Not in on the joke OR What I did thursday night,….

A coworker introduced me to a friend of hers last week. She seemed bright and cheerful, engaging smile, dark brown hair that came to a sort of swept forward bob cut, small wire frame glasses and a wardrobe to remind you that perhaps she was a little bit on the punk rocker side of life. So naturally, at my friends urging, started chatting with her. We emailed and texted for a couple days, talking on the phone briefly through the week and agreed to meet up for drinks at Margaritas on thursdays night.
As I pulled into Margaritas parking lot, I got a text message.
“Something came up, I can’t make it”.
I wasn’t surprised. My dating life has been one singular disaster after another and getting stood up again, well, I just had to laugh. I don’t know how I pick these people or how they find me, but I get fooled every single time. Somehow, I’m missing something.
I sat in the parking, staring at Margaritas. Those colors were too bright and cheerful for my mood. The bright yellow of the sign was like turning over on a lazy sunday morning and catching that single beam of the rising sun that has evaded the curtain and lands directly on your face, waking you and reminding you that you should be elsewhere, doing something, anything….I pulled out of the parking lot and headed over to downtown Portsmouth.
A cloud was forming over me, the kind that few things can dissipate. To weather the storm that was brewing, I took myself shopping. Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, BullMoose Music are all wonderful for distracting my troubled mind. I know this is weird for a guy, but going shopping, even window shopping (no, not literally shopping for windows) just seems to distract and calm my nerves.
I pulled up in front of BullMoose and got a parking spot right out front. Holy crap! That never happens. Usually, I have to park up near the square and hoof it to the music store. Suddenly in a good mood, I went inside. I love this store. One of my fantasies is when (yeah right) I win the lottery, my first stop would be here at Bull Moose so i could clean them out of all the other cds I want but don’t yet have. I just picture myself showing up with a shopping cart and just piling it up with cds until there was a leaning tower of Piza in the cart, precariously balanced cds tilting too and fro until I made it to the waiting limousine. Yup, its a mild fantasy, but it’s mine.
I went in through the doors. and my heart sank.
There she was.
In the check out line with three friends.
I felt this lump in my throat and  my face flushed. I turned towards the new releases, barely able to see what was in front of me, my mind racing with lots of colorful expletives. She stood there at the checkout, chatting cheerfully with her friends and as they walked towards me to the exit, I pulled on my fake salesman’s smile, turned and said, “hey, how ya doin?”
Silence.
Not even a glance in my direction. The four of them just kept chatting like I wasn’t there. Like I was invisible and my voice nothing more than an annoying breeze.
They exited the store and thats when I saw the bag one of her friends was carrying: a take out bag from Margaritas.
I heard the four of them burst into muffled laughter outside the front door, obviously some great joke had been played successfully and they were enjoying a good laugh.
Mindlessly, i leafed through the cds in front of me. Finally, i pulled out my phone.
“have a good nite” I texted to her and then deleted her from my phone.
This morning, as I was coming into work, I called my friend and explained to her what had happened. There was a pause then she burst into laughter. Again, I felt like I was missing out on some fantastic prank.
“Thats so like her,” she said through her giggling.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh she always does that, thats just how she is” her laughter finally trailed off.
I could feel that stormcloud over my head again. This time it was worse, thunder cracking in my ears.
“If you friend was such a fucking cunt, then why did you introduce me to her?”
Silence again.
Then the unmistakable click of the phone being hung up.
I sat in my car outside work, waiting for the storm to pass a bit before I went inside. I very rarely get angry, very rarely do I let that emotion overtake me. When I was a teenager/early 20something, anger was something that I could not control sometimes and I lashed out at friends, family, anyone within earshot. It’s a base and ugly emotion that does nothing but worry and destroy. I like to think I have no time for anger anymore, no time for things that waste my time. But this was too much.
Slowly, I felt my bloodpressure comedown, the redness to my face slowly gave way to my usual paleness.
And then……
Thank whatever powers there may be for friends. When I get wrapped up in an emotion and lose all perspective, my friends are there to ground me. I had let myself go into a hopeless downward spiral of self hate and anger, but a single helping hand from a good friend pulled me out of that whirlpool. A few emails and text messages later, and the storm was gone, nothing more than a potent memory.  A good friend flattered and teased me, giving me something positive to latch onto and that made all the difference. We joked and laughed a bit back and forth on texts and emails. Finally, i felt like I was in on the joke, instead of being the butt of it. And the laughter I heard was my own…
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Winter Beach

I stepped out of work and felt it, that urge, that need: the ocean. The coast has always had my heart, but there are times when it’s undeniable, when I just have to grab a cup of some hot tasty beverage and venture down to shoreline. Last night was one of those nights.

It’s the beginning of January and usually, when I feel this pull in winter, at best, I appreciate the ocean from a distance, but last night…last night it was beautiful outside. I stopped at the Irving on the way home, grabbed a large decaf (stale, and too bland…had to add a ton of milk just to lighten it a little) and drove on down to the beach.

I love Rye Beach at night. A long flat beach, easy for walking and big enough to get away from others who have ventured out. Tonite, I had the beach to myself. The air blowing in off the ocean was like a warm gift in the middle of this cold season. Last week, I was worried about pipes freezing and ice forming on my roof. This week, all I can do is smile. I know this is only fleeting. Winter will re-assert itself soon enough and the deep freeze that February always promises will chill me to the bone again. But for now, nature was being a tease, enticing and delighting with this amazing night.

I sat down on the sand, feeling the damp and cold beneath this surface of warmth, a subtle reminder, nothing more. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves. That primal, rhythmic beating and retreating of the ocean. This is what calls me, the sound of the relentless and inevitable ocean. I sipped my coffee, the taste not so awful mixing with the salty air. And for a moment, I felt peace.

Strange Days

Twelve hour days. Thats what my work life is like right now. Every day is another 12 hour day. Not by my choice but due to the incompetence of the people I work with. I’m not exactly scheduled for 12 hours, but it is ‘suggested’ I come in early or stay late because nobody else can do my job. Instead of compromising and have someone come down from our other store to cover my shifts when I’m gone, they hired this idiot who can’t pull together a coherent sentence let alone do my job. It’s an intolerable situation and to make matters worse: I opened my mouth and said I was free tomorrow on my day off. And of course, it was ‘suggested’ I come in and help since I’m available. Arrggh!

Why do I do this to myself???

I wanna say I can’t complain because my paychecks are awesome. But, as a friend pointed out today, all the money in the world is worthless if you have no life to spend it on. Sitting at work today, I kinda realized that although I’m sorta indespensible, the job is kinda killing me. I keep telling myself that when I finally meet someone special and settle down, I’ll find a job that doesn’t require 60 hours a week. I’ll find something fullfilling, satisfying and rewarding. A job I can be proud of.

But, because this job sucks so much of my life out of me, I find I have less and less time for myself and the people I love. And lets not even get into trying to meet someone. My dating record for the last year speaks for itself: stood up 3 times and no real dates. I find myself going nowhere fast.

Today, the 12 hours seemed especially long, dragging on and on. I filled out surveys on myspace all day, counting the minutes. Exchanged messages with friends as the hands on the clock slowly ticked away. Finally, 8pm rolled around and I leapt from my desk and bolted. I drove home as fast as I could, changed and headed out. I needed to be out of small spaces and around people I didn’t work with….so I headed to the new Chicken Wing Place in North Hampton.

Now I know what you are thinking: Chicken Wings? Come on George, there must have been something decent open.

Actually, this place took over the space of a failed restaurant and seems to be doing quite well for itself. The place was hopping, the bar was full and the food looked good. So I wandered in, hopped up to the bar and ordered a widmer.

The Bar was cozy, with a warm brown and tan color scheme that was very mellow and unobtrusive. The walls were lined with 8 large flat screen tvs, some showing the Boston Bruins (who were winning!!!) others showing ESPN HD and one tv showing the results from Iowa. So of course, since I’m a political junky, I watched the Iowa results. 🙂 I ordered a quesadilla called the Chi CHi Rodriguez, which was chicken, chipotles, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Once it finally came, it was delicious. Crispy and sweet with some nice smoky heat. I barely made it through half.

While I waited for my food, the seat next to me was taken by a woman I didn’t see come in. I smiled and said “Good evening”. She smiled, taking off her coat and draping it on the chair on the other side of her. She had the librarian girl look going ong on: dressed in a sweater, slacks, sensible shoes, funky scarf and little glasses but something was off. She had long (way past her shoulders) straight brown hair and there was glitter under her eyes.

So I couldn’t help myself, even though she looked like she just wanted to quietly eat her dinner and hang out, I struck up a conversation. To my surprise, she was very friendly. She was shivering despite the sweater and it was almost 80 degrees in the bar so I had to ask:

“How can you be cold here?”

“Oh Ah’m from Texas,” she said, the drawl very aparent. I laughed. “Ah wasn’t expecting this kind of cold when Ah moved here.”

“Itt’s awful busy in here,” she continued. “Ah was expecting it to be quiet. Ah really needed to come someplace mellow. My job is so loud.” She lauhed, sipping her iced tea.

“What do you do?” I asked.

She paused and I realized that she didn’t really want to answer. “Ah’m a dancer..Ah mean, Ah’m a stripper.” She gulped down more of her iced tea and looked at me. Don’t know if she was expecting me to be shocked or what, but I didn’t miss a beat.

“I can imagine after a day of dance music, a little peace and quiet would do you some good.”
She started laughing. We talked for an hour about everything from her job, to my job to her previous jobs (para legal!) and making fun of our waitress who was obviously new and more interested in getting the attention of the boys at the end of the bar than tending to the other patrons needs.

At the end, as she was suiting up to face the cold again, I extended my hand and said, “I’m George, it was a pleasure to meet you.”

She smiled and shook my hand, “Nice to meet you to! Ah’m….” and she paused. A slightly confused expression came across her face. She looked up at me “wow, Ah had to think there for a minute because Ah almost gave you one of my stripper names.”

“Well,” I said, “I would have called you on it if you told me your name was Chantelle or Candy or some shit…”

She laughed and told me her real name, a simple boring name like the rest of us. We parted ways, hoping to run into each other agin at this place. I watched her leave as I finished my beer and sat back in my chair. For the first time all day, I felt relaxed, the 12 hours that had weighed on me so heavily had been lifted from my shoulders. I breathed easier and smiled.

Strange encounters like this seem to happen in my life alot and I realize that in the mind numbing 12 hour days I spend at work, I have this tendency to coast through the off hours of my life and not notice the strange and unusual things around me. Meeting a paralegal turned stripper at a chicken wing restaurant while watching the Bruins win a game and Obama to take Iowa, a trifecta of events I wasn’t expecting, and if I had just spent the night at home, I would have missed out on. Twelve hour days may rule my life right now, but I’m not going to let them ruin it.