Sunday, August 1, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part one of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 1
    Just because I’m a whiz at repairing the copy machine, it doesn’t mean that is the sum total of my talents, or aspirations. Just because I met the Object of my Affections at work and he’s dating my boss, doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream, or fantasies. OA, as I call him in code in text messages to my friends for fear of discovery, (like if I lost my cell phone and OA finds it for me, reads some texts to determine whose phone it is and busts me mackin’ on him big time), may not know I’m alive, but then he hasn’t rejected me, either.
    Since his name is Dean Dineno, le sigh, if he ever found my cell he would never be able to put two and two together and realize he is the Object of my Affections. My long-suffering-from-boredom friends respect my need for secrecy, but feel entitled to code name him Fantasy Man, since they a. have to hear all of my erotic escapades I dream about, and b. have gently tried to nudge me onto a more realistic love life. Not gonna happen. I know Dino and I are meant to be together, it’s just a matter of time. To the haters that refer to him as LOL, just because of that one time I called him the Love of my Life, suck it.
    “Ding!” The elevator bounced to a stop at my floor, interrupting my daydreaming. Not that I was a stalker or anything, but I timed my errands downstairs with a 60 to 70% chance of hitching a ride on the Dino train. Not that it did any good. When success happened, I was usually so tongue-tied I could usually only manage to swallow my saliva while trying not to choke. I let my yearning do the talking for me; my face, a mood-ring of emotions, probably looked like a rising thermometer, shades of mottled pink rising into hot red she’s-gonna-blow territory. How exactly can he not notice?
    The highlight of our one conversation, that I have memorized, certain there are missing clues of undeclared love there, has become my daily grace--as in I even recite it before meals. “Bless us Oh Lord” and these Thy gifts of eighteen magical words that spilled from his Michael Corleone lips are seared into my psyche, that I could recite like a rosary.
    A few months ago, I had headed on downstairs to the supply room at roughly 3:10pm. This timing had proven to be fortuitous on more than one occasion as Dino occasionally had 3:00pm meetings, to which he was inevitably late. Though I was only going down four floors, he would be traveling another six, down to the fourth floor. Not that I had any control over it, I was happy enough with the logistics, since it would give him a chance to admire my best feature, and I’m not talking my hair or the worn out heel of my right foot driving shoe. I wouldn’t have even noticed that visual, if I hadn’t run home after work that evening and set up a complicated positioning of mirrors to get the full effect of what Dino would have seen. Of course I had been so self-conscious with Dino in the elevator, when I made my exit it felt like I was doing the robot or something. Unhappy face here.
    Back to our encounter. It was a story I practiced, embellished, and even imagined telling my first-born granddaughter. Dino and I worked on the same floor, but in separate universes. We worked for Miracles Advertising Company, or as a lot of the employees, not me, liked to say, it’s a Miracle people ever believed this shit.
    I was in Creative Services, a lofty, high-groovy-factor and fun-sounding sentence of servitude but low brow copy writer position in actuality. Bad ideas were rubbed in my face; good ideas were stolen, embellished and launched. It was a win-win situation for management. Dino was an account manager, a suit-wearing long-lunch schmoozing high priced salesman. But alas, as with all love triangles, which is how I thought of our situation, there’s always a third party. The wicked witch of the west: Dino’s--God, I can hardly even stand to say it--girlfriend, Laura. Or La-ura as she likes to pronounce it. Nothing wrong with anyone’s hearing, her parents were freaks, rich ones at that, and that apparently allowed them to add extra syllables, letters, what have you, to gild the lily, garnish the garbanzo, make underlined and italicized double-sure the rest of the world knows how exquisitely exceptional she was. La-ura’s sister was Peyton. No, scratch that, P-e-i-g-h-t-a-h-n. I kid you not. (Ever since being dumped by a guy named Hugh, I have remained suspicious of people with two “h’s” in their name.) I think the trauma of kindergarten when she had to learn how to write her name was what screwed Peightahn up. No idea what La-ura’s problem was.
    I always thought if maybe I had a different, more impressive name, my life could have turned out so differently. When I had first moved away from Hicksville to Chicago, I had even toyed with changing my name. MaryBeth is so midwestern. “MaryBeth, shuck the corn. MaryBeth, your ground baloney sandwich is ready. MaryBeth, it’s time for church.” A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but I have to disagree with the Bard here; it would seriously be no fun receiving a bouquet of toe jam.
    I had a name all picked out, too. I would have kept the same initial, and same number of syllables. People usually do when they change their name, whether for legit or nefarious reasons--I think it must be some sort of subliminal nod of respect to the original name. In any event, I’m sure I didn’t need the hysterical mockery of my friends to sway me from my new pseudonym: Mystery.
    In a classic twist of fate, La-ura is my boss. Heavy sigh. I don’t hate-her, hate-her, I just really really really don’t like her, or get her appeal. She’s skinny, guys dig that, I get that. She has a killer wardrobe, but seems to think dressing for success is spelled sucksex. I’m not saying she slept her way to the top, but only because I’m sure there was very little sleep involved. She is the Creative Director of our company and if she’s had one creative thought since I’ve been here, I’d like to know about it. I take that back, even though she thinks Miracle Whip is a dominatrix implement, she did mandate the candy bonus. At brainstorming sessions she would mete out chocolate for innovative ideas as if she were training Shamu. We would all bark like a seal if we had to; the woman had exquisite taste in chocolate. In spite of, or probably because of her so-called leadership, we were a pretty productive bunch. C-est la vie. As my grandma always said, “Stoopid people don’t know they’re stoopid.”
    Her breasts seem ideal, but that could be because they came that way, right out of the box the surgeon pulled them from. Meow. Her hair could be featured on a Disney princess, the ones with long flowing locks that look enchanted. She spends more on her waist length mane than I do on health insurance. It’s never tangled, never snarled, and is so blonde one can’t help but think she must be better than the rest of us. She gets a brazilian blow out faithfully every three months to keep her tresses smooth and shiny, and while I can’t attest to any brazilian bikini wax, not having had the pleasure of seeing her hike up her thigh-highs first hand, as she liked to do in meetings when she was supposedly ‘gettin’ her creative on’, I wouldn’t drop dead from shock if she patronized the landing strip motif down there.    
    Nevermind about me and OA. Our relationship was doomed. Star-crossed from the start. There’s no way I could ever compete with La-ura. With extraordinary will power, I pushed OA out of my mind; well, at least I stored him in the dark recesses, right behind my dream of appearing on Oprah, hanging next to the killer dress I would wear should that ever happen, and underneath my uber-secret wish to be fluent in Italian. I didn’t want to go through all the trouble of learning it, mind you, I just wanted to be fluent in it. From garlic to deep fried mozzarella to Dean Dineno himself, my genetic code was hardwired to embrace all that was Italiano.
    I stood my pens to balance on their caps on top of my desk, lining them up like true and loyal soldiers, and shoved my chair back. I needed some reinforcement. I sailed down the hall, the path familiar enough for me to navigate in the dark, and jumped into my waiting carriage, no sign of Prince Charming. I shoved the lobby elevator button ten times, and those of you who think that has no impact on the speed of dispatch are sorely mistaken.
    “No Dino sighting today?” A voice whispered in my ear as I waited for my latte.
    I jumped. “Shh! Geez! Knock it off, will you?” I looked around making sure no one had heard my friend, Susie’s, insidious words. I waited for my coffee and then went and sat down by Susie, who had gotten there first. Susie works in real estate, poor girl, in the building next door, but poor girl, her building had no Coffeeteria like mine did. We met up as often as we could, which, I don’t mean to be paranoid or anything, seemed to be less and less, ever since I realized I was in love with Dino.
    “God, you don’t need this. You are so pretty,” my friend Susie greeted me. “When are you going to get over this unhealthy obsession? You need closure so you can embrace what the universe holds for you.”
    I donned my practiced Mona Lisa smile. “I didn’t know his Holiness the Dalai Lama was joining us today.”
    “So help me, MaryBeth, if you go over your meeting with Dino one more time, I’ll scream.” She tried to smile but I knew it was fake because her eyebrows didn’t budge a smidgeon. “Come on,” she said. “He’s cute, but not all that.”
    Them’s fightin’ words, as she full well knew. “Susie. You’re talking about the father of my children.” At least she laughed, for real.
    “MaryBeth. Look at you. You’re cute, you have a great shape...” I noticed she didn’t say skinny. That’s a true friend for you, though, she didn’t say chubby, either. “You are the smartest girl I know, which is why I just don’t understand your obsession with this guy. You need to move on.”
    “Susie, this is it.” I told her. “There is no moving on. He is the one. He is the one. He is the one.”
    She took the plastic lid off of her coffee cup and blew at the foam. “I don’t care how you say it, or how often you say it, you don’t know that.” She waved her hand in front of me as if to make me flinch and wipe the look of pity I was giving her off of my face. “You can’t know that.”
    “I cannot tell you what it was like in that elevator when we met.”
    “I’m sure you cannot, just as I’m sure you will try.” She took a sip. “Again.” She wearily swirled her hand, a good friend generously giving me permission to repeat myself.
    I looked over her head as if I could see Dino and his sparkly brown eyes, liking what he saw, looking back at me. “I had just started working here...about eight months ago...” I made my voice all flirty and sexy.
    “So now you’re Australian?” Susie asked me.
    I cleared my throat and didn’t even bother giving her a dirty look, although I did shove my voice back to its normal register. “It was about eight months ago...” I repeated.
    Susie took another sip of her latte, and I could have sworn I heard her mutter, “...four days, five hours, and nine billion repetitions ago...”
    “...When I met Dino. I was waiting for the elevator and as the doors opened,” I raised my hand high over the little coffee table, spreading my fingers wide like a fairy godmother’s wand. “It was magic,” I said. I breathed out, noticing Susie mouth the phrase with me. “The lights in the elevator shone on him, like spotlights.”
    “Did you hear music?” Susie asked, pretending to care.
    I frowned at her. “Yes. I am not kidding. It was almost like a cartoon sounding xylophone riff or something. Ba da dee doo!”
    “I’m sure it was his ringtone,” Miss Smart Ass said.
    “Susie, that’s not very nice. Besides, you know, with his being so Italian, and his name and all, he usually sports Dean Martin tunes.”
    “OK, OK,” Susie said. “The world stood still, yet you felt your soul tremble.”
    “Oh, dear God, I never said that. Did I?”
    She burst out laughing. “Afraid so.”
    “Well, I’ve never felt anything like this before, Susie. How can I make you understand? Maybe we are star-crossed lovers from another lifetime. You know, like Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, or Cleopatra and Mark Antony?”
    “So, like washerwomen or scullery maids never fall in love?” Susie asked. “Why doesn’t anyone ever appreciate the love lives of the less fortunate?”
    “Not now, Susie. Not now. You know what I mean. There was this vibration between us, a recognition. He had to have felt it, too. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
    “And the earth-shattering words he spoke...”
    “Knock it off. He said, ‘Hi. Dean Dineno, at your service’.” Then he shook my hand. Have you ever noticed his hands? They are so strong, and big. His fingers crushed me in their grip. You can tell he works out, yet he was gentle at the same time.”
    “Gently crushing, gotcha.” Susie said.
    “And I, well, I couldn’t remember my name to introduce myself,” I said, “but I clung onto his hand and felt like he was saving me from something, and pulling me into his world. I said, ‘pleased to meet you,’ and he said, ‘the pleasure is all mine.’” I looked at Susie. “We laughed then, like at our formality or something, and I curtsied.” I dropped my head into my hands. “Can you believe I curtsied? Who curtsies?”
    “It is a lost art,” Susie said, lamenting.
    “It was just a little curtsy. He probably didn’t even notice.”
    “Probably not,” Susie said.
    “Are you texting someone? While I’m spilling my guts to you?” Even though I had my own cell cradled in my left hand, my very own grown-up pacifier, I certainly wasn’t utilizing it. I may have checked the time, or tried to see if I had any messages once, or twice. But, geeze. Susie was being just plain rude. “I find your blase-faire insulting, to say nothing of irritating. Listen to me. Put that down.” I covered her phone screen and pushed it down into her lap.
    “Well quit making up words,” she told me. “And maybe quit making up worlds while you’re at it.” She smirked, looking all proud of herself.
    “Really? Really?” I showed her my perfected arched-eyebrow look. “
    “Sorry,” she said. She shoved her phone in her purse and leaned forward, looking way too interested.
    I reached for my finale. “Whether he saw the curtsy or not, we were staring hard at each other. And he added, ‘and they all lived: Happily. Ever. After.’ Come on that has to mean something!”
    “Well, it’s no abracadabra or open sesame,” Susie said.
    “It’s not your standard greeting,” I argued.
    “Maybe your curtsy threw him. I mean what do you say when some chick curtsies at you?”
    “No. It means something. Something on a deeper level, that we are love struck characters, fated to be together.”
    “You got the character part right.”
    “You know what I mean. Who says ‘happily ever after’?”
    “That would be you.”
    “It has to mean something,” I said.
    “It means that you had the usual terrible teenagerhood growing up, filled with acne, hand-me-downs, and bad haircuts, and fought back with fantasies and fairy tales,” Susie said. “Somewhere along the way your tenuous grip on reality followed the yellow brick road on a detour through the enchanted forest. MaryBeth, please. Wake up! There are good guys out there, you just have to put yourself out there and give them a chance.”
    “How’s your psych degree coming, Dr. Susie?”
    “Very funny,” Susie said. “I couldn’t get the class I needed this semester. But listen to me, you don’t need a psychology degree to see how unhappy you are, and to see that you are just headed for heartache. He’s dating La-ura. You’re boss. Nothing is going to change that. You have a great job with a lot of potential. Once your hair grows out...”
    I smacked the table with my hand. It teetered. “I cut my hair eight months ago, right before my job interview!” I pushed the shorn pieces that would still move back behind my ears. “I’m like poor Samson; I swear I lost all my powers when my locks were shorn.”
    “Obscure biblical references aren’t doing you any favors, either,” she said, sneaking a peak at the phone in her purse. “Besides, you’re hair is looking a lot better,” my good friend said. “Anyway. Derek wants you to double date with me and him Friday night. His cousin is in town...”
    “There’s five words you never want to hear. Derek’s Cousin Is In Town.” I counted the phrase out on my fingers. In my eyes, Derek was no prize himself, so sue me for being gun-shy about any unclaimed cousin. “No deal. I am not interested. Besides, I’m busy Friday night.”
    “Doing what?”
    “I told La-ura I’d stay late and have a bunch of slogans for the new account we’re going after on her desk first thing Monday morning. We’re supposed to be getting some super secret new product, details are hush-hush.”
    “Are you sure you don’t mean ‘flush-flush’?” Susie asked me, referring to my last toilet paper project.    
    “Nope. It’s supposed to be good. I’m kind of excited.”
    “Alright,” Susie said, standing up. “I have to get back to work. Just please, try not to obsess too much, OK?”
    “What, me obsess?” I heard her laugh as I headed toward the elevator, back up to the magic kingdom where my One True dwelt, his lips bent toward the same water gushing from the drinking fountain, his fingerprint DNA smudged with mine on the start button on the microwave. I scooted my ass to the rear of the elevator against the very same grab bar I’d seen him lean against. Get a room, I told myself. I wish I could, I answered myself.

Stay tuned for part two...

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