(Summer of 2009. Stalker hasn’t asked for it yet, but I’ll have this essay ready for him if and when he wants to know more about Spreadsheet Entry 27.)
Spring, 2001, Portland, Oregon
My clothes are packed; I’m ready to go. My ride is waiting, he’s pacing the floor. I’m so excited — I could just explode!
It’s 3:00 a.m. Monday morning, time to get up and catch my flight to Chicago. My best friend James Brian Schultz stayed over, to make it easier to drop me off at PDX at this crazy hour. A ride to the airport — that is the litmus test of friendship, isn’t it? (Jerry Seinfeld says so.) James “passes” every time! I must remember to appreciate him more. But now I am too distracted.
Last night he took my queen-sized bed for the few hours of sleep; I took the couch, where I made believe I could sleep with this adrenalin pulsing through me. James and I are close, though not close enough to share a bed. But, we used to be. So I don’t tell him the true nature of my trip. Just in case he still has feelings for me. I know, I’m flattering myself to think he might feel something like that. But I’m trying not to assume, trying not to be a totally thoughtless bitch.
Now, trip preparations are completed, finally! And, after all this build up – shall I dare
call it foreplay? — I’m on my way. My checklist:
- Packed: new clothes, including low-cut scoop-neck, tight red sweater. Good fitting, girly jeans. Short, black dress and black hose. Black high heels. Just in case: red silk, short nightie with matching silk undies; coordinated black and red print silk robe. (I made no advance commitments, but I want to be ready in case. Keeping options open! Through months of emails and phone conversations, we agreed to “see what happens” in Chicago.)
- Body shaped and buffed: done. Twelve weeks training with regional women’s bodybuilding champion. Three 90-minute sessions a week, starting 5:00 a.m. Added extra protein to my diet, eliminated cookies and candy. More fit than I’ve ever been. Lost three dress sizes and gained so much muscle that I’m proud to wear sleeveless blouses — just to show off those hard-earned triceps. Still nowhere near my waif-like teenaged weight, but not shabby for my age group, not shabby at all.
- Grooming: done. My thick head of shoulder-length, curly, dark brown hair: coiffed. My first professional pedicure (red polish): done. Teeth bleached. Newly purchased face foundation, powder, eye make-up, lipstick and blush packed for later. It’s only been — decades? — since I wore all that stuff. I remember feeling like a girly girl in my twenties. Surely I can do it again!
- Resurrected from the forgotten back of a drawer: earrings. Gathered up from the front of the drawer: gold necklaces, pendants. A watch with a thin, gold-plated wristband – not my comfortable wide, black leather one — inherited from my mother, buried seven months ago in New Jersey on a crisp September day when an unearthly holiness hung in the air. Hard to explain that aura since I stopped believing, but the tinged atmosphere was palpable that day. People commented on it. Perhaps she took it with her, along with my leftover faith? I will think of that later. For now, I pack the Chicago-bound jewelry in my purse, except for my mother’s diamond engagement ring. I wear it on a chain around my neck at all times: a salve amulet for my raw heart.
I can’t wait to get to Chicago! No matter what happens, I will have a surprise. Maybe, even, I’ll solve mysteries from my youth, get questions answered. Perhaps, perhaps – I’ll get closure! At the least, I will have an adventure.
Novelty – I have missed you. Welcome back!
* * *
Spring, 2001, Chicago, Illinois
My flight arrives at O’Hare on schedule, which gives me an hour to primp. I wait in line for a Concourse B restroom. The women’s are especially crowded here. I’m on edge. Let’s go! Three rows of stalls crowded into the space: the narrowest stalls I’ve seen in any airport. I struggle to pull in my luggage and change into fresh jeans and sweater. Good thing I lost that weight or I’d never fit in here. Next, find a mirror to put on the make-up. Breathe. Calm down. Thread the gold hoops through your ears.
I had pierced my virgin lobes so I could wear the pearl studs James gave me for . . . my 32nd birthday? No, 33rd, wasn’t it? Baby, now concentrate. Find the eyeliner, mascara. See, I remember how to put on make-up. It’s so much bother, no wonder I gave it up when I settled into domestic life with James. Why am I thinking of him now? Oh, I’m seeing another man for the first time since I left my home with James. That’s why. Those walls between James and me; I never could break out of my wall or get past his. Do I feel a tinge of disloyalty? I must dismiss that. James ended our life together, not me. That was clear.
I check the arrival board. East coast flights delayed! Rats! Bad weather? He’s delayed an hour. The hour becomes two. Almost three. I get some Chicago pizza: forget the diet! My excitement is fading into an anti-climatic, annoying airport nightmare. Maybe I’ll have a drink.
Then I spot him. Healthy looking. I know his age, but he appears much younger. How does he do that? His dark brows are drawn in worry. His eyes darting. He is covering ground quickly, taking short, brisk steps while pushing off his heels: an efficient walker. I remember now, he starting running marathons in his 30s. I had forgotten his unique gait and balance. Only someone who knew about his childhood leg injury would recognize the source of his rhythm. He hasn’t seen me yet. There, he spots me! His frown evaporates and I see relief. Yes, I waited. Of course. No, I’m not angry about the delay. His face brightens with that charming, magical, lighthearted smile. He lets go of his luggage and wraps his arms around me. I bury my head into his shoulder, into his man smell. He feels even better than I remember. Walls are coming down. I am home.
Dave gets us a taxi and off we go to the Fairmont Hotel for four days and three nights.
. . . to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.
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