Rare gems

When we meet at a formica table in that echoing hall, I do all the talking. He sits in silence, studying something in his lap, his hands neatly folded and out of trouble. I’ve known him only a week. He is an unexpected mid-year replacement. The last relationship spun far out of my reach; I wonder where this one will lead.

In spite of the sudden change, I find this new one’s demeanor soothing to my psyche, which is in recovery. How could the last one, who was such a charmer, have been so unreachable? That blinding white smile. That great booming laugh. Those linebacker shoulders and arms that pulled you in but never answered your questions. Not a one.

Minutes into our second meeting in the hall, the new guy begins fidgeting in his chair as if he’s sitting on something alive. Every noise, passing person, draws his eyes away from me. Last week’s silence was really a swollen reservoir on the brink of bursting. Today, the dam gives out, gushing thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, and how much he likes robots. He really likes those robots.

Touching his hand lightly, I ask him to look at me. I ask him to listen.

Let’s make this work, I whisper. Let’s be a team.

He stops. His brown eyes lock with mine. 

Is this going to work? I ask myself. Will I be able to shine a bright light through the fog? 

I look away and count to 10, studying the beige ceramic tiles racing toward a vanishing point. I give him time to compose himself, to settle his hands and feet.

“I have something for you,” he says.

He leans to the side, digs into his navy blue pants pocket and pulls out a small, opalescent object. He sets it on the table.

“What is it?” I say.

“It’s a gem. I found it on the gym floor. It’s for you.”

You know what? I’ve been at this for almost three years now, tutoring children who, if they had a chance and prayer, could work their way through the dense fog and shape something of their lives. I hope they do with all the hope in the world. I hope in spite of the  odds against them.

I pick up the gem, which is really a sweater button, but I’m not going to say anything to him about that, and tuck it in my pocket.

“Thank you.”

He nods.

“You know what?”

He shakes his head, brows lifting in anticipation.

“You are the gem. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

Cute only goes so far

 For the sake of all humanity, do not say these things out loud:

“I really had a crush on you back in the day.”

 “Do you still have your fat clothes, because I know someone who could use them.”

“Tomorrow I’m going to relax and take a day for myself.”

When you utter these words out loud, they hurtle into the cosmos for consideration.

The cosmos, being the bitch that it is, often lobs back this response on the appointed special day:

  •  You will be awakened at dawn to the sound of a floor lamp stem cracking in half and then falling like a mighty oak in the woods. The sound of metal and glass striking wood and plaster will jar you from your much-needed rest, while everyone else in the house snores away undisturbed. Your wishes lay in shards at your feet. So it is with your favorite lamp. 
  • You will haul a twisted, top-heavy lamp to the basement, to rest next to all the other broken junk that you think you will fix someday when the solution strikes you or an amazing handyman moves in next door. Next, you’ll haul the vacuum up the steps to pick up all the small pieces of glass embedded in the carpet. Muttering under your breath, you’ll put the room to rights and restore your morning. 
  • After coffee, a shower and a few other preparatory measures, you will return to the scene  of the crime  to discover that the four-footed perpetrator of destruction has struck again. This time it’s the potted plant next to the lamp. Except now the pot no longer houses a plant. Or dirt. It’s an empty vessel on its side. The contents are a muddy mix scatted in a wide arc across the carpet. The plant itself, one that you’ve nurtured along for 14 years is in a twisted heap, its willowy branches and leaves splayed unnaturally, exposing pale, tender roots. The whole display is reminiscent of an underage socialite at an after-hours party.  Under the nearby chair, you will see two yellow, unblinking and unrepentent eyes peering out at you.
  • In your haste to get on with your special day to yourself, which is seriously behind schedule and veering off course, you will grab the vacuum still handy from the previous spill, and begin to sweep over the muddy mix. Except the mix does not get sucked into the machinery, it adheres to the wheels and brush plates underneath, serving as more of a frosting knife than suction tool. So now you have transformed the arc of mud into a sunburst of mud. You consider mudding the walls to match and calling it a design concept.

Instead you burst into tears, shout a string of expletives and curse the day you gave up the dream of living alone in a mountain cabin.

Congratulations, your special day of aloneness and renewal include:  one broken lamp, one destroyed plant, one big black mucky circle on your office carpet and one indifferent kitten licking his left paw. Next move?

Trapping and killing the kitten?

Buying a wet/dry vac?

Jumping out the window, hopping into the car and driving to New Mexico?

For it is only through the spontaneous escape, the unplanned departure that you will ever, ever get your special day to yourself.

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See the blur of movement? Notice the trail of destruction? Cute, isn't it?