seen them a few times. Do you like jazz?”

“Oh, of course,” Christy said. “Who doesn’t like jazz?”

Mo smiled at her again and sped on.

The truth was, Christy had never really listened to jazz, and she didn’t know anything about it. She thought it was just newer classical music, with trumpets and horns. And she had never been to Zinc before, although Jeanine had told her it was a really classy place.

“Better than Imbibe,” she’d said. “There’s not a dance floor but they have food. You’ll love it.”

They parked on Richmond, across the street from Imbibe, and walked the short block to Zinc. The rooftop at Imbibe was dominating the noise in the neighborhood, with a line outside the front door. She was extremely glad they weren’t going there tonight.

Mo opened the door for her and she could hear the jazz playing downstairs. She clasped the banister on the way down, afraid of falling in her heels. Mo let her hold onto his arm, too, and seemed not to notice how off-balance she was.

The downstairs bar was full of people, but Mo found them a table in a corner away from the band, so he could still watch them play but the sound didn’t obstruct all their attempts at conversation. Mo held her chair out for her and helped her scoot it in when she sat down. No one had ever done that for her before.

Mo seated himself across the table and picked up the beverage list.

“Do you want to start with a cocktail?” he asked.

Christy shrugged. “Sure,” she said.

A waitress appeared and asked what they’d like to drink.

“I believe we’ll both have a Manhattan,” Mo said. “Knob Creek for the bourbon, straight up, please. And the crispy duck rolls for an appetizer. We’ll order dinner after the cocktails.”

The waitress nodded and left them and took their menus with her. Christy looked at Mo. She was speechless. No one had ever ordered for her before. She didn’t know if she should tell him so or not. She also wasn’t sure exactly how she felt about it.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, reading her face. “I come here all the time. I know exactly what to order, if that’s alright with you.”

Christy nodded.

The cocktails came and Christy was glad to have something familiar in her hand. She knew Manhattans. She might have asked for a less expensive bourbon, but she liked how smooth the Knob Creek was. She ate the cherry before the duck rolls had arrived.

“Are you hungry?” Mo asked.

“Yes, very,” Christy answered.

“Excellent,” he said. “I like it when a girl will eat. Some girls here won’t eat in front of a man, did you know?”

“Oh, yes,” Christy said. Jeanine was one of those. That’s why she always drank a full glass of water before she went out, so her stomach would be full at dinner and she wouldn’t eat. Christy couldn’t understand that kind of devotion to a skinny waistline.

The duck rolls were crisp and delicious, and the Mo clapped at the end of every major solo anyone did on the stage on the other side of the room. The waitress returned after their Manhattans were drained, and Mo ordered the crab cakes and the flank steak. He also ordered a bottle of wine. Christy couldn’t understand the name he said. She didn’t know very much about wine. Beer, sure; liquor, sure; but wine was something she knew almost nothing about.

“I forgot to ask if you’re a vegetarian,” Mo said, “but I had a feeling you weren’t.”

Christy shook her head. “Nope.”

“I hope Zinfandel is okay, too,” Mo said. “I really love this wine. I think you’ll like it.”

“Okay,” Christy said. She decided she was enjoying being taken care of, especially since she felt so out of her element.

“Zinfandel is such a great red,” he went on. “It’s the only truly American varietal, did you know that?”

Christy shook her head. “I don’t really know much about wine,” she admitted.

“Most Americans don’t,” Mo said. “It’s kind of a snooty thing to know. Or it used to be. But there are some great wineries even in New Mexico. We should go on a wine tour.”

A road trip! He was already asking her on a road trip! “We should,” she agreed, “I would love that.” She leaned in closer to him and took a sip of her water.

The wine arrived and Mo insisted that Christy do the honors of tasting it, even though he had ordered it. She swirled the wine in her glass like she’d seen other people do, and knocked it back.

“It’s fine,” she said. It was fruity, but not sweet, and had a smoky flavor to it. Christy decided she liked it.

The waitress poured the wine and left them for another moment until the food was ready. Christy was trying to think of ways to make conversation. Mo seemed to evade all her questions about work, so she decided to try a more personal route.

“Are your parents in America?” she asked.

“Not anymore,” Mo said. “My mother is in France and my father is in Saudi Arabia.”

“Do you miss them?”
He considered this a moment. “Not really,” he said. “We were never terribly close. I see them at least once a year, anyway. I think it’s just part of becoming an adult.”

Christy saw her mother at least once a week. She went over for dinner on Sunday nights, and sometimes on Thursday nights, too. Her mother was unemployed now because of her latest heart attack. She still wouldn’t stop smoking. They had talked about a lung transplant with her doctor, but it sounded too expensive. And Christy’s mom wouldn’t give up smoking to do it. Christy had quit seeing her father when she was very young. He’d moved out of town and she hadn’t heard from him. Sometimes her mother would tell her things – he’d been in the air force; he’d had three other kids with three other women; he was an ass hole. Christy didn’t really care about him one way or another.

“Do you look more like your mom or your dad?” Christy asked.

“I look like an exact mixture of both,” Mo said.

“What about your brothers and sisters?”

“I have none,” he said.

“Neither do I,” Christy supplied.

“Maybe that’s why we get along so well,” Mo said.

Christy laughed. “Maybe,” she said.

Dinner arrived, and they shared their dishes. Mo ate with both a knife and fork at all times. He had impeccable table manners. Christy was nervous about her own, and kept dropping food back on the plate. At one point, Mo fed her from his own fork. It made Christy smile.

The jazz music ended and the band started packing up. Mo and Christy were still drinking their wine.

“What did you think of them?” Mo asked, motioning towards the stage with the wine glass in his hand.

“Oh,” Christy said. “I, uhm. Honestly I forgot they were there.”

Mo laughed at that. “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not,” he said.

Christy blushed. She had meant to listen to them and notice at least one good thing about them, but she had been so concerned with the wine and the food and Mo that she’d forgotten about the band completely.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to visit the ladies’ room,” Christy said.

“Certainly,” Mo said. He stood up when she did and waited until she was gone to sit back down.

There were several stylishly dressed women in the dim bathroom, checking their make-up and their teeth. Most of them were far drunker than Christy. She was glad she could hold her liquor. It made walking on heels that much easier. She found a stall and texted Jeanine.

He’s so polite! He stood up when I left the table! He pulled my chair out for me! He opens all the doors! He knows so much about wine! I’m totally out of my element!

A response came when she was washing her hands.

He sounds perfect! Go get him, tiger!

Christy exited the bathroom, glancing at a mirror on the way out, not that the poor lighting offered much to look at. She reapplied her lip gloss as she walked, and saw that Mo was talking to someone at the table.

“Christy,” Mo said, standing, “this is my friend John. He’s the bass player for the band we just saw.”

“Oh, hi,” Christy said, shaking the newcomer’s hand. He was tall with a shaved head and glasses. He was wearing all black, including his tie and his shirt. “That was very good.”

“Thank you,” John said. “It’s only our second time playing together.”

Christy heard what he said and tried to reconcile it with what Mo had told her about the band. How had he seen them several times before if they’d only played twice?

“Second time with the new trumpet player,” Mo corrected him. “The rest of the band has been together for years. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“It’s not the same band,” John said. “Just one different member makes it an entirely different band.”

“Oh, whatever,” Mo said, clapping John on the back. “Anyway, Christy, John says there’s a party in an art house downtown, if you’d like to go.”

“Sure,” Christy said, “that sounds fun.”

“Great,” John said. “I’m going to catch up with the guys. But we’ll see you there.”

“Absolutely,” Mo said.

John left and Mo and Christy sat back down.

The waitress returned. “Dessert?” she asked.

“I’m pretty full,” Christy responded, before Mo could answer for her.

“I think we’ll just finish the wine,” Mo agreed.

The waitress nodded and left. She brought the check back with her a moment later, and Mo put his credit card down before Christy could even take a glance at it.

This was twice now that he’d paid for her. She wasn’t sure if she should argue this time. She did enjoy it. Rent was coming up next week and she could always use extra cash in the bank after she’d paid her rent.

After paying and finishing their wine, Mo helped Christy into her coat and they emerged upstairs. Imbibe was still as loud as ever, and one guy was hanging off the banister yelling at a girl across the street.

“You bitch!” he was saying. “Come back here!”

The girl was shaking her head. She was a little drunk, it was obvious by the way she was walking, but she looked more angry than anything else. Christy hated scenes like this. Break-ups should be private, she thought.

“Wonder what she did to deserve that,” Mo said as they crossed the street to his car.

“Probably nothing,” Christy said.

“Oh, come on,” Mo said, “she must have done something.”

“He’s probably just an ass hole,” Christy said.

Mo shrugged. “Perhaps,” he answered, “or she’s a tease.”

He opened the door for her and she got into the car, ass first this time. What he’d just said unsettled her a little. She tried to analyze it as they took off for the party.

NaNoWriMo Novel: II.

November 6, 2009 by

II.

Christy’s shift didn’t start at the bar until just before noon. The alarm on her phone started going off at 9 and she kept hitting snooze. She couldn’t drag herself out of bed at 10, even though her cat was jumping on the bed to remind her it was breakfast time.

“No, Ralphie,” she told him, pulling the covers over her head.

She was hungover, just enough to be annoying, but not enough to call in sick. She felt more miserable about the fact that Mo wouldn’t come in with her the night before than anything else.

Her alarm went off again, buzzing and playing the most annoying tinkly-bell noises she could think of.

“Fine,” she whined at it. She took the phone under the covers and examined it. She turned off the alarm. She looked through her text messages.  She’d certainly sent a few whiny ones out to Jeanine. Larry had made sure she was alright with a misspelled message just after 2:30am. No calls this morning, though, and no texts, either.

She decided to call Jeanine.

Ralphie got under the covers as she dialed and pawed at her.

“Okay okay okay,” she told him as the phone rang in her ear.

She pushed the covers off and pulled herself out of bed. Jeanine’s voicemail picked up.

“Neeners,” Christy said, stepping into her slippers, “it’s me and I’m miserable. I want to whine about how he wouldn’t come in and I want you to tell me I’m gorgeous anyway. Call me back.”

She hung up and threw the phone on her bed. Ralphie stood watching her, ready to pounce if she went back down.

“C’mon, Ralphie,” she said. She walked to the kitchen and fed him, then made herself some coffee.

Jeanine called back while she was in the shower.  Christy checked her voicemail, her hair in a towel.

“Stee,” Jeanine had said, “I’m sorry your miserable but you only just met him last night. How great can he be? He was kind of a douchebag, I think. Especially if he doesn’t think you’re the most fantastic girl in the universe, because we all know it’s true. If you want, Larry can kick his ass. You just let me know. Okay I gotta’ work. New job today! Love you love you love you!” She made a kissing noise and hung up.

Christy had forgotten that Jeanine had started a new temp job today. She was being the receptionist for some Web company or design company downtown. The real receptionist was on maternity leave. Christy had planned to bring Jeanine an early lunch but it had completely slipped her mind.

She felt even worse about herself.

“Ralphie,” she whined. “Not only am I too ugly to score, but I’m a horrible best friend!”

She picked him up and buried her face in his orange fur. He voiced some complaint about not being able to eat until she put him down.

She checked her email – three spammy joke forwards from her mom and a notification from her bank. She checked Facebook – some girl from high school had friend requested her and a few people had commented on the fact that she was going to Imbibe. She checked MySpace out of habit – that one friend that posted bulletins constantly was still posting bulletins constantly, but other than that, nothing. No messages from Mo or any evidence whatsoever that he’d looked for her.  She looked him up on Facebook. She couldn’t find him under Mo Ali or Oberon Ali. Finally she pulled on her black sweatshirt and the cheap Old Navy black pants, some black socks and her black clogs. She ate a bowl of cereal and drank as much orange juice as she could stomach, hoping it would help her headache. She finished a second cup of coffee and looked at herself in the mirror.

“Ugly ugly ugly,” she said. She pulled her hair up, still wet, and looked at her make-up stash. She decided she didn’t feel like it today – she rarely did – and went back to her bedroom to look for her phone.

She found it where she’d left it, tangled up in the sheets, with no new messages or missed calls.

She found her purse, an old mini-backpack she’d been using forever, and pushed her phone into one of the pockets. Her wallet was there, her sunglasses were there, her hairbrush was there, and her chapstick was there. All she needed were her keys and her airport badge.

She found them by the front door on the little table where all the junk mail ended up. She slipped the badge lanyard over her head and pushed her sunglasses onto her nose, then locked the bottom lock from inside and stepped out into a warm, sunny November day that completely mismatched her mood.

 

At the airport, her walk through security was easy as usual. There were a few new recruits working the metal detectors. One of them was kind of cute, in an all-American boy kind of way. He looked kind of like Larry – tall, blond, thick shouldered, patriotic. But when he made small-talk with her, Christy thought he sounded ridiculously stupid. It made her think of Mo and she felt a pang of rejection all over again.

MacKenzie, the manager of the restaurant, worked the bar from open ‘til 11:30 when Christy arrived. There were a few people strewn about the restaurant, and one older fellow sitting at the bar with his rolling bag behind him, a business man from what Christy could tell.  Fridays at the airport tended to pick up a bit in the afternoon, with folks flying to Phoenix and Denver and Dallas for the weekend. Christy hoped there wouldn’t be too much of a crowd for her.

“Hey, Mac,” she said as she got behind the bar and put her things in the cabinet. She locked the cabinet with the key on her lanyard and clocked in at the cash register. “Busy morning?”

“Nope,” Mac said. MacKenzie was a woman of few words. She was taller than Christy, with short curly hair and glasses. Christy could never tell whether she was more dykey or more maternal – it depended on the day.

“Well, good,” Christy said. “Any prep work you need me to do?”

“Nah,” Mac said, “I got bored and cut up all the lemons and shit.”

Christy nodded. “Thank you,” she said. “You working ‘til 2?”

“Yup,” MacKenzie said. She studied Christy for a moment. “You okay? You look kinda’ terrible.”

“I feel kinda’ terrible,” Christy said, glad to have the opportunity to dish. She sighed and leaned against the bar. “I met a guy last night.”

“That’s not usually a reason to feel terrible,” MacKenzie said.

“I know,” Christy answered. “He even drove me home.”

“Even less of a reason to feel terrible,” Mac said. “Did he have genital warts or something?”

“No,” Christy sighed. “He just wouldn’t come inside with me.”

“Whoa,” Mac said. “Really?”

Christy nodded.           She spilled about how insecure she felt, and about how she hadn’t had a guy really hit on her at a bar in a long time. She described Mo’s car in detail – Mac really liked cars – and told her how gorgeous he was, and interesting, and well-traveled.

“Has he called?” Mac asked.

“No!” Christy pouted. “Maybe I should check now…”

“Nah,” Mac said. “A watched pot never boils. Check on your break.”

“You’re right,” Christy said. She sighed.

“Well, don’t worry,” Mac said. “I’m sure he’ll call, and then you’ll feel silly for worrying.”

Christy shrugged. “I guess.”

A customer approached and the afternoon beer rush began. The bar filled up pretty quickly and kept busy until 2 when Mac left. Christy went on break and checked her phone.

There was a missed call from a number she didn’t know. Her heart leapt into her throat. It had to be Mac, she knew it. She took her phone in the back to check her voicemail.

He had left a message. She did a little dance and one of the cooks looked at her funny.

“Hello, Christy,” he said, “it’s Mo. We met last night. I hope you remember me. And I hope you’re feeling fine today. I was wondering if you’d care to go to dinner with me this evening? I could pick you up at 8pm at your place, if that’s alright. Nothing too fancy. Zinc maybe? Call me back when you can.” He left his number, even though her caller ID showed it clearly. She replayed the message two more times and did her happy dance again.

When she finally hung up she immediately dialed Jeanine.

Her friend picked up.

“Neeners!” she exclaimed.

“Hi Stee,” she said, “are you okay?”

“Yes!” she said. She told her friend about Mo’s call.

“Oh good,” Jeanine said. “I knew he’d call.”

“Yeah,” Christy said. “And now we’ll go to dinner. What the hell am I gonna’ wear?”

“I have no idea,” Jeanine said.

“Oh, oh, oh,” Christy said, “I’m sorry, I’m such a bitch. How is the new job?”

Jeanine sighed. “They fired me.”

“Already?”  It wasn’t exactly what Christy had meant to respond, she realized after she’d said it. Jeanine was often let go from places. She wasn’t meant to work in offices.

“Yeah,” Jeanine sighed again.

“Why?”

“I messed up some bills or something,” Jeanine said.

“Oh no,” Christy said, “was it QuickBooks?”

“Yeah.”

Jeanine was notoriously bad with QuickBooks, in spite of its simplicity. She could never get the forms to work for her. Her last temp agency had finally quit calling her in for jobs because of it.

“Well,” Christy said, “I’m sure it’s for the best. They’re probably a bunch of stuffy ass holes anyway.”

“I really liked it there,” Jeanine sighed. “I was going to get to wear all my neat suits.”

Christy sighed and looked at the clock. “I’m sorry hon,” she said. “I gotta’ call Mo before my break ends.”

“Okay,” Jeanine said. “You get off at six, right? I’ll come over at 6:30 and help you get dressed.”

“Perfect,” Christy said. “Bring some of that perfume I like.”

“Of course,” Jeanine said. “See you soon.”

“Love you,” Christy said. She hung up.

 

The conversation with Mo was quick and although Christy tried to hang onto every word, she could hardly remember what was said, because she was so nervous.  Mo was kind and genuine, but had to get off the phone quickly because he was working. They confirmed their date for the evening – he would pick her up between 7:45 and 8 and they would go to dinner at Zinc.

Christy forgot her bad morning and gushed about Mo to her coworkers all afternoon. Even the patrons at the bar got an earful or two about him. Everyone seemed genuinely happy for her. She felt like she was walking on air. Her shift ended at 6 and she drove home with the radio blasting, happier than she’d felt in a long time.

Jeanine showed up at 6:30 with a few pairs of earrings and the fancy perfume Christy had asked about.

 

“So he came through, huh,” Jeanine said, sitting on Christy’s bed.

“Yeah,” Chrisy said from the bathroom, where she was trying to curl her hair. She didn’t know why she even owned a curling iron. She was far more afraid of burning herself than she was able to curl her own hair. “You wanna’ help me with this?”

Jeanine came into the bathroom and sat Christy on the toilet while she deftly curled her hair. “You’ve never been very good at being a girl,” Jeanine said.

Christy rolled her eyes. “I know. That’s why I keep you around, clearly.”

Jeanine nodded. “Clearly.” Christy watched herself in the mirror over the sink as her friend looped her hair around the iron.

“So what should I wear?” Christy asked.

“A dress,” Jeanine said.

Christy wrinkled up her nose. She hated dresses.

“I know you hate them,” said her best friend, “but you still own them, and the ones you own look so amazing on you that you should flaunt it. And boys love dresses.”

Christy took a deep breath as Jeanine brought the iron in close to her face. She hated this part. The heat seeped off the iron and threatened her skin. She closed her eyes.

“Chicken,” Jeanine chuckled.

“I’d nod,” Christy said, “but I’m afraid you’d scar me for life.”

“Never on purpose,” Jeanine said. She loosed the lock of hair and pulled another one to the ready. “Wear that dark blue dress,” she said as she curled the hair around the hot shaft again.

“I’ll freeze to death,” Christy said.

“Not if you wear a coat, silly. And tights.”

“Aw man, tights?”

“Or panty hose. C’mon. You want to go bare legged?”

Christy sat as still as she could and closed her eyes. “No,” she said. I want to wear pants, she thought.

“Wait, do you even own tights?” Jeanine slid the iron out of the current lock of hair and put the contraption on the sink.

“I don’t know, actually,” Christy said.

“Everyone owns tights.” She picked the iron back up. “Almost done here.”

Christy went through her sock drawer in her mind. She might have one pair of tights, possibly a gift from Jeanine for Christmas several years ago.

Finally Jeanine finished curling Christy’s hair and applied hairspray before she brushed it out slightly. It bounced and shone and Christy was very pleased with it.

“Have you shaved your legs?” Jeanine asked.

“Duh,” Christy said. “I showered before you came over.”

“Good,” Jeanine said. She started digging through Christy’s underwear drawer. She pulled out a pair of tiny lacy panties and nodded at them. “Wear these,” she said, tossing them at Christy. She found a matching lacy bra and threw that at Christy as well. Christy put them on and felt sexier already.

“God, I hope he gets a chance to see these,” Christy giggled.

Jeanine found the blue dress and a pair of sheer black pantyhose Christy didn’t even know she had. “I hate pantyhose,” she said, trying to pull them on as gingerly as she could.

“Well, they work wonders,” Jeanine said, “so use them even if you hate them.”

Finally Christy was clothed and perfumed.

“Make up,” Jeanine declared.

“Will you do it?” Christy asked.

“All except the mascara,” Jeanine agreed. They headed back into the bathroom and Jeanine did what she could with Christy’s ramshackle collection of L’Oreal and Cover Girl.

“You need to invest in some good make up,” Jeanine said, dusting Christy’s eyelids with silver eye shadow. “Especially brushes. You’re too old to have the make-up kit of a 14-year-old.”

Christy shrugged gently, trying not to push Jeanine’s hands too much. She knew Christy never wore make-up, or rarely enough that it didn’t matter. She always gave her the same speech.

Jeanine handed Christy the tube of mascara and patted her on the back, then left the bathroom and went back to the closet. Christy heard her digging around.

When she was done with the mascara, Jeanine was standing next to the bathroom door holding up a pair of high black pumps Christy had never worn.

“No way,” Christy said.

“Yes way,” Jeanine said.  “Just put ‘em on.” She placed them on the floor in front of Christy.

“I’m gonna’ break my fool neck,” Christy muttered. She held onto the door frame while she stepped into them.

“You’ll look hot doing it,” Jeanine said. She clapped her hands together. “Oh my god,” she said, “I’ve done miracles here tonight. Miracles!”

Christy stepped over to her closet, whose doors were mirrors, and took a look at herself. She did look astonishingly good, she had to admit. Her hair looked as though it naturally fell in long dark curls, and the three-inch heels made her legs look long and slim.

“Earrings!” Jeanine said from behind her. She’d found a pair of silver hoops that some aunt had given Christy for her birthday a few years ago. Christy didn’t know why she’d pierced her ears, she so rarely wore earrings.

It took her a while to slip the hoops into her ears, but they did look nice when they were in. She hoped they wouldn’t get caught in her hair.

“Okay,” she said. “I think I’m ready now. What time is it?”

Jeanine glanced at the clock radio. “Almost 7:30,” she said.

“Aaarrrgh,” Christy exclaimed. “I hope he’s early rather than late.”

“I hope he brings flowers,” Jeanine said. “You could use some flowers in here.”

Christy shrugged. She’d never gotten flowers on a date before. Valentine’s day, sure, but not a first date.

“Hey,” she said, “is this technically a first date? Since we met last night already?”

Jeanine thought for a moment. “Yeah, I think it counts,” she said.

“So I shouldn’t put out then.”

Jeanine laughed. “Those are the stupidest rules in the universe,” she said. “I mean, I guess if you want this to be a long term thing, you’re supposed to string him along or whatever, but you already tried to put out last night, so you’re probably just going to try it again.”

Christy obeyed a sudden impulse to hug her friend.

“You know what,” she said, her arms wrapped around Jeanine’s thin waist, “I think you should be an advisor for a living. That’s it. Just an advisor. A life advisor.”

She pulled back and watched Jeanine smile. “Maybe you should start paying me,” Jeanine said. “You’re the only one I advise.”

Christy laughed.

“Okay,” Jeanine said, turning Christy around to look at her one last time. “You look fantastic. Brush your teeth and then put on some lip gloss, but no lipstick. Your lips are red enough.” Christy nodded. “And drink an entire glass of water before you leave the house. Hydration is good. So, like, start now.” Christy nodded again. “And be doing something when he gets here, so you’re not just waiting by the door. Go read the New York Times online or something.”

“Okay okay okay,” Christy said.

“I’m gonna’ go so he doesn’t run into me,” Jeanine said. “Nobody wants to feel ganged-up-on for a first date.”

“Agreed,” Christy said.

They kissed each other on the cheek and Christy led Jeanine to the door.

“You look marvelous,” Jeanine said to her. “Text me from the bathroom whenever you go.”

And she left Christy to wait for Mo to arrive.

NaNoWriMo Novel: I.

November 6, 2009 by

I.

The balcony at Imbibe was packed, as usual, even though it was a Thursday night and it was freezing outside. Christy was trying her hardest to sit without shivering next to Jeanine, her best friend, and Jeanine’s boyfriend Larry.  They were talking about politics with some guy Christy had never met before.  Christy hated politics.

“He can’t just close Guantanamo,” Larry was saying. “We have to have someplace to put all those terrorists.”

“They’re not convicted terrorists,” the guy replied. “They’re suspected terrorists. They’re just people.”

“Just people?” Larry said. “Those camel fuckers aren’t people. They hate people. That’s what they’re all about. That’s why they’re in Gitmo.”

Christy stood up as the guy responded, “That’s ludicrous, and racist. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” Jeanine asked as she grabbed Christy’s arm. The boys kept arguing.

“I’m going to get another drink,” Christy said.

“Can you get me a Mike’s hard lemonade or something?  I’m not liking this whiskey much.” Jeanine held up her half-full shot of Oban.

“It’s Scotch,” Christy said. “And you asked to try it. But okay.”

Christy headed downstairs to the bar. The music was horribly loud inside and it was even more crowded. She wondered how long it would take for the bartender to notice her as she took her place next to the scantily clad skinny girls and over-dressed men with gelled hair at the bar.

Christy had lived in Albuquerque her whole life, and she’d never really wanted to leave. Even when half of her high school friends took off for college in places as far away as New York and Seattle, she hadn’t even wanted to go visit them.  She thought Albuquerque was the perfect size, with enough strangers to make weekends interesting and enough family and friends to make her feel safe.

She’d dropped out of UNM her sophomore year because she didn’t feel like it was going anywhere.  She’d been working as a waitress and made plenty of money. She wanted to have the rest of her time to herself, without having to worry about studying stupid math or history problems. She’d graduated from high school, which was more than her mother had done, and she wanted to enjoy the rest of her life.

Christy started bar tending in the Heights when she was 21. It had been fun for about two years, until she got a regular who wouldn’t leave her alone. Five years later she was still afraid he might be stalking her. She shuddered. The bartender at Imbibe gave her his attention with his eyes, although he was flicking bottles open with his hands.

“Do you guys have Mike’s hard lemonade?” she asked, shouting over the thump thump of the bass.

He nodded.

“Okay, one of those,” she said, “and a Fat Tire.”

He nodded again and busied himself with the drinks.

Christy thought of her old regular. He was tall, skinny, older, with leathery skin and a NASCAR hat.  He’d started out coming to the bar once a week, and she’d remembered his order – Coors Light from the tap and chicken wings. Then he started coming every night. And then she’d found out he was trying to get her schedule from her boss.

Jim, her manager then, had thought it was funny.

“Looks like somebody has a crush,” he’d said, laughing.

“Jimmy, please,” she’d said, “this isn’t cool. Don’t tell him when I work.”

Jim had laughed and waved her request off.

The next week the regular had brought little presents every night – chocolates, then roses, then a bracelet. Christy had laughed nervously and left each present on the bar without touching it. But when she ignored the bracelet, her regular got angry.

“You’re such a bitch,” he’d said. “I give you all my attention and my love and you don’t even care. You don’t care!”

He’d stood up. Christy had been terrified. She’d thought he might have a gun.

Someone at the bar had tried to calm the regular down. He wouldn’t be pacified. He pushed the other bar-goer and then threw his beer at the wall behind Christy. Jimmy had called the cops. The regular had left before they showed up. Christy had quit right there.

She’d been unemployed for a few months after that, relying on her boyfriend of the time, who worked at a call center, to pay the rent and utilities. She’d hid out in the house, afraid of running into the regular. And then her boyfriend got sick of it.

“You’ve gained 30 pounds,” he told her. Which was true. She couldn’t deny it. She was wearing her bathrobe all the time, and hardly ever showered. “And you need to get a fucking job.” Also true.

But the zinger came when he told her he’d met someone else. She’d left that night, with a bag full of her stuff, just like she’d left her job.

She’d stayed with her chain-smoking mom for six months until she got a job at the Route 66 Microbrewery in the bar at the airport, where she’d been working for about four years now.

The bartender was still working on her drinks when a guy with curly dark hair and olive skin sidled up next to her. She didn’t think much of it because the bar was so crowded.

“Fat Tire’s really good,” he said.

Christy looked at him. No one had spoken her randomly at a bar since she’d gained the 30 pounds and been unable to lose more than five of them. Unless, of course, she’d been serving them.

“Yeah, it is,” she said.

“Mike’s hard lemonade though,” he went on, and turned around and leaned with his back against the bar, watching the throngs of people around them.

Christy bristled a little. She hated snobs, even though she wouldn’t ever drink the Mike’s herself. She’d been a bartender long enough to know that drinks were drinks, and you can’t tell people what to like.

“It’s tasty,” she said. The bartender put a bottle of Mike’s and a pint of Fat Tire in front of her on the bar.

“Nine,” he said.

Christy dug through her purse for her wallet.

“Just put it on my tab,” the stranger said. “Ali.”

“Sure,” the bartender said. He gave his attention to the skinny girl on the other side of the stranger.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Christy said, “especially since you hate Mike’s so much.” She picked up the drinks and took a swig from the Mike’s. It really was better tasting than she remembered. She probably hadn’t had a Mike’s since high school.

“There’s no accounting for taste,” the stranger said. He was short, Christy thought, maybe an inch taller than she was, and she thought she was short. She didn’t like him, she thought. “Besides, you’re too lovely to pay for your own drinks, no matter what they are.”

“Oh really,” she said. She put the drinks back on the bar and found her wallet. She pulled a ten out and handed it to him. “I can pay for my own stupid drinks.”

He refused the money. “I’m sure you can,” he said, “but you shouldn’t have to.”

She rolled her eyes and put the money back in her purse.

“Well, thank you,” she said. She picked the drinks back up and headed to the stairs.

“You could at least stay and talk to me,” he said, “since I just expended all that effort to talk to you.”

“My friends are upstairs,” Christy said.

“They can wait a few moments,” the stranger said. Christy looked at him. “My friends call me Mo.”

“Okay, Mo,” Christy said. “My friends call me Christy.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” he said. “Won’t you put your drinks down and stay a moment, Christy?”

“I really have to get to my friends,” she said, shifting her weight. She had to admit, he was handsome, in spite of being short and pushy. His hair was thick and curly and his features were very fine. He had perfect skin. He fit in his clothes very well. He looked rich.

“How about this,” he said. “I’ll come with you.”

Christy shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she said, and turned to the stairs.

Outside again the air was cold even under the propane space heaters. Jeanine was sitting in Larry’s lap. The other guy was apparently gone.

“What took you so long?” Jeanine asked. She took the Mike’s from Christy’s hand and took a long sip.

“It’s busy,” Christy said.

“Who’s your friend?” Larry asked. He was supposed to be the DD for the evening, but it appeared he’d drained the Oban.

“My friends call me Mo.” He extended his arm to shake Larry’s hand.

“What do your parents call you?” Larry asked, squeezing Mo’s hand.

“Oberon,” Mo replied.

“So why do your friends call you Mo then?”

Christy sat next to the Larry-Jeanine conglomerate and huddled into her coat.

“It’s a joke,” Mo said. “My last name is Ali. My friends started calling me Muhammad. Now they call me Mo.”

“Ha,” Larry said. “That’s kind of great. Good thing they don’t still call you Muhammad, though, huh.”

“Why is that?” Mo asked. He sat on the square ottoman across from Christy and leaned forward.

“You don’t want to be taken for a camel fucker,” Larry said, laughing.

Oh man, Christy thought. How embarrassing.

But Mo took it in stride.

“I’m pretty sure Muhammad Ali never fucked any camels,” he answered.

Larry stopped laughing and shrugged. Jeanine was studying Mo.

“Are you a Muslim?” she asked.

Christy felt like putting her face in her palm.

“No,” Mo answered. “But I am Arab. Half Arab, that is. My mother was French.”

“Oooh,” Jeanine said, “really? I took French in high school.”

“How delightful,” Mo said, “but not very useful here in New Mexico, I’m sure.”

“No,” Jeanine agreed, “it wasn’t. But I don’t remember any of it, anyway.”

Mo nodded. “That’s alright, I’m sure,” he said.

“So why are you in New Mexico then?” Jeanine pressed.

“Work.”

Mo looked at Christy and watched her drink her beer.

“Half-Arab, really,” Larry said. “From, like, Arabia?”

“Saudi Arabia, we call it,” Mo responded. “My father moved us to the United States when I was seven.”

“So you’re not, like, a terrorist or anything,” Larry said.

“No,” Mo responded. “And I don’t support them monetarily, and I don’t celebrate 9/11.” He kept his eyes on Christy.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Larry said. “I think that’s kind of rare. To hear an Arab say things like that.”

“Oh, really,” Mo said. “You know many Arabs?”

Larry looked at Jeanine. “Hell no,” he said. “I’m from Texas.”

“Ah,” Mo said. “So what do you hear Arabs normally saying?”

“Oh you know,” Larry said, “stuff from the TV. Death to the infidels. You know.”

“Yes,” Mo said, “but it so happens I’m an infidel, too. I’m not a Muslim. My mother raised me as a Catholic, but I don’t consider myself one of those, either.”

Larry considered this.  Christy couldn’t believe she was hearing this conversation. She wondered how much Larry had drunk already.

“Anyway,” Mo said, “I was interested in talking with Christy, but she was far too faithful to her friends to leave you alone up here.”

“Aw,” Jeanine said. She punched Christy lightly on the arm. The Fat Tire spilled just a bit onto Christy’s lap. “Well, I’ve been her best friend since we were 15. So you can ask me whatever you want to know about her.”

Christy wanted to sink into the cushions.

“What does she do for a living?” Mo asked.

“She’s a bartender at the bar in the airport,” Jeanine said.  “She’s been bartending for, like, seven years or something. Since we were old enough to drink.”

“I suppose that means you just gave me her age, too,” Mo said. “A very polite way of doing it, I think.”

“Um, sure,” Jeanine said. “Well, Christy’s really good at the job, anyway. People like her. She gets tips. A lot of tips. And she gets to hear all kinds of interesting stories from the people, because it’s the airport and all.”

“I can imagine,” Mo said.  He winked at Christy. She smiled in spite of herself.

“But!” Jeanine said. She put her drink on the table in front of her and leaned forward to confide in her new friend. “Christy has never been on an airplane.”

“Never?” Mo looked at Christy with eye brows raised, surprised and amused.

“No,” Jeanine said. “Never.”

“Is this true?”

Christy nodded.  She’d never been ashamed of her lack of a travel record before.  Now she felt unworldly and uninteresting.

“I’ve driven to California,” she said. “And I went to Juarez once.”

Mo shrugged. “So it’s not that you don’t enjoy traveling,” he said. “That’s good. Sometimes planes aren’t fun, anyway. I dislike them, personally.”

“You’re a perfect match then,” Jeanine said. Christy felt her cheeks turn as red as apples.

“It’s not that I don’t like planes,” Christy interjected. “I’ve just never had anywhere to go.”

Mo nodded. “I understand completely,” he said.

“Anyway, what else would you like to know?” Jeanine picked the bottle back up and took a long swig.

“I think perhaps I can ask Christy herself now,” he said.

For the next hour or so, Christy forgot she was cold. Mo asked her questions about her life, how she’d grown up, who her parents were, and what she wanted to do with her life. It didn’t feel like an inquisition. It was refreshing to have someone interested in her for a change. Usually when she went out with Jeanine, boys were interested in Jeanine – she was tall, leggy, and red-headed, and boisterous to top it off. Christy was fun, but not nearly as attractive as Jeanine, and she knew it. She always had known it. Christy was shorter, stockier, with dark hair she kept in a ponytail and a penchant for wearing sweatshirts. That was one reason she loved her work so much – she was required to wear all black, but it could be a sweatshirt if she felt like it. Since Jeanine had started dating Larry a few months previous, she’d been getting them less attention at the bar – hard for boys to talk to you when you’ve got an enormous Texan to hang off of.  So Christy was glad to be the center of attention for a change.

He bought her a few more drinks. She got tipsier than she meant and told him things she never would have otherwise. He listened intently and wasn’t embarrassed for her – just interested.

“Why would a guy like you want to get to know a girl like me?” she asked at some point.

“Why wouldn’t a guy like me want to get to know a girl like you?” he responded.

It was a good answer and Christy couldn’t think of a response.

It was nearing closing time. Christy knew the doorman would be kicking everyone out in the next quarter hour.

“Hey,” she said quietly.  Mo leaned in to hear what she wanted. “Larry’s supposed to be the DD tonight, but if you’d like to give me a ride home instead, I would accept it.”

Mo considered this for a moment. “I suppose I could,” he answered.

“Oh good!” Christy said. She almost clapped her hands, but stopped herself. “I’ll tell Larry.”

Larry and Jeanine had both stood up to talk to other people, and Christy had totally lost track of them.

“You know what?” she said. “I’ll text them.”

She dug her phone out of her purse and sent Jeanine and Larry both a text message telling them she was going home with Mo.  Mo watched her, amused, but not creepy.  Christy decided she liked him.

“Okay,” she said, once the phone was back in her purse. “Do we need to settle your tab?”

“No,” Mo said, “I already did.”

“Okay!” They both stood up and he offered her his arm.  She was just tipsy enough to need it as they descended the stairs and left the club.

He’d parked right in front of the bar, apparently, and soon he was helping her into a very low, very black BMW 3 convertible.

“Oooh,” Christy said as she climbed into the tan leather interior. “Wow, this is your car?”

“One of them,” Mo smiled. He closed the door behind her and went to the other side.

Christy felt as though she were dreaming. He asked where she lived and she directed him to Carlisle and Girard.

“Not a very nice part of town,” she said as they sped off, “but it’s close to work and I like the apartment.”

He nodded. Soft music played over the stereo. It took Christy a minute to realize it was jazz. She would have liked to sing along to something – she had a great voice, she knew – but jazz music seemed to fit the current set up perfectly.

“Where do you live?” she asked.

“Ridgecrest,” he answered. “I have a small house.”

“Oh,” Christy said. Ridgecrest, she thought to herself. Of course. She didn’t think she knew anybody who was rich enough to live in Ridgecrest. But now she did.

It wasn’t very far to her apartment at all, but Christy felt it was even shorter than she remembered. She chattered the whole way, still on her high of having someone want to know something about her.

They pulled up to her apartment and Mo left the engine running.

He got out and opened her door for her. She kept chattering as he escorted her to her front door. She dug in her purse for her keys, and pulled them out jangling.

“Thank you,” she said as she unlocked the door. “I don’t have any tea or anything but maybe I can make some juice.”

“I’m sorry,” Mo said, “I won’t be coming in with you.”

“What?” Christy opened the door and looked at him. She could hear her cat meowing from the kitchen.

“I have to work rather early,” he said. He kissed her on the cheek.

“Oh,” Christy said. “But. Okay.”

“I have your number,” Mo reminded her. “I’ll call you tomorrow and perhaps we can have dinner.”

“Dinner,” Christy said.  “Okay.”

“Sleep well,” Mo said, and turned to go. Christy picked up her cat and watched him walk back to his car. He got in and drove off, and she thought she’d never see him again.

a chat with a cat part 3

July 5, 2009 by

I got to work early and was technically allowed to leave early, too, but I stayed until 5, like any normal day.  The thought of going home to see Samantha and her judging cat eyes made me leery.  I knew it was ridiculous, being afraid of my own cat, but I couldn’t help myself.  Everything in my life felt like it was falling apart, and even my cat had more control over things than I did.

When I got home at the normal time, Samantha was sitting by the door.

“Oh, hello,” I said, putting my keys in their usual place on the table by the door.  “Have you been waiting long?”

Samantha just stared at me.  I walked past her, reminding myself that she was just a cat.

I sat down on the couch and reached for the remote.  Samantha jumped into my lap and sat facing me.

“Can I help you?” I asked, stroking her head.

She purred and rubbed her whiskers against my fingers.

“I know you didn’t come home earlier because you’re afraid of what I have to say,” she said.

“That’s nonsense,” I said.

“Sure, nonsense,” she said, still rubbing her face against my hand.  “But I don’t want you to avoid coming home just because you know I’m right.  Don’t become one of those single people who works all the time just to avoid how depressing their lives are.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Oh, what do you know,” I said.  I picked her up and put her on the floor, and then stood up myself and went to my small bedroom to change.

“You know I’m right,” Samantha said, following me.  “You don’t own your love, you’re afraid of it, and you’re afraid of life.”

“Shut up.” I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  I heard Samantha put her paws up on it, searching for a way in.

“You’re afraid to be vulnerable,” she meowed.  “Even if you’re just vulnerable to a quadriped who never leaves your apartment, over whom you have basic control.  If you’re afraid of me being right, the rest of your life is going to be awfully hard.”

I opened the door.  “So what do you want me to do?” I asked.

Samantha sat and looked up at me, licking her chops.

“I think you should go out tonight,” Samantha said.

I threw my hands up in the air and let them fall to my sides.  “Is that all?”

Samantha stood and wandered over to the table, where my sign was still sitting.

“I think you should wear this, too,” she said.

“No effing way,” I said, closing the bathroom door again.  “You are out of your little feline mind.”

a chat with a cat part 2

September 15, 2008 by

The next morning I woke early and stretched.  I felt pretty good.  The morning sky was perfectly clear out my bedroom window, with the sun rising quietly in the east.  I turned my alarm off – half an hour before it was set to go – and swung my legs out of my bed.  

            “Good morning,” I sang to Samantha as I walked into the living room.  She was sitting on the back of the couch again.

            “Hi,” she said.

            Then I got to the kitchen and noticed that the poster was on the floor.  I turned to Samantha.

            “I know you knocked down the poster,” I said. She was already licking her paws.  “Samantha.  Why did you do it?”

            “Who says I did it?” 

            “I said you did it,” I said.  “I know you.  You tore it down.  Why?”

            “Maybe the tape was too weak,” she said, still licking, focusing now on the underside of her left front paw.

            I looked up at the window.  There was still tape clinging to the window, and had been ripped.

            I shook my head.

            “You obnoxious gato,” I said.

            She kept licking.  I picked the poster up and dusted it off.

            “What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

            Samantha sat up and stretched, then jumped off the couch and came to sit in the space where the living room turned into the kitchen.

            “It wasn’t exactly hung in a very good spot,” she said.

            “Sure it was,” I said, gesturing with the poster at the window.

            “That window faces out to what, exactly?”

            I looked at the window.  “The courtyard,” I said.

            “You mean, the rest of the windows for the apartment building and the little square of grass,” Samantha said.  “Mmmhmm.”

            “What’s wrong with that?”

            Samantha twitched her tail and looked away.  I put the poster down on the kitchen table and went about making coffee.  Samantha ran into the kitchen and rubbed my legs as I did so, her usual pre-breakfast ritual.

            “You’re up early today,” she said.  I nodded.  “Not that I care,” she continued, weaving between my legs and purring a bit, “but do you have a meeting or something?”

            I shook my head.  “Just woke up early,” I said.

            She continued to rub her face against my shins.  I knew she was just trying to get breakfast, but I enjoyed the purring and appreciated the warmth, nevertheless.

            “Where’s Mr. Bean?” I asked.  She paused and looked up at me, then at the couch.  She trotted away and returned with him in her mouth.  I laughed.  “That’s true love,” I said.  I reached down and rubbed her from her head to her tail, as she arched into my hand, and then reached up into the cabinet to get her kibble.

a chat with a cat (unfinished)

September 3, 2008 by

I had a long chat with my cat, Samantha, last Tuesday afternoon.  I was home early from work.  The light was streaming in through my one sunny window on the south side of the apartment, and Samantha was soaking it in on the square of sunny carpet with her favorite stuffed bear, Mr. Bean.  I was seated across from her, on the floor, with my back against the foot of my ratty brown couch.

            I was home early from work because I was sobbing uncontrollably, and had been all afternoon.

            Samantha looked at me with disdain, and twitched her tail about, and licked one of her soft white paws.  She sighed.  I sniffled.

            “What,” I said. 

            “You and your lovesickness,” Samantha responded, not looking up from her paw.

            “Oh my God,” I said, and felt the tears welling up again, “I can’t believe you’re going to criticize me, too.”

            “Who’s criticizing?” Samantha looked up at me through half-closed lids.

            “Just everyone,” I burbled.  “My mom, my boss, the girls at work, my best friend from middle school.”  My shoulders heaved and the tears spilled over.  I buried my head in my hands.

            “Just what are they telling you?” Samantha asked.

            “To get over him, of course,” I replied.

            “Easier said than done,” Samantha said.

            “Yes,” I said.  I took some deep breaths.  My eyes were raw and my nose was running.  I stood up to get a tissue from the kitchen table.

            “Not the advice I would give,” Samantha said.  She looked over towards my bedroom with little interest.

            “Well what advice exactly would you give?”

            I blew my nose and sat at the table and slouched into my folded arms.

            “I don’t think you ever really loved him,” Samantha said. 

            I pulled my head up from the tabletop and glared at her.

            “Excuse me?”

            She continued to look off towards my bedroom.  “I honestly don’t think you ever really loved him,” she repeated.

            “And just what is that supposed to mean?”  I felt the blood rushing to my face.  “What do you even know about love?  You don’t even have gonads.”

            “Love isn’t about gonads,” Samantha said.  She started grooming Mr. Bean, licking his splayed leg with even strokes.  “Love is about caring for someone more than you care about yourself, unconditionally.”

            “Oh really,” I said.  “And whom, pray tell, do you love?”

            “Mr. Bean,” Samantha said.  She continued to lick his leg and moved onto his torso.

            I guffawed.

            “Mr. Bean,” I repeated.  “Samantha.  He’s a stuffed bear.”

            She ignored me and kept grooming him.

            “So you’re telling me that you, a cat, with no ovaries or sex drive, who’s never been out of my apartment, can love a stuffed bear, who will never respond to your love, whereas I, a fully grown young woman who was in a healthy relationship for two years, is incapable of love?”

            “I didn’t say you were incapable of it,” Samantha answered.  She quit licking Mr. Bean and rolled over on her back.  “I just said you didn’t do it.”

            “You don’t think I loved Patrick?  Why not?”

            She pawed at the air for a second and turned her head to me.  “You didn’t fully love him.  You cared too much about whether or not he cared enough back.”

            I tried to understand this for a second.  “Isn’t that what love is about?  Mutual caring?”

            “No,” Samantha said.  She rolled back onto her stomach and yawned.  “I told you, it’s about caring for someone else more than you care about yourself, unconditionally.”

            I drummed my fingers on the table and watched Samantha stretch for a moment.

            “You’re telling me that you care more about Mr. Bean than you care about yourself?”

            She nudged her bear a little bit and he slid on the wood floor ever so slightly.  “Yes,” she said.  “And I don’t care if he loves me back.”

            “Well, he can’t,” I said, “he’s a stuffed animal.”

            “Exactly,” Samantha said.  She snuggled up to Mr. Bean and rubbed her head against his arm.  “I express my love to him unconditionally, every day, whether he returns it or not.”

            “He can’t return it,” I said.

            “I know,” she said.  She was purring.

            I watched her snuggle with her bear some more and processed everything.

            “So you’re telling me that I never loved Patrick to begin with,” I said.

            “Correct,” she said.  “Your love for him was completely conditional on his loving you back.  Which means you never loved him.”

            “Maybe I did and I just never declared it the way you do to Mr. Bean,” I said.

            Samantha looked at me, still purring, entwined in her lover’s dark brown arms.  “I live here, too, you know,” she said.  “I saw all your interactions.  I never saw you declare anything unconditional.”

            “Well what do you know,” I said, and stood up.  “You’re just a cat.”

            I went to my room and slammed the door and cried until I fell asleep.

 

            The next day I stopped by a drug store on my way home from work, at a regular time, and picked up a few supplies.  I bought a large cardboard posterboard, and some Sharpie markers, and some tampons, because I was out.  I walked home in the October wind rather proud of myself.

            When I got into the apartment I didn’t acknowledge Samantha’s spot on the floor and marched right into the kitchen table, where I plunked my supplies down and took off my jacket.  Samantha watched me without batting an eye.

            I smoothed the posterboard out and took a thick black sharpie and started writing.  I outlined letters meticulously, and spaced them perfectly.  Then I colored with some red sharpie.  It didn’t take long.  I made sure not to smudge anything and blew on the lettering a little to let it dry.  I cocked an eyebrow at Samantha.  She twitched her tail.

            “Want to see it?” I asked.

            “Sure,” she said.

            I held it up.

            “I [heart] Pat,” she read.  “Ah.”

            “Oh, what now,” I said.  I put the posterboard back on the table.

            “Nothing,” she said.  “It’s just…”

            “What?”

            “I mean it’s not a very public declaration,” Samantha said.

            I looked at it.

            “It’s in big black block letters,” I said.

            “With a red heart,” Samantha said.  She nuzzled Mr. Bean.

            “Yes, totally,” I said.  I wiped an errant cat fur off the red of the heart.  “So what’s wrong with it?”

            “It’s just not public,” she said.

            “You want me to go hold it outside?” I put my hands on my hips.  Samantha started licking Mr. Bean.  “It’s really windy out.”

            “You have to do what you have to do,” Samantha said.  She kept licking her bear.

            I went to my bedroom and sat at my desk and thought for a while, watching through the blinds as the last bits of sunset strayed slowly into darkness.

            After it was too dark to see in my room anymore, I flipped on my desk lamp and dug through my desk drawer.  I couldn’t see in the drawer anyway, the lamp only illuminated the top of my desk like a spotlight.  But I found my object in the clutter of pens and paperclips and my novel manuscript and pulled it out.

            I walked into the living room, my head high, and ignored Samantha on the back of the couch.  I picked my poster up off the table and

carried it to the small window in the kitchen.  I could see Samantha lift her head to watch me out of the corner of my eye.  I held the poster against the kitchen window, with “I heart Pat” facing out, while I pulled a long strip of masking tape from the roll in my bracing hand, and then, putting the roll on the counter, I tore four smaller pieces out of the long strip.  I put a piece of tape over each corner of the poster, then stood back to admire my work.

            “It’s crooked,” Samantha said.

            I rolled my eyes at her.

            “Who cares,” I answered.

            She twitched her tail and looked a way, her catty equivalent of a shrug.

I looked at it for another moment, then sighed and started dinner.  Samantha jumped off the couch and ran away to the bedroom, probably to use the litterbox.