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Friday came and went. I didn't get to meet the trio. Once I thought the "grinner"—the man I'd wanted to meet so badly—had looked through the window to the front desk, but my eyes must've played tricks on me, because when I found him on the security camera, he was just in the break room—having the time of his life without me.
I could go into the break room. Just strike up a random conversation with a happy-go-lucky stranger I'd been visually
"Gina, is he still married?" my friend Karissa asked.
"Yeah, but they aren't living together. It's just like my situation; I'll be legally divorced in a couple months and so will he."
"But…he's not nice to you. You realize, the man you divorced is just like the man you're dating?"
"They are not the same." I scoffed.
"I'm just concerned. He stood you up…I dated a married man once. When he stood me up, he was with his wife."
That made me feel sick inside. The whole situation was strange, and the more that guy stood me up, the farther I slipped away from him.
I checked the security cameras and decided to patrol the street-lit parking lot because I needed a breather. I brought my massive flashlight, and a notebook that held little pink warnings slips.
As I walked outside, a scream of anger nearly escaped my throat—why was I dating such a creep? Maybe because that's all guys were…? Probably!
I clutched my poofy coat around myself and fumbled through the pockets, trying to remember where I'd stuffed my cell phone. I stood in the shadows just to the side of a parked trailer and adjacent semi, where the security camera couldn't visually record the phone call I was about to make at work.
I dialed the number…then waited and waited as it rang.
Midnight—I knew I shouldn't be calling, but he was a night-owl and I needed to get this off my chest.
A gust of wind picked up and I pulled my coat even more tightly around myself. I huffed, deciding I looked ridiculous. I'm literally so skinny that I wore the smallest size of security uniform, but they didn't have a coat in my size and this one marshmallowed me.
I hung up the phone. No answer. Then just as quickly, it started ringing from an incoming call. "Hello?" I asked.
"You can't call me this late!" The Schmuck said.
"But you call me this late all the time," I argued.
"'Cause you work graves! But you can't call me—you might wake someone up!"
"Someone?" I asked, remembering my friend's words. Who in the world was he worried about waking up?
"My kids." The sudden rebuttal eased my fears about his living arrangements, but not about our relationship.
"Okay. I'm sorry. But we need to talk and this just can't wait."
"Ya know, Gina, you're always 'on.' Don't you ever calm down, stop being so full of energy?"
He was pissed. I couldn't figure if it was just the late phone call or something else. "I…want to date other people," I said, bravely.
"What?! How many times are you gonna break up with me? I keep getting close to you, then you tell me I'm just a fling and you're only in it for a good time. Then we finally are exclusive and now this? I can't get close to you!"
"My analogy with the bonsais...I need to grow on my own. I don't want a serious relationship. Not yet."
And instead of trying to be understanding and give me time, he responded with, "Ya know what, Gina, F*$% you! No wonder other guys have treated you bad!"
I was stunned. I'd been through some hard times, but I'd never been spoken to that way in my life. Had he forgotten all the good times we'd had, joking around, camping in the mountains, taking trips together? Had he forgotten how nice I'd been to him for months?
I completely lost it. "You've stood me up more times than I can count. You're horrible with my kids. My friends think you're still living with your wife! My mom calls you a schmuck." Then I hung up.
He called me a couple more times—of course I didn't answer. I struggled to turn off my ringer and I'm sure I would've looked like a mess if anyone had been watching. And suddenly amidst all that turmoil, who walked toward me in the light, but Tall Man and the grinner.
I don't know what the hell my problem was, but suddenly my nerves were my worst enemy. "Holy shit," I whispered. And I flattened myself against the semi-trailer because apparently I'd turned into, not just a security guard but, a future CIA agent.
Tall Man chuckled—something about a new female co-worker! The grinner laughed too. The two of them mumbled and I had a slight recollection that they might be talking about me, since I was their only new female co-woker! The grinner spoke, with a much lower voice than I'd expected, saying something about how he didn't worry too much about women. He'd never been married, never had kids, and was "happy just the way he was."
Still hugging the nearest trailer, I sighed with relief when the two men walked into the building.
While checking cars for parking permits, I replayed the grinner's words in my head. Didn't need a woman, huh? Is that how he made everyone happy on the security camera, by telling them they didn't need a woman?!
The night continued. I went from amused, to solemn, to upset again as my thoughts wandered back to The Schmuck. I doubt anyone knew how angry I was though because no matter who came to visit, I was nice and congenial each time, genuinely interested in their problems or what they had to say. I even asked some of them for advice about my life. One man said, "Everyone has problems, some people just don't wear them on their sleeves, they choose to let them go."
I glanced at the break room camera and did a double-take. The grinner, and both of his cohorts this time, were back in the break room! The grinner never went there that close to the end of his shift—my luck was changing.
There wasn't even any coffee made and even though people kept telling me to try the complimentary snacks, all I ever went into the break room for was coffee. Everyone kind of coveted the snacks. The plant only had them around as long as there weren't any accidents. Within my first weeks I'd already bandaged two bloody fingers from different employees who'd suffered injuries but wouldn't report them, not wanting the snacks to get taken away. Kuddos to the plant—that was one helluva trick.
"I could use some snacks," I lied to myself—'cause people with contagious smiles do that to me. So I hunched under the desk—where the camera couldn't see me, took out my cellphone, reversed the camera, and checked my makeup. It was so cold in that front room; I shivered a little, touching up my mascara. After deciding it was sufficient, and time was wasting, I rushed into the break room. Maybe I could make that bachelor think he did need a woman after all.
I'd taken a few steps when I realized I'd left the marshmallow coat on! But I'd been so worried I'd miss my chance to meet the grinner that I'd rushed in without thinking. Oh. My. Gosh. If he saw me, he'd think I was a blimp. I kind of sunk my head into the coat turtle-syle—'cause that looked better—and tried not attracting any attention. I had to get a damn snack now, couldn't just waltz in there without getting something. An older guy named Tom walked up to me. I really liked him because he was a good egg and could relate to my divorce situation.
"Ya need a spoon?" he practically yelled. Couldn't he see that even though my coat filled up half the room, I was trying to be incognito!
"Sure," I whispered.
"They're under the counter," he bellowed. So…I had liked Tom, but now I thought he was Lucifer's cousin.
"Thank you…." I forced a smile that really meant ZIP IT, TOM!
I thrust my hand into the box of spoons and a couple spilled onto the floor. Soft curses flew from my mouth as I picked up the spoons and threw the dirty ones away.
I quickly peeked over my shoulder after that. Thank God, the trio hadn't seen me. As I grabbed the coffee pot, I listened to the grinner's conversation again—about an exciting bachelor weekend! What was up with this guy?! Tall Man laughed and said, "Your time will come, man."
Then as I listened more intently, the grinner spoke in this crazy radio-worthy voice. And…that's when coffee-poured-all-over-my-left-hand. Holy fires-of-hell pain; I wanted to scream before dancing around holding my left hand between my legs. Then I just wanted to cry and ask someone—anyone—to hold me. Instead, I bit my lip hard and looked at the grinner, who was walking out of the break room like I hadn't just mortally injured myself!
Screw my life—all this pain because I'd gone into the break room, wanting to meet a stranger who didn't need a woman!
As my hand continued burning, Tall Man and the other member of the trio (Big Beard) left, then just as the grinner was about to leave, he looked back. His eyes met mine, and I swear he seemed kind of surprised. I smiled—'cause when he looked at me, pain was nothin'.
And...he smiled back.
I called my mom that morning as I drove home.
"You sound awfully happy," she said.
"I am. I told The Schmuck that I want to date other people."
My mom sounded almost breathless. "I'm so glad, Gina! Is it because of the guy at work?"
"The one out of five hundred! You know, the guy you had a spark with. You did…feel a spark with him, didn't you?"
I bit my lip. "I think so, but I'm not sure," I said and she remained quietly eager to hear more.
"Soooo?" she finally prodded.
"If a spark is when you dump coffee on yourself and spill spoons on the floor—then it was one helluva a spark."
"You spilled coffee on yourself?!"
"Yeah, my left hand. But then I looked up and he had such amazing eyes, they made me forget about the coffee for a minute."
"You're okay though? Have you put ice on your hand? And you've been drinking enough water? And no more energy drinks—they're bad for you."
"Mom! I'm fine. Just embarrassed."
"You really like this guy. What's his name?" my mom asked.
"Umm…" I cleared my throat. "I have no idea, but I'll tell you when I find out."
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