“I won’t mention her to you,” he said, “I promise.” The smile he gave me genuine. He was convinced I was the lucky one for he was interested in me. After all, hadn’t I been the loyal friend to lure him into bed? The fact that he had just left his wife and now asked to move in with me a form of flattery for him, a sign of devotion not shared by me.
“Come again,” he says, his eyes unfocused like his mind.
“Do you want Karen for the early shift or Thomas,” I fight hard not to sound annoyed for this is the third time I ask.
“What day are we talking about again?”
I breathe in deeply, faking a smile. “Monday,” I reply in a voice that surprises me myself. How on earth did I just manage to stay so friendly?
“Ah yes,” he shrugs. “I don’t know. Who else do we have?”
“Two shifts, two colleagues available,” I moan. Now there it is, my impatience in full bloom and I know my Medici glare is not far away.
“Right,” he agrees, his eyes squinted as if he’s trying hard to focus. Concentration it couldn’t be, because after 90 minutes into our meeting I know for certain he has none whatsoever, especially not today.
Monday morning, 6am. Barely two hours of sleep and Megan didn’t win. Her award that is, the heart of her fans she did. But then, she had those sacked before, no ceremony needed, no nomination or award. Just her work and everyone is happy, including me as I sleep-walk into the bathroom, a quick shower to force myself awake. A quicker breakfast is what follows, Italian bread, honey, a cup of ginger tea. Now I should be able to face the day.
On my way to work then, I suddenly remember: I hurt my foot the other day, still don’t know how, but wearing high-heeled boots surely isn’t helping. But running late as usual, I rush on. Three weeks I walked in Canada with a hole in my foot, so why should a pulled muscle be any worse? So I get used to the discomfort by walking through the pain and manage to remain within an acceptable margin of delay. Until the train decides to pull a bitch on me. Strangers walking on the rails, the announcement says, police coming in to solve the issue. That’s when I realize, it’s Monday morning, the 13th. One stop I managed to get closer to work and then back to where I started. But lucky me, a bus is coming right away, an express even. I’m relieved. So off we go making up for lost time until a truck gets in our way, backing into a driveway in slow motion. Needless to say we’re stuck in the middle of the street. No internet connection, no escape. Why I’m so calm, I cannot possibly say.
As I arrive at central station fifteen minutes later, I crave a coffee but no Starbuck’s anywhere in sight, only a guy stopping my walk flow on the stairs three fluffing times. He gets the Medici glare and jumps aside. Paid off to wear black and gold today, it seems. I wonder why…
I thought I saw you on the train today. A jacket so familiar, your glasses, a hat. You disappeared in the crowd and I couldn’t help but bend my neck and raise my head in dire hope of catching a glimpse of you, your eyes, your smile. Four stops until I saw the woman wasn’t you, but until then my heart was racing, my palms sweaty. I knew it wasn’t possible for you are far away and yet… The mere chance of seeing you gave me hope and made my stomach turn in excitement. That’s when I knew for certain: I am in love with you and that’s just that. No more doubts.
“I don’t know,” my friend shrugs. She’s a fresh 22 and looks at life with much more cynicism than I did when I was her age. “I don’t see Catherine with any man. Somehow no one seems to fit her strength.”
I look at her for a moment, then nod, “I think I know what you mean.” And yet it feels strange to hear myself saying that, especially since my friend only recently told me how much I remind her of Catherine on occasion. So what does that say about me?
“She’s so self-sufficient,” my friend continues. “It feels odd to suddenly see her so vulnerable, so needy.”
“She isn’t needy,” I protest before I realize my friend has struck a chord. “She just wants to be loved.”
“Yes, maybe.” A laugh.
“And she deserves to be loved,” I argue with someone who I know is too young to understand the pain that lies in the realization that, by the end of the day, love is as rare a find as luck.
Minus five degrees outside, the train is packed. Tired people everywhere, worn out after a week of every-day gray. A drunkard sings and his voice isn’t even bad. Two girls with naked knees and ankles sit across from me. I feel old all of a sudden, wrapped in my down-filled coat and two layers of scarves. A child is whistling non-stop and I’m happy it’s not mine, that I do not have to come home to this now, a kid full of energy and life. Because all I want is a glass of wine and my couch. Two weeks back at work and that’s all I have in me, all that is left from my creative drive. So I switch it on, my favorite show inside my head, erasing the smell a beggar leaves as he passes the workhorses sitting beside me. The show my mind creates features me in the lead. Waves are crushing against a shore, the sun is shining. Call me a dreamer if you want, but my thoughts keep me alive as all I see are factory buildings and graffitied insults outside. So when I close my eyes, I nearly miss it, the stop that’s mine. But on the platform then the air awakens me, crisp and clear, and I enter a reality far from comfort as people push me down the stairs with them in lockstep. It’s strangely invigorating and phrases and pictures begin to invade my mind. How come I was so drained only moments ago and now my emotions lie bare to me in my thoughts? Take your pen, I’m telling myself, don’t question it. And so I do as I finally close my apartment door behind me. Three days without writing and I’m like a junkie craving her chocolate.
No creative energy whatsoever last night as I returned from work. Just a glass of wine and my favorite show, that’s all I had in me. I loathe evenings like these. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy diving into the delicious fantasy world of Reign, but I prefer doing it with my eyes open and not half closed after a day of phone calls, numbers and repetition. At least the human element always keeps me afloat, so there’s a good note for you in case you’ve been wondering if I wanted to moan. I don’t. I am grateful for the work, but I miss my pen and paper, the creative outlet I got to enjoy last month. It’s hard to return to my desk now for nine hours or ten sometimes without getting anything worthwhile done. That’s how it feels, like a detox from a sugar high that’s lasted much longer than Christmas. I’ll find my footing again, I’m sure I will. So far I always have, only this time I’m not willing to bid the writer farewell in order to function. I know by now that without my pen I merely survive and that’s not enough, not every day.