“Have you heard the news”, Callie, my coworker, asks me, as she taps her perfectly manicured nails against my desk.
“Well, rumor has it, that you, Tom, and I, are going to be sent to work in the Auburn office for two weeks.”
“My in-laws live there.”
“You could save the company money and live with them.”
“I don’t think so.”
“I know what you mean; I hate my future in-laws too.”
“I don’t hate them, I just wouldn’t want to live with them for two weeks.” These last words however, fall on deaf ears, because Callie has left my cubicle.
Every company has an office gossip, and in our company that person is Callie. She makes rounds a couple of times a day, stopping uninvited in cubicles, and sucking information out of people. She is always the first to know company news. On one occasion, she even knew about a project, before our boss was aware of it. I’m not sure I want to know how she got that information.
Callie is twenty-five and she looks like a supermodel. She has stylish short blonde hair, a pretty face, a perfect figure, and alabaster skin. On her left hand, she wears an enormously gaudy diamond ring, a symbol of her engagement to a hot-shot lawyer, who is twelve years her senior. Every time she walks into my cubicle, she is all smiles, giving me the headline news about my fellow coworkers, or when it is a slow day, she talks about her impending wedding. Her happiness reminds me of Charlie, sometimes I wonder if her cheerfulness is genuine, or if it’s just a façade.
Callie’s news turns out to be true. During a lunch meeting, my boss announces, that Callie, Tom, and I, within the next month, will be sent to Auburn for two weeks. Callie is ecstatic. Her fiancé is away on a three-month business trip, and this short stint in Auburn will curb her boredom. Tom, however, does not share Callie’s sentiments. Tom is forty-two, married, and his wife gave birth to their fifth child last year. He has no desire to be parted from his family. “It’s only two weeks”, Callie says trying to cheer him up. “You can drive home on the weekends.” As for me, I’m excited to be leaving. The past few weeks, Charlie has been happier, but I’ve just been wearied. Auburn will be a perfect place to rest.
It is my third day working in Auburn. Every evening, after work, I tell Tom and Callie that I have to go have dinner with the in-laws. Than I call Charlie, and apologetically explain that I could not get out of dinner with my co-workers, and I ask him to pass this information on to his mom. This is an excuse that Charlie understands. I than proceed to spend the evening wandering around Auburn. Not that there are many places to wander.
Today I wander into a used book store. I stand in the nature aisle, skimming though a book about eagles. I’m not particularly interested in eagles, or any birds for that matter, but this book contains beautiful pictures, and I absent-mindedly stare at them. “Excuse me mam”, an employee of the store says to me. “Can I help you with anything?” “No thanks, just looking,” I reply as I watch the employee walk back to the cash register. He is a gorgeous man. He has brown hair and blue eyes, and the type of face that makes me want to swoon. I glance at my book, and decide that I might later obtain an interest in eagles; therefore I should defiantly buy this book. I walk up to the cash register and hand the book to the employee. I watch him ring up the book, as I enjoy his attractiveness.
I am sitting in my hotel room. I glance at my wedding and engagement ring. My engagement ring is beautiful, although nowhere near as extravagant as Callie’s. I sit in the armchair remembering the day I received this ring.
It had been a Saturday afternoon, and Charlie and I were strolling through the park where we met. All of the sudden Charlie stops walking, “I forgot to give you something”, he informs me. I wonder what he is talking about, since he’s not carrying any bags with him. Charlie slides his hand in his pocket, and takes out a little black box. He hands it to me. I slowly open the box, and I’m shocked to see a diamond ring. The sun had been at a perfect angle that day, and its rays hit the diamond, causing it to infuse my eyes with a multitude of colors. I had no reason to be shocked. We had been dating for three years, and marriage was often mentioned seriously in our conversations. But I still could not believe that Charlie was actually proposing. Except he was not proposing, Charlie just stood there smiling, watching me admire my ring. “I suppose I’ll have to marry you for this”, I say, as I slip the diamond ring on my finger. “Nah”, Charlie replies. “You’ll just have to watch all the Rocky films with me.” I laugh. “If those are my choices, I rather marry you”, I tell him, as I lean in to give him a kiss. I don’t remember the rest of that conversation, although I remember that it was long and pleasant. However, what I do recall; is my ring glimmering under the sun, how Charlie’s face beamed, and how for the first time in my life, I felt that everything had fallen into place.
I take off my wedding and engagement ring, and I place them on a nearby table. I stare at my naked hand. I walk around the room, feeling the air hit the place of my finger that had been covered for over five years. I brush my hair with my left hand, as I admire my bare finger in the mirror. My hand feels light and unburdened, and I hate it. I quickly put my rings back on. However; it’s too late, because Amy Miller’s face pops into my head.
Anytime I feel guilty about anything, I always think of Amy. She had been my best friend the second half of high school. I met her the summer before my junior year while working for Target. Within weeks after meeting, we were inseparable.
“Annabellalalala”, Amy’s voice sings in my head. “Are you going to Jeff’s party tonight?” Amy asked me, one day after work. I had only known her two weeks at the time. Although we had many mutual friends, we never hung out outside of work.
“I can’t go, I’m sorry.”
“You have to go, Alex is going to be there, and I need a buffer.”
“I’d really like to go, but I can’t. My parents are too strict, and there’s no way they’d let me out that late.”
“Have your brother cover for you.”
“He is even stricter than my parents.”
“You should sneak out than.”
“They’d hear me.”
“Are you allowed to walk around the house?”
“Just do a lot of walking around tonight. Than when you actually sneak out, your parents won’t suspect that those noises are you leaving the house.”
“You’re quite the expert at this.”
“Let’s just say, I have a lot of practice.”
I followed Amy’s plan that night. I spent the night making a lot of noise in the kitchen. . My brother yelled at me my five times, my dad yelled at me four times, and my mom scolded me twice. By the time I snuck out, nobody suspected anything.
Amy and I arrived at the party at one in the morning. By the time we arrived, everybody was already wasted. To make matters worse, Alex was not there. “Sorry I dragged you this party”, Amy tells me earnestly. “Well since we’re here, we might as well have some fun”, I reply. We got ourselves some punch spiked with ever clear, and looked for a place to sit down. “There’s a tree house in the backyard, want to go there”, Amy asks. “Sure, I love tree houses.”
We sat in the tree house, sipping our drinks and discussing life. We talked about our strict parents, the horrible fashion mistakes of celebrities, and how the best dessert is pudding. By three in the morning we’re drunk, and cracking up at corny jokes. “I have a secret to tell you”, I whisper to Amy.
“What is it?”
“When I was a kid you know who I always dreamed about being?”
“Have you read the snow queen?”
“Oh my god, did you want to be the robber girl?”
“How did you know?”
“That’s who I always wanted to be. Think of the crazy adventures she would have had.”
“This is astronomical!” We both start laughing hysterically, even though nothing funny has been uttered. After that night we became friends.
If it is possible to have a female soul mate, Amy would have been it. Over the next year and half, she became my diary. I would share all my queer thoughts with her. She completely understood when I told her that my shoes didn’t match my lipstick. She even helped me find a pair that matched. I was probably the only person in the world who thought her butter jokes were funny. In high school we were practically conjoined twins. She would probably still be my best friend, if she hadn’t tried to kill herself in the middle of senior year.
Her suicide attempt came as a complete surprise to everyone. “You must have known”, people would tell me. I had no idea. She had buried her unhappiness so deep, that the only way to express it was to cut her wrists. He parents committed her to a mental home for two months. The first time I came to visit Amy; the sight of her sobered me into reality. Her hair was unwashed, she was wearing pajamas, and her wrists were covered with white bandages. Luckily for me, she did not want to talk about her problems; she had a plethora of psychiatrists, with various degrees, to help her in that department. All she wanted from me was the gossip from school, and some light chitchat about pop culture. I visited her approximately once every four days, and I felt guilty for not coming more often. When she was released, I distanced myself from her, constantly making excuses to why I could not hang out with her. “I’m busy with school/work/scholarship applications”, I would tell her. These were all viable excuses, but deep down I knew I was avoiding her. I wanted to concentrate on my future and enjoy my bubbled life; I was not ready to deal with those kinds of problems. Whenever we did hang out, my actions discouraged her from wanting to see me again. I treated her the way a person treats distant relatives, friendly but aloof. By the time we graduated high school, we were barely acquaintances.
I always liked to pretend that I was extraordinary in some way. That I stood apart from the crowd. I was never the smartest, prettiest, or funniest. But I liked to believe that I had this incredible soul, that in a moment of adversity, I would act abnormally kind, or brave, or whatever trait the situation called for. However, after Amy tried to kill herself, I did not stand apart from the crowd, and I behaved towards her, the same way everybody else did. I realized that there was nothing extraordinary in me. I was average, normal, and not a very good best friend. In regards to Amy, I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but I didn’t do anything right either.