Sunday, February 09, 2003

Okay, I just wrote a bunch more of that story I started the other day. So where should I put it? I guess I'll just put it all right here. There are only a couple of minor changes to the first section, so you don't need to re-read it if you already read it, just scroll down to where it says Part 2.

As she stood there, alone, in the rain, waiting for a cab, her heart was breaking. Earlier that day he had told her it was over, that he didn't need her anymore, and that he'd never really loved her. She was still in shock, really, because yesterday everything had been fine. It was completely out of the blue, no warning. They'd never even had a fight. She should have realized it couldn't go on, that he was never going to be satisfied with someone like her--or satisfied at all, for that matter. She sighed and wiped the streaming water from her cheeks...a good cover for the tears, at least. She knew he was too restless, too dynamic to be with one person for the long term, but she had hoped, and she had tried to be everything he needed, wanted. But, there was no amount of trying that could have filled him up, because he was a taker, a creator--an artist. Not all artists were so selfish, but Trent...ah, Trent. He was the most amazing creature she had ever encountered. His passion for life, for things of beauty, for good wine, for great music...they had seemed so perfectly compatible at first. She had been consumed by his presence, but the enigma which was his soul had kept her on her toes. She felt like she never quite knew him, or had him, even though he moved in with her, and spent all of his time with her, and said such beautiful, poetic things to her and painted her...naked, by candlelight...She sobbed again, with the sharp twist of pain that memory caused in her chest. Just then, the cab pulled up, splashing a huge puddle of water all over her.
"Belmont and 54th." She called to the cabbie, and then leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The lecture would be starting soon, and she hoped she wouldn't be late. She had been planning to attend this event with him, and they had talked about it, and been excited for it. But, when she got up this morning and started his breakfast, she had discovered a stack of empty boxes in the kitchen. She had then noticed his suitcases. She had called out to him, and found him in the bathroom, putting all of his toiletries in a box, whistling a cheerful tune. She had been perplexed, but not yet worried. "Trent? Whatcha doin'?" She had cocked her head and smiled at him, innocently. He had calmly and indifferently told her he was moving, which at first she assumed meant that the renovations on his loft had been completed, and his temporary stay was over. It confused her a little, since the crew was not planning to finish until the next month, but she had no reason to believe he was leaving her, just her apartment. So she had offered to help him pack up, and he had accepted...and after they finished loading his buddy's truck, he hugged her and said, "It's been great knowing you. Take care," and kissed her on the cheek. She had laughed, thinking it was a joke. He turned back to her, and said, "No really, you're a beautiful person, Sarah, and I want you to have a joyful life." As the reality of it hit her, she had been speechless. As she recovered her senses, she asked, "Don't you love me?" She could hear the words, and knew they sounded so desperate, so pathetic, but it was too late, they had been spoken. He had smiled sadly, shrugged softly, and said, "I don't love women, they love me." And then he was gone. The shock was wearing off, but the pain was still there, growing stronger the more she thought of him. Luckily, they had arrived at the concert hall. She pulled some damp bills from her pocket, and got out of the cab. She was seized with fear that he would be there, but knew it wouldn't be so. He had sublet his loft and was on his way to New Mexico, to go to a Native American sweat lodge and become purified. She hoped he would sweat the selfishness out of himself.
She was early, so she went to the ladies room to attempt to dry off a little and become presentable. This was not a formal event, but it wouldn't hurt to look like she didn't live on the street. She had been so preoccupied with self pity and heart break that she had forgotten to bring an umbrella, even though it was already raining when she left her apartment. She sighed at the drowned rat who looked back at her from the mirror. She looked as miserable as she felt, and was relieved that at least she wouldn't be seeing anyone she knew. After drying her face with a paper towel, and shaking out her hair so it would dry a little faster, she felt a bit more like herself. Her knee high boots had kept her legs dry, and her coat had surprisingly kept her dress dry, so when she took it off, she really didn't look too bad. Of course, she still looked like she'd been crying all day, but there wasn't much she could do to change that. So, she went in and found a good seat--good meaning near the back--and laid her coat on the seat next to her, hoping to dissuade anyone from sitting there. She rummaged through her coat pockets and found the rumpled paperback she'd been reading, hoping to keep her mind occupied while she waited. There wasn't much of a wait, and the concert hall filled quickly, and noisily. There was quite an eclectic crowd of people--middle aged conservative looking couples, teenagers with brightly colored hair, stoner/hippie types, and overly-serious college students with their laptops for taking notes. She was anxious for the speaker to begin, so she could stop feeling so conspicuous. Just as the hall lights were dimming, and the noise was dying down, a man hurried in and took the seat next to her, sitting on her coat in his haste. She was immediately annoyed, as there were other empty seats...not many, but some. He pulled her coat out from under himself, and handed it to her, with an apology and a smile. She drew in her breath, sharply, and opened her mouth slightly, as if to speak, but didn't. He had turned his attention to the stage, where there was a man beginning an introduction of the main event, and she was left feeling slightly shaken. She knew this man. She had once known him very well, but it had been years--close to ten--since they had seen each other. High school, her one big crush. He never knew, and they went off to separate colleges, and never crossed paths again. Until now. Only, he hadn't even recognized her.

Part 2

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying to focus on the speaker, but intensely distracted by the man to her left. Maybe that wasn’t him. Wouldn’t he have recognized her? She was aware that she looked bad…the puffy eyes, the damp hair…but could she look so bad that he wouldn’t recognize her? She decided to find out. Dropping her book, on purpose, she leaned to pick it up and stole another glance at him. A little pulse of excitement ran through her, as she realized this was really him. Derek Moore. Captain of the football, basketball and debate teams. Class President Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years—Student Body president Senior year. Her lab partner in every science class they ever had, and her date to the senior prom—because his girlfriend was in Europe that week and her boyfriend was at Georgetown, which was too far for a weekend trip…besides he had finals that week…or so he had told her. They had broken up as soon as he came home that summer, because he finally decided to admit he had been cheating on her all year. She scowled at the memory of the first of many men to break her heart. She sighed loudly at this annoying train of thought which was keeping her from enjoying this lecture she had been so looking forward to. The man speaking was a survivor of the Holocaust, one of the few left, and a brilliant speaker. She had always loved history, and was especially fascinated by that appalling event. She was beginning to wish Derek had chosen a different seat, so she could focus on this man’s words, when he turned to look at her.
“What?” Came his annoyed and impatient question. He was scowling and holding a finger to his lips in a “Shh” gesture, as he turned back to the speaker. She must have been staring.
“Derek!” She whispered back, with a smile and her own hint of annoyance. This time he actually looked at her, and the annoyance faded abruptly into sunshine.
“Sarah Norris!” He whispered with delight, eyes sparkling. “What a small world! Oh my god. It’s so great to see you!” He reached over and gave her an awkward half-hug, trying not to be too disruptive to the people around them.
“Yeah, you too! Where’ve you been?” She was still in shock, and suddenly didn’t care what that sweet man on the stage had to say. They had grown up together in rural, coastal Maine. He had headed off to Yale and she to Stanford, and they had lost touch within the first semester.
“Everywhere…I want to catch up! Hmm…this guy’s coming to my history class tomorrow to give this same speech, so if you wanna jet…” That was enough for her. She smiled her same familiar devious smile that brought back great memories for him, grabbed his hand and dragged him up the aisle and out the door.
“It is soooo good to see you again, Derek. It feels like home, you know?” Now that they were out in the empty lobby he grabbed her in a real hug.
“Yeah, I know. I haven’t been home in years, but seeing you…man…it just brings it all back. All the good times, at least. So what have YOU been up to? What are you doing here—in the big city??” He looked even better than he had in high school, but it only distracted her for a moment.
“Well…the quick version: I ended up majoring in English—useless—so I floundered a bit after graduation, came to the Big Apple to attempt to do something important with my life,” she rolled her eyes at the cliché of that, “and when my rich uncle died and left me a chunk of cash, I opened a little store…vintage clothing, mostly, some antique jewelry, and vinyl—real records, you know?” She smiled at the thought of her cozy little boutique, and the joy it brought her.
“Wow! That sounds fantastic—you look happy…well, actually you look like you’ve been crying all day…” He smiled quizzically.
“Yeah, I got dumped in a pretty harsh way today, but I don’t want to talk about that!! Tell me about you—what brings YOU to the city? You said ‘my class’, are you a professor or are you in school again?” She was feeling self conscious of her puffy eyes again, but didn’t dare run to the bathroom to assess the situation for fear of breaking the mood, the mutual excitement, the thrill of reunion.
“Where do I begin?? Um, yes, I’m a professor at NYU. I’ll give you the short version. I went with a similarly useless degree—History, but I loved it so much, I decided I wanted to teach it…so I got my PhD and here I am. This is my second year teaching and I love it—I couldn’t be happier…well, actually I got dumped not too long ago, too, so I guess in that department, I could stand to be a little happier.” He smiled at his confession, and shrugged.
“Do you want to go get some coffee or something? I have a feeling we could talk all night and this is not the most conducive atmosphere for that.” She gestured to the lack of chairs in the lobby.
“Yeah, that would be fantastic…you weren’t here with anyone, right?”
“No, no. The slug that crawled out of my life this morning was supposed to come…” She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Do you have anywhere you need to be?”
“I’m clear. So, let’s go?” He offered his arm and a cute little half smile she remembered from the rare times when they would have moments of true friendship—no flirting, no trying not to flirt, no studying, just friendship. Her heart skipped a beat as that gesture reminded her of how madly in love with him she had been for all of her teenage years.
Derek had brought an umbrella, so they shared it as they walked slowly along, talking and laughing. They picked up right where they left off—the same comfortable banter, their sense of humor having either not matured at all, or at least matured at the same rate. They walked and walked and walked, until the rain stopped, and they were the only people on the street with an umbrella still up, laughing like a couple of drunks.
“Where are we?” Derek asked, when there came a pause in conversation. “I’m totally lost.”
Sarah smiled and pointed across the street. “That’s my building. I guess my feet knew where they were going. We’re drenched…why don’t you come up and get dried off for a minute and then we can call you a cab?”
“Sounds good.” They headed for a crosswalk, and ended up talking through 3 lights, before noticing they could cross. As the elevator propelled them upward, Sarah finally caught a glimpse of herself, and was pleasantly surprised. Her eyes were no longer puffy and her hair had dried magnificently…her cheeks rosy from exertion and happiness. She realized she had not felt this good in a long time. Certainly not while she was with Trent, but even before that. It felt good to connect with someone from her past, and to connect with someone so thoroughly, period.
They stepped out, into her loft and she flipped on a light. “Bathroom’s over there. There are fresh towels in the cupboard, and the prick even left behind his robe so you’re welcome to use that while your clothes dry. It was in the dryer, which is probably why he missed it, but hey. His loss is your gain, right? She tossed the blue terry robe at him with a wink, and headed for her room, to get something dry and comfortable for herself to wear. She briefly considered putting her robe on, too, but decided it would look too obvious. Instead she chose comfortable but flattering loungewear…some blue striped pajama bottoms and a white long sleeved v neck shirt…bra or no bra? No bra. She stepped into her fuzzy blue slippers and popped a breathmint.
“Want a glass of wine?” She called to him as she headed for the kitchen. “I have a really nice Chianti or a sort of good Chablis…I’m having the red.” The bathroom door opened and closed, and she heard him settling into the living room.
“Red's good. Is that a gas fireplace?” He asked with delight.
“Yeah! Do you see the switch? Go ahead and turn it on if you want.” She grabbed two glasses and brought the bottle out to join him by the fire.

No comments: