By: Alexandra Walker
Carmen looked out her front window, expecting to see Alex’s car rolling up, to see him stepping out of the driver’s see in his always-classy style, slacks, nice shoes, a tie probably. But Carmen knew he wouldn’t come, and that was the best situation for both of them. Even though they had tried to sort things out on their trip, tried to makes things work, even had sex, the damage had already been done.
The rest of the trip was fine, but awkward. Carmen and Alex struggled to even keep the small talk going. Carmen didn’t resent Alex at all for the way he was acting, silent, moody, terse – she felt the exact same way. When they got back to the city, they made several attempts to get together, but plans always fell through. And so like that, in such an anti-climactic fashion, Carmen’s relationship with Alex came to a close. Carmen did not feel bad about the way things ended. She looked back at their relationship together in a very fond light. It would be much easier to move on than the last time, and for this Carmen was grateful.
When Carmen went back to work she had trouble focusing. She spent the whole morning surfing the internet and ignoring the report that needed to be completed by the end of the day. She felt so exasperated by her job – she didn’t feel like she was going anywhere. She resolved that she would quit soon and do something that really excited her. On her way home, Carmen stopped at the hardware store to buy some new curtain rods. She walked around the giant hardware store, unable to find the home décor section. She walked into the lumber section, and saw an employee struggling to manage several 2x4s in his arms. Carmen walked over to him,
“Hello, do you work here?”
Startled by Carmen’s approach, the man dropped the pieces of wood to the floor. He looked lost as he tried to figure out how to pick everything back up again.
“Um…hello? I asked if you worked here?” asked Carmen. Who the hell was this guy?
“Oh, no, no, you got it all wrong. I don’t work here at all. I’m just buying some wood.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Carmen. She pointed at his overalls, dirty, with paint on them, and she looked down at his battered construction boots. “I just thought, with your outfit, you might be an employee.”
“Nope, you’re mistaken. Don’t work here at all.” The man was awkward and sheepish in his response. He scurried away quickly with his materials. Wow, what a weirdo, thought Carmen, as she made her way around the endless maze of the cavernous store.
A couple days passed. Carmen was sitting at her desk when her friend Louise texted her. Louise was going to an art opening at a small local gallery that evening, and wondered if Carmen wanted to tag along with her? Carmen looked around at her messy apartment. She really did not feel like cleaning up. So she quickly changed out of her work clothes – Carmen put her hair up and looked at herself in the mirror momentarily, she then put on one of her black dresses. Something so she could blend into the crowd.
She wasn’t feeling particularly social but at the same time she felt cooped up in her apartment. Some fresh air would do Carmen good. Carmen called a taxi and picked up Louise on the way, and they made their way through the bustling night to a small second floor gallery right downtown.
They walked in and the hallway and staircase was almost completely dark. When they opened the door Carmen felt surprised to see a fairly huge white space, very sparse and bright, with pockets of people chatting quietly in front of sculptures and paintings. Alex would hate this kind of place, Carmen thought to herself. But she looked around and was intrigued by the whole thing. Louise led Carmen over to a small group of people.
Louise started talking to the group, and introduced Carmen, but Carmen felt out of place in the conversation, and so decided to strike off on her own and look at some of the art. As she wandered around, she drift through crowds of fascinated on-lookers. Some of the art interested her, but she didn’t like the abstract stuff that much. She wandered over to a sculpture – a tall construction made of wood. As she stood their trying to figure it out, she felt someone come and stand beside her.
“Do you like this thing?” asked a familiar voice.
Carmen turned and was shocked to see the man from the hardware store. But he looked entirely different. Dressed in tight black slacks and a tight black shirt, his fit upper body and broad shoulders showed through the fabric. His dark eyes and stubble glowed in the mood lighting of the gallery. The party had livened up a bit and now the crowd mingled quite loudly. The man smiled at Carmen as she tried to compose herself after the surprise.
“Yes, it’s quite nice. Well, I’m having a hard time making out exactly what it represents, but I like how it looks anyways.”
“It’s OK, not my best work I don’t think. I thought it might be too obscure, but the people at this gallery loved it. Hey, you don’t have a drink. Do you want a drink?” answered the man.
“Yes, sure, I could use a drink actually, “ replied Carmen. “Hey, so what’s your name anyways? I’m Carmen.”
“My name’s Harry.”
Carmen and Harry spent the night talking together, and as the event winded down to a close, Harry and Carmen ended up sharing a cab, as they lived fairly closely together. Louise had gone home awhile earlier. They got out together, a couple of blocks away from Carmen’s home.
“Mind if I walk you home?”
They walked together down the quiet street. Carmen stopped Harry outside of her apartment.
“This is me. I’d invite you up by my place is an utter mess.” It was true. Her place was a disaster zone.
“That’s OK. It was nice talking to you tonight. Do you want to go out sometime?”
Carmen accepted and her and Harry exchanged phone numbers. Harry looked at Carmen as she turned to leave. Harry reached out to Carmen. “Wait, before you go, can I..” Carmen leaned in to Harry and they embraced. Much more passionately than Carmen had expected. For a second she felt entirely swept away in Harry’s arms. Their physical chemistry was instantaneous. How absurd – she did not feel like stopping. They kissed in the middle of the street, ignorant of their surroundings. Eventually, and with much hesitation, Carmen pulled away from Harry.
“Can..can I just come inside?” asked Harry.
Carmen wanted to invite Harry inside. Her carnal reaction was to bring Harry inside and get him undressed as quickly as possible.
“Not tonight Harry. Next time maybe. I’m exhausted.”
She went inside and lay down in her bed, her head swimming. Maybe she had drunk too much. She thought about this new man, Harry, and wondered what he was like. She had seen two sides of him, two completely different looks.
Which one was a true representation of him? Could it be both? Carmen was filled with questions, which meant that she would need to see Harry again to have them answered. He was pretty handsome and charming, and that didn’t hurt either. Carmen felt excited to see Harry, excited in a way that she hadn’t felt since before her trip to Arizona.