“No, thanks, Sara. I’m not going for a while.” I nod at her, but I don’t take my eyes off the computer. It’s been a busy morning trying to sell Groupon coupons, and I’m behind on my paperwork.
“I can push it back a bit if you want.” Sara’s light blue eyes are trained on mine, and she’s starting to make me feel uncomfortable. She has on a snug dusty rose sweater than accentuates her generous curves. She’s only been working with us for three months, and she’s been trying to get me to go to coffee several times a week in the past month. I went once, but she spent the whole time talking about being on the homecoming court or whatever as a princess when she was in high school, which had to have been at least ten years ago, if not fifteen. I find it pathetic when grown adults dwell on the glory days of their high school years. The only other thing she seemed to care about was horseback riding, which I knew nothing about. She didn’t ask me one question about myself, and I vowed never to do anything with her again.
“No. I’m fine.” I pick up my phone and start dialing, not missing the crestfallen look on Sara’s face. I feel like a shitheel, but I have no desire to get to know her better. None. Even though I haven’t had sex for nearly a month, and she looks like she’s willing to play. I mentally shake myself out of that line of speculation because one, I don’t like to fuck coworkers, the last time I did with the hot Chris Pratt lookalike (now in middle management) notwithstanding. Two, she’s probably fifteen years my junior, which is lower than I like to go. Three, she’s boring as hell, and that’s definitely a boner killer for me.
“Oh, OK. Maybe another time?” Sara’s still looking at me; I can tell, but I don’t bother answering. I don’t want to lead her on, and I don’t want to continue the conversation. I shrug and let it go at that. Suddenly, I have to pee, and I race to the bathroom. When I’m done, I see my coworker, Fawn Lovett, peering into the mirror.
“God, I am so sick of this job,” Fawn grumbles, leaning towards the mirror to reapply her chewed off lipstick. It’s a crimson red that doesn’t fit her pale skin, but who am I to tell her that? She looks both ways before whispering, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve applied to work as a manager at Burger King. I have an interview in two days.”
“Good luck,” I say automatically. I wash my hands, then dry them off with a rough paper towel. Our company’s too cheap to install an automatic dryer, god forbid. “See you back in the pit.” I walk back to my desk, lost in thought. I’ve been on the job for a three years, and I’ve been getting tired of it myself. It’s mindless, and I don’t have to take it home, but it’s also stultifying my brain. I used to be able to compose blog posts as I made my calls, but now, I just shut off all thoughts as I work. Speaking of blog posts, I check out my latest on self-care. MNborn writes, “I like to cuddle with my two pugs to destress. They are the best therapy I’ve ever had.” ScrewYou adds, “I veg out by going down the Netflix hole. I binge-watched Season Three of BoJack in two days.” There are several other comments like that, and I close my phone as I return to my desk. The rest of the day whizzes by, and I’m ready to leave by the time five o’clock rolls by.
“Hey, Megan, hold up!” I restrain a sigh as I hear Sara’s breathy voice behind me in the parking lot as I walk to my car. My impulse is to keep walking, but I slow down and wait for her to catch up in her five-inch heels. This is her first year in Minnesota, and we haven’t had snow yet, but she won’t be able to wear those shoes for much longer. I bet she’s one of those women who wears boots with stiletto heels, then complain about twisting their ankles on the ice.
“What do you want, Sara? I’m tired and cranky, and I would like to get home as soon as possible.” I keep my tone civil, but just barely. The second I’m off the clock, my time belongs to me.
“I just wanted to thank you for mentoring me when I first got here. It was really nice of you.” Sara clutches my arm, and I automatically stiffen. I don’t like being touched without my permission, and I disengage my arm as discreetly as possible.
“No problem. I was just doing my job.” I nod at her, and I’m telling the truth. My supervisor asked me to train Sara because I’m the best at my job of all my colleagues. I’m not bragging, and it’s a very low bar to clear.
“Anyway, I’d like to repay you by making you dinner one night this week. Wednesday, maybe?” Sara clasps her hands in front of her chest as I restrain an impatient sigh. I am definitely getting a ‘she’s hitting on me vibe’, which I need to nip in the bud.
“Sara, that’s really sweet of you, but I make it my policy not to date at the office. I’m sure you understand.” I keep my voice soft, though I’m tempted to shout at her. I hate clingy chicks more than almost anything, and she has all the earmarks of a stalker.
“You don’t have to be so mean about it.” Sara bursts into tears and runs away, as fast as her heels can take her. I make no move to follow her because, frankly, I’m relieved to see the back of her. I am amused that she thinks I was being mean because I was being as nice as possible, and nicer than she deserved.
I climb into my black 2005 Honda Accord and drive home, lost in thought. I’m hoping Sara won’t become a problem, but I have a sinking feeling that she will. She’s a complex mix of fragile and steely-willed, which can be dangerous. I think about asking for a transfer, but the location is convenient to me, and I like the hours. I may have to use some intimidation tactics, but I really don’t want to have to do that. I decide to keep that as my last resort in case nothing else works. For now, I’m going to stick to clipped answers and as much of a cold shoulder as I can give her. Hopefully, that will do the trick.
I hum along to the radio, the crisp air biting at my nose. I like to play a little game called, “Let’s see how cold I can get before I have to roll up the window.” Every winter, I see how many days I can drive in the winter with the windows down. Then, after that, I see how long I can go without turning on the heat. I find the older I get, the less I can tolerate cold. I’m disappointed that I have to close my window when it hits zero degrees, instead of well below zero like I used to. The body is not as tolerant as I age, and I’m reluctantly accepting that I can’t be as cavalier with it as I once was. Today, however, it’s a perfectly lovely twenty-three degrees, thus, the rolled-down windows.
I stop at the co-op on my way home to pick up some food from the deli. Plus, cat bisque for my cats. They especially prefer the salmon one, but don’t care at all for the crab. I ladle myself some ham and chowder soup for later, plus a loaf of crusty French bread. I drive home, suddenly exhausted. I grip the steering wheel with both hands after cranking up the radio. Locked Away comes on the radio, and I sing along at the top of my lungs. I’m in an inexplicably good mood, which lasts until I get home and find my favorite vase lying on the hallway floor, shattered in pieces. It’s a myriad of black, red, and yellow flames that spread from the inward out, and it’s one of the last things my mother gave to me before she died.
“Goddamn it, Onyx!” I shriek, throwing my purse against the wall. I know it had to be her because her brother doesn’t do anything without her say-so. So, even if he is the one who broke it, it would only be because Onyx goaded him into doing it. The mischievous duo are nowhere in sight. I grab the broom and the dustpan from the closet, and I clean up the pieces. As pissed as I am at my cats, I don’t want them to cut themselves. Me, either, but I nominally have control over myself. Once I’m done sweeping up the big pieces, I dig out the vacuum cleaner (I’m not a tidy woman) and make sure I’ve gotten the small pieces. Once I’m done, my cats materialize out of nowhere, a guilty look on Jet’s face. Onyx looks mightily pleased with herself, her tail waving proudly in the air. Jet can’t look me in the eyes, but Onyx stares defiantly at me. It’s as if she is saying, “Come at me, bitch.”
“Onyx. Why the hell did you do that?” I point at the floor, belatedly realizing that I had done away with the evidence. “Why did you break my favorite vase?” I stare at her, as if I actually expected her to answer. She widens her stance, flattens her ears, and hisses. I burst into laughter because I know she’s trying to look tough, but she’s too adorable for that. “OK, fine. Treat time.” They tear off towards the kitchen, and I follow at a more sedate pace after picking up my purse. I’m ashamed for my outburst as I’ve been working on my temper ever since I started taiji. I’m much better than I used to be, but there are still times when I have no impulse control. I set the purse on the counter before opening the bag of Temptations. I give each of them five before fixing my soup and bread. I take it into the living room and flop down on the couch. I turn on the TV, but everyone’s covering the Orange Cheeto, and I am fucking sick and tired of how the media constantly fluff him. I’m not a huge Clinton fan, either, but at least she can actually put a coherent sentence together.
“Fuck.” I’m suddenly disgruntled. I slurp at my soup, barely tasting it as I swallow. I chew on my French bread, which is tastier for some reason. Onyx and Jet hop up on the coffee table, watching my every bite. I hold out a spoon of soup to them, and Onyx gulps it down in one swallow. I fill the spoon again and hold it out. Jet licks rapidly, almost knocking the spoon out of my hand. Once they’re done, I take the bowl back to the kitchen and wash it. I’m still hungry, so I open the fridge to see what I have left. There’s a Tupperware filled with chocolate pudding, so I scoop up a generous helping. I start eating it even before I return to the living room. It’s delicious, and I finish it in record time. I save a bite for Onyx, who takes a lick before turning her nose up at it. Jet finishes up the rest. I lean back on the couch and close my eyes. I drift off to sleep, bothered by dreams of bleeding goblins. They’re dropping off limbs as they walk, and by the time they reach the castle, they become stumps.
I sit up with a start, my heart pounding. Onyx squeaks indignantly from her perch on my lap, whereas Jet simply burrows further into my left thigh. I smooth down Onyx’s back fur, and she dozes off again. I lie back on the couch, but I can’t fall back asleep. My phone beeps at me, letting me know that I have a text from Julianna. “Banged Ramona for four hours straight. I think this is love!” I choke on my laughter at Julianna’s exuberance. Every time she fucks a woman, she thinks she’s insanely in love with her. That lasts for approximately two weeks. Then, I get a text detailing everything that’s wrong with Julianna’s new ‘love’. Every time. Like clockwork. Speaking of Julianna, it’s her birthday tomorrow night. We’re supposed to go out for sushi, but I wonder if she’ll be able to bear to tear herself away from her new paramour. I text her back, saying, “It sounds like you’re letting your pussy do the talking. You still up for tomorrow night?” A minute later, she texts back, “Of course! I’ll just eat Ramona for dessert.” We exchange a few more ribald quips, then I go to take a shower. I always feel grimy after I’m done with work, so I like to rinse off when I get home.
Afterwards, I curl up with an Poirot novel, The Big Four, one of my favorites, and spend the next hour and a half reading about Poirot’s little grey cells. At some point, Onyx and Jet saunter into the room, one behind the other. Onyx hops into her usual place, my lap, while Jet snuffles around the bottom of the couch. He lives in eternal hope that he’ll find a stray piece of food that I’ve dropped earlier. It rarely happens, but it’s often enough that he does it every time he walks into the room. It’s not a bad strategy, really, because I eat most of my meals in the living room. He lets out a short yowl, then lifts his head. In his mouth is a potato chip, and I’m sure it’s stale. I let him eat it because it won’t harm him, and it brings him much pleasure. He chomps it down enthusiastically in two bites. Onyx is watching him indulgently, then licks the crumbs off his whiskers after he jumps onto the couch. He licks her face back with a long swipe of his tongue. She tolerates it for a few seconds before swatting him away. He takes the rejection good-naturedly and plops with his massive head on my leg. He’s out in five seconds, and I envy him his peaceful slumber. Onyx’s tail drapes around her brother’s face, and I have to smile at what a lovely picture the two of them make. I’ve never seen two cats get along so well. It’s almost as if they are two halves of one whole.
I put my laptop on my lap, careful not to disturb Onyx. I have a post to write, but my mind is dry. I can’t bear to write about the elections, so I decide to write about Julianna instead—as a tribute to her on her birthday.
Julianna is an amazing woman, one of a kind. You can’t help but look at her when she enters the room. No matter your sexual orientation, you will feel a pull toward her if you meet her—you won’t be able to help yourself. Any time I was depressed, she was right there with a wild idea to pick me up. It invariably worked, and every time, I felt better after seeing her than I had before. She knows exactly what I need at any given time, and I’m grateful for her psychic abilities.
Lest you think she’s a saint, I can assure you she’s not. She can be self-absorbed when she wants something, and she never has been constrained to the strictures of us mortal beings. I love her dearly, but I would never allow a lover of mine to be alone with her before I was truly sure of how said lover felt about me. Few can resist her charms, and she’s not one to be shy about sharing them.
We’ve had our fights about that, but in the end, we mostly agree to disagree—as long as she keeps her mitts off any lover of mine. Because she cares about me greatly, she adheres to this decree, despite her free-loving personality. I don’t tell this story to scold her or to rehash old arguments, but to point out that she does have moral values, albeit ones that are strictly her own. Society would look at her and say she’s of loose morals, but she doesn’t care about that. I admire her passion for pursuing what she wants, and in more cases than not, she gets it.
I continue writing about the enigma that is Julianna. I wax rhapsodic about all our years as friends, and the one time we barely escaped being arrested. I make the story as comedic as possible, but it was terrifying at the time. We had been at a Twins game a few years ago, quite drunk. Some rednecks were hassling us and refused to stop. It started out with them calling us Chink and Gook and Jap, and then it turned even more menacing with them threatening us with bodily harm. Everyone else was absorbed with the game and not paying attention. Julianna was getting the worst of it, so she took out her mace from her purse and sprayed the worst offender in the face. His friends started taking swings, so I put joint locks on them, with perhaps undue pressure. In other words, I broke a few fingers, dislocated a shoulder, and tore a ligament in one asshole’s wrist. When the police arrived, they were inclined to arrest the two Chinks. We managed to talk our way out of it, but I was seriously worried for a good half hour. Fortunately, there were a few people who remembered the assholes starting the fight, so we were off the hook. The Twins organization apologized to us and comped us two free tickets, but neither of us went to another game after that.
I write about how Julianna is the best friend I’ve ever had and how there will never be anyone like her. I can see us in an old people’s home when we’re in our eighties, cackling at some raunchy joke and heckling our fellow inmates. I’ll be blind as a bat, and she’ll have hearing aids in both ears, but we’ll still be able to communicate as we always have. I tear up as I am writing, but I impatiently wipe the tears away. I refuse to be sentimental about it. I need to get my writing done so I don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the night. I set it to publish at one minute after midnight, then close out the tab. Afterwards, I pull up Murder on the Orient Express on my Kindle app and plunge myself back into the world of Hercule Poirot. This is not one of my favorites, but I’m in the mood for it for some reason. I read two more Poirot novels and am tempted to read a third, but I need to get at least six hours of sleep if I’m going to be able to function in the morning.