Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
John is walking along Michigan Ave when an old woman tells him he has just met his wife, pointing to a woman he just helped a moment ago. Thinking he is being punked by his friends, he decides to play along and returns to invite her to a Christmas Party. A year later, still in each other's company, he has to decide if this relationship is "the one" and has given himself until the annual Christmas Party to move on or propose.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
The bar is quiet except for the performers. People are swaying and smiling, but aside from these small movements, no one would know that people were having a good time. I sit back and listen, taking sips of my drink which I now recognize as a Long Island Ice Tea. The drink is good for bar quality, but far from stellar. I can’t see much of the band as the booth we are sitting in is on the far side of the bar. It’s rumored that this is the booth Al Capone would sit in with his henchman. They could keep an uneasy eye on both doors. I am appreciative of this historical perspective as I realize that I can also watch both doors for John.
I look at the large painting of sailboats on a cloudy day at dusk hanging above the booth. The picture feels as if it is brooding, upset by being placed in such a place. The only light comes from the tall white walls of the lighthouse and the spiritual feeling of the church, although even its spires and windows fall under a shadow. The heavily sculpted framing is thick. Its deep brown is only a few shades lighter than the wood paneling of the walls and booths. The crisp white table cloths offer a stark contrast. Red lighting gives everything a sinful feel, much like it must have felt to go to a speakeasy under prohibition. The new owner has done well in keeping with this theme.
The singer introduces the band and I listen to the solo rhythm of a drummer exhibiting skills outside of the confines needed to play as a band. He is good and generous applause follows his final flourishes. The piano player takes over, followed by the trumpet and saxophone. The singer encourages them with soft humming and oohing. Desi’s eyes are fixed on the stage daydreaming of the day she can play this stage. I smile at the idea of sitting in a VIP booth, listening to her deep voice seducing her audience. I clap as the band converges into a single unit. They play one more number and then break.
Desi turns to me smiling. “Oh my God! They are sooooo good,” she enthuses.
“I know! I’m loving this. And thank you again for everything.” I raise my glass and we clink rims, each taking a drink. We talk about Wollensky’s, about men, and about music. A half an hour later, the band reappears for their last set. We sink into silence and listen. Slowly, the crowd clears out, headed to other popular destinations. I see the stage and the VIP booths. There is a booth with four or five people in it. One of the men has deep brown hair, but the way it lays tells me it is not John. The other gentleman has blonde hair and a woman under each arm.I continue to watch the band. There expressions flit from lighthearted to focus to pure joy as they move through the movements, paying attention to the subtle shifts of the others. They are back light with pink and green lights. There only competition for attention is the white statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest. She stands tall, confident in her unearthly origins, carrying grapes that nearly sweep the floor. She seems to offer protection to the musicians.
Monday, November 23, 2009
We are standing, waiting for the “L”. Men are looking at me appreciatively and I realize it has been a really long time since I put any real effort into my appearance. For all of the pleasure I take from my appearance, I certainly haven’t done anything to help others see the possibilities. I have been wasting my time waiting for John to notice me. Why would he the way I use to look. But now, I can see real possibilities in gaining his attention. The thought makes me warm and giddy. Desi finally asks about my behavior. “So, you are awful giddy for the Green Mill. You do know you have to sit quietly and politely right? No real conversation. Why did you really pick this location as a coming out party, hmmmm?”
“I don’t know. I guess I am not completely ready to through myself into the world. Baby steps. I have a look that I can try out without the commitment of actually having to talk to anybody. Plus, the music is always great. And tonight, the company will be even better.” I smirk. It’s our usual flirtation with each other. We call it Diva treatment. We compliment the other in absolutely ridiculous ways, all of which have some element of truth to them. I do think Desi is great company.
“I’m not sure I am buying it,” she says.
“But you are great company!” I say too loudly, hoping to distract her from the more material conversation. “And don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
She is amused and loving the few people who are staring at us. “Damn it! You’re right. I am fabulous and I need to start expecting other people to see it.” I laugh at her, grateful she has decided to follow the more playful conversation.
“Damn right!” The train arrives, unloading its passengers and accepting the new ones. We walk through the doors, still giggling at our silliness. It’s a night out and most people have reached their first destination. Its 10:50 and seats are open. We sit down around the half wall barricade by the door. Lawrence is only 2 stops away. In 10 minutes, we will be standing just inside the doors of the club.
My heart beats a little bit faster at the thought. I am anxious. “How are things going with the career?” I ask Desi so she will talk and I can just sit quietly and breathe. I feel like Champaign bubbles are floating around in my stomach, bouncing off the deep red lining.
“Its good. Really good as a matter of fact. I had to tell mark I couldn’t work Thursday nights for the next few months because I have a couple of standing gigs.” Her brown eyes are wide and deep laugh lines have formed at the ends of her lips. Her whole body has become animated as she starts to talk about the places she will be performing. I half listen so I can give the perfunctory reactions.
My head is swimming in just the possibility that I could see him tonight. I imagine his messy dark hair pulled back with a thick black band. The black jacket pulls together in the middle of his chest. The silver of the zipper teeth are easily visible on the black T he is wearing underneath. The jacket itself ends at his hips. He wears royal blue carpenter pants. They look soft and comfortable, falling to the tops of his black and white tennis shoes. The overall statement his outfit makes is comfort. I saw him wearing this outfit, unshaven, coming out of Nobu in Malibu a year ago. Sitting on the train, I see myself snuggling up with him on a couch watching football during a cold Chicago winter.
Desi grabs my hand and starts to stand up. We have reached Lawrence, the stop closest to the Green Mill. Suddenly, I am incredibly nervous that I might actually see him and stop walking. Desi takes two steps forward, stopping only when she feels yanked by my unmoving force. “Come on” she says. “You look great! Baby steps remember? Don’t waste the effort you put into the night already.”
“Yeah.” My response is muttered. I am filled with what ifs. What if John really is in there? What if he does notice me? What if he wants to talk? What if he doesn’t notice me? What if he sees me and laughs? What if attached to a million possibilities ricocheted in my brain. I feel nauseous as my feet stumble a few steps closer to the building. My eyes are glued to the blinking lights and message board. “Desi.”
“No. We are not having this conversation. We aren’t going to have any conversation. We are going to walk through those front doors, pay our cover, find a seat, and listen to music. I’m not asking you to do anything else. Let’s go.” I am taken aback and the ferocity of her tone. I don’t dare argue with her and slowly follow her across the street. My hands start sweating. All I can hear is the heavy pulsing of blood in my ears. My chest hearts from the hard thumping of my heart ready to explode.
We walk through the doors and the place is packed, as expected. The bouncer asks us to wait until someone leaves as they are at capacity. Desi flashes her deviant smile that makes all men melt. He tells her for the inconvenience, he will let us both in for free. The sweet deep tone of the singer washes over me. The trumpet is shrill, hitting exceptionally high notes. The drum is deep and daring. The sax holds the middle ground, making all the extremes work.
I look around and can’t see much of anything. I hear the bouncer tell Desi a couple of people are about to leave. He summons another bouncer over and tells him to seat “these two beautiful ladies” in a booth that is about to be vacated. We are carefully paraded between the multitudes of people and given a seat in one of the large booths lining the wall. I sit down, holding my breath. “Thank you. You are so sweet.” I hear Desi crooning to the bouncer.
I scan faces, backs of heads, arms, and profiles. Nothing looks like John. I breathe an audible sigh of relief, knowing none of the ‘what ifs’ matter since he isn’t here. I listen to the music. The tension in my body drains to the slow waltzing sound of the music. A drink is put in front of me and I take a couple of sips without asking what it is or where it came from. I start to enjoy myself.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
At 9pm, I punch out and grab my shopping bag, taking it to the bathroom with me. I’m in a great mood. The VIP tables gave me about $300 in tips plus another $200 from my other tables. Wollensky’s really does pay well for a part time job. Carefully, I put the money inside my purse in the zippered pouch. I decide to get dressed at Desi’s house and settle for just washing my hands. I find the key in her purse, wave goodbye to mark, blow Desi a kiss and head to her place. I’ve been out with Desi several times and I know she will be home and ready to go by 10:15. I need more time so rush to catch the train. It’s a much more pleasant ride than the night before and I enjoy watching the people on the train. There is a group of three teenagers that I would never have guessed would be friends. Big boxes of Mika and Ike’s or Junior Mints hang out of their pockets and they are still looking over the playbill for The Blue man Group. They are chatting excitedly and reenacting their favorite scenes. I have seen the performance 6 times already and would go again.
Across from them are a mother and her little girl. The little girl looks to be about 4 and is wearing a pastel pink dress and a matching bow in her hair. She has on thick white tights and a cute little white winter dress jacket. She is curled up in her mother’s lap, sound asleep, while her mother smoothes her hair and kisses the top of her head unconsciously. The mother looks like she would also like to be sound asleep.
All around us are people ready to go out. It feels good to identify with this group. Finally, the Sheridan red line stop is called and I disembark. I walk half a mile to her apartment and let myself in. It’s a decent enough place, but lacks much of the architecture I love. Her apartment is an “L” shape, with her bedroom being on the corner of the building. It is decorated with a lot of mismatched second hand furniture and is always a mess. I would pick up for her, but I don’t have time. I have to get ready assuming that I will see John and want to make an impression.
I strip off my work clothes and take a 10 minute shower, just long enough to rinse the Wollensky smell off and shampoo the crinkle left in my hair where my hair ties were pressing it. I dry off quickly, using her Aveeno lotion. I love that it is unscented. I have never been fond of smelling like a fruit or flower. When I am done, I slide my pretty black and pink under clothes back on. I realize I don’t have anything but my work pants with me and leave the bathroom to raid Desi’s closet.
Desi is bigger than me, but I know she keeps a small stash on I-will-fit-into-these-one-day clothes hanging at the back of her closet. I rifle through them quickly and find a cute pair of dark washed skinny jeans. They do not fit me like skinny jeans and I have to cinch a belt to the last notch in order to make them fit. I look in the mirror and know it is not going to work. I take them off and place them back on the hanger. I rummage some more and find a pair of jeans I must have left when I crashed over at her place for the all night John marathon we had when her boyfriend broke up with her. She’s a John Cusack fan as well and it was a lot of fun, even though there were frequent tears.
They are slightly wrinkled, but I know I don’t have time to deal with it. I doubt John will have any reason to look at my ankles. Quickly, I put them on and then grab my shopping bag and put on my new shirt. I take the towel off my head and vigorously dry my hair. The clock reads 10pm. Desi will be walking in the door any minute.
I go back to the bathroom and dig through her drawers until I find her hair dryer and curling iron. I plug in the curling iron and it starts to heat up instantly. I don’t hear the front door open, but Desi is calling from the kitchen. “Okay chaquita. I am home. I’ll be ready in about 10 minutes.” I flip on the hair dryer and start smoothing down my hair with her brush. When my hair is barely damp, she walks in. She has changed into a long sleeved, very low cut shirt and a pair of jeans. She reaches over me and grabs a sparkly barrette. “Oh my god! I love your top!” she says. “What are you going to do with your hair because I have this great fabric headband that will look awesome with it.”
“Well, I was going to curl it and leave it down.” I am talking to her back. She has already turned around and is walking to her dresser where she keeps most of her hair supplies and jewelry. In her hand, she is carrying a thin black hair band that has small silver swirls woven through it.
“Curl your hair, but don’t leave it down. Pull it back with this,” she says holding out the band, “so people can see these!” She opens her hand to reveal a pair of black tear drop chandelier earrings encased in antiqued silver. I am in love with them.
“Are you sure?” I ask, not wanting to take the very few accessories she has.
She takes a step back, closing her hands around the items and placing them on her hips. Desi pretends to be taken aback and scowls at me. “You know I don’t offer it up if I don’t want to give it up.”
I put my hands in my pockets and shrug my shoulders. “Aw baby. You know I want wha’ you got.” We both crack up laughing. It’s an inside joke from the first time we went out. We are mimicking the hooker and client we saw outside the Rainbo Club. I put my hands out and she freely hands me the contents.
“What time is it?” I ask.
“It’s like 10:15, I think.” She doesn’t glance at the clock, but I am certain she is right.
“Okay. I’ll hurry. Do you want to make us a quick pre-bar drink?” My nerves are starting to get the better of me and I am hoping the Apple Pucker in 7-Up equivalent of a wine cooler will make my hands stop shaking.
Desi disappears. I curl my hair and pull it back with the hair band, adding the earrings to my lobes. It all looks wonderful together and I feel really pretty for the first time. She comes back with the drink. I take a gulp. “Desi. Will you help me with my make-up? I am tired of my plain Jane neutral colors and would like to spice it up…. A little.” I warn.
“Really?” She is surprised and she had reason to be. She has tried to talk me into adding a little color for a long time and I always turn her down.
“Yes! Absolutely.” I exhale. “Laura and I were talking today and I realized I need to turn over a new leaf and start making myself known. I don’t want to be the wall flower anymore. She suggested that I start going out and dressing up a bit. So, will you jump on the bandwagon and help me?”
“Hell yeah!” she says enthusiastically. “What made for the big change of heart though? Was it the incident last night?”
“You heard, huh?” I am slightly embarrassed, but know that Desi would never do anything to make me feel uncomfortable. She shakes her head yes. “Yeah. She told me that if I wanted to be noticed and have any guy in my life, I needed to get out there. I thought I better give it a shot now because if I don’t, I will sit in my room and change my mind by morning.”
Desi has already grabbed her impressive make-up stock. I’ve never known anyone who loves make-up more. She could open her own counter with the supply she has. The best part is how good she is at it. She tells me she was forced to learn a lot about make-up application from being on the stage. I think the statement is inaccurate. I don’t think Desi had to be forced to learn about make-up. Ten minutes later, I look like amazing. I finish drinking my Apple Pucker and we head out the door.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I walk through the employee entrance at Wollensky’s 15 minutes before my shift. Mark sees me and smiles. I wave and smile back. After I take care of my coat, I approach him. “Hey Mark. How are you doing?” My voice is chipper and to be honest, I am actually in a pretty good mood.
“I’m okay. Bad headache tonight. Are you going to do anything to make it worse? Do I need to worry about you tonight or in the future?” Mark has always been kind of gruff, but he is a softie at heart. I can’t imagine this is an easy job for him. He takes a lot of flack from the chef if anything goes wrong on the floor. I feel bad that I caused him so much grief last night.
“Actually, I wanted to apologize to you about last night. After I left, I went home and had a good long cry and then my roommate and I hung out today. She was great at pointing out how delusional I’ve been. After her little talk with me, I can assure you that I am capable of doing my job regardless who walks through the doors.” I had been thinking about what I was going to say to Mark on the train and now I am hoping my little speech helps reestablish the trust he has in me.
He looks at me suspiciously, unsure whether I am really capable of turning it off just like that. “Besides,” I say, “Mr. Cusack is unlikely to be back anytime soon so I have plenty of time to prove myself to you.”
“Jodi called in sick” Mark tells me. “I want you waiting her VIP tables tonight.” He turns and walks away. He still trusts me, even if he doesn’t say it directly. Waiting the VIP tables means big tips and he never puts people there who can’t give exceptional customer service. It’s a tip of his hat or a challenge. Either way, I am elated! I check my hair and make-up in the staff bathroom and punch in.
After about half-an-hour, Desire walks in. She tells everyone her Mamma named her that because she knew her baby girl would grow up to be someone others would desire. Although she works at Wollensky’s, she has a lot of musical talent and I fully expect her to make a name for herself. “Hey Desi!” I call out. “What are you doing tonight?”
She smiles and steps into the bathroom to check her hair and make-up. She has her father’s beautiful dark skin and everything else belongs to her mother. I met Desi here on her first day. We didn’t like each other at all. She thought I was stuck up and I thought she was a bit of a slut judging by her really short skirt and stilettos. For the first week, we never had to deal with each other. Training took up a lot of her time. Wollensky’s is too up-scale to allow anyone on the floor with the customers until after they have the job down. Instead, you practice in the kitchen by taking orders from the wait staff. “Fix the salad; dish the soup; I need brushcetta with feta” are all things that you might here in a 5 minute span. She was rushing to keep up and missed making a salad for one of the senior wait staff. I covered for her and in return, she gave me a really sweet homemade gift the next night. I think we were both surprised by the other’s reactions and started to talk to one another. Over the next few months, we built a great friendship. Two years later, we still delight in each other’s company.
I take drinks to my table before she comes out of the bathroom. At some point, we will pass each other in the kitchen and she will answer. This is how most of the conversations take place while we are working. About 20 minutes later, I find myself dishing up soup next to Desi. “Not much. My boyfriend is out of town for a week for an unexpected work thing. Why, what do you have in mind?”
As I pour a side of the house Honey Mustard I ask her, “Want to go to the Green Mill with me? I hear a great group is playing and I even bought a new outfit today.” And then I depart as Mark is looking in our direction.
“What time and where?” she says a little while later.
“I’m off at 9pm. Anytime you can be ready after that works for me.” I say, really happy that I have someone to go with.
Desi considers it for a brief time. “Sure. I’m off at 9:30. Want to meet at my place? Keys in my purse.”
I nod in agreement.
Friday, November 20, 2009
“I am so excited about this possibility!” I tell her. We hug again and then start giggling. I am excited to be spending time with Laura. We hang out until about 2pm, when I tell her I have to go to work.
“Already?” she says. “I didn’t think you worked until like 5 or something.”
“I don’t, but I fell and ripped a hole in the knee of my pants last night. I have a really busy week with the studio and need to make sure I buy a new pair before next weekend. I wanted to run to the store and get a pair before my shift.” It’s true. I am busy meeting with some clients on final choices and other prospective clients this week. My schedule isn’t packed, but it is full. It’s the biggest con of working in Interior Design. I frequently have sporadic mid day and evening meetings, making it difficult to run errands.
“Okay” she says, slightly disappointed. “Maybe I will call Jeremiah and see if I can talk him into taking me to a movie or something. I don’t know.” Her legs have already started to migrate north. Pretty soon, I will be talking to her feet. I move off the loveseat to give her more room. I pick up our lunch dishes, wash them in the sink, and then head to my room to do my makeup before leaving. When I reach my door, I turn around. “Laura? Thank you.” I am very genuine. Her feet stop wiggling a moment and then I hear a small “You’re welcome” come from the loveseat.
I close my door and breathe a deep sigh of relief. Grabbing my make-up bag, I walk to the mirror and start applying my make-up slowly. Wollensky’s wants the staff to be available but not noticeable or distracting. Make-up must be neutral. Long hair must be worn up in a twist or bun or other simple style that does not compete with the customers who are required to wear jackets and dresses. I think of how the neutral tones of the make-up make my face blend in with all of the surrounding points. Laura is right. Wollensky’s doesn’t count as being a presence in his life.
I finish my make-up. I put my work shirt on a hanger and grab my work shoes. It’s Saturday night and I know John is in town. Tonight, I am going to take Laura’s advice. I am going to go to a club or two he has been rumored to attend. And I am going to do so looking like someone who expects to be noticed, but for the right reasons. I just have to think of who would go on such short notice.
I decide to wear my work shirt and shoes. No wrinkles in your clothing is another Wollensky rule. Professional, polite, and presentable. It’s really what it boils down to meaning. Last night, I was evidently not capable of pulling off all three. I walk out of my room. Laura has either left or moved to her room. I put my coat on and look for my hat. Damn! It blew off in the wind last night and I just let it go. I’ll pick up a new one at the mall. I go back and put a hairbrush in my bag. I will probably need it to fix my understated updo.
“Bye!” I call out, just in case Laura is home. I think I hear a muffled response, but am not sure. I unlock the apartment door and close it quietly behind me, securing the locks once more. At the elevator, I look in the mirror. I am much improved over last night. The elevator arrives and I take it to the lobby. As usual, a few people are chatting in the small dispersed groups.
Outside, it is cold and windy. Nothing new. It is Chicago. I walk the two blocks to the train station and catch the red line headed south. In Bucktown, I get off the train and walk to the shopping district. I swing into Limited and pick up a pair of $110 dress pants. They are on sale and I am pleased with being so lucky! Then I browse some of the other racks. I find a basic black shirt with long sleeves. It fits me beautifully, flattering my shape well. My favorite part is the soft beading around the neckline. While standing in line, I peruse their jewelry. It’s a bit gaudy and nothing feels right. Then I see a wide beaded bracelet that is similar, but far bolder, than the beading on the top. I pick it up and pay for all three pieces, pleased that I have an outfit for the night.
I glance at the time and realize I have enough time to eat a quick dinner. I head to a small deli a couple of blocks back toward the train. It’s in the chic part of Bucktown. I’m not really dressed for it, but don’t care. I go in and sit at a table for two in the corner after ordering my ham and swiss on rye bread and a small raspberry tea. I contemplate Laura’s advice and decide it really is solid. Mentally, I begin to list the places I know John likes to go. My Droid is in my purse. I pull it out and start looking up which jazz musicians will be playing in Chicago.
The Green Mill is always a favorite. Maybe I will try it tonight. They always have a good jazz group on Saturday night. And the expected etiquette in the place means that I won’t have to explain myself to anyone. Even if he isn’t there, I will have some time to practice mild flirting. It’s getting late and I decide to go, clearing my plate from the table and dropping it on the bus boy’s cart. I catch the Red Line and head to Wollensky’s.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
“Okay” I say, but I am feeling nervous about this. It’s not like I will be able to walk up to John and ask him to hang out with me more. Maybe letting her believe it is a co-worker is a bad idea. “And how am I going to do that when I rarely see him?”
“Now, I might be going out on a limb, but it seems as if he thinks of you as a co-worker only right now. The first thing you have to do is give him something more to identify with besides Wollensky’s. Pick somewhere he likes to go and show up looking completely different. Do you know what I mean?”
I have no idea what she means. “Not a clue. You mean go to a baseball game wearing something other than my Wollensky’s shirt? Because, news flash, I already do that.”
“Yeah, but do you look good? Do you wear your hair down and make-up or do you still pull your hair up? Ya’ know?” I love it when Laura’s southern drawl slips out. She hates it her accent. When we first met, she was working diligently on making it disappear. When she is excited about something, she still slips. It makes me smile.
“Kind of. So, let’s say that I am going to a baseball game. What would you dress me in?” I think I understand, but want to make sure I can do this with as little help down the road as possible.
Laura’s hands fly up. They are hovering in front of her about shoulder height, hands splayed open, as if she is directing traffic. “Okay. If I were going to dress you for the game, I would look at two possibilities. First, you could go the totally casual look. Baseball jersey with a little lace cami underneath and a pair of jeans. Wear your hair down and smooth. Get some of those big movie star sunglasses and a baseball cap. Then, cheer like mad. Dressed like a supportive fan and looking cute could easily get your face on the big screen. He may not recognize you at the game, but then at work you can tell everybody about it. Word will get around and he’ll be like, ‘No way. I was there. I saw her!’ It will be kind of like bragging rights and men love to be able to brag.”
My heart sinks a little because I know that word of mouth is not going to work in this situation. “But what if he doesn’t hear it from a co-worker?”
“It doesn’t matter! He will still have seen you and you can use it conversationally at some other point.” She seems so positive and I feel like I should have made up another story. “There is also the fun option. You know, wear that cute little pink top you have, your skinny jeans, and then some kitten shoes. I would put on some big earrings and a few long necklaces or something for a little spice. Curl your hair and try to purposefully, " she puts finger quotes around the word purposefully, "run into him at some point in the game.”
Now it is my turn to laugh. “Yeah right. Just run right into him at the game? It’s clear you have never been to a game. You can't find friends if you coordinate a meet-up time and location while at the same game! You don’t just run into people at Wrigleyville.”
“Well, then try a few bars after the game. You’ll fit in either way with how you are dressed. It might mean a little bar hopping, but no biggie. If you don’t find him, you will still have a good time." Laura pauses for a moment before pushing a single pointer finger toward my chest. "I almost forgot! Bring a friend for these ventures. Otherwise you may look like a stalker or a very desperate person. Neither of these are attractive on you.” I know I have to agree to try. Some of it could actually work. I usually try not to be noticed by John. I prefer to observe him at a distance most times. The restaurant is the only time I ever interact directly with him.
Laura’s advice isn’t too far off base. She isn’t saying to walk up and just start talking to him. She’s saying be part of the crowd until my presence is just natural. I can do that.
“Baseball is over, but I get what you are saying. I think he likes the Green Mill jazz club so maybe that could be somewhere to go.” I am already thinking about other places I could show up without it seeming too odd. I start to think that this aspect of Laura’s plan could work.
Then, Laura provides the nugget of information that tells me this will all work. “Honey, we are building the quintessential romance story. Your beloved John Cusack movies are all about this. The man is desperately in love and only the woman who is pining after him knows it is with the wrong woman. Then, through karma or personal preservation, the pining woman becomes the center of his world. One day, he wakes up and realizes that she is his life. You are the pining woman and this mysterious tall, dark, and handsome man with deep brown eyes is John Cusack. Here we are, finding a way to give you John Cusack on bended knee.”
At this moment, I love Laura more than I have ever loved any other person in the world.
Monday, November 16, 2009
** I have 15 minutes to write tonight, so don’t expect too much! And now I have wasted one of those minutes writing this disclaimer!**
I am moved by her generosity and more so, her desire to help me. I know this is within Laura, but sometimes I am so sidetracked by silly things like dirty dishes and randomly missing food that I forget. “Thank you. Thank you” I cry into her shoulder. We release each other and sit back. It is slightly awkward and we both nervously laugh. “Ummm.” I lean back against the arm of the loveseat to create more space between us. “So, where do we start?”
Laura doesn’t move. In her artsy world, there is little need for personal space. I am comfortable with the space between us. She laughs a free spirited laugh and then smiles. “Well,” she says excitedly, “let’s start with you telling me about this amazing man of your dreams!” She is giddy and has taken both of my hands in hers. I lean forward slightly. Sitting like this reminds me of the early days of our friendship.
I gush. “Oh my gosh Laura. He is so cute! Tall, dark, and handsome. Amazing smile. Deep brown eyes! He makes me laugh too. And he’s so smart. He is into sports and architecture and independent films and music. We just have so much in common. He’s just…. perfect! I really like him.”
“He sounds great. What does he think of you?”
“I don’t know. I thought he could like me. We’ve never really talked about it. Mostly its just been short conversations. You know, in between waiting tables and stuff. We aren’t there on the same nights all that often.” I’m not sure if this is a good answer or not. I am nervous that she will see through my plot.
Laura’s eyes open wide. She gasps. “He doesn’t even know you like him, does he? You haven’t told him.” I look down sheepishly. I inhale deeply and then shake my head no. “Well, then I think the first step has got to be getting him interested in you and we can’t do that unless he starts to have more contact with you.”
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I’ve just put some M&Ms in my mouth. The question catches me off guard and I choke on an almond, causing my eyes to water profusely. Laura laughs and then looks concerned. Finally, I recover. I try to take deep breaths, but it only sends me into another spell of coughing. I am alarmed by the pain, but mostly I am struck by how painful my life is. What can I tell her? My voice is raspy when I excuse myself to get a drink.
I dilly dally in the kitchen, coughing whenever I feel the urge in order to give myself more time. I waver between grabbing a glass of water or making hot chocolate. I already feel overloaded from the sweetness of the candy and decide that the extra time is not worth the sick feeling I will have if I try to suck down something equally as rich in flavor. I fill my glass and grab a few Kleenexes to dab the moisture out of my eyes.
When I return to the living room, Laura is trying to subdue her laughter. I pretend to scowl at her and then let my body drop heavily on the couch. My throat is still tender. I take a long, slow drink of water and then carefully set it down on the Kleenex. I pull out the little drawer from its cozy place in the middle of the table and take out a coaster. Laura brought the coasters back from her trip to the Gaudi Temple in Barcelona, Spain a few years ago. I am hoping when we part ways, she will leave them to me. I love how the reds, blues, and golds of the smooth glass crashes into the jagged metal rivers that spread chaotically through them. I set my drink on the one that is predominantly red and look back up to Laura.
Her laughter has subsided. She is twirling a long strand of her curly hair around her finger. She does this unconsciously when she is impatient. “What did you ask me?” I say casually. I am hoping she forgot and that I can gain control of the conversation.
“I said, what’s going on in your life?” She is too direct and I know she suspects something. I just don’t know what or how.
I consider giving her a story, something to occupy her. I’m not sure she will buy it. She seems too certain of what she is after. Her confidence shows in her eyes and posture. I have to come clean. Well, as clean as I have ever come with Laura on this particular subject. “Why don’t you tell me what you already know and I will fill in the gaps and details.” It should be a question, but it comes out sounding more like an order.
“I don’t know too much,” she says with a calmness I wish I could claim. “I ran into a friend who knows someone who works at Wollensky’s. She said you were sent home from work. My friend couldn't remember why. She thought it had something to do with one of your co-workers.”
I want to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Inside, I am doing cartwheels. Outside, I grimace. “So, I am the new gossip girl, huh?” She shrugs her shoulders while raising her hand in a motion that means sort of. “Okay then!” I say, looking at the ceiling and throwing my hands in the air in a mock surrender. “So, there is this guy I kind of have liked for a little while and we occasionally work together at the restaurant. I guess you could call it a crush. My co-workers do. Anyway, he showed up to eat their last night with his new girlfriend. And fortunately for me, I had to wait his table. You should have seen this pretty little perky blonde thing hanging all over him. I don’t know. I guess I was jealous and a little bit hurt that I wasn’t the one with him. I don’t know exactly what I did. I thought I was just doing my job, waiting tables. But Mark, the kitchen supervisor last night, called me over and told me I was…. How did he put it…. “ogling a guest while ruefully staring at his date” or something like that anyway. And then he sent me home and told me I better behave when I came to work tonight. I felt like such an idiot! I left and came home, curled up in bed, and cried my eyes out.”I am startled that it all came rolling out of my mouth so easily. So much of it is honest and true. I just changed the identity of the person. I feel so much better talking about it. I look at Laura hopefully.
She has a huge smile on her face and a glint in her eye. She bursts out laughing. Hard. I am dismayed. I shared something that is so painful to me and she is showing her support by laughing at me? I am torn between feeling betrayed and feeling angry until she almost falls off the couch. I crack a smile at the panicked flailing of her limbs and realize how funny the whole thing sounds. It is ridiculous in many ways. So much unlike myself. And then I start to laugh a full, round, belly laugh. Laura feeds off of it and laughs even harder, alternating between pounding the pillows with her fist and pointing at me, her mouth gaping open. In turn, I start to howl, clutching my side and kicking my feet. We both laugh until tears stain our cheeks, our abs are sore, and we have to make the choice to breathe or suffocate. It is utterly freeing.
When we finish gulping down air and getting control of the giggle aftershocks, I look at her seriously. “Laura, tell me what to do? I need your help on this one. I am so lost!” The desperation in my voice surprises me. I want to take it back. I can't. I cast my eyes down, hoping she will let it pass by. Instead, she stands up and walks over to me. She is smiling, but a small tear has formed in her eye. She is holding her bottom lip between her teeth as she takes the few steps needed to round the table and sit on the love seat next to me. She wraps her arms around me hugging me tight.
“I never thought you would ask. Miss Laura Venus Pollasky has come to your rescue.” And I relax in her hug, knowing she will indeed help me. Attracting men has always been something she could do easily. In her own right, she is a goddess of love.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I take the M&Ms and sit back down on the couch. Laura has put a wrap over her hair to keep it from becoming speckled with paint. She has left a folder of pictures sitting on the couch. I pick it up, holding my breath as I open it. The first face smiles up at me. Julia Roberts. I smile with relief. “Free associate! Start blabbin’ Miss Jane.” Laura calls out. She is standing poised at her easel, ready for a smattering of words that will guide the paintbrush in her hand.
“Okay. Pretty Woman! Her smile is known by everyone! Being too big for her face has somehow turned it into a…. a…. something people desire. She always plays the underdog who becomes the heroine. You know, like in Erin Brockovich or America’s Swwethearts and so on.” I am smiling at the simple joy her smiling face brings. It’s such a lightweight feeling. I realize that this could be a fun activity and begin to relax. “Is that enough or do you need more?”
Laura is standing still watching me. Her brush is dry and devoid of any color other than the natural color of the bristles. “Only give me what comes to mind. Don’t over think it. I want your natural reactions,” she assures me.
I set Julia Robert’s smile aside and look at the next picture. Brad Pitt. “He is America’s Sweetheart. At least every female I know loves him and his chiseled features. But, the handling of his divorce has left a bit of a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouth, including mine. I guess we never heard much of his side of the story, but still. I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t fair to judge. He went from untouchable to basically gossip fodder overnight. And now it seems the tabloids are constantly after him. No peace. I feel for him.” I glance at Laura. She is staring at her canvas, dry paintbrush poised above it.
I am quiet too long. “Keep going,” she says contemplatively. “Just think incessant chatter.” She never even looks in my direction. She just stays focused on the canvas. I move Brad Pitt to join Julia Roberts.
The next picture is someone who looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t place her. And I say so. “I don’t know. She seems like she is approachable. Maybe it’s because she isn’t a super star and so the nervous jitters just wouldn’t …”
“Hold on.” Laura interrupts. I am rethinking how to approach this. Too many different emotions. I need to decide if I want to put your perspective on its own canvas or if I want to paint single canvases identifying only one emotion on each.” She is silent for a while. I don’t interrupt her thought process. I sit on the couch with my legs folded under me eating Raspberry Almond M&Ms. They are good. After a long pause, she speaks again. “I want to do a single canvas for each person. I think that will be best. I can paint flat emotion. I want to represent a mixture.” Finally, she looks at me. “How are the M&Ms?”
“Great!” I say.
“Yeah. I thought so.” She is still contemplative as she begins to pack up her stuff.
“Are we done?” I ask uncertainly.
“For now, yes. I need to rearrange some things. We’ll do it again soon okay?” She seems to be sincere in asking for my permission.
“Sure Laura. It would be my pleasure.” I sit and watch her put lids back on the paint. I don’t offer to help. I’ve tried to before. She’s particular about her supplies like I am about my designs. I know not to invade her space. I just watch until everything is cleaned up and she plops on the couch opposite from me, grabbing a handful of M&Ms for herself.
“So, what’s going on in your life?” she asks.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I don’t really have anything to put away, but I go to my room anyhow. I push the door so that there is only a small crack left open and sit on my bed. It’s already been made. I’ll still use tidying up as an excuse. Laura always says I am fanatical about this so she will believe it. It gives me a few minutes to collect myself before pretending to enjoy the treat. I wonder what variety of chocolate she has obtained for us. It’s her most common treat.
I look at the clock and am surprised to see that 5 minutes has passed. I know I only have a couple more before I evict myself or she barges in. I contemplate how I might escape so I can figure out what to do about the Wollensky’s ordeal, and more importantly, how to put myself back into John’s favor. Wollensky’s! Of course! I have to work this evening. I’ll just tell Laura that I picked up an extra shift and need to leave by 2pm. That will let me appease her for a while and then I will be free to worry about my next step.
Quickly I reach back for my plate and cup still sitting on the nightstand. I am relieved that Laura will provide a little distraction for the day. I leave to take care of my things. She is sitting on the floor of the living room in the middle of the carpet, having pushed the coffee table under the painting, doing what I assume is a yoga pose. Her bottom is in the air. Her legs are straight. Her elbows and forehead rest on the carpet. As I suspected, she is wearing leg warmers over her leggings and a long tie –dyed T-shirt dress, gathered with a bulky belt. Artist chic. Later she will add several bangles, a few long necklaces, possibly a crop sweater, and some kind of hair scarf to keep the curls out of her eyes.
I walk past. In the kitchen, I notice the cereal bowl and spilled oatmeal in the sink. From the color, I would guess she chose cinnamon apple. The milk is still sitting out as well. I put the cap on the milk and slide it in the refrigerator door shelf. Then I grab the kitchen sponge and scrub the drying oatmeal off the bowl and the little bits of cream cheese and bagel crumbs off the plate. Once rinsed, I dry everything and put them back in the cupboards. Then I take a moment and wipe down the counter. Meanwhile, I watch Laura move between poses, pulsating through the stillness in an effort to become even more flexible.
Her right leg is hooked under her body, her arms above her head and left leg extended straight out. It appears that her fingers are crawling across the floor. She has shown me this pose before. It is wonderful for really stretching my hip muscles. I don’t remember what it is called. With her face turned toward the kitchen, Laura says, “Hey. Next time you go to the store, can you pick up some juice? I noticed it was gone this morning.”
“Sure.” I say. “So, what is this treat that I am going to love?” I walk back into the living room and sit on the loveseat. Laura pops right up.
“Stay right there,” she says as if I am a puppy who will run as soon as she turns her back. She gets to her feet in one fast fluid motion. She crosses the short distance to her room and disappears. A couple of minutes later, she returns with a bag of candy, a small canvas, and some painting supplies. They are dropped without ceremony on the couch across from me. She returns to her room only to reappear with more painting supplies and her large easel.
I am wary. Laura is an abstract artist and she excels at it. Her work is beautiful. This arrangement doesn’t make sense. I really hope she isn’t on one of her kicks of trying a new form of art… especially if it means asking me to sit for her. Oh God. Please don’t let it be that. Sitting still as a statue is not in me today. Finally, Laura emerges for the last time.
“So, what are we doing?” I ask, fully aware of the skepticism already in my voice.
She doesn’t even glance at me as she lays the drop cloth over the hardwood floors and sets the easel and canvas up. ‘Don’t worry! This is totally up your way and I already have faith that this will be one of my better pieces. Besides, I bought Premium M&M’s to bribe you with. The Raspberry Almond ones. I hear they are to die for and I know how much you like raspberry and chocolate together.”
I am tempted. They sound delicious. “And what are you expecting me to do for them?” I am still skeptical, but warming up to the idea.
“Simple,” she says, turning to look at me. “I have cut a bunch of pictures out of some tabloids. I just need you to look at them and talk about what you see. How it makes you feel.”
“Okay. That doesn’t sound so hard. But how are you going to use this to paint?” Laura is rarely inspired to paint through conversation. She is inspired by color, texture, or the emotion she feels when surrounded by these types of things. She frequently tags along when I head to a fabric store or other specialty place where she is allowed to touch and play with the items.
“Well, first, it is going to be a series piece. Kind of like the ‘Criminal Ripples’ series of paintings in the kitchen. But this one I am going to call ‘Hollywood Glam’. I am asking a handful of friends to look through various pictures. I’m hoping to capture how the general public views celebrity status.” She is looking directly at me. I can tell just looking at her that this thought has inspired her. My gut tells me to say no, but my brain argues and tells me it will be fine. John is hardly ever in the tabloids. He keeps his life private. I have no real affinity to any other star. And as far as Laura is concerned, I don’t have a reason to say no. Saying no will only trigger an alarm that I prefer to keep silent.
“Sounds fun!” I say with a smile. “I’ll grab a dish for the M&M’s. You bring out the pictures. Let’s do it!” I get off the couch and half run to the kitchen. I try to steady my nerves as I reach for the bowl. “It will be easy. Just don’t relate every actress and actor back to John’s movies. Keep it general.” I am mentally outlining guidelines to follow. Already I feel my eyes mist over. “Stop it!” I tell myself firmly. “This is not what she wants to capture. She wants Hollywood Glam. Fun! I can do that. I do it all the time.” As the M&M’s tinkle into the crystal dish I hope that the longing I feel does not show in my eyes.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Quietly, I emerge from my room, laden with the clothing I am wearing and those I intend to put on. I startle when Laura calls out, “Oh good! You’re up! Hope I didn’t disturb you this morning. Jeremiah is so delicious and it made things so much more fun than usual!” She sighs deeply. “Anyway, what are your plans today?” I can’t see her curly dark brown hair or her slender body dressed in what she calls artist chic fashion. Her tanned legs and florescent pink toes stick above the couch.
I close my eyes and pull my clothing closer to me. I don’t want to talk with Laura. I want to shower and hide in my room for the day. I address my response to the flexing feet. “Not much. A shower followed by a generous helping of me time.” I don’t wait for a response and start walking toward the bathroom.
“Perfect!” she says. Her feet and legs swing down and are immediately replaced by her equally tanned and smiling face propped up on her fore-arms. I stop and smile weakly at her. “Don’t feel you need to entertain me!” she sings. “Go take your shower!” She imitates the shooing motion of a mother trying to move her young children on. I don’t argue and take the escape she has offered, quickly stepping inside the bathroom and closing the door behind me.
Once the door is locked, I lean against the door and exhale. I am so grateful that she clearly has ideas of her own that don’t include me. Of course, her behavior leads me to believe she wants the apartment this afternoon. Stewing in my room will be more difficult and I need to think of an alternative plan. “All in good time” I remind myself. “First, a relaxing and steamy shower.” I set my clothing down on the toilet seat and go to the wardrobe. I pull out a thick green towel, hanging it on the towel hoop and return to the wardrobe to collect the rest of my supplies. I am going to luxuriate in the shower as long as I can.
I turn the water on and pull the small nickel circle that triggers the cap to slide into place, forcing the water to fall from the shower head in a waterfall. The small bathroom begins to steam up. I let my pajamas fall to the floor. The pile is unsightly, but the call of the falling water outweighs my desire to carefully fold my pajamas and set them aside. I glance at myself in the mirror. And then stay to study it better.
My eyes are hyper color. They shift between blue and green dependent on what I wear. Standing with no clothes on, they appear to be green. They are large and surrounded by thick eyelashes. Most women would kill for them and they are easily my favorite facial feature. I have a small nose which ends with a slight upturn like a ski-lift. I don’t like it, but wouldn’t know how to change it to make it more flattering. My lips are full and fit my face well. Overall, I think I have a pretty face and many men have commented like-wise. Most of them are not even drunk. The soft brown of my hair falls just below my shoulders. It is the ideal length for wearing down and styling easily or pulling up into elegant styles. It is versatile and I love it. It frames my face well and lies beautifully on my collar bones, making my neck seem longer than it really is.
My breasts are modest. I wear a C cup, but don’t fully fill it out. My last boyfriend called them ‘perfectly perky and pleasing’. I hated it then. Now, I think it is a great description. My stomach is flat without the clear lines of defined muscles. My legs are strong and shapely, much like that of a young twenty-something. I have been told that I have a natural dancers frame: strong, delicate, and portraying grace. My skin is early winter pale and healthy. I like my body and am pleased that it takes so little work to maintain. Outside of the typical walking those who live in Chicago do, I don’t have to work at it. I think John would appreciate it. The thought of him seeing me like this makes my eyes open a little wider and my lips to part slightly. I run a hand slowly down the side of my body.
I glance back up to my face and realize that it is obscured by steam. It reminds me that he may never see me in such a vulnerable state. I turn and step into the shower, pulling the curtain closed behind me. The water is hot enough to turn my skin red within a few seconds. I should turn it down. I feel the skin of the cat slide off me and some of my self-esteem return. I stand under the water for a long time, until it is barely warm before I start to wash. I take the time to wash and condition my hair, cleanse the pores of my skin, and shave.
The water is cold. Each shiver seems to push out more goose bumps. I turn the water off and reach for the warmth of my towel. I wrap it tightly around myself and walk to the wardrobe once again. I have to remember to wipe down the wardrobe to ensure the moisture doesn’t damage it. I pull out a hand cloth, dry my items and replace them on the shelf that holds my belongings. I grab a dry cream towel and wrap it turban style around my hair. I am beginning to warm up as I reach down and pick up my pajamas. I fold the capris and T-shirt, burying my panties in the middle. I set them carefully on the side of the sink.
Dropping my towel, I avoid the mirror and reach for the lotion. Slowly, I feed my skin the moisture it needs. I let it soak in while I do the same for my face and then pull on the black yoga pants and body skimming long sleeved pink shirt I brought with me. Underneath, I feel sexy in my black panties with a soft pink lace running around the waist and matching bra. I pull my hair up in a simple ‘I Dream of Genie’pony tail at the back of the top of my head. I gather my dirty clothes and towels, dropping them into the hamper in the bottom of the wardrobe.
I unlock the door and slowly open it. I hear Laura humming ‘I’m in the mood for love’ from the couch. The next line plays silently through my mind. ‘Simply because your near me’ and I think of John being near again. I blush this time, fearing that Laura will look up and read my thoughts. I start to walk to my room when she says, “Geesh that took a loooong time. What were you doing? Drowning a cat?”
“Something like that” comes my response in a noncommittal tone. Inside, I think of how accurate that description is. Although Laura is annoying and frequently self-centered, she is the only true friend I have. Others think she is scattered and flighty. I know that is an act. Laura is a great person. She is very kind and incredibly insightful. I wonder if she suspects that the church of my life is crumbling. I remind myself of how often she has come to my rescue and vow to not be so dismissive or hard on her.
“Well, hurry up and put your things away. I brought us a treat. You are going to love it!” It’s just like Laura not to care that I have other plans. Damn the vow!