“No. No. No”
I kept my head down and walked away from what had just happened. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I was too anxious to wait for the elevators, so I took the stairs down. My steps were loud on the stairs, echoing off the walls. Tears were coming down my face and with each step I took, the walls seemed to haunt me. I was whimpering. “No” was the only thing coming from my lips and it was almost like a chant. The echoes of the steps began to sound like “kiss” so with each step I took, the stairwell seemed to fill with those two words.
What had just happened? My heart was beating fast and I cursed out loud for not having a hood to hide under. I needed to hide. To disappear. I ran out of the door into the street. He could be driving past any second. I didn’t want to see him. My tears had stopped. I crossed the street without looking toward the one building that had given me refuge without judgment.
My breathing had returned to normal and I knew that I was going through some sort of shock. I didn’t know what. I pushed past the people on the sidewalk and walked straight into the building. I had to wash my face. I had to wash away the kiss. I had to wash away these feelings. What were these feelings?
The bathroom was empty and I felt like throwing up. I stood over the sink, unable to look myself in the face. I let the water run hot until the steam rose from the sink, fogging up the mirror. I adjusted the temperature so I wouldn’t scald my hands and scrubbed away. I threw water in my face. I pushed my hair back. When I looked up, the steam had cleared and it was only me who stood there. Who was I? What had I done?
I walked out of the bathroom and walked to the end of the hall. I entered the office and nodded to the secretaries. My destination was clear as always. I knocked gently on the door and entered. The lights were off and the conference room was only illuminated by the light coming in through the big windows. Tiffany was sitting at the end of the long table, eating her lunch. She looked up when I came in and smiled. She knew that I was going to meet Marcus today so she had a look on her face asking “Well?” Before I could answer, my eyes focused on the bible in front of her. She was doing her reading like she did everyday. She was a woman of strong faith. I looked in her eyes and I couldn’t even believe the words that came out of my mouth.
“I just made out with an engaged man.”
She said nothing as I sank into the chair in front of me. I put my head down on the table, unable to move. My hands were gripping my hair as if I was ready to rip it out. Tiffany said nothing. She knew me well enough that I would speak when I was ready.
“I have a midterm today.” I said as I lifted my head. I couldn’t look at her. I kept staring at the coffee shop across the street.
“In 45 minutes”
“Are you ready for it?”
“I was. This morning. Now I’m not so sure.”
“You’ll be fine. You always are. Just breathe and focus on the test. You can deal with the other mess later.”
“I just kissed an engaged man.”
“I know honey.” Her voice and words had no judgment behind them. She knew my heart so she knew me.
My phone vibrated across the table. I didn’t have to look at the caller ID.
“Hello.” My voice was flat.
“Are you OK?”
“No, I’m not but I’ll live.” I could feel his emotion. I know he hated it when I said that but it was true. I’d live.
“You’re engaged Marcus. How could…why? What happened to us?”
I couldn’t find the right words. There was so much I wanted to say but none of it mattered. There was a battle inside me and I didn’t even know the reason for the battle. It should be clear cut. He was Marcus. He was engaged.
“I know…but I couldn’t help it. When I saw you step out of the elevator…I just don’t know.”
He was lying. He knew. I stood up and went to the big window. I stared at the coffee shop, the people going in and out, oblivious to the chaos of my life that had filled the air between those walls.
“I don’t understand what’s going on” I whispered. That was the truth. I didn’t understand. “Where’s Stephanie?”
“She’s getting ready. I’m in front of her place right now, waiting.”
“She’s going to want to talk to you.”
“I know. I will.”
“Here she comes.” I pretended not to hear the “I love you” he whispered into the phone before getting out of the car. I could hear their greetings. I imagined him giving her a hug and remembered how it felt in his arms. I shook my head as I heard her voice on the other end.
“Hi Stephanie.” I was smiling. She didn’t need to know. I had mastered the ability to hide my pain so I smiled into the phone. “I’m sorry I can’t make it tonight! You guys have fun without me.”
“I know..it sucks! I wish I could see you!”
“I do too…maybe next time. I have to get going. Tell Marcus to drive carefully!”
“I will,” she smiled into the phone. “Bye”
I hung up without saying bye. The smile vanished. The numbness returned. I turned to Tiffany who was still reading.
“I’m going to take a walk before my midterm.”
“Are you OK?”
“No. I will be.”
“I know you will be. Let me know how your midterm goes.”
I gave her a hug before grabbing my backpack and walking out. I put my headphones on and Godsmack blocked out the noise of the world around me.