Where's the future I desire?
Jeffrey was afraid of losing sleep. He knew that he would feel wrecked in the morning, cranky with his coworkers, probably look like a zombie. He was committed to getting a solid 8 hours, especially so early in the week and with a Friday deadline looming over his head. The laundry was done, he fed himself paltry leftovers, and felt ceremoniously satisfied as he began to undress.
His phone buzzed. The nightstand vibrated and blinked and Jeffrey was a little perplexed. Oh shit, was his first thought, it's work. As a newer member of the design firm and probably 6 years shy of becoming a junior partner, Jeffrey was never willing to disappoint. He didn't have much else going on. No girlfriend, no hobbies, not even a cat. Except for the occasional off-Broadway show and a five time a week running habit, Jeffrey was totally devoted to work, and his bosses knew it.
He slung his shirt over the headboard and approached the bedside table with his pants unbuttoned. It was a shame, really, that he didn't share that body with anybody. He picked up the phone and read a message in the glowy haze:
I need you. Meet me at our bridge in 30.
It was must have been a wrong number. No name was attached to it, but more noticeably, Jeffrey knew nobody who needed him, and no one with whom he shared a bridge. He wrote back:
Sorry, wrong number. I hope you find who you're looking for!
The exclamation point at the end felt gratifying to Jeffrey. He was very polite. Surely the person on the other end would understand that they had simply mistyped the number. Before he could even pull his pants down:
This is exactly the right number. Bridge at 5th and Davis. Don't let me down.
Whoever the mystery texter might have been, they understood Jeffrey's ingrained sense of responsibility. As a resident assistant in college, he often found himself cleaning vomit from the hallways before reporting students for drunken behavior. He thought he was being diplomatic and fair by giving a little to both sides, but in truth, nobody felt like he could ever just hang. He played the bouncer at his little sister's birthday party, and only after she cried for 20 minutes because she thought that her best friend didn't show up did he tell her that he sent Stephanie home and asked her not to return until her gift was wrapped properly. Sloppiness was not an option, not even for five year old little girls. So without much more deliberation, Jeffrey buttoned his pants and threw a clean t-shirt on. He thought that he might still get 7 hours of sleep.
He arrived at the bridge with two minutes to spare, checking his phone rather obsessively for an update. He was feeling a little foolish and confused when he finally heard the sound of expensive leather boots on the sidewalk. In the shadows of the underpass, Jeffrey could make out the distinct voluptuousness of Marsha, the sister of a senior partner at his firm. With her hands in her coat pocket and a fedora over her eyes, Marsha walked by Jeffrey and quickly handed him an envelope. He tried to speak and her hand shot up in the air in an abrupt attempt to stop him. She kissed him on the cheek, her open lips lingering just a little.
Marsha walked away as quickly as she approached and Jeffrey stood in the darkness, surrounded by puddles. He opened the envelope. In it was a one way plane ticket to Rome. No note or explanation. Jeffrey was completely confused, almost paralyzingly so. He remembered Marsha's flirtatious behavior at the office Christmas party a few months ago, but other than that, there were not even any pieces to put together. Why was Marsha so secretive with her texts? Why was this bridge a special place? Why did she just give him an expensive plane ticket that left in fewer than 12 hours? What would he do about work? Was she maybe, just maybe, in love with him?
Completely flummoxed, Jeffrey began the chilly walk home. He looked forward to taking his pants off, and felt resolutely comfortable knowing that he might not get any sleep tonight.
Whenever I visit my mom, I drive through the rural Amish countryside of Lancaster and I’ve always been completely flummoxed by this sign: End Brake Retarder Prohibition.
Um, what? I’ve tried to work out this quadruple negative in my head and it goes something like this.
First of all, what is a brake retarder? I understand that brakes stop a vehicle and a retarder would slow something down, but if a retarder is slowing down my brakes, doesn’t that mean I’m speeding up? And if a brake retarder is prohibited, that means I shouldn’t allow this mystery retarder to slow down my brakes, right? But then I’m told to end…what, exactly? The prohibition of the brake retarder? Well, doesn’t that mean we’re just back to regular brakes working the way brakes do? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t the sign just say, “Use your regular brakes”?
I was walking down the street in Philly Saturday and I noticed two guys across the street. They were both dressed in workout gear and they appeared to be at the end of a first date. The taller blonde guy was standing in a doorway, facing the shorter dark-haired guy in a too-bright peach shirt. Blondie looked like he couldn’t wait for Peachy to leave. I remember thinking, No chemistry. It’s not gonna work.
Peachy finally took off just as I crossed the street to the point where they had just been awkwardly speaking. I watched Peachy’s back as he walked away, looking down at his phone. I felt bad for the little guy, knowing he wouldn't be getting a call back.
Then the best thing in the world happened. Blondie opened the door, peeked outside, and looked for Peachy to make sure he was far enough away, and then he walked out the door! He walked a few steps ahead of me so I was able to watch him watching Peachy. It was so exciting! What if Peachy turned around and saw Blondie walking down the street? Busted! I was secretly hoping it would happen, but I also wanted Blondie to get away with it.
Blondie and I took a left at the corner and we made eye contact and I swear I must have had a conspiratorial smirk on my face that I’m pretty sure he noticed. I almost said, “You got away with it,” but I suddenly thought he might not react well. He was a little too attractive and looked like he might be a jerk. I’m not going to say I got an evil vibe from him, but the look in his eye wasn't a particularly warm one. A real snollygoster, I bet, I thought to myself, quite judgmentally.
He walked in through a new door, one Peachy would never see, and I continued on my way. I took a right after two more blocks and then the second best thing in the world happened. I was suddenly right behind Peachy! I couldn't believe it. I SOOOO wanted to say something like, “You’re better than him,” or “He wasn't Mr. Right,” or some sort of weird, mysterious thing that a stranger would say that would send a chill up your spine. But then I decided not to interject myself into their story, unlike the way they unknowingly interjected themselves into mine.