Today was the day.
I took the elevator to the eighth floor, and waved my badge in front of the keypad. I never let the badge touch the keypad, treating each morning’s entrance to the office suite as a challenge to test the limits of the RFID range in my badge, delighted to find that the badge and keypad don’t actually have to touch to open the door—the sheer approximation of its presence was enough to gain entry.
But that’d never happen again.
My messenger bag was uncharacteristically light that day, I’d reserve some real estate in the main compartment for my various personal effects like mardi gras beads, lavender hand lotion, Washington Capitals sock monkey, framed photo of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.
They were going home.
My paper and electronic calendars for the day didn’t contain any meetings. Instead, both versions, the paper iteration scrawled in green sharpie, just contained the phrase, “Fuck Yeah” and two exclamation points—marking my last day in a job I hated.
The morning was meant for web-surfing, the lunch hour for fish tacos and bourbon with favorite coworkers, and the afternoon was spent catching up on box scores.
The Boston Red Sox lost to the Detroit Tigers, 7-3. Quintin Berry notched three singles, stole two bases, and scored two runs. He made a game-saving catch as the Tigers celebrated their first victory at Fenway Park since 2010.
In the process of transition, keeping up with baseball-watching is the first thing that goes; having a well-stocked fridge is second, and knowing where to find things that are in unmarked boxes is third. At some point, you give in to the transition phase, operating at 50% productivity until getting settled—which takes time, given the time and distance.
I left the office several times that afternoon, riding the elevator up, down, then up again, just to get fresh air. The pouring rain wasn’t a deterrent, just a metronome in the countdown to freedom, one that didn’t involve the recirculated air of the 8th floor—I wanted to be home, even though home was a disaster of boxes and preparations for departure.
The eight hours of petulance was over; I stuffed my belongings in my bag, leaving without even saying goodbye to the people I would never see again. The decision to sneak out unnoticed was intentional. The fake good-byes, in which my coworkers would pretend they were sad I was leaving, were just too saccharin-sweet for me to digest.
I walked home in the rain, shedding my sneakers and soaked jeans as soon as I got through the door, trading my office attire for an oversized Louisville sweater, soccer shorts, and fuzzy socks and retreated to the dining room table, anxious about a deadline. Laboring over words at the table, inches from a single-pane window, the sill rotting and cracked, watching the willow tree in our yard sway and bend and nearly snap as hurricane strength winds consumed northern Virginia. The wind would force itself into the metal frame of the window-unit air conditioner at such speeds that it made a scraping noise at a whisper, just loud enough for my mind to focus on the syncopated noise instead of the words on the page.
Procrastination increases closer to deadlines, so I turned on the Temptations and sprinted to the kitchen, my socks sliding across the well-oiled floor as I gripped the countertop for support as I nearly crashed head first into the dishwasher.
I know to you, it might sound strange, but I wish it would rain.
Once safely upright in the kitchen, I looked for distractions. I put away dishes, looked in the refrigerator several times. I organized the spice rack, and I put the salad spinner together, which is an elaborate ruse, considering lettuce can be washed by hand.
To motivate myself, I made coffee, and in an attempt to get the creativity flowing, I narrated my actions aloud as Vin Scully, something I do often when alone, but rarely admit.
This will be the sixth cup of coffee Cee Angi has made in the kitchen this week. The house was built in 1902, years before the Melitta drip coffeemakers were available.
Clayton Kershaw throws a strike over the outside corner to Cee, for a 0-1 count.
Cee has years of experience making coffee, using Keurigs, French presses, and percolators, but she got her start when she worked for a local coffee-shop in high school.
That pitch was just a little outside from Kershaw, who seems to be pitching like he’s double-parked, 1-1.
Later she moved to the big-leagues of coffee-making, when she worked for Starbucks while working on her degrees. Cee says the job had excellent benefits, and she completed the Coffee Master Program.
Kershaw’s pitch grabs the corner on that one, and Cee nearly swung herself out of her shoes, 1-2, in favor of Kershaw.
Did you know that coffee beans are actually seeds? They come from the coffee “cherry” fruit, which grow on coffee trees. These trees, which actually look more like shrubs, grow in many countries along the equator, where the coffee bean is a major export.
Cee fouls off a ball that lands just behind the net. A souvenir for a small child, 2-2.
The climate of the United States does not allow for the growth of the coffee plant, but it remains one of the major consumers of the beverage—90 percent of the population consumed coffee daily.
Kershaw with the slider that catches Cee looking. That’s his fifth strike-out of the evening. She just can’t seem to catch a break in the box tonight.
Black coffee in tow, I returned to the keyboard to find the 3,500 words just as I’d left them: a jumbled mess of incomplete and dyslexic sentences that were actually due the day before, but had no chance of becoming a cohesive piece, even after deadline, without serious re-writing and editing. I’d also hoped for mastery of the English language and the Oxford comma before the weekend’s end, or risk being sorely embarrassed by my peers (if I can even call them that, they are a group of much more talented writers).
Sometimes, the best I can do is beg for an extension and hope that editors will take mercy on a person grappling with the creative process. If I’m lucky, I’ll eventually have a piece, rather than excuses. In most cases, it’s somewhere in the middle.
The disjointed paragraphs and improper use of prepositions would have to wait until the next day, because I’d committed to a dinner party, my last in the District, at a trendy establish with Prosecco on tap.
I intended to wear my favorite dress, dark blue with slight pattern and low-cut neck. The hemline would be much more appropriate for a woman several inches shorter looked even shorter with the nude Christian Louboutin heels that my roommate gave me, after declaring they were, “so last season.” I put curlers in my hair, and meticulously applied eyeliner: It was my last evening and I wanted everything to be perfect.
I made it a block before I had to return home and change clothes, my dress soaked and heels slipping off the back of my feet, well lubricated in the rain.
Three years in Chicago, I’d purchased galoshes, when a week of rain-storms turned Lincoln Square into the lost city of Atlantis. The galoshes were hot pink with flowers and were more appropriate for a four-year old in kindergarten than an adult having dinner in a restaurant that targeted nouveau riche Hill staffers. There is a great divide between sensibility and the desire to look more like Emma Stone than Punky Brewster, so I compromised on black flats that would take on water like the Titanic, but at least look presentable, even as the water squished out with every step. Armed with a copy of Fantasyland, dreamsicle chap stick, an umbrella, and an embarrassingly empty wallet for someone gainfully employed, I sprinted through puddles soaking my jeans, just trying to get to the restaurant on time.
In the midst of wardrobe malfunctions, nearly decapitating myself on the dishwasher, and banging my head on the keyboard, I forgot to charge my cellphone, which was pronounced dead before reaching the table. My dinner guests were delighted to hear that my battery had died, because it meant that I would not be checking box scores or watching video highlights on my phone between courses. It’s not like the Mets would have their first no-hitter in franchise history while we ate dinner, so I decided to relax without searching around our table for an outlet: The evening would be conversation, sparking Italian wine, infamous pepperoni sauce, and a pizza that had an egg on top (I didn’t care for that, at all).
My mind wasn’t there.
It was at the office I’d never have to face again. It was at my apartment packing boxes. It was at my computer finishing my book chapter. It was on vacation somewhere warm, somewhere that it wasn’t raining. But most of all, it was with him.
There hadn’t been a him that consumed my thoughts in that manner, not recently, perhaps not ever. Like most things, it started from a mutual admiration, but rather than festering in flirtation and innuendo, even in its infancy, it was something deeper. Our interactions were detailed, elaborate, and collaborative. We’d exchange countless emails in a day, we’d even write stories together, giving the other glimpses of our past and future through the stories we told. His past and complexity concerned me, but the way we related to each other often felt like enough to overcome the concerns.
Perhaps it’s just the synergy that happens when two writers, even of different trades, interact.
The makings of a story I’d want to tell everyone was there, but often I am too superstitious to share. It wasn’t that I wanted to live my dating life in secret, but there always seemed to be externalities in al situations that encouraged me to do so. Mostly, if I announced every time I was smitten, I’d be the Chicken Little of the dating world: It happened often, but was always fleeting.
We planned to spend time together the next day, to see the Nationals before I packed the rented mini-van and set the GPS destination to Midwest, leaving him behind on the east coast. I tried to remain present at dinner, exchanging pleasantries, but the next twelve hours would just be me going through the motions, high on anticipation for time with him.
After the check arrived, I said goodbye to my dinner companions, thanking them for the meal and the friendship during my time in the District. I put them in cabs towards their destinations, and I walked the three blocks, black flats still taking on the weather like sponges, towards the train station with my umbrella tilted to keep the rain out of my face.
When I looked up, he was standing there waiting for me. Twelve hours early for our date, I guess I was on his mind as well.