Kris turned off the television. The only remaining light in the room, the glowing numbers of the digital clock that sat on the fake mantle place, stood out in the darkness. It was 11 PM. She closed her eyes and ran her fingers through the long white fur of her Persian cat, Whispers, that lay across her lap, purring loudly. The aroma of the last two slices of pepperoni pizza, lying in the delivery box sitting on the coffee table, hung in the air. A nearly empty bottle of wine and two wine glasses stained with wine sat beside the pizza box. Her stomach rumbled. She gently lifted Whispers from her lap and placed the cat on the sofa next to where she was sitting.
"I don't feel well," she said to Whispers.
Then she leaned forward and barfed on the pizza.
Holding on to an overhead metal bar of the crowded subway car, Kris swayed back and forth with all the other standing passengers as the train rushed through the tunnel. Flanked on all sides by men, all taller than her, she smelled their scents of musky colognes and spicy aftershaves. Her face became pressed against the man who stood in front of her as the train began to slow. Although pressed and clean, his gray suit had the slight fragrance of moth balls. She raised her head and looked at the back of his neck. It was very tanned, which seemed out of place in the mid-winter cold and gray. When the train stopped and the doors opened, Kris exited the car, pushed along on the subway platform by the crowd. She climbed the steps to the street exit and quickly tightened her knitted scarf around her neck before stepping out into the blowing snow.
While the traffic was practically stalled, the pedestrians on the sidewalk moved at a fast clip, most with their heads down, their bodies leaning into the cold wind. Those standing in the lines at the food carts waiting to order coffee or a breakfast of some kind stomped their feet on the concrete to keep the circulation in their feet going. Two blocks from where she had left the subway, she went through revolving glass doors into the building where she worked, and then darted into the coffee shop on the ground floor. She took her place at the end of the line to the serving counter, which was even longer than usual.
Her friend from her office, Traci, stepped into line behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.
"So, give me the details," Traci said, excitedly. "Where did he take you?"
Kris wiped melting snow from her face with the back of her gloved hand. "We stayed in and had pizza and watched television."
Traci put her hands over her heart. "On the second date!" she exclaimed. "That's so special."
"I think he might be the one," Kris said. She took off her gloves and put them in her coat pockets. "We have another date scheduled for the same time next week."
Traci's lips formed a mock pout. "You're so lucky. Why can't I meet a guy that I want to spend the evening watching television with?"
The line moved forward. Kris reached into her tote bag and pulled out her wallet. "I think it's fate. Your time will come. For me it was love at first sight."
"You still haven't told me. Where did you meet him?" Traci said.
The line moved again. "Well, it was entirely accidental," Kris said. "I mean, it's been over a year since Dale walked out on me, but I wasn't really looking to meet anyone and suddenly Brent appeared." She opened her wallet and took out a five dollar bill, closed the wallet, and dropped it back into her tote bag.
Traci took off her gray knitted cap and shook the last of the melting snow from it. "That doesn't really tell me anything."
Kris ran her finger across her lips. "He has the most dreamy lips."
Sitting at her desk in her office cubicle, Kris typed in the name Brent Lansing and watched the name appear in the Google search box. The name appeared several times. She ran her brightly colored pink fingernail down the list before finding the one she was looking for. His picture came up with his name, and age, 27, beneath it. In the photo, he was standing on a sand dune and wearing a blue and yellow striped Izod polo shirt, white shorts, and sandals. A pair of dark sunglasses dangled on a strap around his neck. His thick black hair was combed over, but looked as if it had been slightly tousled by a breeze. His perfectly aligned white teeth practically glowed in his smiling, tanned face. His dark green eyes looked directly at her. With her arms crossed on the desk, she stared longingly at his image.
Suddenly yanked from her reverie, Kris turned to see her boss, Glenn, standing at the entrance to her cubicle. She quickly turned off the computer screen.
"Yes?" she asked, her voice catching in her throat.
"We missed you at the sales meeting last night," he said. "Did you forget that the meetings have been moved to Thursday evenings for the next four weeks?"
Kris stared at him, blankly. "You don't mean every Thursday evening, do you? I thought it was just going to be last night and I couldn't make it because I had an important date."
Glenn shoved his hands into his pants pockets and began tapping his foot. With a scowl on his face, he said, "It was made perfectly clear in every memo I sent out that attendance was mandatory for anyone who wants to keep their job."
"Glenn, you don't understand," Kris stammered. "I've found true love at last."
Glenn removed his hands from his pockets and hastily brushed a piece of lint from his tie. "You can find the unemployment line at last if you aren't at next week's meeting," he said. He turned and walked away.
Kris turned the computer screen back on. She propped her elbows on the desk, and with her face in her cupped hands, she stared into Brent's eyes. "If only you would call me before next Thursday," she whispered, "then maybe we could figure something out."
The next Thursday morning, Kris scooped the poop from Whisper's litter box and emptied it into a plastic bag. She knotted the top of the bag and put it in the trash. She put fresh water and food in the cat's bowls and then lifted Whispers in her arms and nuzzled the cat's neck.
"Tonight I see Brent again," she said, dreamily.
Whispers purred and meowed softly.
Kris placed the cat on the floor and then washed her hands. She took the bottle of wine she had bought the day before out of a brown bag and placed it on the kitchen counter, and then got two wine glasses from the cabinet and set them next to the wine. She looked around the kitchen to make sure everything was in order, and then walked into the living room and did the same, making sure that the television remote was on the coffee table. She then put on her coat, cap, scarf and gloves, hung her tote bag on her shoulder, and left her apartment.
Outside, the air was frigid and snow covered the sidewalk; in some places it was piled in drifts. She walked to the subway station in a leisurely manner, playfully kicking at the snow along the way. On the subway platform she stood among the small crowd and waited for the train while thinking about Brent. When the train pulled up to the platform and the doors opened, she was nudged into the car by those around her. She grasped the overhead bar and standing among men in suits who towered over her, their mixed scents hanging in the air. She reminded herself to find out what kind of aftershave Brent used. She knew he was an attorney and that he liked to surf, travel and read mystery novels, but little beyond that. He seemed a bit distant and slightly self-absorbed, but she chalked that up to him being reserved. She was certain he would loosen up over time.
The train's wheels screeched as the train came to a sudden stop in the tunnel. In the garish light that lit the car, she watched as the young man next to her looked at his watch.
"Oh please, not this morning," he groaned. He saw her looking at him. "I have a client coming in first thing," he said.
Not usually given to talking to strangers on the trains, she asked, "What do you do?"
"I'm an attorney," he said with a gleaming smile. He gazed at her appraisingly. "What do you do?"
"I'm in the sales department for a global tech company," she said. "My boyfriend is an attorney also," she added.
The young man's smile quickly faded. He looked at his watch again. "I knew I should have used Uber this morning."
The train lurched forward, throwing Kris against him, and then started again. Kris found her footing, but not before noticing that his suit had a few white pet hairs attached to it. When the train stopped, they both got off. She walked behind him going up the stairs. As they stepped outside he walked the opposite direction.
For the two blocks to the office building she stayed as far from the curb as possible to avoid having slush splashed on her by passing vehicles. The line to the counter in the coffee shop extended to outside the shop's door, so she passed by it and walked to the elevator, where Traci was standing.
"So, are you seeing Brent again tonight even if it means you'll be fired?" Traci asked.
"Jobs come and go but a chance for love seldom happens," Kris answered.
The elevator doors opened and the two women crammed into the elevator along with everyone else.
"What if he wants to do more than eat pizza and watch TV? This is the crucial third date, and he is a guy, after all." Traci whispered in Kris's ear.
"Unlike the way Dale treated me, Brent is a gentleman," Kris replied louder than she intended. Others in the elevator looked at her. The doors to the elevator opened and Kris, Traci and a few others got out of the elevator.
Traci put her hand on Kris's arm and stared into her eyes. "I know what happened with Dale affected you. You're not just imagining or making up this guy, Brent, to make yourself feel better are you?"
Kris angrily pulled her arm away. "Of course not. Brent is real. Very real." She turned and stormed off to her cubicle.
The light from the television lit the living room in a soft blue glow. The clock's numbers shone brightly. It was 10:50. Kris sipped a little wine from her nearly empty glass. A half eaten slice of pizza on a plate was balanced on her knees. She stared wide-eyed and expectantly at the television. She was having difficulty breathing and her face felt hot.
Brent came into the room wearing dark blue slacks and a white shirt. His face was tanned and his hair perfectly combed. The product on it glistened in the light. He stopped by the large window that looked out on the sunlit rose garden. He stood there for several moments before Amanda came into the room, stood in front of him, and said, "I'm sorry, Brent, I just don't see a future with you."
Brent took Amanda's hand in his and kissed it. "I'm sorry we didn't click and I hate to be leaving the show so early, but I'll be glad to be getting back home to San Diego," he said.
Kris didn't hear what was said after that, by any of the other contestants, by the show's host, or during the commercial that followed. She dropped the glass of wine on the carpet and bit into her lower lip as tears streamed down her face. Kris knocked the plate from her knees, lifted Whispers into her arms from his resting place on the sofa next to her, and held the cat tight against her chest. Kris was certain she could feel her heart being crushed.
Article © Steve Carr. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-01-07
Image(s) are public domain.