When do we stop and smell the roses?
| Nick looks at the clock and reaches for his day-planner to double-check the time and place of the meeting – El Salvadorian at 5:30. He has an hour and a half. This is going to be the biggest deal of his career. Thinking about it gives him goose-flesh. Brushing his hand across his chin, he definitely needs to shower and shave.
Soaking wet, he surveys his appearance in the mirror. He is handsome. A few more crows’ feet have appeared and his blonde hair is sprinkled with gray. However, his piercing sea blue eyes are still his most striking feature. Drying off, he thinks about the best way to make an impression for a business meeting on a Saturday night? Perhaps the grey Versace suit or the brown tweed sports coat?
He reaches into the back of his closet and pulls out the cerulean blue angora sweater that Nora gave him for Christmas. When was the last time he spoke to her? He makes a mental note to call her in the next few weeks.
While dressing, Nick daydreams about the number of zeros in his bank account. A Sailboat, sports car, and annual trips to Europe – finally, the kind of lifestyle he has always wanted and has worked so hard to get.
The phone rings. “Hello.”
“Nicky! I’m glad I caught you. There’s something I need you to pick up.”
Sheepishly, Nick remembers that he has forgotten to call his mother to reschedule their dinner plans. “Mom, I’ve a meeting tonight. I can’t make it.”
“But you promised me you’d clean out your father’s desk. It’s been a year Nicky. I really need you to do this for me.”
“I know. It’ll have to be next time.” Nick remembers the last time he was in his father’s den, the day before the heart attack.
“We’re going to have poppy seed chicken for dinner, your favorite.” His mother pleads.
“Mom, I can’t. I have a very important business meeting tonight. I’ll call you in a few days.” He tries to ignore the wall of guilt building up.
“Okay, honey. Are you sure?”
“Call me next week, then. Good luck with your meeting.”
“Thanks, bye.” Nick hangs up the phone and tries to overlook the disappointment in her voice. With the money he’ll make on this deal, he can buy her a restaurant. However, this rationalization is no comfort to him.
He gets his wallet off the dresser and shoves it into the back pocket of his new Calvin’s. He takes one last look around, just one more thing – the handkerchief. His father had given it to him on his 16th birthday, just in case a damsel in distress needed it. He takes another glance at the clock: 5:10. His life is going to change in twenty minutes.
Nick rushes out of his apartment. Since the restaurant is only blocks from his Condo and the summer weather is perfect, he decides to walk. With long strides, he heads down the street at a fast pace. As he moves from one street to the next, his anxiety level rises and he continues to feel giddy. He feels like its Christmas Eve and he’s waiting for Santa.
Crossing 14th Street, he glances at his watch again: 5:20. He looks up at the blinking crosswalk signal, 10…9…8… like a time bomb waiting to go off. He smiles to himself thinking about his commission. He picks up the pace a little, time is money.
A figure stands unnoticed a few feet from the curb. He has a small Styrofoam cup in his hand and he mumbles something to the passersby. Out of his periphery, the blue sweater catches his eye. He looks up and sees the young man leaping up on the curb. Good for a few coins, he thinks to himself. He reaches out and whispers “spare some change mister?”
THUD! He hits the ground. There is ringing in his ears and he imagines the bells at St. Anthony’s are a little early. He brushes the back of his hand across his face and there is hot sticky liquid running from his nose.
Immersed in his daydream, Nick slams right into a man knocking him to the ground face first. “Keep going,” he tells himself and takes a few more steps toward his goal. Reluctantly, he turns around to assess the situation. Nick notices that the gray-haired man has a bloody nose. Instinctively he reaches into his back pocket and takes out his father’s handkerchief. Not exactly a damsel.
"Look, I’m sorry.” Nick says rather pathetically. “Is there anything I can do?”
The man looks at Nick suspiciously. “I was just asking for spare change. I’m hungry.” With that said, a blood-smeared hand extends the Styrofoam cup.
Nick looks at his watch again 5:26. He has four minutes to make his meeting. If he runs, he will be able to make it on time. Decisively, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out whatever change he has and drops it into the cup. He turns and departs at a sprinter’s pace.
Breathless, reaching the crosswalk, Nick glances over his shoulder. He spies the man counting the change in his cup and wonders if there is enough money to buy dinner. He can’t take his eyes off his father’s handkerchief.
With a sigh of resolve, Nick takes out his cell phone and dials the client’s number. All is not lost, he reassures himself. He turns around and approaches the man. Extending his right hand, “hi, I’m Nick.”
The man seems a little confused, “I’m Henry.”
“Listen, I was just on my way to grab a bite to eat. Do you want to join me? Think of it as a peace offering.” Nick motions to Henry’s nose.
“Sure.” Henry says a little apprehensively.
Together they decide where to eat. Upon entering the restaurant, Nick holds the door open for Henry. Nick smiles and thinks to himself, time is what you make it.