Thursday, January 15, 2009

Solo Adventure

Driving down 77, she began to feel increasingly more calm the further she got from the city. Soon she was far enough down the road where the radio stations were mere fuzz, and she slid in a CD for the remainder of the ride. John Mayer. One she had not heard in a while, but knew every word. She had looked forward to this meeting for months. It had been a year since she saw the mountains in spring. Besides one meeting this evening and one in the morning, she was on her own to stumble into coffee shops and get lost down the winding roads. This would be the first solo adventure she'd had in a while.

Stopping in a convenient store, she purchased a few disposable cameras to document the days. She drove by the entrance to the condo she would be staying in, missing it twice, thinking it would be nice to have someone to help her navigate as she attempted an awkward three point turn on the narrow road. As soon as she walked in, she began snapping pictures here and there. It was nothing more special than she had seen before, in fact she stayed in the one next door a year ago. But this time it was different. She was there on business. And she had the place to herself. Hardly anyone knew she was there, and she liked it.

After the meeting ended, she slipped out of her brand new pencil skirt, heels and camisole and into her favorite jeans. Deciding it would be a bit cooler than in the city, she grabbed a sweater wrap and headed for the restaurant. Everything seemed to be in walking distance and she felt like a foreigner in a town full of acquaintances. Dinner with men you do business with is always a bit tricky, she thought, and she found herself a bit nervous as the only woman joining the table. It was a pleasant evening, everyone casually talking business and what a wonderful addition she would make to the team. They were constantly asking her advice about the city and how to penetrate the market and for the first time she realized her opinion was valued among a group of seasoned salesmen. It was an odd feeling, one she liked and yet wasn't overly excited about. She had worked hard for years and it was nice to not be considered just another young, starry eyed face, but someone with experience. She ordered eggplant, making sure it was one of the least expensive meals on the menu, even though she knew it was on the business account. She learned the man who owned the development she would eventually sell, also owned the restaurant, and she liked that he had not mentioned this fact before.

Once back in the condo she changed again but this time into a tee shirt and sweatpants. It was freezing and it took her forever to light the pilot and adjust the fireplace, once again wishing she had someone there to help her. Finding the remote sandwiched in between one of the carmel colored leather couches, she settled in, pulling her hair in a pony tail. It was nice, she thought, watching a tv above the fireplace. Her mind drifted as she imagined what it would be like to have the job. She would be selling multi-million dollar land, and later homes her clients would build on it. She imagined having a larger cushion at the end of the month after she paid her bills and then thought of the condo and the other various perks that the job would provide. She was unimpressed by the money she would make, but realized it helped. But something was missing. And it was then that she imagined what it would like to work hard day in and day out, and then come home, as she had tonight, changing into her pajamas and making some tea, to no one. The thought swallowed her.

As a single, hard working, determined woman, she was accustomed to doing things on her own. She thought nothing of carrying loads of groceries up several flights of stairs or making sure all of her bills were paid on time. Taking out the trash, fixing things around the house and remembering to get the oil changed were chores her father used to help her with, and now for the past four years she accomplished the tasks without a thought. Men were not sure what to think of her, wondering if someone this independent needed care. She seemed confident and put together they thought, knowing exactly what she wanted, and were sometimes not confident to ask her out for coffee. They were not completely right. She did need care. More care than most, her parents would say, being sensitive and compassionate almost to a fault. She could do all of these chores solo, make money, build a home of her own and fill it with memories, she thought, but she was ready for a partner, someone who would not leave at the end of the night.

Curled up on the couch, she knew he was out there. If he were here now, they would make coffee and have dessert, cuddled under a blanket. She would review, play by play the events of the meeting, stopping to ask his thoughts about how she responded to this or that question about work. In the morning they would go for a run or a short hike nearby and then find themselves at the coffee shop down the street she'd discovered earlier. Snapping out of the thought she knew she could not think about it any longer. It would come. He would find her, call her, write her and she would have someone to share this adventure with. No need to think about it now. Now, she took off her glasses and set them on the table and spread out in the king size bed. Now, she thought, it was time to go to bed.

In the morning she showered in a room decorated with rustic stone, under a rainfall shower head. After a quick walk to the coffee shop, she sipped on a latte while thumbing through the Economist. She must look smart to those looking at her, she thought, little did they know she was only looking at the pictures. For the next few hours she road around in a truck, bouncing along 1000 acres of freshly cleared mountain land. She saw golf holes and ponds carved out of the dirt with no green on them, only visions of what was to come. She was surrounded by men drilling, nailing and climbing on the 30 foot exposed beam that would soon be completed, and she thought as she drove away they looked as though they sprouted from the earth covered in granite, stone and bark, blending in with the Blue Ridge view.

Soon she was on the road again, careful to leave the condo as she found it. She was offered the job, details of compensation and percentages would follow. Instead of driving straight home, she took a detour to Blowing Rock and ended walking down to the historic district. Most of the boutiques where closed, so feeling a bit hungry, she settled on a cafe where she ordered a blt with fried green tomatoes. She sat alone and decided not to get on her cell phone, sipping sweet tea and adjusting the napkin in her lap. She would on occasion go to the movies alone on a whim, but eating alone was different, something she had not done in awhile. She got out a pen and her notebook and scribbled down things she could write about. She studied her surroundings, people and smells, all things writers tend to be aware of as if they are storing it all for later use.

Carrying her to-go bag, she wandered in and out of various stores, a fudge shop, an antique store, smiling at couples as they passed with dogs or small children. She drew a deep breath filling her lungs with the mountain air, and caught her reflection in a decorated window display, the transparent image looking back at her. She was at peace. She was wonderfully whole, and she knew he would find her this way.

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