Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Inside out

A man sits biting his nails, his thin linen shirt pulled on inside out, tags showing. His heavy white tube socks are stuffed into worn beige loafers, loafers with tassels. He is probably late thirties. A gold chain rests against dark chest hair and it seems he has put some thought into his attire.

I should tell him that his shirt is on inside out. I would want to know, if I were him. But I would want to know from someone else, not a stranger at the coffee shop, not some girl. I’d want to know when I get to the office, from Buffy or Kelly or Alex. My office, my regulars, the handful of people I call by any number of nick-names, who remember my birthday and know my moods.

Does this guy have that kind of office? Do people know him by his first name? Or will he see, when he gets home that he has gone through the entire day inside out.

He has a gold ring on his wedding finger and I imagine him, after a long hard day at the office (possibly after butting heads with the boss) feeling proud that he stood his ground (in his tasseled beige loafers). I see him walk through his front door. Maybe his wife is already home from her job and has changed into jeans and, hearing the front door, comes to greet him and sees what I see. Will she tell him? Or will she wonder why none of the guys at the office pointed it out saying, “Hey buddy, what's up?” in that joking way, or teasingly prod him about being hung over or getting a lil some before work. Or does she already know the guys at the office don't ask him out for a beer (or ask him anything at all for that matter)? Does she already know that he forgets things, a lot of things, like the kids’ school meetings and his medications, that he can hardly get out of bed some mornings because of…

Will she shower him with kisses, caress him to distraction, and pull that thin linen shirt up and over his head, tossing it aside to be thrown in the wash later? Or will she criticize him for being clueless, again, such a fool, always. Or will she notice him at all?

I step across the aisle and touch his arm. I try to whisper and still be heard. He turns red, first on the bridge of his nose, then down the sides of his neck. He smiles weakly, averts his eyes and scoots away from me so his tag is concealed. His mind is backtracking furiously, he’s asking “How did I do this?” I say (too loudly), “That's totally something I’d do!” and I say, “Ha ha ha!” and I say, “It's so early!” and stand there smiling, nodding my head.

He wants me to go away, desperately. So I do. But on his way out, he leans over swiftly and says, “Thanks, I might not have noticed for a while.”  And I say (again, too loudly), “Oh, that's totally me. I’d get home and say, 'Why didn't anyone tell me?!’ I’d say,'Ha ha ha!'"

He leaves and I return to my page and write about him. I write until I need to leave for work, until I gather my purse, my laptop, my charger, my bottle of water, and slide out of my seat. Someone’s holding the door so I hurry. But then I drop my water and it rolls. I scramble to retrieve it but my bags swing and my feet tangle and I lose my balance. People watch but no one moves. The bottle keeps rolling and the door swings shut. I slump down, right there on the coffee shop floor, and think to myself, “How did I do this?”