From the minute the mail clattered through my letter slot, the day got better. Even from my perch in the breakfast nook, I could spot the tell-tale lavender envelope from my one true love. I practically broke my neck slip-sliding across the gym polish floor in my socks. The tattered throw rug in the vestibule cushioned my butt as I did a classic pratfall at the front door.
I shoved the past-due notices aside and tore into my prize. This time, a single sheet, sharply creased into a tri-fold, fell into my lap. My trembling fingers could hardly open it up. I took a deep breath, held it and caressed the paper to its original size. The spidery, delicate letters cursively elevated my day with three words:
Meet me tonight.
Oh, this is massive! For the first time, I would gaze into those deep chocolate pools of smoldering passion. I knew she must have been feeling as intoxicated as I was, when she penned those words. A perfect courtship of letters, carried out with all the decorum of the United States Postal Service, was to be consummated at the peak of its bloom.
Time accelerated like a rocket in the orbit of a star. I called in sick. Thelma, the receptionist with the personality of a tightly-wound robot, demanded an explanation. I hung up on her. I skipped lunch, took a quick shower and dashed off to the barbershop with my one good suit. Jerome took one look at my feverish face and told the man in his chair to go wait some more.
“‘Bout time, you. Finally got that letter, eh? Gimme that suit. We’ll have it pressed by the time I finish hooking you up. Shave?”
I nodded dumbly throughout. Jerome and his staff took care of me. They chattered about politics and football – narcotic tones and soothing voices to go with the hot shave. Time slowed down to normal. Which was just as well because, when I left that chair, smelling all baby-fresh, the octagon clock over the television was standing at attention. I had ninety minutes left.
Dressed and shaved, I walked to the corner. The 6:19 bus was usually too crowded but, wonder of wonders, when it pulled up and opened its doors, the smiling driver beckoned me aboard his empty vessel.
“‘Bout time, you. Heard you got that letter. Dinner will be a bit late for my regular passengers. They’ll get over it. Come on. I can’t do anything about Lincoln Drive, so you ‘d better put a move on.”
The front seat – the one facing the driver – had some kind of plastic covering that went to the floor. I smiled at the driver’s thoughtfulness and planted myself gingerly on the edge. The door whooshed closed and we sailed into Seedy City.
Although the driver kept up a constant patter, my eyes were glued to the marquee above the incessant ads. The red lamps rolled out the time in maddening intervals between the route number, the destination and the date. I noted for future reference that September makes six trips per minute. Idly, I wondered if May would be three times as fast.
Finally, the funk of Seedy City seeped through the bus. In a battle between diesel fumes and urban decay, the bus never stood a chance. I could no longer smell the after-shave and talcum powder. The driver was still all smiles as he opened the door to the full force of ghetto ambience. I gave him a fist bump before making a beeline for the subway entrance.
I had just missed the 6:55 express from Crystal City. I smirked at the grim, pale faces of Suburban commuters forced to detour through this subterranean colon. I knew they couldn’t wait to see their beloved gleaming automobiles basking in the last sunset at the other end of the line. I might arrive after dark, but I was going there, too, you smug bastards!
The 7:01 local chugged into Seedy Station. No smiling conductors, here. I squeezed into the mass of flesh. Nobody moved an inch. I had to shove my elbow into an elephant-sized ribcage just so I could lock myself into place before the train lurched forward. Time came to a standstill.
16 agonizing stops later, I stumbled out of the subway car. The escalator was deserted – my fellow chattel had long since debarked farther north. The station clock read 7:27PM. I double-timed up the escalator, hoping against hope.
I need not have worried. The restaurant was just across the street. Its neon purple plus sign lit up the night – telling everyone else that the place was reserved. My pulse quickened. Time went into hyperdrive. I straightened my tie, patted my hair and stepped off the curb.
Thomas Leuthard via Compfight
Copyright © 2013 by Mitchell Allen
Originally appeared on CreativeCopyChallenge #300.