A chance meeting with shame
|And there she was. Dimples and bright blue eyes gone suddenly wide.
“Ned?” she said.
“Jules?” I said.
“Ned!” she said.
“Close,” I said. “It’s Fred.”
I don’t know why I corrected her. I mean how much difference did it really make what my name was? This was the girl in 3A! She lived right down the hall from me in St Paul.
We laughed then. Not sure what we were laughing at, but we were standing close. Amazed. Maybe thrilled. It was like a really good dream.
We were waiting in line at the check-in desk at the River Falls Sunset View Hotel and Gardens. I was in front. She came up behind me.
“What are you doing here?” We both asked at the same time.
Then we said, “I’m checking in,” at the same time. Then we said, “Me too!” at the same time and the laughter was back. It really was like a dream.
“Welcome to River Falls Sunset View Hotel and Gardens,” a happy voice said.
“I can’t believe this!” we both said and the laughter wasn’t just laughter now, it was a living beast that moved inside our brains and took control of our bodies. We couldn’t breathe. Jules held onto my shoulder for balance. People in the lobby were looking at us.
“Welcome to River Falls Sunset View Hotel and Gardens,” the happy voice said again.
“This is so—” we began. We looked at each other. ”Funny!” we finished.
Now we lost it. I was holding onto her for support with both hands. She had her arms around my neck. Our foreheads bumped. My stomach was hurting. Tears ran down my face. The world began to spin.
“I’m going to pee!”
“Don’t” I said.
“It’s too late,” she said. She did a strange sort of curtsey there in the lobby.
“Welcome to River Falls Sunset View Hotel and Gardens,” an unhappy voice said loudly.
We looked around. The woman behind the check-in desk look displeased. We both stepped up to the counter and rested our elbows on the polished marble.
The woman glared at us, her eyes moving back and forth.
“You were first,” Jules said to me.
“Ladies first,” I responded.
Jules looked up at the woman behind the desk. “I’m awful sorry,” she began.
I looked down at my suitcase and saw that my briefcase which had been on top was gone. I looked at my watch, it was 3:13. I had a very important meeting at four in the hotel coffee shop. My sales material was gone! I thought of my ex-wife always saying how irresponsible I was.
“I have a reservation under John Morrison,” Jules said to the woman.
John Morrison? I knew a John Morrison once. He stole my first girlfriend from me in 8th grade.
A man walking through the lobby made eye-contact with me and changed course. He came straight for me. It was Mr. Lawrence, the man I had the meeting with.
“Mr. MacNeil, I thought we had a meeting at 4:00!”
“We do sir,” I said and looked at my watch. It was 4:15!
It was like a bad dream!
“I’m so sorry, sir!” was all I could say.
“I had high hopes for you, MacNeil, we gave the account to Fullbright Electrics.”
Jules was looking back at me, a sad look on her face, which instantly brightened as a tall dark-haired man was leaning in kissing her on the cheek.
“Sorry I’m late,” he told her.
“Don’t be silly,” Jules said. She gave him another kiss, this one long and hard on the mouth.
It was John Morrison… My John Morrison!
“Nice job today, John,” said Mr. Lawrence.
“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down!”
Mr. Lawrence gave me a look and walked hurriedly away. I watched him go.
“Hello, Fred,” came a voice from behind me in line.
I turned. It was Janet, my ex-wife. She was shaking her head at me. The same disappointed look on her face that always accompanied the head shake. Soooo irresponsible… the look said.
A loud buzzing began in my head. My knees went weak. Jules and John Morrison walked off holding hands. A bellboy scurried after them. She looked back once and winked at me.
The buzzing continued. Was that my alarm? It was, wasn’t it? My eyes opened. I was in the hotel bed. “Yes!” I shouted. It was a dream! A long dream. A dream worth waiting for to end. And here I was, two hours to go for my meeting with Mr. Lawrence. All was good. I jumped out of bed thinking, There’s nothing like a good nap!