Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chapter 2 - Token of Appreciation

It couldn’t be time to get up.  Not yet.  No way.  I’m normally an early riser.  In fact, I can’t stand lingering in bed in the morning.  But on this particular morning I just couldn’t get up.  Sure, I didn’t get enough sleep.  But the lack of sleep was only part of the problem.  The other issue was the slightly bruised ego caused by the mystery woman.  As I laid on my back staring at the twirling blades of my ceiling fan, my mind kept replaying the night before.  Her image would not leave my mind; nor would the feeling of standing there alone in the flashing blue lights.  All night I wondered if there was anything I could have done that would have led to the conversation that I desperately wanted to have with her.  By now I would have known her name, where she grew up, some of her hobbies, and maybe even her favorite cereal.  As I replayed the evening yet again, my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the appointment reminder on my phone.   I glanced at the screen.  I had a meeting with a potential new client in an hour.  Time to get up.

            Like most people, I am a creature of habit.  Every morning I take my phone into the bathroom with me, and tune in one of my favorite sports talk shows.  But sports talk was not going to cut it this morning.  I wanted some music; not just any music, but some good lively music.   I picked up my phone and browsed through my Pandora stations.  This felt like a Classic Hip-Hop morning.  Each song that played took me back to a different stage of my life, and took my mind off of her.  As I shaved, showered, and dressed, my mind drifted through a constant stream of daydreams.  I pictured myself as a famous rapper performing before a capacity crowd.  But I wasn’t the typical rapper.  I was rapping in a suit, white shirt, and bowtie, looking more like Minister Farrakhan than Tupac Shakur.  But that look was my hook, and the crowd seemed to love it.  The truth is I could never get on stage in front of a crowd to perform.  The stage fright would overwhelm me.  Thank God for the shower.   

            The music totally transformed my mood, and I managed to get out of the house feeling re-energized and surprisingly upbeat.  I was really excited about this new client.  I had been chasing his business for quite a while.  Hopefully, I would close the deal today.  I also couldn’t wait to tell my secretary Anita about the mystery woman.  I knew I was going to get a lot of grief for the outcome, but I was prepared for that.  But she always knew that right thing to say and I was anxious to hear her thoughts.  I arrived about ten minutes before the start of my meeting.  As usual, my voicemail light was lit.  And, as usual, I didn’t feel like checking it so I would just let Anita do it.  I didn’t really have time anyway.  I never like to cut it so close to my meetings but at least I was there before the client---long before the client as it turned out.  But I just had to deal with it because I was expecting him to write a nice check, and that sure has a way of making me a lot more patient.  The client finally showed up about an hour late.  The first thing he did was thank me for being so understanding in pushing the meeting back an hour (mistakenly assuming that I had received his voicemail message left the night before).  I told him that I had received the message and that it was no problem at all.  After about an hour, we finally wrapped up our meeting.  It was a done deal.  He signed the engagement letter, pulled out his checkbook and stroked a very nice check for my retainer.  After a few minutes of chit-chat,  I walked him to the elevator, we shook hands, and he was on his way.

            Now that the client business was done, I headed straight to Anita.  As I approached her desk, I was completely distracted by an extremely large, colorful and exotic floral arrangement.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  Of course I asked her who had sent them to her.  Her response startled me.  “They’re not for me, they’re for you.”  I was stunned.  “Are you serious?”  I had never received flowers in my life and I was completely at a loss as to who could have sent them.  “Open the card, silly boy!”  Yes, yes, I was getting to that.  I grabbed the envelope and ripped it open like an over-anxious presenter at an awards show, desperate to find out who has sent such a wonderful arrangement. I read the card silently as Anita looked on in anticipation.  The first line of the card read, “Dear Braxton, do you chase women through red lights every Thursday night?”  Oh my God!  The flowers are from her!  But how did she know who I was?  I guess it’s true that women are always one step ahead of us. 

All of the emotions that I felt at that moment—joy, excitement, relief, were evidenced by the huge smile on my face.  I was so lost in the moment that I barely heard Anita screaming, “what does it say, who sent them, who sent them?”   I continued reading in silence.  “I wanted thank you for taking care of the ticket for me last night.  That was such a thoughtful gesture.  Sending these flowers was the least I could do.  I’d also like to thank you in person.  I have a reservation at Fabio’s at 12:45.  I hope you can join me.  Vanessa Boudreaux.”  I looked at my watch.  I had to go.  “Anita, I’ve got to go!  I’ll explain later.  Please cancel my afternoon appointments!”  I rushed to my office, grabbed my keys off the desk, and sprinted out the door.  As I entered the elevator, my heart began to race.  I began to breathe heavily, as a bead of sweat rolled down my forehead.  I was dying to meet her but at the same time, I felt a bit like a puppet on a string.  Was she just playing me?  Was this all a big joke?  Is she really going to be there?  What if it doesn’t go well? 

I really needed to gather myself.  I couldn’t meet her with all of those silly thoughts racing through my head.  When I got to my car I noticed a scratch on the side of my car.  Now, despite the rush, I had to take a second to check out this scratch because I do not play when it comes to my car.  I sat my phone on top of the car and bent over to check out the scratch.  I rubbed my finger over it, and it magically started disappearing.  The relief of not having an ugly scratch on the side of my car seemed to calm me down a bit.  That calmness would be short-lived however, as the lunch-time traffic was horrendous.  I tried to avoid the main streets but the side streets were just as bad.  I glanced at the clock every few minutes as it raced toward 12:45.  I tried music as a distraction but I found myself constantly switching stations, unable to find just the right song.  Nothing seemed to help.  I looked at the clock.  12:41.  It wasn’t a question of whether I would be late.  The real question was how late I would be.  I needed to call the restaurant.  I looked in the cup holder where I normally keep my phone.  No phone.  Where the hell was my phone?  Then I realized that I’d left my phone on top of the car!  So, not only was I going to be late, but I couldn’t call the restaurant to let them know.  I tried to remain calm as the clock continued to race---12:48, 12:52, 12:59.  Finally, I pulled up to the valet at 1:03.  I grabbed the claim check and hurried toward the front door.  As I walked in, I stopped and took a deep breath.  I approached the Maitre’d and told him I was there to meet Ms. Boudreaux.  “Ah, sir, we’ve been anticipating your arrival.  Follow me please.”  He led me through a maze of tables toward the rear of the restaurant.  Finally, we arrived at a private dining room.  He opened the wooden sliding door.  The room was beautifully but simply decorated.  There was a single table covered in fine linen with extravagant place settings for two, a bottle of wine, floral centerpiece—but no Ms. Boudreaux.  “Have a seat sir, I will be right back.”  So there I sat all alone in a room built for two, feeling emptier than I did the night before.  Then the door slid open again.  The Maitre’d announced, “Ms. Boudreaux will be joining you momentarily.”  It was finally time to meet this woman.                        

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