Sunday, February 5, 2006

Unaware (Love Takes on a New Meaning)

(NOTE: I plan to re-write this story within time, but I thought I would go ahead and post it how it is for now)
Karen and I emailed for years but never knew what the other looked like. We agreed not to exchange pictures, but to one day disclose our locations and meet for the first time. Once we agreed to describe ourselves, using general terms: height and age, mostly. Karen’s description was, “4’2”, 73 years old, and 680 pounds”. It showed her great sense of humor, but also got me wondering. I was too polite to ask, however.

We were great ones for discussions. We felt strongly about many of the same issues, loved reading biographies and new fiction, both grew up in a family of four girls, had the same schooling education, plus two years of college. But that’s where the similarities ended.

Many of our discussions were based off of Karen’s true stories of working as a missionary to foreign shores. I grew up having a sheltered life, smack in the middle of a bustling city. She spoke of dangerous adventures, and the quaint people she encountered. I spoke of my newspaper route, and of our irascible landlady. Although we each had funny and exciting stories to tell, hers were incredibly entertaining.

Finally, the great day came. Karen asked me to reveal my location, and said that she thought she finally had the money to afford a short vacation. I was thrilled! The days of preparation were busy and excited ones as I cleaned the house and prepared all manner of wonderful meals in honor of my important guest. I laid out photo albums for us to look through, remembering that she promised to bring hers as well. I couldn’t restrain my fast-beating heart from jumping a time or two, just speculating about the evening ahead.

Half an hour before she was supposed to arrive, I realized that I had no centerpiece for my dining room table. I also realized that I had just enough time to slip over five blocks to a local florist shop and buy a fresh arrangement.

The trip there took longer than I thought. I realized I would have been better off walking because the traffic was unusually congested for a Friday afternoon. I had to park one block over from the shop upon arrival, which also disgusted me.

I had fifteen minutes to go.

The inside of the florist shop was always cool and fragrant, but this time I was not there for pleasure – I was in a hurry. I waited impatiently for the sales clerk to finish with the woman in line ahead of me. I sighed and tapped my foot. I leaned on the counter and tried to look impatient. The woman turned,

“I’ll just be a minute,” she assured, in a slow drawl that annoyed me. She turned back to the clerk. “How about purple – how would that look with these colors?”

“I don’t have a minute!” I shot back. “I am going to be really late! You should decide what you’re getting before you come in here.” I sighed again, even louder.

She smiled at me, but said nothing for a moment. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “But I came in here to see what I wanted because I wasn’t sure.”

“Don’t you understand?” I almost shouted. “I AM IN A BIG HURRY!”
The woman stepped back slightly to let me pass her. “You may go ahead. I’m sorry for slowing you down.” She fingered a yellow petal gingerly and kept her head down as she waited for me to make my hurried selection. I didn’t have enough time to feel remorse.
I slammed my money down on the counter and waited for the clerk to return my change.
Finally, with the arrangement in hand, I turned to leave.

“I apologize,” the woman said again.
“No need. I’ll be late anyway, but thanks.” I tried to keep my tone cool and sarcastic.
She offered no reply.

The traffic was so intense that it only succeeded in heightening my rage. I blared my horn; I skipped lanes, doing everything in my power to reach my home in time. My guest was sure to think that I had a problem with meeting deadlines.

I was waiting and waiting to pull into the second turning lane, when the car from behind me jumped into the spot I had in mind. I leaned on my horn, and rolled down my passenger window. It was that same woman from the florists with that same dumb face.
“I was about to pull in there!” I shouted.

“I’m sorry,” she called back. “I can hold back to let you turn first,” she offered.
“You shouldn’t be jumping lanes like that, right in front of other people.” I rolled up my window to cut off her response.

Finally, I reached my street and flicked on the turn signal. I sat, pulsing the gas pedal, waiting for the stream of traffic to quit flowing. Just then, that same car zipped into the road in front of me. I sped up to cut her off – I had enough of this woman, really, I did. She jerked her wheel to avoid hitting me, and hit a parking meter instead. I sped on ahead, not caring. I parked in front of my house and ran to the door, grumbling when I tried the wrong key.

Once inside, the air-conditioning worked its wonders on my mood, while I arranged my bouquet atop the dining room table.

I heard a knock on the door and smiled to myself. My heart pounded nervously as I walked to the front door. I rehearsed my words as I envisioned us wrapping our arms around each other.
“Oh Karen, it’s so wonderful to meet you after all these years! Isn’t it exciting? Your dress is so lovely – come on inside and have a seat. Dinner’s almost ready.”

I turned the doorknob and prepared to fall into a warm embrace. I opened the door fully and opened my mouth. Then shut it. Then opened it again.

“Susan?” The woman spoke quietly.
The woman from the florist shop. The woman behind me in traffic. The woman I ran off the road.Karen.