Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chapter 2- The Ad

Reminder if you haven't read Chapter 1 here it is. You may want to read it first.



 Julie rushed in to her favorite café.

 “Sorry I’m…”


 “Late again?” Her best friend Becky interjected as she sat at the table across from her. “I planned on it.  You’re having Tuna on Rye with the Minestrone soup.”


 "Minestrone soup?  It can’t be Wednesday already!”


 “No Jules, it’s Tuesday,” Becky replied dryly.  This was clearly another subtle attack on her ‘too rigid routine,’ one of their many over-discussed topics. After years of trying to fix her with persuasion she now resorted to flat out defiance.  At least Julie felt it was unlikely she could forget which meal she took on Tuesdays after 3 years of eating lunch together.

"Well, I suppose I’ll  have to take Tuesday’s lunch tomorrow.  Maybe this way the waiter will actually get me my food before I have to request a "to go" box.

She probably shouldn’t have complained about the speed of staff because she wasn’t all the way through her complaint when a waiter showed up with food.

“You know," Becky began, "if your boss keeps you at the office till 12:10, he shouldn’t expect you back until 1:10.  Maybe you should talk to him about that.  I really miss the days when we could relax and enjoy our lunch break. Hey!  Speaking of Minestrone day, tonight is your big date!” she quickly brought up, knowing it was a topic she didn’t want to leave undiscussed.

No, I'm pretty sure my last date was my biggest date: 300 pounds big.  Photoshop is definitely the cupid of internet romance,” she replied.

“And you probably didn’t list ‘bitterly pessimistic’ under your profile, so he wasn’t the only one stretching the truth.” 

"Shrinking the truth," Julie interjected.

“Come on!"  Becky censured, "That date was over a year ago. And you're going to love Ricky.

“I am not going tonight, Becky. I don’t feel up to another blind date. You know I never said I would go.” 


“But you never stopped me from talking about it, and I would call that a passive agreement. Bryan and I have been working on setting you up for months now, and tonight’s all set. Ricky is showing up at your door at 6 whether you like it or not, so you really ought to be ready. Plus, if it doesn’t work out with Ricky, I found you another guy.”


“You haven’t even got me on the date and you already have another guy?”

Rather than respond Becky slid a portion of the newspaper across the table.




Local Professional Seeks Wife!!!

No contact required. Prefer 
to live separately. Offering $500 per
month. No previous marriages or
children please. Lifetime commitment
 required. Email response to 
yourhusband@hotmail.com

Julie was shocked, who could possibly be willing to pay $500 a month for a wife you have no contact with. The ad was so strange that she took a second look to ensure this was the real paper and not a hoax Becky had put together. After her short inspection, she surmised that it was indeed authentic. “He’s probably an immigrant who needs citizenship to keep his job,”

“And why would an immigrant leave no room for divorce?” Becky asked.  “I think he’s an OBGYN who doesn’t want to come across as a pervert.”

“No way, you don’t have to be married to be a respectable OB,” Julie retorted.  

“Well whatever the case, if Ricky doesn’t work out, then this could be your answer,” Becky said jokingly. “No more invasive mother issues, no more dates with weirdos, and hey--supplement your salary!”

“Yeah, just marriage to a weirdo--and not even real marriage.  Thank you, but no.  I’m not desperate enough to sign up for matrimonial prostitution.”

"Well, I'm disappointed, Jules. I was going to start a new job as a wife hunting agent with you as my first client. If it had worked out I could charge a 15% fee. That comes to ...", Becky paused as she thought. "$55 dollars a month." Math was never her strong point. "Just think, you could pay my internet bill every month."

"Your internet bill for my self respect." Julie interjected.

"Oh, well, Since you aren't interested in an extra $500 a month I had better go back to my day job. I will let you know if any higher offers come in. And in all seriousness be ready on time, Ricky likes punctuality." She finished her last comment in a hurried fashion, grabbed her bag, placed some money on the table and headed out of the café.

Julie knew her friend's rush was to avoid letting her make any derogatory statements, but Julie was determined, and as Becky got up she said, “Why should I care what Ricky likes?” Of course, Becky pretended not to hear as she walked out of the cafe.

Julie began to pick up her things, also placing her money on the table in a much less rushed fashion, as she did, a large man in his early fifties approached her from a nearby table. He was short and mostly bald and his teeth told her he had smoked for most of his life.

"Excuse me miss."

Julie hoped he was telling her she had dropped something, but from the past experience  she knew what was about to happen.  

"Yes?" she replied sounding as indifferent as possible.  

"Miss, as I was eating my lunch, I happened to notice you and was quite taken with your elegance."

Elegant huh? She hadn't heard that one before. When she thought of elegance she thought of women from the 1800's with big dresses and ....but a compliment is a compliment.

"Thanks," she said as she began to walk out. She knew men didn't approach you to simply tell you that you’re elegant. Compliments from men were sure signs of them wanting something, and Julie was not in the giving spirit. But before her goal of ending the conversation with a quick exit was realized, he continued.

 "Let me introduce myself," he said, hindering her forward progress. "My name is Harold." He put his hand out.  


Quickly her mind raced trying to figure how to get out of this interchange. She went ahead and shook his hand while she thought.

He gave an empty look as they shook, obviously expecting her name in return. The moment grew more awkward as silence continued: he, waiting for a name, and she, too busy trying to think of how to get out of there to realize it was her turn to talk.  

Finally Harold continued, and she was relieved as he let go of the hand, "Well I will be in town over the next week, we should meet sometime, maybe here…tomorrow… for lunch?"  

This was usually where Julie would simply say, “I’m sorry, I’m dating someone.” She used it so frequently that it no longer bothered her that there was no truth to it, but she worried that he may have overheard some of her earlier conversation, taking the boyfriend excuse off the table. But thinking of tables made Julie notice that the tables in this establishment were very top heavy. While she had eaten here many times, she had never noticed just how unbalanced they appeared, rather like a hippo on a unicycle. With this thought came the almost involuntary sway of the hip that allowed her to test just how stable these tables were. True to its appearance, the table a chair, and all it contained, quickly found the floor. The crash had caused all heads in the diner to turn her way.

“Allow me!” Harold’s chivalry kicked in like clockwork and as he bent down, she got out. As she dashed down the street the first thought was one of sheer victory. However, as her distance from the café became comfortable and the relief of being away from Harold diminished she began to feel rather bad. This feeling came from several sources. She felt bad for Harold, the café’s broken dishes, and the fact that she wouldn’t be able to eat at her favorite café with Becky for a couple weeks because Harold might be there. Her mother always said that if she spent half the time trying to find men as she did avoiding them, she would have been married long ago. What her mother didn’t seem to realize was just how many men out there were worth avoiding, and Julie was beginning to wonder if there were any worth finding. It was her experience the more men she found, the more men she had to find ways to avoid.

The debate between the side of her that wanted companionship and the side that disliked almost every man she dealt with continued to battle within her flustered brain, with interruptions now and then by the echoes of her mothers advice, all the way to the office. Finally, as she sat down at her desk, her practical side told the other two sides that they were being stupid and to stop their endless bickering so it could have some brain power to get some work done.

"Hey Juju bug," Larry said, inviting himself into her office.

Larry was someone who qualified as a man she worked to avoid. The fact that he worked in her office though, made it rather difficult. "The name is Julie, or rather Ms. Reid, if you don't mind," she said critically.  

"Well anyways, JuJu, I have got two tickets to see Garth Brooks this weekend, and I know you love country."

"I'm seeing someone Larry, you know that." She lied.

"Oh, he won't mind friends getting together to enjoy the concert. It's what we do after the concert that he might get upset about." Larry said, as manly as a 120 pound man can.

Her response was simply an irritated glare that would have clearly conveyed the meaning of "Get out!" to anyone with any sense. But in doing so, she forgot who she was dealing with.

"So, what do you say?" he quipped, anxious for a positive response.  

"No, my boyfriend would kill you. So while there is an upside, I still don't want to."

"Come on, Julie, these are great seats, give me a chance." He only called her Julie when he got desperate, or when the boss was around.  

"Larry you have to accept that I'm dating someone else. If that changes I will let you know." She said as definitively as she could. 

Larry showed a smile and simply said, "Everyone knows you really don’t have a boyfriend.”

His cool confidence worried Julie. Could it be true? Did everyone know? Yes, the lie was her tool to push off Larry’s endless pursuits, but it was so convenient that she started to use it for more then just avoiding Larry.  Co-workers trying to set her up...out came the boyfriend. Dinner party at the bosses place...boyfriend planned a nice night. Did they all know it was a sham?

“What do you mean? Of course, I have a boyfriend. You think I just made him up?”

“Oh, I don’t know, What's his name?"

She paused, in all this time she had never been asked his name and never thought to make one up either. It may be one of the miracles of the human brain that it literally had thousands of male names in its database, yet at this crucial moment of need, her’s was able to keep access to such data just beyond the reach of her tongue. With no name coming to mind, she finally shot back, "It's none of your business what his name is."

Clearly the pause made it very unconvincing. "Forget his name, huh? Quite a boyfriend," Larry said, half laughing. He was practically giddy about exposing her lie. Somehow he had convinced himself that if he exposed her imaginary boyfriend then she would suddenly be willing to date him. The thought brought warmth to his cheeks and made his whole face glow. “I have also noticed that you’ve been dating, he who must be left nameless for years, and yet no pictures. Look at all these lovely pictures,” he began as he started walking around the office, “Oh, here is one of you and your good friend Becky, updated just a few weeks ago. Oh, and here you are with your parents, and one with your niece. But where is the boyfriend?" 

As he went on, he felt like a detective on CSI about to lay out a 'who dun it'. “Oh, I see your screen saver is up. Look, there you are on the beach at a reunion. Hundreds of pictures you have loaded. Shall we wait to see if a boyfriend pops up?” 

Even with things going south, she wasn't about to give up her favorite excuse. "Even though he dislikes cameras, my boyfriend would not want me seeing Garth with someone else." She stated this with as much of a 'case closed' attitude as she could.

"Well, let me know if you change your mind," he said as he left the office, still gleeful from his partial victory.

Julie was left alone with the sad realization that, what only someone as socially inept as Larry would vocalize, was most likely going on in everyone’s mind.

Her mind became fixed on this idea of proving a boyfriend. Didn't she have a friend or relative who could pose as a boyfriend? A few pictures would go along way. The sad part was she couldn't think of any guys she knew well enough to pose in the photos. The only men she knew well were all at work, and pretending to date them was out of the question. Perhaps she could just meet a guy one night at a bar and pretend to be interested long enough to get a few good pictures.

As her mind raced over ways to show proof of her imaginary boyfriend she suddenly brought herself back to reality.  Why was she so desperate to perpetuate this lie? Being single was no crime. She didn't need to come up with some elaborate hoax.
She didn’t even want a boyfriend. Even with as big an annoyance as Larry, the real issue was her Mom. Her Mother was relentless.  She came from the old school of thought that any girl who isn’t married by 30 was destined for a life of loneliness and misery—not to mention financial destitution. Julie hadn’t been reminded of her age so much in one year since she was four and was prompted to show her 4 fingers every time a guest came by.  “You are 29, you know… Men don’t want to date a girl over 30 cause her birthing window is closing quick… Men want to have an heir you know…”  she wasn’t sure where her mother got that--|probably the History channel special on Henry VIII. Did she have to alter her life to appease her mother, push off Larry, and avoid Harold?

Tonight would be her first date in over a year. The last being a blind date
she met online that made her sick, both metaphorically and physically. Not only did he look nothing like his online profile picture, but his cousin had owned a restaurant that served Mexican-Chinese Fusion food. She had a re-fried bean stir-fry. It was shut down by the health department a week later. It was in her bathroom later that night, as the water chestnuts in Spanish rice made their way from her stomach back to her mouth, that she made a vow against blind dates.  That promise quickly put an end to her dating life and increased the need for the imaginary boyfriend excuses. Only Becky, her best friend, who even had the power to convince her to bungee jump, eventually wore her down. Becky's husband had been friends with her date, Ricky, since high school, Ricky's wife had passed away in a car accident a few years back. Becky had brought pictures and stories to convince her it was okay. It was true, he sounded normal and actually looked very handsome. He was about 6' tall with dark hair and brown eyes. Not fat, not bald, and not twice her age. He didn't even live with his parents and he maintained a steady job.  

While she didn't expect it, she was somewhat hopeful her blind date tonight might go well. She didn't expect to get that boyfriend she had been telling everyone about but she wouldn't mind a guy friend. Maybe one she could get a few pictures with.


If you want to keep reading here is a link to Chapter 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment