Life, As Is - Chapter 2
After Katrina helped me figure out which apartment was mine, we rummaged through the place to see if anything would jog my memory. The apartment wasn't as small as I initially thought. Jim and I were subletting a co-op and the owner had bought two apartments and made them into one. Keep in mind these were two one-bedroom/one-bathroom apartments in Manhattan so the two put together made one adequate two-bedroom. Still small, but if during my stay Jim managed to get on my nerves, I at least had a second bedroom the size of a walk-in closet in which to retreat.
In this second bedroom was a file cabinet. I dug through it and found tax information from the past year.
"Damn! No wonder I don't mind being a hypocrite! Apparently, pharmaceutical sales pays pretty damn well!"
"Told you." Katrina was browsing through a small book case next to the file cabinet.
"Hey, old school photo albums!" She exclaimed.
"Let me see those."
I grabbed a couple and man, were they old! The pictures weren’t in any particular order. There's something nostalgic about flipping through pages of old photos as opposed to clicking a mouse or swiping your finger across a screen.
One of the first pictures I came across was of my grandfather. 2015 will mark the twelfth year of his passing away, yet I know for a fact I spoke with him just a few weeks ago and visited him a couple of months before that; but in 1997. A few pages after that were some pictures of me with my guitarist ex-boyfriend, Damian. I vaguely remembered the party where those pictures were taken. Damian had his hair tied in a ponytail and I was wearing a crop top and jeans with holes at knees and my hair was died yellow blonde. God help me!
"Look at you!" Katrina exclaimed.
"Please don't," I groaned and flipped through more pages.
There were several people in the more recent photos that I didn't recognize. Jim was in a lot of pictures with me. Apparently, we had gone to Hawaii, Paris, and a few other places together. We either had a boat or knew someone who had one because there were a lot of pictures of us on it with people I didn't know. Greg was in none of the pictures. I felt a lump form in my throat and my stomach started to tense.
"I'll look through these later, they're not helping any."
On the floor, next to the file cabinet, was a stack of literature from the company where I worked.
We walked around the rest of the apartment. It was decorated in sort of a Southwest motif. I hated Southwest. I must have let Jim do most of the decorating. I never cared much for decorating as it always felt like a lot of work. I noticed there were no animals around. Throughout my life I've always at least had a cat.
"Do I have any pets?"
"No," answered Katrina; still munching on her weirdo snack. "Jim thinks animals shouldn't be cooped up in apartments."
"But he's always had a dog."
"You guys don't have a patio or a yard where a pet can run around. That's one of the reasons you're buying a house."
I sat down on the tan colored couch.
"We're buying a house? Where? And if you tell me Staten Island, so help me..."
"Oh, God no," she laughed.
I breathed a sigh of relief and laughed. "Could you imagine?"
"No! You guys are talking about Long Island."
I immediately stopped laughing. "I...I'm not going there, either." I stood up and started pacing. "Do you have any idea if we put an offer on something or even signed anything..."
"You're just in the looking phase, right now."
I breathed yet another sigh of relief. If I was going to have to move anywhere it was not going to be the suburbs! Don't get me wrong, Long Island is very nice but everyone I knew who lived there and worked in the city had one nightmare of a commute.
I walked into the kitchen. Talk about a nightmare. Organic 7-grain bread, tofu, Acai and aloe juice and other assorted health food I didn't recognize littered the refrigerator. I turned to Katrina.
"Really? I eat this?"
She sheepishly nodded and said, "I turned you on to most of it."
"Thank you," I replied. "I'm going to assume there's not one coffee ground to be found in this kitchen."
At that moment I heard a key in the front door and my stomach sank. It was Jim! He walked in wearing what appeared to be bicycle shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt and was holding a helmet.
"Hey, babe!" He seemed genuinely happy to see me. He set his helmet to the side. "Hey, Katrina."
"Hi, Jim. How was your bike ride?" Katrina asked while subtly pushing me toward him.
"Awesome!" He walked toward me and asked, "Everything ok, babe?"
He placed an arm around my waist and kissed me on the lips. Whoa!
"Yeah, yeah, I just had a reading."
"Get some bad news or something? You don't look well."
Thankfully, Regina piped in, "The barista accidentally gave her caffeinated coffee."
"Oh, no!" He replied.
"Yeah!" I nodded, "Pfft...near disaster!"
Regina excused herself, announcing that she had another reading to attend. She gave both Jim and I one of her trademark hugs and let herself out. I really wished she hadn't taken off. I didn't know what I was going to say to Jim!
I awkwardly stood there and looked up at him. Obviously, he aged since I last saw him, but he aged very well! If anything he had gotten better looking since I last saw him in 1997. The bike shorts were a bit of a turn-off for me but at least they'll come off at some point.
"Are you feeling ok? Do you want some detox tea?" he asked.
"Oh, God no! I mean...I didn't drink too much of the coffee so I'll be ok."
"Well, you still seem pretty tense." He planted another kiss on my lips. "Gonna take a shower. Feel free to join me if you want."
"Oh..." I nervously laughed, "I took one already, I think. Maybe later. But you go ahead..."
"You're really flushed, babe. I picked up some more of the Yogi detox tea you like, maybe you should have some."
Dear, God that sounded awful! "Ok, sure."
He pulled off his shirt and headed toward the bathroom. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
At that moment the doorbell rang so I walked over and looked through the peephole. It was Greg. Of all people; it was Greg!
I looked through the peephole while my heart raced. He rang the bell, again. I'm sure he knew that at least Jim was home. What did he want?
"Are you gonna get that, babe?" Jim called from the bathroom.
"Got it," I responded.
I opened the door and Greg was standing in front of me holding a box. He looked uncomfortable. Considering how I pounced on him earlier that day and tried to kiss him I supposed some awkwardness was inevitable.
"Hi. How are you?" He asked while maintaining a stance indicative of someone who was prepared to flee at any moment.
"I'm fine. Before you say anything, I apologize for earlier. I...I had a really bad dream and was kind of freaked out. Is that for us?" I asked, indicating the package he was holding.
"Yeah, it is," he held it out for me, "the new doorman accidentally handed it to me with some other deliveries my wife and I got, so I thought I'd bring it over."
I felt myself flinch at the mention of his wife.
Oh...thank you." I took the package from him and made the mistake of making eye contact.
Greg had the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. It was the first thing I noticed about him when we initially met. We met at a mutual friend's 4th of July rooftop party in Brooklyn in 2002 and, for a second, I literally forgot how to speak when our friend introduced us. Part of me wanted to know what this wife of his looked like. I was sure at some point I would run into her and I was a little worried about how I would react when that moment arrived.
I didn't realize how I had been staring so intently at him until he started backing away from me.
"Well, um, tell Jim I said hi." Seriously, he couldn't get away from me fast enough.
My face felt hot as I shut the door behind him and I looked at the package he handed me. It looked to be the size of a shoebox. Greg used to order his sneakers online. For the third time that day I felt tears forming. I reminded myself to pull it together but I couldn't get over how much I missed him. From what I can remember, it's been easily six months since I'd seen, spoke to, or even been in the same room with Greg.
The package was in Jim's name so I didn't bother to open it. I searched the kitchen some more to see if there was anything remotely edible or drinkable. God, I wanted some coffee...or wine. I was trying some of the Acai juice, which wasn't half bad, when Jim came out of the bathroom...completely naked.
"Whoa!" I exclaimed. We'd slept together a couple of times when I went out to visit him in 1997 but I never saw him or even envisioned him wandering around his home quite like that.
"What?" He asked.
"You're...you're...well sweetie, you've got no clothes on."
So, was this a regular thing? Don't get me wrong, Jim was in great shape, especially for someone his age. However, I'm a believer in the Seinfeld theory that there's "good naked" and "bad naked" and men casually walking naked around the place falls under the "bad" category. I don't care how good the guy looks, it's just...no.
"Bri, what is up with you, today? Do you want me to put clothes on? Actually, I'm surprised you're still dressed..."
"Really? Oh...well...you know, Katrina was...was just here and...oh, uh Greg just stopped by to drop off a package that came for you, so you know, I had to keep my clothes on." Again, my face felt like it was on fire.
"Our neighbor! Tall guy across the hall. The new doorman gave him our mail by mistake, I guess."
"Oh, cool. I didn't know that was his name." He replied while walking over, bending down and picking up the box...naked. I couldn't do this.
"You know what? I don't think I feel like being naked today. How about we put some clothes on."
Thankfully, he stopped what he was doing, but looked at me as if I said something to him in a foreign language. And at that moment I began to wonder if I'm supposed to know one. I'd been learning all kinds of new things about myself today, so why not that?
"Ok," Jim replied, warily. "Any reason why, babe?"
Ok, I guess wearing clothes was odd for us - or at the very least odd for Jim.
"I'm...I'm feeling kind of bloated today. You know, pms."
"Really? Huh. I thought you weren't due for another two weeks. Ok, no problem.
How does he know when I'm due???
"Awesome!" Jim exclaimed while holding up a pair of sneakers he apparently bought online. Just like Greg.
I retreated to the second bedroom to cry.
To read chapter 3 click here: http://hubpages.com/literature/LIfe-As-Is-Chapter-3
(c) 2014 Brenda Thornlow
Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; the short story, The Revolving Door and A Godless Love. Available at Amazon. (Link below)
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© 2014 Brenda Thornlow