Tonight I unplugged the television Tonight I powered off my laptop and watched the tiny red light blink several times before dying Tonight I climbed…
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Original Thought was my sanctuary. Work helped me keep my mind off the next volume of poetry I wasn’t writing - couldn’t write. Some wall had gone up without my knowing, some invisible knife cutting the flow from pen to paper. Every word felt like a lie. Nothing I wrote could ever match the success of The World at Seventeen. My world at twenty three seemed maddening and without Arielle, I’m sure it would have smothered me.
She was my coworker and closest friend, an endless well of conversation and light who made the gig at Original Thought the best I’d ever had.
It was a beautiful place with live plants lining the walls, each set in a clay vase or hand woven basket, local work set on permanent display. Wind chimes dipped from the ceiling. Suncatchers danced at the windows and a set of antiqued silver chimes rang with the opening and closing of the stained glass door. Local jewelry was displayed at the front counter, and everywhere there were books and compact discs and cases of handcrafted souvenirs, all nicely priced considering the amount of time and dedication that went into the creation of each piece. Somewhere amongst the books was a copy of The World at Seventeen, but I’d made no attempt to find it and since Arielle was more chatterer than actual reader, it wasn’t very likely she ever would, either.
“Hello, hello, hello.” She breezed through the door with a ringing of bangles and chimes.
“You’re late.” The morning was going much slower than usual and I was passing time with a copy of Tayari Jones’ Leaving Atlanta.
“Yes, but I have Starbucks.” She placed the Styrofoam cup triumphantly before me. She knew my weaknesses well. “Cappuccino for me and macchiato for you.”
I held the cup in my hands - still warm - and closed my eyes while drawing in the first wonderful sip, “Umm.”
She was a chronic giggler. It was one of those little annoyances I’d learned to live with. I thought about telling her about Son and his homicidal mutt, King; but she was launching into the morning rant and rave concerning the inept motorists and traffic congestion she now faced since moving to the heart of the city to be ‘closer to Lee.’
“...oh, and remember those tickets Lee got for us to go see Rent at the Claremont?”
“Well, anyway, he waits til today to tell me he can’t go. Just this morning, I’m on my way out and he’s all ‘about Rent tonight, I don’t think I’m gonna make it. Sorry, Babe.’ Babe! Who is he all of a sudden, Sonny Bono? Do I look like a talking sheep pig to you? Do not answer that if you value your life.” She was obsessed with her weight. Hollywood had convinced her that she was morbidly obese and neither Lee nor I was able to convince her otherwise. “So anyway, I say, ‘you know what, Lee, you self concerned, self entitled jerk…?’”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to just call him a man?”
She grinned, eyes bright. This was why we liked one another.
“No, I say, ‘You know what? Fine. Give me the tickets and Mellie and I will just go see the show ourselves - girl’s night out or something.’ Know what he says to me? ‘Oh, sorry, Babe, I kind of lost the tickets.’ How do you kind of lose something? You know, airhead surfer dude may have been real cute back in like, the tenth grade, but I’m twenty-seven years old! Is this really the man I want to marry someday?”
“Yes. Yes.” She rolled her eyes in defeat, “God, yes.”
I took another sip of macchiato.
“So…it's our two year anniversary and Lee’s got mandatory overtime, so I was wondering - I mean, since you are my best friend and all - wanna go out?”
“Oh, c’mon, Mel! What else have you got going for tonight, huh?”
“A quiet evening at home, on the couch with my Golden Girls dvds and a bag of Ritz Chips, followed by a little Gloria Naylor in bed.”
“Oh, my! Let’s hope you don’t OD on all that excitement. Be serious, Mel.”
“I am serious.”
“Look, there’s this great place called Banneker’s. Lee and I went there a couple of weeks ago. They have the best barbeque in the world. Please?”
“Great, I’ll pick you up at seven.”
“How can you pick me up at seven if I’m not going anywhere at seven?”
She rested her chin on the counter top and pouted up at me, “Please Mellie-Mellie? I’d do it for you.”
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