Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shadows of the Evening, Emlee meets Susannah

Going home without an umbrella wasn't the world's biggest travesty thought Emlee. Going home without the name of the woman who could recite the poem with her was the real travesty. Emlee took herself to task for not introducing herself to her fellow poetry performer. While Emlee sat at the kitchen table in the small apartment she kept berating herself. She went to the kitchen counter and took the loaf or rye bread from the chrome clad bread box. She closed the door where her reflection popped into view as she turned the knob. She pointed at her image and said out loud, “Now Emlee, all your had to do was stick out your hand, with all five of those bony fingers and say something brilliant like, 'hi, I'm Emlee.' It's like Mom used to say when you pointed at what you wanted, 'Em' your mouth runs when it shouldn't, the least you can do is ask for the butter, use that mouth when you should,'”. Emlee knew that her mother spoke the truth. Her father taught her the proper way to shake hands so that she could, “succeed in business.” About ninety nine percent of the time she followed her parents' advice and did the proper things.

“Why didn't you shake hands and introduce yourself, Emlee? You know better than to let opportunities like that get by, oh sure, you put your arm around her, but she wasn't very receptive, you should have shaken hands” she continued to lecture herself as she buttered the crusty slices of light bread as she prepared her lunch, a grilled cheese sandwich. “You won't do it again now, will you Emlee?”

Emlee knew that anyone who might be listening would surely think that she had left reality, but if they knew who they were really listening to they would know that she was no threat to herself or society. Emlee laughed at herself, she was always talking to herself, especially when she needed a good dressing down like she did this time.

Emlee hated her life in the city. Her apartment was small even though she could afford bigger but since it was just her, why more space to clean? Her parents were far away, she had a few co-workers that she would call friends though they rarely did anything socially, she knew they really weren't friends, they were what they were, co-workers. They were only friends when one of them was getting married and wanted a wedding present, then at the receptions there would be a table full of, “friends” from work.

She put way too much energy into her work at the insurance company. The position as manager of the company's in house advertising department was very demanding. She didn't burn midnight oil at work. She told her boss when she was promoted that spending the night there would not continue, there was no such thing as midnight oil at work. She told her boss when she was advanced that spending the night there was no longer an option for the staff in the department. She reminded her that having been a regular employee in the department had taught her a few things, work at work – not at home, focus while at work, do what your third grade teacher worked so hard to instill, “do your own work,” Emlee informed her boss that there would be a much smaller turnover in the department if the management would do just a few things: show respect, show appreciation and understand that work was work and no employee should have to sell their soul to the company. Emlee was prepared to be passed over for the position and dismissed as well for disloyalty. She was shocked when Ms. Hawkins gave her the promotion. The department's director said, “you've had the grunt's job, let's see if you know what you're talking about. “ Emlee was proud that productivity was up substantially, absenteeism was down and the quality of work was superior and rarely was anyone in the office after six. All it took was some pats on the back, the occasional vase of flowers for a job very well done and an understanding of the third grade concept.

All of Emlee's hard work paid off and the company was paying her handsomely for it too. Still she lived a very modest life and put money away into sound investments, her plan was to retire young, somewhere in the country near her parents who still lived in her hometown.

“Emlee, why didn't you just introduce yourself? You know she wouldn't have bitten you. She's a woman not a starved junk yard dog, if she was she could have bitten you right there, you were close enough. For Pete's sake you put your arm around her and didn't tell her your name.” Emlee kept up the chastisement while she cleaned up her lunch dishes. “No wonder you don't have anyone to play with, you can knock 'em dead at work, but leave that corner office and you're a mouse, what gives girl?” She asked herself as she wagged her finger at her reflection as she ran a towel over the front of the bread box, removing her finger prints.

Susannah stopped at the grocery after church and then went home. She stood at the deli counter looking over everything that was on display. Nothing really appealed to her, she ran her eyes from one end of the case to the other waiting for divine inspiration, it came when the short and abrupt man behind her tugged on her sleeve and said, “for the love of God lady, pick something before it all grows short blue hair.” Susannah's lunch was colorful if it was nothing more, though there was no short blue hair. She reached in the brown bag and removed one half pound of cranberry orange relish, one half pound of fresh mozzarella with grape tomatoes that were freckled with dried black basil flakes, it sat stewing in olive oil and vinegar. In the bottom of the bag was a piece of cake, white cake with raspberry filling and covered with white chocolate. “This is food for the love of God - lady,” she told herself. She left her lunch on the kitchen counter and went to her bedroom to change her clothes, her Sunday best was hot and still a bit damp from the sudden cloud burst at the end of church.

She stood at the dresser where she looked at her naked form in the mirror. She touched her breast then looked in the mirror and said, “what can you say Susannah, gravity is the law.” With that reminder she pulled an over size tee shirt from the drawer and poked her head through the gaping neck hole as she slipped her arms into the sleeves, shimming into it in a choppy motion. She tugged on a pair of too short cut off jeans and went back to the kitchen where she stood at the counter and looked at her lunch selection. “Everything has some red in it Susannah, were you in a certain mood?” She was startled when there was a loud crack from the lightening that hit near the house. “More rain,” she thought, “let it pour Lord, you know that we need it,” she said as she relaxed from her start.

“Eat something, just pick one thing, you only have to eat one thing,” she told herself as she reached into the silverware drawer and removed a fork. She peeled the flexible plastic lid from the tub of cranberries and wandered around the kitchen eating the tart berries while feeling caged. The rain had turned from a pelting rain to a more gentle fall and it looked as though it would rain for a while. Susannah loved days when it rained like this, though on summer days like this she simply felt like she was a hostage in her own home. She wanted to be out and about in the yard, or maybe sit on the porch for a while and watch the weather. She didn't like the idea of being cooped up in the house in the summer time knowing that it would be only a few weeks before the weather would change and it would be cold and unpleasant. “That's it, I'm going out,” she thought.

Susannah knew that she couldn't go much further than the porch the way that she was dressed, if she was going to walk in the rain she couldn't wear the shorts and t shirt that she was wearing, it was a walk in the neighborhood after all, not a wet t shirt contest in some tasteless bar. So she changed, putting on a black button down shirt that she knew belonged to a man before she got such a good deal on it and she put on more respectable shorts, she didn't want her tennis shoes to get wet, so she put on a pair of flip flops knowing that they would be slick when they got wet. She took her house key from the hook by the door and went out to walk in the rain.

Emlee turned on the television and picked up the remote, she sat on the her big sofa with all of the pillows and hugged one to her, she felt alone and a bit downtrodden since she had given herself the major, “Dutch Uncle” chat about letting Susannah get away without introducing herself. She flipped the channels, golf, golf, baseball, golf, sensationalized news, the usual fare she thought. She pushed the red button on the remote just as she waved good bye to the next one at the tee. She picked up the Sunday paper and began to flip through it, it made her nervous to even hold the paper, she shook. “What the hell are you thinking Emlee, get out of this apartment, the walls are closing in and you need to escape.” She grabbed her old tennis shoes and stuck her feet in without socks, she hated to walk in wet shoes as it was, but the sound of squishing socks didn't help the matter any. She stuffed her keys in her pocket and dashed for the door nearly running to get to the steps so that she could leave the front stoop behind and get out of her dungeon.

“Rain, sweet summer rain,” she thought, knowing it was a line from a movie, but not sure which one. She ambled along the sidewalk and enjoyed the big drops that fell from the trees, sliding from the large Sycamore leaves and the big heart shaped Catalpas with their long seed pods that looked like beans, surely they were the magic beans that Jack bought, weren't they? She thought and smiled.

Further down the street there were brownstones and she thought about how they really did look more like movie sets than homes. In front of them were what she called, “the precious or unruly trees” because they were always caged up. She began to get to the small shops along the street, the green grocer had a few apples in bins in front of his store and because of the oil on their surface the rain beaded just like it would on a well waxed car. She stood at the jewelers window and admired the blue rings, necklaces and bracelets, she saw a pair of earrings that caught her attention as well. Everything in the window had some kind of blue stone in it. The earrings had Lapis Lazuli in them. The stones were not top quality, too much pyrite in them, but the quartz in them gave them the appearance of a midnight sky with stars twinkling, she loved the look. “You need more earrings like you need more anxiety,” she mumbled.

A woman had joined her in admiring what was in the window, “Aren't they beautiful? I love blue.” Emlee turned to the voice next to her to look at the woman by her side, drenched, her long hair sagging down her back it was Susannah. Susannah pushed a hank of saturated blond hair from her face so that she could see more clearly the figure next to her, she laughed and pointed at Emlee and said, “How beautiful is the rain!” together they laughed.

Emlee put her arm around her again, just as she did in church and very promptly said, “I'm Emlee, no i in the middle. I'm sorry about my manners earlier, I should have introduced myself.”

“I thought nothing of your manners, I did wonder what your name was though and while I was at the grocery I realized that I didn't tell you my name, so I guess we're even.”

Their gaze fell again on the blue jewelry in the window, everything so beautiful. “I love lapis,” said Emlee, there is so much to see in a piece of lapis and that dark blue is so rich. It looks like a late night sky just as the stars emerge. When I was in first grade we would line up to go to the bus and together with our teacher we would recite the hymn, not sing it, 'now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky.' Silly that I remember such things, isn't it?” Emlee looked to Susannah who was wearing a great big smile and eyes the color of lapis.


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