Archive for November, 2011
The thought hit her that he may try to sleep with her and promise her a job in return. He was much older and seemed to find her attractive. He was friends with the entire neighborhood, but probably would not think there would be anything wrong with the proposal and wouldn’t be embarrassed. While she would never sleep with anyone for a job, she could see herself sleeping with him in the near future. Because it would feel right, not to gain employment. She thought this rebellious streak probably stemmed from her breakup with Jase.
She had given herself to him in way that was new to her and was now bitter that it didn’t seem to matter to him at all. She woke up sometimes unable to breathe, aching with the thought of never being held by him again. She would sweat thinking about all of their inside jokes that were wasted, and would never be as funny with anyone else. She thought of how he always mixed three kinds of cereal together. And how she thought it was disgusting until she tried it. How he bought her the broken watch in Southie because it reminded her of her grandmother’s from when she was a child. All of the space these memories took up in her head left her paralyzed. How could she possibly let someone else inside to have new cereal methods and jokes with, how does anyone?
A figure appeared in the doorway.
“Ala. Hello, please come inside.”
He was dressed head to toe in white linen and was sipping something bright red out of a tiny crystal glass. She followed him inside, the trail of aftershave so strong she could’ve found him even if she were blind.
“I’m a big fan. Only in the summer though. What made you come back?”
She glanced down at her watch and realized now it really was late. She got up quickly.
“I really do have to go. Thank you very much for the drink.”
He stood up and gave her a light bow. He then shook her hand.
“My pleasure. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
She turned and walked quickly out of the bar, making sure to not look back.
Driving home she felt slightly disappointed that he hadn’t put up much of a fight when she finally did leave. She supposed he had put himself on the line enough, by insisting on the drink, and didn’t want to look desperate.
She noticed something gleaming sharply in the sunlight on the side of the curb. She pulled over and walked up to the objet. Face side down, the silver was very hot when she picked it up and held it in her hand. She instantly recognized the initials, H.A., as her mothers. This was her mother’s keychain. The design was a pink shoe and her friend had given it to her for Christmas a few years ago after a nasty bout with breast cancer.
What were her mother’s keys doing on the side of the road three blocks away from the house? Ala didn’t have time to look around for anything else. She got back into her car and drove the rest of the way home. She walked into a quiet house that seemed to be untouched since she had left in the morning.
She ripped a dry-cleaning bag from a blue sheath dress hanging in her closet, and quickly stepped into it. The dress she wore to the track was stained with sweat and would have to be cleaned.
She decided she would need a resume and knew she didn’t have any printed out, because she hadn’t looked for a job in years. The resume she had saved didn’t even have her last job description on it, but would have to do. She routed through a box and found the hard drive that she knew had the document saved on it. She ran into her father’s office. She hit the power button and waited for the machine to start up. A box asked for a password.
“Easy”, she said, as she typed in ALA123, which was her father’s password for just about everything. She was denied access. She tried again, this time using all lowercase characters. The same. She hit the desk with her open palm. Why would the password be different? It had been the same for every account for as long as she could remember. Frustrated, she flew down the steps, nearly twisting her ankle, and grabbed her purse on the way out.
She walked down the street to Emmanuel’s house and when she arrived at the address, could not believe what she saw. The house that was previously on the lot was torn down and replaced with what looked like a villa.The front door was wide open and she heard some kind of calypso music coming from inside.
“It isn’t. But it was what my father left me to do, so there you have it.”
“So where are your business associates?”
“Watching the race of course. But I know how it will end. Cupcake will win. And I got it wrong today so no point in watching the damage.”
“I suppose not.”
“So, what do you do?”
“Oh well, I have a job interview today actually. I shouldn’t be drinking.”
“It’ll help you do better. I guarantee it. You call me if you don’t get that job and I’ll take you out to dinner.”
“What makes you think I’ll call you either way?”
“Let’s just say I have a feeling.”
“Well, what if I do get the job?”
“Well, if you’re making money, you can take me to dinner.”
“I’m kidding of course. I would never let a woman buy me dinner.”
Ala felt her skin turning a bright pink and thought of how grotesque her scrapes and scratches must’ve looked. He certainly didn’t seem to mind. But maybe how he was speaking to her should’ve bothered her. Maybe one of her synapses was busted to not take offense to his remark. Part of her did like the sureness of his gentlemanly attitude. He wasn’t one of those awkward boys who really don’t see women as equals, but tried to pretend that they did. Always tripping to the side of her to make sure she was allowed to open the door. Always hesitating over the restaurant bill so that she would not take offense if they paid. Ridiculous. This man did not have time for such games.
“I really should be going.”
“Just a second, he said, putting his arm across the table, as if ready to stop her if she tried to leave the booth. You haven’t even finished your drink.”
“She took another sip.”
“Aren’t your business associates looking for you?”
“They’ve made their way to the tables I’m sure. They’ll be fine.”
She sat back again, decided to enjoy her drink. This was how people met, after all. Flings that stemmed from meeting in poly sci classes or the run down coffee bar were over. People had to meet randomly and talk to get anywhere.
“So, this party. Tell me about it.”
“There’s not a lot to it. It was for a friend Dora’s birthday and kind of a snooze.”
“A friend’s party being a snooze? That doesn’t sound right.”
“She’s a not close friend. More of a friend by association.”
“And what kind of association would that be?”
“She is the girlfriend of one of my exes.”
“Ah, the plot thickens.”
“No, it has nothing to do with that. I went because I felt obligated, as a friend, to go. I’m trying to make sure I see everyone now that I’m back in town.”
She realized she was saying more than she would’ve liked to. But couldn’t stop. Like a leaky spout, the slight ripple of alcohol coursing through her, along with his incredibly smooth voice, she was wide open.
“No, I lived in Boston for a while.”
“Why don’t you have a cigarette and a drink with me?”
“I can’t. Really.”
“Just a drink then.”
He gestured toward a booth in the back
“Glenny, bring the drinks here when they’re ready.” Ala felt like running, but found her legs following him to the back of the bar. She sat down and the seat was much plushier than she had expected. She had to grip the table to retain her posture. He sat across from her, dabbing his cigarette in a green marble ashtray.
“What were you looking for?”
“My phone. I was going to try to call the office.”
“There’s no office here.”
“I saw one downstairs.”
“The track operations are run off-campus, near the airport. Has been for years now.”
“Oh.” Suddenly feeling very stupid, she held out her hand.
“Maybe I will have one cigarette.”
He rustled in his suit pocket and pulled one out. She took it and he lit it. She had not smoked since high school, but was able to appear that she had by not coughing.
Glenny shuffled over with their drinks. There were two cherries floating on top of the ice in each glass.
“You have my cherries, I can’t stand them,” he said.
“So, you’re here to visit an office that doesn’t exist.”
“Well no, they called and said they had something of mine.”
“How could they?”
“I was here for a party last night.”
“Yes. And apparently I dropped my wallet.”
“You’re lucky someone turned it in and didn’t pocket it.”
“There’s hardly anything in it. A library card and my license, mostly things like that.”
“I see.” He licked his lips. Ala started to relax as the gin shocked her ears and trickled down her throat.
“What are you doing here? Compulsive gambler?”
“Not exactly,” he said leaning back, stretching his hands behind his head, “Mostly business. A lot of businessmen like lunch here, it excites them.”
“Oh. What kind of business?”
“Art. Custom framing. Tapestries, that kind of thing.”
She climbed up the four flights of stairs, her shoes scraping against the cement, as she felt an intense burn in her calves. She reached the top and felt light-headed, so quickly gripped the railing. She walked slowly down the hallway, brushing her hand against the cool oak paneling. The bar looked as if it hadn’t been renovated since the track was built. Deep booths lined the walls with plush purple velvet benches. Low amber lamps drifted above the dance floor, worn very well from the thousands of shoes that had kissed it since the beginning.
The floor to ceiling sliding glass doors led to the balcony that overlooked the track. She gazed out the window, watching the trainers walk the horses around in the sand. Each horse kept its head down, seeming to watch his or her own feet.
She walked up to the grand mahogany bar and sat at the first stool. A bartender, who must’ve been eighty years old, wiped a glass, the rag squeaking against it. He may have been scrubbing the same spot for hours.
“Missy. Can I help you?”
“I’ll have lemonade please.”
He nodded and crinkled his mouth into a smile.
The glass door slid shut and Ala turned, out of instinct, to see a tall man entering. He wore a navy blue suit with a lavender collar poking out and tinted sunglasses. His shoes scratched and clicked as he walked up to the other end of the bar. She looked away, pretending to look for something in her purse.
He took a cigarette from his front pocket and lit it, tilting his head up to the television that was showing a golf tournament.
Ala’s purse fell to the floor. Mortified, she bit her lip and crouched down to pick up all the worthless belongings she refused to throw away.
“Looking for a cigarette?” A sinfully deep smooth voice asked. She looked up just in time to see him taking off his sunglasses.He smiled, a sort of chuckle escaping through his lips.
“Not exactly,” she said. The bartender put a highball glass of lemonade in front of her.
“No, no, no,” he said, walking toward her. She straightened up and quickly took an inventory of what she must look like.
He stopped about three inches away from her.
“Glenny, give her some gin.”
“No, really, I have to be going.”
“Your drink just got here.”
“Well, I only meant to stay a minute.” He watched her mouth as she talked and smiled again.
“Glenny, some gin with some ginger ale in it.”
“I can’t stay,” she said, becoming petrified and wondering why. He was very handsome. Not in a traditional way. His eyes look tired and his hair had a little too much product in it for her taste, but he had nice features.
She walked down a narrow murky hallway, passing many closed office doors without placards. This building looked deserted, as if no one was working today, or had in the past ten years. She found a room with a glass window that had OFFICE painted on it. She turned the doorknob and a sharp click told her the door was locked. She tried to peak inside, but all she saw was darkness.
Sweat rolled down her back as she thought about having to check every door, or even a whole other building. She took out her phone and called back the number Arlene had dialed her from. It rang five or six times, but there was no answer.
She stomped her foot walked out to the back of the building. Taking deep breaths she looked at the twelve other buildings that seemed to make up the operations part of the track and tried to guess which one had her wallet in it.
A maintenance man swept up cigarette butts by some benches nestled under the shade. Ala hobbled over to him.
“Sir, excuse me. Is there a main office?”
“He scratched the underside of his chin.”
“Sure, that building.”
“I just tried there, it’s locked.”
“Maybe they are out to lunch.”
“The whole staff?”
She started to walk back to her car when a rush of tingles swept up her spine and gave her the urge to throw up. The heat was beating down on her and she hadn’t had anything to drink since she had woke up that morning. The main clubhouse was in sight, where the party had been, and she thought of a mint julep and how good it would taste rushing down her throat. Drinking before lunchtime did cross her mind as a little off color, so she decided lemonade would be fine.
Bizarre was an understatement. She heard her cell phone ringing and dashed quickly up the stairs; careful not to drop the tiny towel she had wrapped herself in. The number was unrecognizable but at this point in her life, it could’ve been a number of prospects: unfinished business is Boston, a recruiter, anyone. She answered and a stuffy woman on the other end spoke up.
“Yes, is this Ala Hutchins?”
“We have your wallet.”
She quickly glanced down at the bed and realized her wallet was missing from the collection of junk she kept in her purse.
“Who is this?”
“Arlene. I work at Pilkington.”
“The racetrack? What is my wallet doing there?”
“Beat’s me. Anyway, we got it and if you want it, you should come right away.”
“Of course I want it,” she said, trying to not sound condescending.
“Main office.” A click followed.
Arlene was gone. Ala was naked and her parents were missing. She flipped her head upside down and pulled all of her hair toward her, making a tight knot and securing it the top of her head with a tortoise shell clip her friend Vivian had given her.
She pushed open the door to her too full closet and pulled out a sleeveless wrap dress with an origami-like pattern on it in different shades of blue. Makeup would have to be done in the car. She pulled some gray ballet flats out of the closet and shoved them on while rushing down the steps.
She stopped to write a note to her parents and realized it didn’t matter because they wouldn’t had known if she had come home last night anyway.
Traffic was horrible and the air conditioner in her car managed to blow hot air for three seconds at a time before turning off. She had forgotten that she looked as if she had been mangled by a black bear the night before, and applying makeup in the car wasn’t as easy as it normally was with her flawless skin. The heat made the concealer cake up on the scrapes and they turned into tiny scabby brown moles. Her mascara was smeared to high heavens and her lips completely over done in the pink lipstick she had chosen.
She parked about two miles away from the track and ran to the front office. It was completely amazing how full a place like this could be during a workweek. Then she remembered that a lot of the workers in town were on strike, most likely depressed , and primed to gamble.