At work a couple weeks ago, I glanced at the calendar and suddenly my stomach flip-flopped. Under Monday's date someone had taken down an appointment: "Kevin and Luke to sign lease renewal." As if it wasn't bad enough that I have to drive by his apartment every time I come to work and then leave work, unable to stop myself from looking for his car in the parking lot every time, now I had this reminder of his continued existence without me. There was a time when he and Kevin had "coincidentally" scheduled all their office visits on Thursday evenings; I flattered myself into thinking it was because of me. And now they were coming in on a Monday, when I wouldn't be there, and I didn't know whether to feel hurt or relieved. But it was for the best, I decided. The only way I had been able to continue on so far was because I didn't have to see him, and by consoling myself with the thought that soon enough I would be leaving Mythaca forever, and he would be but part of a hazy and vaguely distasteful memory of my time here.
And so, you can see how I was not at all expecting to see them, both of them, Luke and Kevin, formerly known as tall and cute, walk through my office door on Thursday evening. "Hi Rachel," Kevin said, coming in first. "Hi," I replied automatically while glancing up from my desk, and then did a quick double take as my heart leapt and pure adrenaline began coursing through my veins. One word echoed over and over in my head--ambush. I was not at all prepared for this. "We're here to sign our lease renewal," Kevin said. "We were supposed to come in on Monday but we didn't make it."
"Sure," I attempted to reply casually, all business. "Let me just see if it's ready." It wasn't. Of course it wasn't. Meaning..."Well," I said grudgingly, "I could just type it up for you now, if you have a few minutes." While you both watch me type and this awkward tension grows even more. As I spoke, I addressed only Kevin, utterly incapable of making eye contact with Luke for fear of losing my cool completely. Then, afraid that obviously ignoring him would appear not only unprofessional, but also contradictory to the cool nonchalance I hoped to project, I glanced over at him every once in a while, but was unable to hold my gaze any longer than a half a second at a time. What I saw unnerved me. He was serious, oh so serious, and his dark eyes bore into mine. His hair was longer than when I had seen him last, and curling a bit in the front. He was cute, goddammit. And why had I called them the cute one and the tall one when obviously I should have been calling them the cute one and the tall and cute one? As I spoke I concentrated on keeping the tremor I felt in the pit of my stomach (and beginning to radiate to every part of my body) out of my voice. I was doing pretty well (I assured myself) until it came time to type. As soon as I raised my hands to the keys, a clattering sound arose as my violently shaking hands hit apparently every key all at once. This was...not good. I took a breath and tried again, but it was too late. My hands were shaking like a ninety-year-old alcoholic with the DT's after her twelfth espresso of the day.
"Maybe they didn't notice," my friend Eric suggested sympathetically when I recounted it to him later. "People don't notice as much as you think." But as much as I would have liked to think this was true, "They noticed," I said. They were sitting right in front of me, staring at me. I mean, there was nowhere else to look."
"Don't worry," my sister said helpfully when I talked to her later, "they probably just thought you needed to be medicated." (She followed this up with an equally helpful "mwahaha.")
So, yes, things were a bit...shaky at this juncture. Luckily, just then someone entered the office looking for information on our apartments, and providing me with a welcome distraction. "Should I come back...?" she asked, looking around hesitantly, perhaps picking up on the tension in the air.
"Oh, no," I replied, "I can help you if you just want to wait for a few minutes." Knowing then that I would never be able to type an entire lease renewal form under these circumstances, and with the added pressure of another spectator, now, I suddenly had an idea.
"You know what?" I said to the guys. "Why don't I just type this up and drop it by your apartment later?" It was a perfect plan. I and my shaking hands would be able to type the document in peace, and dropping it off later would provide me with time to recover myself and present the cool, calm, friendly yet professional image I hoped to project. Not to mention the time to fix my hair and apply lip gloss, because gah. It would be a second chance. The only problem was, when I knocked on their door at the end of my shift half an hour later, freshly primped and primed, they weren't there. I tucked the envelope into the door and sighed. So that was it. That was the last impression he would have of me. Flustered, aloof, and on a bad hair day to boot. Luckily I had worn a skirt, but still.
So that was it, then. And yet...after two months of seeing him nowhere, I suddenly began to see him everywhere. A few days later, sitting outside a restaurant with a glass of wine and my French meet-up group, watching the world drive by, whose all too familiar and oft looked for blue Audi pulled up to the stoplight? His window down, it was all too definitely him, though he didn't notice me looking. Then, two days after that, forced to park several streets away from my hair salon, I hiked a steep hill back to my car after my appointment, and again saw a familiar navy blue Audi negotiating the downgrade, coming directly towards me. Through my sunglasses I tried to see the driver through the windshield (all while appearing to not be looking), but there was too much glare on the glass. But he works in the area, and it was around lunchtime. I was fairly sure it was him. It was all too much. I had to do something.
The following week I went into work ready, hoping that they hadn't yet returned the signed lease renewal. I changed my outfit three times before I left the house, finally settling on a navy blue dress made out of t-shirt material, a thin metallic leather belt, and sandals. My hair was freshly cut and styled, and I put extra attention into my makeup. No more ambushes. If this was going to be the last time I saw him, I wanted it to be on my terms. At the office, I found that I was correct, and that the boys hadn't yet brought back their renewal document. Feeling an all too familiar shakiness returning, I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialed Luke's number, praying I would reach his voicemail. Though I had rehearsed what I planned to say, I wasn't sure how it would go if he actually picked up, and I had to go off-script. It was ringing now: once, twice, three times...
To be continued...