Reaction

She’d been having trouble thinking of late. Well, not really thinking but, rather, thinking straight. Her life was going not so badly, when one looked at it. She had a sparkly new semi-bearable job, which was a blessing in these hard economic times. Moreover, working for a Wall Street giant had brought her to the city of her dreams, New York City, where she’d longed to live in since as far back as she could remember.

But, something was not right. She was not enjoying herself because she was, in reality, living in the past. Not because it held such precious memories (which, it did, by the way) but, because she was afraid she’d move too fast if she didn’t hold on to the past. Seemed silly when she thought about it but, regrettably, that is where she was at. Maybe it was more than that but, she was clearly not thinking right to figure it all yet. ‘So close yet, so far’ seemed to be an apt subtitle for this part of her life.

But, today, all of that would change. Little did she know when she woke up to the shrill default alarm tone of ‘Good Morning’ she set on her barely functional ‘Samsung Duos’ for Nine a.m. on the morning of March 25, 2013 that something unexpected was going to turn it all around.

She brushed off the copper bangs from her forehead and looked at herself in a frosty windowpane as she walked into her tiny pink wallpapered bathroom. She could just about make out the Donald Duck on her over-sized night tee in the foggy pane. She cinched the tee and looked at her silhouette with the critical eye only females engage while checking out themselves and their counterparts. She’d lost a couple of pounds and it was beginning to show now. She liked that. Having had her fill of her hazy outline she turned around to look around the bath. “This fluer-de-lis pattern is beginning to get overwhelming,” she decided, as she turned her attention to the cabinet mirror.

She sighed as she picked up her toothpaste, glancing at her chipping purple nail enamel and made a mental note to go for a manicure the coming weekend. As she brushed her short, square teeth, a bit of foam flew to her freckled button nose. “Maybe I should get a nose ring, I think a black one would be pretty damn nice – it would give some color to my pale face… Hmmmn, Jeanette mentioned a place in SoHo which did piercings and tattoos. But, it’d be too much, wouldn’t it? Maybe a nice tan would be better instead. But, aren’t those potentially cancerous? Well, I guess I look fine just like this… what the hell!”

Forever second guessing herself and not fully charging into anything. That was Marianne. Her whole life had become a one-step-forward-two-steps-back sort of situation and she was slowly starting to tire of it all.

On the ‘R’ train, Marianne gazed listlessy at her fellow commuters and wondered if they too had faced an impasse such as hers in life. And, how many were, like her, pretending to get by while actually being stuck in the same spot. As she walked into the swanky building of ‘Simon & Schumster’, she wondered what the day had in store for her. Surely, some oddly tiresome jobs – that being a secretary to one of the junior partners of the equity firm was not all that time consuming, or that exciting, was one of the recent realizations that had dawned on her. “Why am I even doing this job?”, she asked herself for the millionth time in five months. “To be in New York,” was her first and last thought on the matter as she reached her desk.

Chastising herself for not having adequate enough goals, Marianne took off her comfy Toms and put on her Miu Miu four inch heels. “It’s funny how I wear Toms when there isn’t much running to do and wear these God awful heels when I have to rush during work! Aaaargh! I hate this!”, she moaned to Jeanette, who was at the work station next to her. They had become sort of work friends, bonding over office politics gossip and Marianne had developed a soft corner for the African-Chinese single mother of three. “You’re preaching to the choir, sister! I ask myself the same thing all the time!”, nodded back Jeanette as she stapled documents with the efficiency of a well oiled machine.

The big beige office clock’s brown hands ticked slowly and Marianne kept glancing at it in anticipation all day. After a bit of light conversation, about ten coffee breaks and a smidgeon of filing and paper pushing, Marianne glanced at the hands of the clock as they pointed at 5:00 p.m. and decided to call it a day and head home.

“Hey, Marianne! Wait up!” called out Umang Mehrang, her boss. She turned around praying for anything but more work, although she had done pretty much zilch the whole day. “I was wondering if you would mind terribly drafting out this letter and then sending a facsimilie to this list of people before you leave?”, he said as he handed her a two page draft of an official looking letter and a list of names which was five pages long. “Now I know it’s 5:15 p.m. on a Friday and a pretty girl like you must have a lot of fun parties to go to but, work is worship, eh?”, Mehrang genially flapped his head from side to side and  Marianne was momentarily distracted by the salt and pepper tufts of hair jauntily swaying on his partially bald head. “Of course, I’ll just do it!”, she cringed inwardly and grinned outwardly as she trudged back to her desk. “Who says facsimilie anymore? Aaargh! I can’t believe I have to sit here and type this stuff when most of these morons have left for the weekend!”

An hour and forty-five minutes, not to mention a thousand grumbles later, Marianne finally left the now empty office for home. “Oh Christ! Don’t tell me it’s raining! Aaargh! I just can’t take this anymore. I think I need a drink.” She spotted a dike on the corner of Rector and Wall Street, its neon pink letters screaming, ‘Jamie’s Tavern’ and scooted inside.

The bar was dimly lit and it took a few seconds for Marianne’s light green eyes to adjust to. It smelled of Bourbon and stale trail mix, an odd combination but, soothing, nonetheless. The pink sign outside cast the bar in a rose light and Marianne had to squint to make out the cracked black and yellowed-white tiles on the floor. The walls had pictures all over and a dart board hung in one corner as people in ties and work dresses talked over each other while sipping on their drinks and munching tidbits. Well, this would have to do – it was now raining heavily and it was far too windy for Marianne to get to the station at this point. “Where are the empty seats?” she thought to herself, craning her neck as she paid for her Grasshopper.

As her eyes scanned the crowded bar, Marianne spotted an empty stool and lunged for it. Instead of the chintz-patterned velvet cushion seat, her fingers grabbed a bristly-hair covered, calloused hand. And, that’s when their eyes met.

Just like that.

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